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Thread: Why are men depicted as tanned and women pale in ancient art

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    Why are men depicted as tanned and women pale in ancient art



    I see the trend continues in modern art as well, even in cartoons, like darker male dog and lighter female dog. Does anyone know or red a book "Tan Men/Pale Women Color and Gender in Archaic Greece and Egypt, a Comparative Approach".

    Here are some examples:





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    The first picture presents a priestess. By her occupation she had spend more time inside the temple during the day and is less tanned. Other thing is that white colour of skin shows status of the person. Farmers and lower class in general will spend days working outside in fields and will be always tanned. To have a white skin meant being rich and having luxury not working and staying in the house all the time.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    You beat me to it Lebrok :). Also in the Anglo saxon world (at least in Britian) have a saying as 'Tall dark and handsome' for the males and 'Women are the fairer sex' Some argue that fair means more just, but I believe its fair as in fair skin. Women also up to a 100 years ago and even less were heavily covered (no tan) (even which today are the most progressive countries) unlike their male counterparts. I think this concept in countries like China and in some other Asian countries women avoid getting suntans and use umbrella to cover the sun. So (generally speaking of course) pale skinned women tend to have a stronger sex appeal in some cultures and the other way round even up to this day. Its not something the tanning bed industry would be happy about :)

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    because white skin was seen as feminine by ancient cultures around the mediterannean but also in the east

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinnie View Post
    because white skin was seen as feminine by ancient cultures around the mediterannean but also in the east
    What is the reasoning behind this? Why white is feminine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    What is the reasoning behind this? Why white is feminine?
    Because in a traditional society, upper class men would be out riding horses, hunting and practicing with weapons in the hot sun, so would become almost as brown as peasant men or women, although better dressed at least at dinner. But upper class women, who were considered to represent the ideal of femininity, were encouraged to stay at home, out of the sun, plucking and trimming their body hair, perfuming themselves and dressing in impractical clothes. And beauty ideals have traditionally reflected the life of the upper class, because ordinary people were expected to idealize the values of the upper class and to imitate their ways as far as possible. In other words, ordinary folk were encouraged to long to be part of the upper class without thinking they could actually be part of it. That attitude still seems to be very strong in some parts of the world, especially the U.S., where many folk seem to dream of living the lives of movie stars, even though in practice they have little chance of leaving whatever class they were born into.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    Because in a traditional society, upper class men would be out riding horses, hunting and practicing with weapons in the hot sun, so would become almost as brown as peasant men or women, although better dressed at least at dinner. But upper class women, who were considered to represent the ideal of femininity, were encouraged to stay at home, out of the sun, plucking and trimming their body hair, perfuming themselves and dressing in impractical clothes. And beauty ideals have traditionally reflected the life of the upper class, because ordinary people were expected to idealize the values of the upper class and to imitate their ways as far as possible.
    That's what I aluded to in post #2. I was asking Vinnie to substantiate his statement though.

    In other words, ordinary folk were encouraged to long to be part of the upper class without thinking they could actually be part of it. That attitude still seems to be very strong in some parts of the world, especially the U.S., where many folk seem to dream of living the lives of movie stars, even though in practice they have little chance of leaving whatever class they were born into.
    At times of Hollywood standard of beauty changed. Stars have spent lot of time on vacations, beaches and yachts therefore a nice tan became a new standard of prestige. Likewise, in old times being plump meant being rich and beautiful, nowadays lean and fit took that place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    What is the reasoning behind this? Why white is feminine?
    Basically, what Aberdeen is saying.

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    I was wondering if anyone read this book http://www.press.umich.edu/3080238/t....E0jj0jGC.dpuf

    if it is any good?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    That's what I aluded to in post #2. I was asking Vinnie to substantiate his statement though.

    At times of Hollywood standard of beauty changed. Stars have spent lot of time on vacations, beaches and yachts therefore a nice tan became a new standard of prestige. Likewise, in old times being plump meant being rich and beautiful, nowadays lean and fit took that place.
    That seems to be true, and I think it has to do with what details suggest wealth and privilege. These days, although there are still a lot of starving people in under-developed country, even the poorest people in developed countries can get fat on cheap carbs, while it costs a lot more to eat healthy foods, and not everyone can afford to visit the gym regularly. And most people in developed countries now spend their working day sitting in front of a computer in a large building, so having time to suntan can seem like a sign of wealth and leisure. But I imagine that in countries where there are still a lot of people who spend their work days out in the hot sun, pale skin on women is still the beauty ideal. However, being pale wouldn't seem very masculine for men, so the status symbol for men would more likely be a flashy car, rather than a light complexion, even in countries where female beauty is seen as paler than average.

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    I was re-watching Rome on Amazon Prime last night, and Brutus was talking to his mother. She commented on how dark he had became. He responded by saying how he felt like a soldier returning from battle. Later in the episode Octavia is shown being powdered for her marriage proposal to Pompey. I believe the distinction between the classes was about tanned and pale skin. Pale skin representing the leisure of the upper class, while tanned skin represented the toils of labor. It was a culture that idealized the warrior, and the warrior is tanned from battle. But, I bet, in time of peace (leisure) the upper class men would have been expected to be pale skinned. Objects are depicted with scenes of valor and pride, and the idealization of a battle harden tanned warrior would have been more acceptable than a pale skinned (pampered) male aristocrat, plus it helped differentiate between masculinity and femininity. The warrior representing masculinity in it's highest form.

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    Your explanations (social standards forthe most but linked to sun exposure) are correct but perhaps don'tmake the all thing – I red somewhere that everywhere, whatever theethny, the upper class people had 'in fine' a bit fairer skin colourthan the lower classes, even in the countries where 'black' skin isthe rule : so a social explanation as yours, but with an otherbasis : in every ethny or physcial type women have a slightly(very slightly) fairer colour of skin (supposed more « carotenic »pigment in comparison to brown pigment, compared to males) – as itcan be seen as a 'feminine' sexy signal, the upper classes aresupposed to monopolize the more « feminine » women sothe lightest ones (in Africa we find also more or less blackskins, whatever the explanation : among Africans : recentslight crossings with leucoderm people or ancient less « blacking »mutations according to latitude among Subsaharians) – so after somegenerations of differential mating between social classes, the richor upper class people are growing slowly fairer when the poorer andlower ones are growing darker in the same symetric way -
    It is not a theory of mines but I findit plausible... even if in countries of deep variated admixtures therecent colonialism of pale Europeans is playing the central socialrole -
    the reflectance experiences seemgenerally confirming this lighter skin among females of same humangroup – the exceptions would be a difference or insufficience insampling -

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOESAN View Post
    Your explanations (social standards forthe most but linked to sun exposure) are correct but perhaps don'tmake the all thing – I red somewhere that everywhere, whatever theethny, the upper class people had 'in fine' a bit fairer skin colourthan the lower classes, even in the countries where 'black' skin isthe rule : so a social explanation as yours, but with an otherbasis : in every ethny or physcial type women have a slightly(very slightly) fairer colour of skin (supposed more « carotenic »pigment in comparison to brown pigment, compared to males) – as itcan be seen as a 'feminine' sexy signal, the upper classes aresupposed to monopolize the more « feminine » women sothe lightest ones (in Africa we find also more or less blackskins, whatever the explanation : among Africans : recentslight crossings with leucoderm people or ancient less « blacking »mutations according to latitude among Subsaharians) – so after somegenerations of differential mating between social classes, the richor upper class people are growing slowly fairer when the poorer andlower ones are growing darker in the same symetric way -
    It is not a theory of mines but I findit plausible... even if in countries of deep variated admixtures therecent colonialism of pale Europeans is playing the central socialrole -
    the reflectance experiences seemgenerally confirming this lighter skin among females of same humangroup – the exceptions would be a difference or insufficience insampling -
    I can see how this could have being true and depicted in ancient art of antiquity. The EI invaders from north became the masters of southern populations, therefore ruling class had naturally whiter skin than local farmers. Eventually they got mixed together after couple of millennia, but possibly could have started the trend of white meaning upper class, or at least emphasized the "class divisions look" also influenced by sheltered/not tanned upper class women.
    Last edited by LeBrok; 26-07-14 at 20:47.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    I can see how this could have being true and depicted in ancient art of antiquity. The EI invaders from north became the musters of southern population, therefore ruling class had naturally whiter skin than local farmers. Eventually they got mixed together after couple of millennia, but possibly could have started the trend of white meaning upper class, or at least emphasized the "class divisions look".
    That certainly seems to have been true in India, with the Vedic theory of the four varnas (varna meaning both colour and class). I suppose it was a legacy of the Indo-European invasions.

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    Because tanned men depicted warriors or workers, who are in the sun all day.
    Pale women depicted aristocratic women, who were mostly inside and didnt get much sun.

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