Hilda, the plus-size pinup girl has recently taken the internet by storm. Many are delighted to see a woman sporting a body type not typical of any other pin-up subjects. Focus on Hilda’s weight is really only a small portion of what makes her so amazing, however.
What makes Hilda truly special is that she is depicted in ways that are very humanizing.
Unlike typical pin-ups that portray women posing sexily in various settings, Hilda is shown actively engaging in her life. She is given a wide range of activities and scenarios during which her poses are more candid captures of a woman who is comfortable with her body than coy attempts at seduction. Unlike most pinup girls, Hilda almost never gazes directly at her viewer.
She becomes a character, one who loves adventure, clearly preferring to explore the world outdoors rather than live a sedentary lifestyle. Various pictures show her riding a bike, navigating a boat, fishing, swimming, and, hilariously failing at riding a cow. She is shown jumping over poles and shooting guns. She is even shown injured after a sporting accident.
Her explorations have her walking down some railroad tracks, taking trips to the beach, and in a meadow, leaping a creek with a stick. In one image, she partakes in an impromptu game of golf using her parasol and some wild mushrooms.
She is also depicted as an incredibly independent woman. All of her companions are animals, there is not a man in sight, and she is shown taking good care of any business that might need attending. She reads books, gardens, lights her own stove, paints her own house. She shows no dependence on a man for anything.
Perhaps the most striking current running through these paintings of Hilda is her emotional depth. She rarely has an expression that is overtly sexual. Instead her face communicates emotions ranging from joy and delight to anger and frustration. Confusion, concentration, surprise and worry are also projected from her body language and expressions.
All of these elements are extremely important because, in our society a very necessary conversation is taking place regarding the objectification of women. Many argue that pin-up girls are an offshoot of porn, meant to please and arouse men and rob women of their autonomy and humanity.
Another argument in this discussion is that the reduction of women to their sex appeal and ability to please men fuels an attack on women’s bodies. That Hilda is plus-size and that this seems to be purely the focus of all her recent celebration demonstrates how very focused on body image American culture is.
It also demonstrates exactly why Hilda absolutely needs to be celebrated for all that she encompasses. She is more than just a “curvy” woman. She is a woman who is never sheepish or ashamed of her body. Her double chin and natural fat rolls are left in their glory for all to behold. And they are glorious because they are in humanity’s image.
Hilda can be used to show women that they are acceptable as they are. She is not perfect or always flattered by her portraits. She is shown making silly mistakes, like staring into a hose that a cow is stepping on behind her, for instance. She is shown in awkward predicaments, like when she is washing her hair and the phone rings and her face registers both annoyance and dilemma, or when she dives off the end of a dock in a bikini make of flowers only to have the bikini dissolve when she hits the water.
She is beautiful because every human being has at some point done something that yields regrettable consequences. Her grace and sexuality come from her ability to embrace who she is and it speaks a lot to the artist, Duane Bryers, that he was able to convey so much personality in his work. Each painting acts as a love letter to Hilda, showing her as real women are, beautiful, living creatures with grace, charm and capabilities.
Hilda is fully humanized and the ease with which she navigates her humanity is what makes her powerfully sexy.
Written By: Vanessa Blanchard
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