Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed became fully invested in her search for beauty in 1585. Over 400 years ago. You’ve probably heard of the brutal murders she committed, considering that she’s been labelled as the most prolific female serial killer. Though her kill-count isn’t set in stone, it is estimated to be close to 650.
The Son of Sam was driven to murder by the Devil. Carl Panzram was driven by a deep hatred for humanity. But Elizabeth was driven by something quite different. The desire to be young and beautiful and to stay that way. And, of course, there is no better way to reduce crow’s feet than by bathing in the blood of virgins.
Considering that the modern cosmetic industry wasn’t invented until the 20th century (about the 1920’s), Bathory was ahead of the curve. I think we tend to view the past through rose colored lenses. It’s hard to picture such a heavy focus on beauty before the makeup industry came along (an industry I’ve known and felt forced to be subservient to for my entire life). People often hold up the art of the renaissance as a time where women were not shamed for their bodies. The women in the paintings look real, are modeled after real women, are unaltered by photoshop or airbrush. But the renaissance was running its course at the same time of Bathory’s vicious murders. Maybe being held up to the impossible standards of goddesses and angels wore women down long before film, magazines, models, and porn ever worked their way into the main thread of society.
To think that someone, many someones, could be driven to hate the natural folds and lines of their bodies is unsettling to say the least. Women are held to strict standards that blur from person to person (or man to man). Too much makeup is for whores and sluts. Who are you trying to look good for? She’s asking for it. Too little makeup is off putting, because the natural face is not what “natural” looks like in magazines and film. You look tired. Are you feeling well?
Thankfully, positive movements have sprung up from the depths of the internet. Countless women have come forward to tell their stories about the struggle of learning to love their body. Women are clearly broadcasting that the way they look is not for men, and are supporting one another for their outfits, their choice to wear makeup or not, for expressing their sexual desires in whatever way they see fit.
But positivity is slow moving. The backlash against women has had its own revival. How can boys grow up to be men who support women when the President is man who once told a woman that it must be a pretty sight to see her on her knees? Or who is quoted as saying that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a young and beautiful woman attached to you? “But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” And how can girls grow into women who love themselves when they grow up hearing their mothers call themselves fat and ugly? When nearly every representation of a beautiful woman is one that is photoshopped?
We live in a world where you are nothing if you are not beautiful. No matter how smart, talented, or good-hearted you may be, if you are not physically appealing it will be brought up. And if you are beautiful that will be all that will be brought up about you too. Beauty is an inescapable vice with very strict criteria. No wonder someone would be driven to kill for it.