The ideal amount of fat a female should carry around has, to say the least, changed from time to time. From the corpulent Venus of Willendorf to Twiggy is a great gulf fixed.
“Do these jeans make my butt look big?” is a frequent lead-in to punch lines and a dilemma for husbands, who must choose between truth and consequences. Women have wider pelvises than men for a reason, but the correct amount of adipose tissue attached to those pelvises is up for debate.
Since our ancestors all came out of Africa and the San people seem to be the root of which we are the shoot, they are of great interest. As it turns out, San often exhibit steatopygia, or fat storage on their buttocks. Why is this a good thing? Since humanity has spent at least nine-tenths of its existence roaming around looking for food, what better way to carry surplus food than on your booty? After all, hunter-gathering is a risky career, possibly surpassed in riskiness only by trading in credit default swaps.
The prehistoric Venuses were probably not bizarre distortions of the female form, but rather accurate depictions of a healthy female and health is surely a requirement for beauty. Peter Paul Rubens thought a model wasn’t worth painting if she weighed less than 180 pounds, and women averaged about five foot-nothing back then. Polynesia admired big bodies, though now the Western press “tsk-tsks” fat Polynesians and upbraids them for their obesity. Mauritania supposedly has fat farms in reverse; that is, women go there to fatten up instead of lose weight.
Whenever the dominant culture discovers some new, improved version of humanity, they tend to mock everyone else who is not so enlightened. Marilyn Monroe was not bony, but by 1979 a “Ten” was Bo Derek, emerging from the waves with her ribs protruding. Perhaps someday our descendants will look back on our idea of feminine beauty and wonder how the physique of a fourteen year-old boy came to be the ideal for a grown woman.