A Reader’s Question

Recently a reader sent me a question.  I deleted the original email, but here’s the paraphrase:   He said his sister always insists upon having her photograph taken with her legs tucked under her and her head tilted.  He wanted to know what that said about her.

It’s an interesting question because it says more about society’s standards of beauty than it does about his sister.  

In general, we can say that a person who is sitting in a chair with her legs tucked beneath the chair is probably feeling insecure.  This is a very common pose used when people are trying to comfort themselves.  Now this may not be what the reader means when he describes his sister’s pose.  He may instead mean that she’s in a kneeling position with her legs tucked beneath her body.  But assuming he means the first interpretation, the fact that she prefers to adopt this pose when having her picture taken almost certainly does not mean that she is insecure.   Instead it means, quite simply, that this is a pose she believes makes her look most attractive.  The more important question is, why does she feel this way.

Whether her legs are tucked under her chair or under her body, both poses have something in common:  they are both very submissive postures.  When your legs are tucked beneath, it’s impossible to respond quickly to events around you.  You are at a physical disadvantage.  The tilting of the head is also a very submissive posture.  It places you in a position of vulerability and has the effect of minimizing your physical presence. 

We can say, then, that the reader’s sister appears to believe that she is most attractive when she is using submissive rather than dominant body language.  Since we have no other information about her, that’s about all we can say.  It may be that she is insecure, or it may be that she feels she usually comes across as too dominant, and so she tries to compensate for it in her photos.  Without knowing anything more, it would be impossible to say which is more likely.

I do think, though, that many women appear to feel that they look more feminine when they use submissive body language.   Certainly there seems to be a social expectation that femininity equals being demure.   I think/hope that this expectation is changing.  There are many examples of women who appear confident and powerful without sacrificing their femininity.  



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