“The Perfect Woman”: Opinion Essay by Jim Tritten

Venus at a Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens
Venus at a Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens

“… And, therefore, she is the perfect woman.”

I confess, my mind was sort of wandering–until I heard our friend Brit say “… And therefore, she is the perfect woman.” My wife of twenty-five years Jasmine and I were visiting a small rural farm in western Sweden. We gazed at an idyllic green pasture with a burnt-red colored barn standing atop a small rise. The wind washed over us from our backs–smells from the barnyard remained downwind. Orange, yellow, and blue flowers adorned boxes on a rustic two-story white and blue cottage. It was a brisk overcast day in May. Piles of dirty snow littered the outlying tree line. Summer was still an unfulfilled promise. Horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, and other animals ran amok but kept their distance from us, the trespassers. Obviously, they did not trust city folk. Beautiful setting…but I digress.

“Brit, what did you just say?”

“My friend raises her own food, has her own animals, and when it comes time, she slaughters her own sheep. She takes them around the side of her house so when she kills them, the other animals do not see. She is the perfect woman.”

Brit recounted this with a straight face, clearly confused why I did not understand what she said. English was not her native language, but I did comprehend her words. Jasmine and I have known Brit for over twenty-five years…she introduced us. Today, she had taken us across the border from her native Norway to a friend’s farm in Sweden where she was now extoling that person’s virtues.

I closed my mouth and pondered. Was this female Swedish farmer, capable of slaughtering her own sheep, “The Perfect Woman?” Was she the perfect woman because she was a self-sufficient agriculturalist? Or was the critical element killing her own sheep? I asked for clarification. Was sheep homicide the vital criterion? The answer was yes; Brit confirmed to us it was ruminant mammalian slaughter that made her friend the perfect woman. Jasmine and I glanced at each other; she knew I was hooked on a quest.

Who is “The Perfect Woman?” What are her attributes?

I took a photograph of the property with sheep grazing placidly on the newly-grown grasses, oblivious of their impending doom. I posted the photo on Facebook, and noted this place as the home of “The Perfect Woman.” I added my intent to do some research, and then write an essay on the subject of “The Perfect Woman” when we finished our trip to Scandinavia.

I also “friended” one of the Norwegian men we met on the other side of the border. Within a minute, my new friend Bjørn “liked” my posting about the Swedish farm and my finding the location of “The Perfect Woman.” Brit told us Bjørn had a history with this mysterious female farmer, now known as “The Perfect Woman.” Not wanting to upset delicate Norwegian-Swedish relations, I did not ask any intrusive questions.

Upon our return to the U.S., I told a few people about my latest quest for knowledge and received lots of advice. I was warned not to cross some lines that could get me into trouble. Hence, the need for disclaimers. Let me make it quite clear. In my search for “The Perfect Woman,” I disqualify all wives, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, or anyone’s other relatives. After all, most of these women are reminded with a Hallmark product, flowers, and candy annually they are in fact “perfect.” These specific women should and will remain sacrosanct and out of bounds for my intended tongue-in-cheek investigation.

Having now stepped into the minefield, and perhaps defused a few of the more obvious Claymores, I need to deal with perspective. I recently attended the San Miguel de Allende International Writers’ Conference in Mexico, where I listened for hours while some well-known feminists expounded familiar themes to wildly enthusiastic audiences. To make their point for them, I am fully aware each woman should be the sole judge of her value or “perfectness.” What some man thinks should not be the basis for any woman’s self-worth. I do not dispute this view.

That acknowledged, there seems to be a universe of differing opinions on what constitutes value, worth, or what constitutes “The Perfect Woman.” Indicators from these ill-informed parts of society “may,” and according to the feminist speakers in Mexico, often “do” conflict with what those speakers told us “should be” in a “perfect” world. My essay is not about what the perfect woman “ought” to be but rather what society tells women is the answer.

I am fully aware each woman should be the sole judge of her value or “perfectness.” What some man thinks should not be the basis for any woman’s self-worth. I do not dispute this view.

Let’s try lobbing this hand grenade out and see if I survive the frag pattern.

Is the perfect woman defined primarily by physical characteristics?

Women of notable physical beauty are regularly featured by photographers in popular magazines, as news anchors and weather reporters, and as models for high fashion. These women are judged by others as being attractive and then featured in the public media. The criterion often is magnificence as quickly assessed by the naked eye…not the more complex criteria for inner beauty.

A cursory review of the subject of “The Perfect Woman” on the Internet leads anyone into the area of physical beauty with web sites tracing the silhouette of women through the ages. The shapes have varied over time with one of the current aspects of measurement being thigh gap. It seems most of these sites are very Eurocentric. I saw few women of color and never saw images of the women in Africa with neck rings I recall from my childhood readings of National Geographic. None of the women featured at the time appeared with sheep or the means of dispatching them at the end of their lives.

Where else to look? When you Google “The Perfect Woman,“ you can find opinion polls on what many people think is the perfect woman. For example, some 100,000 men who use the What’s Your Price dating service voiced their opinion on what constituted the perfect woman. Their answer was someone with blonde hair, blue eyes, slender body, a non-smoker and social drinker who has earned a graduate degree. At least they threw a bone at a woman’s mind. We should note these opinions are taken from a database where the survey participants buy their first dates.

The rebuttal to this obviously flawed view of perfection was voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Her view of what men should want in a perfect woman is someone who will challenge you intellectually, someone who is empathetic, accepts you for YOU. No mention of any physical traits here. Perhaps there is a difference between what men say they want and what women say men should want? Why did neither the men seeking dates nor Ellen mention sheep?

Additional surveys over the years have asked men what it is they are looking for in a woman. While we can’t know for certain, we can assume respondents would be describing their ideal when filling out the survey instruments. In general, Ellen should be pleased there seems to be more of a balance between beauty and brains in other assessments.

For example, Men’s Health magazine in its December 9, 2012 issue reported of the eleven qualities of the perfect woman, more than a third were defined by other than physical aspects. The article, written by a woman, references a variety of serious reports and studies and concludes there are qualities found in women that men find attractive. These criteria include ladies who laugh at a man’s jokes, a female who smiles, someone who can pull her own weight, and a woman with an education.

I admit one of the most attractive features I initially noticed in Jasmine was her captivating smile. One of the qualities I did not appreciate until I started writing for fun was her laughing at my humorous articles.

Returning to the main point, the author tells Men’s Health readers specifically what men want in a woman’s career:

“Careers Are Sexy Are the days of the trophy wife over? Science seems to think so. According to a study published in the American Journal of Sociology, when men were asked about the makeup of their ideal partner, a majority claimed they’re looking for a woman who can economically pull her own weight in the relationship. See ya later, gold diggers.”

Regarding education, the author of this article states:

“Intelligence Is Refreshing The days of the dumb blonde are done, too. According to research published in The Journal of Sex Research, men reported being more satisfied when their partner had an adequate educational background. But at the same time, men also reported less marital satisfaction when the female was the breadwinner of the family. So success is hot—just not too much success.”

There are other indicators of what society views as perfection in women. For example, many groups organize contests reflecting something about the perfection of women in their countries, states, counties, municipalities, etc. None of these “meat markets” define the winners as “perfect” but the implication is they could be described as approaching one possible paradigm of perfection. Most of these contests assess women wearing formal wear, a swimsuit, and the results of a personality interview. Talent is ignored in many of these contests except perhaps rodeo queens and pie bakes. I wonder if there is any contest in which the compassion in killing sheep is measured with numbered cards. For the record, the Miss Universe New Zealand application mentions nothing about sheep (yes, I checked).

Many men think they found the perfect woman and enter into a living arrangement, or marriage, leading to the production of offspring. Some later discover their initial assessment was wrong. A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of around 40 percent. But millions of individuals think their partner is at least perfect enough to marry and/or have their children. Where are they getting their advice? From their hearts or other parts of their bodies and not what Ellen tells us men we should want?

Let’s toss another hand grenade. The Barbie Doll. Barbie launched in March 1959. The original doll was accused of, and, in fact did, present an unrealistic body image to young women. Young boys I knew thought Barbie was hot. The fear was girls who attempted to emulate Barbie would develop eating disorders. I thought Barbie had been run out of town by now. I did not see any dolls for sale at the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference. I did see, however, photographs of Gloria Steinem in her Playboy Bunny outfit.

Mattel still markets these dolls online and in stores like Toys “R” Us and Walmart. Rather than emphasize physical traits with a one-size fits all doll, the Mattel web site now announces:

“Our “I Can Be Barbie” line is designed to educate and empower girls to explore a variety of careers! Check out Barbie career dolls in inspiring roles like Pet Vet, News Anchor, Kid Doctor, our geek-chic Computer Engineer and this year’s Architect Barbie doll.”

So Mattel has continued to market a product to pre-adolescents that retains the essential non-politically-correct original look, by promoting their version of the ideal through accessories. Those accessories cost the politically-conscious parent extra. Interesting marketing strategy. I wonder whether these politically-conscious parents hold their nose when they make the purchases. I also wonder if anyone has done a study correlating Barbie Doll ownership with the propensity for cosmetic surgery.

Now for some related anecdotal evidence. I’ve dated one of two identical twins. More than once in my life. One pair was similar to the Barbie Doll model. Drop dead gorgeous. One might describe them as physically perfect. Both of them. One laughed at my jokes, always smiled because she always seemed to see the good side of anything. She had what had previously been considered a man’s job where she made good money, and had a college degree with aspirations of further education. She was also helpful and could drink most men under the table, and played a mean hand of liar’s dice at the bar.

Unfortunately, she was married to a really nice guy and pulled her own weight in the relationship. He was a Navy SEAL. I never dated this one or the SEAL. Her identical twin sister, however, came to town one weekend and I needed to repay her a big favor. So I agreed to take out the twin…

…how could I go wrong?

I learned the sister spent her days working out at the gym and watching television. That’s it. I can recall no other activities. She had an exercise bike in front of her TV. Conversation was strained at best. I believe on my one, and only, date the words “have you ever read a book” slipped out of my mouth while I was attempting to make small talk. So much for beauty alone being the sole criterion for perfection. At least for me.

A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of around 40 percent. But millions of individuals think their partner is at least perfect enough to marry and/or have their children.

The arts are often accused of leading society but more often, they reflect society. We should be able to learn something about what artists consider the perfect woman by looking at paintings, music, films, literature, etc.

One of the more oft-recognized views is women as depicted in paintings. The artist Peter Paul Rubens had a distinct view of the perfect woman. His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms ‘Rubensian’ or ‘Rubenesque’ for so-called ‘plus-sized’ women. The settings for Ruben’s women rarely gave a hint of their occupation. They often appeared in the nude alongside men whose professions might be surmised by what they wore. Artists often capture women on canvas without any obvious reference to a profession. In the multitude of web sites that trace the ideal woman over the ages, there are ample changes in clothing. The examples of clothing for these women are all social and rarely provide a hint at any professions…other than Little Bo Peep.

Most nations have a symbol of national personification used for everything from military recruiting posters, to postage stamps, and on currency. In France, this is Marianne, in Greece it is Athena, and in the Netherlands it is the Dutch Maiden. In the United States, it is Columbia. These national icons are physically appealing although not necessarily attractive. The French are always different. Since 1969, Marianne has undergone modifications to resemble living famous and beautiful people. The two most well-known are Bridget Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.

Some recording artists have used the phrase “perfect woman” in song. Bo Burnham describes one of his perfect women as being blind and another as someone who didn’t talk too much. Pat Dailey and Macaw tell us their perfect woman is a rich, dumb, young, nymphomaniac who owns a liquor store. A number of songwriters manage to fit in something about a liquor store when describing the perfect woman–even more than referring to them as blondes. Adrian Belew wrote a song called “The Ideal Woman.” This person is described as demure, friendly, a loving person, religious, great personality, fun to be with, fashionable, romantic, talented, creative, wealthy, independent, powerful, liberal, controllable, silent, good-looking, tall, thin, blonde, sexy, pretty with hairy legs. Belew adds she is my wife and my mother.

It’s a long song.

There are around nine films with the title “The Perfect Woman.” The earliest appeared in 1920. This movie is listed as a romantic comedy but not much else is known about the film. It starred Constance Talmage, who we can assume was film’s first “perfect woman.” Her biography lists her as blonde, buoyant, and a comedienne.

The next film to use the title “The Perfect Woman” did not appear until 1949. The film stars two different actresses. One plays a robot. The film documents man’s attempt to create a perfect woman. The second actress performs as the human model for the robot. The male lead chooses the human over the android in the end. Once again, art shows us mankind can’t improve upon nature. We cannot create a perfect woman. Creating perfect creatures didn’t work with the Frankenstein monster or his bride. But this story keeps getting told–implying what? The biography for the actress playing the human model lists her as being pretty, vivacious, and charming.

A 1993 comedic short “The Perfect Woman,” features a series of unnamed women talking to men during attempted pickups. This film is written, directed, and produced by a female member of the cast. The storyline for this film in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) web site says:

“The women, who are desperate for affection and a relationship, apologize, bend over backwards to accommodate, cooperate with every male fantasy, tolerate every male insecurity, ignore infidelities, and pick up the check.”

If you thought Hollywood was going to provide an in-depth answer to who is the perfect woman, I guess you think film versions of a story are better than books. My money is generally on the book being more complex and satisfying (The Thin Man being a notable exception). So let’s see what the world of traditional publication offers.

Art shows us mankind can’t improve upon nature. We cannot create a perfect woman. Creating perfect creatures didn’t work with the Frankenstein monster or his bride.

The words “perfect woman” or “women” have been used in scores of books, short stories, and even on the funny pages of newspapers. The bulk of these are self-help books for individuals in search of or wanting to advertise themselves as the perfect woman. A few of these books cross the line into illustrated erotica (sorry no citations–go find them yourself). There are also a fair number of romances using the title. Some are mysteries in which the women slain are generally considered by the killer as not being perfect. Of note are sci-fi offerings paralleling themes found in Hollywood where man tries to create a perfect woman such as in Metropolis or The Bride of Frankenstein. In one of these sci-fi books, the author’s premise is man cannot compete with the innate power of women (I know I have felt this way upon occasion). The author claims only through science will man be able to find what he needs. In an April 2015 short story “He’s the Perfect Woman,” a man eats a magical cookie that transforms him into a beautiful female with an uncontrolled sex drive.

In addition to the two bad witches, the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum, features two good witches. The Wicked Witch of the East dies with the arrival of Dorothy in Munchkinland. Baum makes it clear this sorceress had wreaked havoc on the Munchkins and deserved to die. Baum depicts the surviving Wicked Witch of the West as bitter, full of rage, yet powerful. Margaret Hamilton aided by Jack Young’s superb, but hideous, makeup wonderfully portrays the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. Message to the audience: negative characteristics and bad looks accompany characters who are evil and cause problems.

In the book there are two separate good witches. The Good Witch of the North initially meets Dorothy in Munchkinland. She is elderly, her face covered with wrinkles, hair nearly white, and she walks rather stiffly. Although she is kind, she is not powerful enough to help the young girl immediately return to Kansas. She does provide a protective kiss on Dorothy’s forehead safeguarding her journey into the Land of Oz.

In the movie, there is only one good witch with a speaking role, Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Glinda was portrayed wonderfully by Billie Burke in the film. She, rather than with Good Witch of the North, appears in Munchkinland to provide the initial guidance to Dorothy. Her attributes? Glinda is young, beautiful, dressed as a princess, wise, merciful, and helps Dorothy’s traveling companions get what they want. In both the book and movie, Glinda helps Dorothy return to Kansas at the end of the story. She also frees the Winged Monkeys. Get the differences? Can we agree on what would be attributes of the perfect woman here? Do these images of “perfection” provided to children last a lifetime?

Cartoons in America often also mirror society. In 1950, Al Capp took his character Li’l Abner on a year-long journey in search of the perfect woman. Li’l Abner finds a torn photo showing a mystery woman’s knee. He falls in love with just the physical beauty of the knee, and the search commences. His quest takes him to outer space, to a mythical hot country filled with beautiful women and sleepy men, to the corridors of political power, and to, of all places, Brooklyn.

Given the intellectual depth of cartoons, it is unlikely the criteria for perfection went beyond the physical.

Do these images of “perfection” provided to children last a lifetime?

If we turn to poetry, perhaps we can escape from the visual depictions of perfection and address flawlessness from a more refined perspective. Poets can capture the essence of an issue in a short number of words. There are many poems about the perfect woman. I will refer to two.

William Wordsworth, author of “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” wrote about his wife in a poem known either as “The Perfect Woman” or “The Phantom of Delight.” The first two parts of the full work depict when the couple first met. In these initial sections, Wordsworth recognizes and acknowledges her beauty. In the second section, as they get to know each other, he recognizes she works hard to please him as his wife. It is only in the final segment the author recognizes her spirit of happiness and tries to capture what makes her the perfect woman. Wordsworth mentions attributes such as a firm reason, a temperate will, endurance, foresight, strength, skill, able to warn, comfort, and command, a spirit still and bright, with something of an “angelic light.”

A more contemporary poem with the title “The Perfect Woman,” is written from the perspective of a female, Sylvia Chidi. Attributes include standing elegantly tall, staring right at you, displaying motherly kindness, exhibiting contemporary greatness, charm, with a disarming smile, serving as a positive role model and able to affect the lives of others, an outstanding personality, intellect, plain and simple, without flaws, and always following the law. The repeated refrain–the perfect woman is the woman all girls want to be.

A number of authors and famous men in life are quoted in simple prose consisting of just a few lines of pure opinion. My favorite is the view of that well-known international rabble-rouser, social scientist, political theorist, philosopher, father of Marxist theory, and author of The Communist Manifesto, Friedrich Engels. According to the Goodreads web site of great quotations, Freddy said: “If there were no Frenchwomen, life wouldn’t be worth living.”

I wonder whether he shared this view with Karl Marx? Moreover, what do Frenchwomen have to do with the withering away of the state? Engels was ahead of his time–he did not live to witness Marianne being modeled after a young Bridget Bardot or Catherine Deneuve.

Baum depicts the surviving Wicked Witch of the West as bitter, full of rage, yet powerful … Message to the audience: negative characteristics and bad looks accompany characters who are evil and cause problems.

In modern times, views on any subject can be found in the digital universe. There are a number of perfect woman hits on Facebook but by far the most revealing are found on Twitter. Some women advertise themselves to be “perfect.” The most direct appeal comes from someone who said: “I’ll make you a sandwich and fetch you a beer, then talk sports over dinner.”

That particular tweet was subsequently deleted before I could find a non-attached male friend to do follow-up research. So, I decided to take a non-scientific survey on Facebook and asked my “friends” if they had any opinions on what constituted the perfect woman. Here are a smattering of replies–mostly written by women:

“I think the perfect woman would be neurotic…on the inside because everyone (on the outside) thinks she’s perfect. Maybe she isn’t even real, maybe an excellent hologram, robotic or non-human. Personally, I’d find a “perfect” person to be irritating. Hate being around someone who’s always right.”

“Someone who can stand toe to toe and still be able to need you.”

“Human beings are imperfect and therefore are incapable of identifying perfection in another.”

“Perhaps the perfect woman is the one who is completely at peace with her imperfections.”

“[someone who] … wears a 25-year-old sweat-stained gardening hat or tiara with equal ease…and knows which one to wear to meet the Queen.”

“Humans must strive to locate others who balance our differences and thus create a good partnership.”

“That would depend on each man. Some men like women who are dolled up compared to others who can’t stand that type of woman. Some like women on the quieter side while others gravitate towards the life of the party. Then there are those who would never be with a woman unless she’s a good cook and great homemaker, while others are capable of and enjoy doing that themselves. Is there really such a thing as the perfect woman? Just about as much as there’s the perfect man.”

“Makes enough money to give her husband some anxiety about his manhood.”

“Best keep them to myself. ;0” [this one was written by a man]

“The perfect woman according to a Danish saying is someone who: LOOKS like a young Girl, ACTS like a Lady, THINKS like a Man, and WORKS like a Horse.!!!!!! ME!!!!!!”

This last suggestion was sent by Jasmine. She often came over to watch me write this piece and told me I did not need to search any further. A friend posted on Facebook if I did not end up concluding Jasmine was the perfect woman, I was going to be in a heap of trouble. Point taken. Let me see if I can weave a correct ending to this quest in the remaining pages.

Someone else sent me a photo of “The Quiet Woman Restaurant & Bar” in the United Kingdom. Although I recognize “quietness” is an attribute some men, and at least one songwriter, might have for their version of the perfect woman, I think I will step around that particular landmine.

A friend posted on Facebook if I did not end up concluding Jasmine was the perfect woman, I was going to be in a heap of trouble.

Scientists have asked what constitutes perfection and have come up with what they think is the answer. Berkeley University professor Lior Pachter, a computational biologist working in genomics, investigated DNA. His study reveals a version of the genetically “perfect human.” The criteria are complicated and have mostly to do with propensity towards disease and numerous medical conditions. According to Pachter, she comes from Puerto Rico where the population is often a mixture of European, West African, and Native American.

Rather than immediately visualizing Jennifer López, Pachter suggests thinking about the legendary Yuiza, a female chief of one of the indigenous tribes. When the Spanish Conquistadores killed off most of the men, Yuiza took over as chief and took steps to protect the survivors. The legends do not tell of this perfect woman leading warriors into battle killing the Spanish but rather becoming the lover of one of the Conquistadores. Her reward? The other chiefs killed her.

So much for the ability to kill being a scientifically-proven attribute of perfection. Worse yet, a contemporary painting of Yuiza shows an attractive young woman with eyes averted away from a Puerto Rican male artist. A contemporary female artist shows Yuiza looking right at the viewer. The female artist’s painting is based upon a vision after Yuiza appeared before the artist in the middle of the night.

So science and art have defined “The Perfect Woman” and we can visualize either J. Lo or someone’s idea of Yuiza. But are there enough Puerto Rican woman in the world to go around or should we encourage their population growth? Does this study finally end the historical nurture or nature debate? Does this mean Engels not only got Marxism wrong but also French women? I wonder whether Puerto Rican women post their DNA profiles on some secret Hispanifile social media site.

Biometric data collection should soon amass criteria able to match key distances and features for individuals still hung up on physical attributes. Or perhaps governments have done that already with all of the computing power at their disposal. I mean if they can track “persons of interest” why should we not assume that some bored technician has not tried to identify the perfect woman for his own personal interests? If you want someone who resembles J. Lo, or Catherine Deneuve, it should be just a matter of time before some organization will be able to find the perfect look-alike for your concept of a perfect woman. Note: see reference to identical twins above.

There are a number of serious academic books dealing with the ideal woman. In general, such authors agree the concept of an ideal woman depends upon the specific culture and the time. For example, the Indian goddess Sita would be ideal for the Hindu culture. The Virgin Mary might be the same for some Christians. References exist to various religious teachings, and many articles do not separate woman from wife or mother. I thought I could duck the subject of motherhood, but I find I cannot.

Before science told us it could explain everything, humans often turned to some form of spiritual or religious practice for the meaning of life. Sure enough, advice on women is still contained in those sources. Christianity is still the world’s largest religion. Divided by numerous practices, a central point of general agreement is on The Bible. The central portion of The Bible dealing with the ideal or perfect woman is Proverbs 31. The passage relates what King Lemuel was told by his mother. The question is whether the passage refers to a woman of noble character, or a wife. Such a person is worth far more than rubies, but the passage implies a woman cannot be noble unless she is a wife. There are many attributes for such a woman such as running the household like a business, charity, bringing respect to the family, strength, dignity, wisdom, and being God-fearing. The passage cautions beauty is fleeting. This passage from the Old Testament is accepted in Judaism and is recited in the home. There are numerous Bible study groups, books, pamphlets, etc. that keep this passage alive.

The world’s second largest religion, Islam, also contains advice on what constitutes the perfect woman. Only four women in history could measure up to the high standards required of perfection under Islam. Such women were charitable, feeling of others, cheerful, magnanimous, and idealistic. Similar to the Christian view? Muslim women, of course, must be devoted to their religion. Under Muslim dress codes, women are freed from having to follow materialistic fashions and shallow Western definitions of perfection. Male believers are cautioned if they marry her for anything other than a woman’s religious piety, the marriage is bound to fail. Believers are told beauty and charm are hard to resist, but beauty does not last forever. Religious teachings remind men that beauty does not guarantee you a woman’s obedience and religiousness.

Sita, the wife, is the ideal woman for Hindus. She is recognized for her obedience and having followed her husband through many ordeals and resisted temptation from another man. Modern articles offering advice to young women remind them of the need to obey and sacrifice above all else. Not a lot of contemporary discussion about throwing yourself on a funeral pyre when the Lord and Master passes. Five Panchakanya characters in Hindu epics are traditionally considered ideal women. Common aspects of their stories are dealing with loss, being rewarded for good behavior, and punishment for adultery and challenging men. We are reminded in the fictional film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in a traditional Indian family, almost all marriages are arranged. I guess the selection of a perfect woman for a young man is beyond his innate capabilities. I wonder whether Hindu parents know about this sheep-killing thing.

Buddha did not envisage a subordinate role for women. A number of academic articles claim ancient Asian societies could not accept the freedoms resulting from Buddha’s view. Advice on the perfect woman on one Internet site suggests things like adherence to the faith, morality, meditation, simplicity, modesty, kindness to all living things, respect, and enthusiasm. I need to find out whether the perfect woman on the farm in Sweden is a Buddhist.

There are a number of serious academic books dealing with the ideal woman. In general, such authors agree the concept of an ideal woman depends upon the specific culture and the time.

What have I learned in looking into the subject of “The Perfect Woman?” Well for me, the answer is Jasmine. But is Jasmine “The Perfect Woman” for any other individual? Would Jasmine have been “The Perfect Woman” for me in a past life? Apparently she was. Jasmine checked out my past life profile before we started dating exclusively.

I remind the reader my new Norwegian friend Bjørn “liked” my Facebook posting where I mentioned the sheep-killing Swedish farmer was the perfect woman and would serve as the genesis of this essay. Who am I to tell Bjørn or Brit their criteria for “The Perfect Woman” are not the ones I use? One major point in Brit’s favor is she considered Jasmine perfect enough for me. She introduced us.

It would appear a woman capable of compassionate ruminant mammalian slaughter is an acceptable (if somewhat esoteric) criterion, whereas a woman executing human homicide is not. Who knows, maybe “The Perfect Woman” for all of us in another reality is defined foremost by being a woman who kills her own sheep. Consider a post-apocalyptic world for example.

My conclusion is that perfection is an assessment by a single individual within a specific culture and time. Although perfection need not be judged by anyone other than oneself, perfection determined by others often requires context and implies measurement. An abstract concept of perfection lacking context and quantification may be good for self-esteem and play well in San Miguel de Allende, but I submit it will not sway the admissions dean at Harvard.

The Perfect Woman appeared previously in The Basil O’ Flaherty, July 10, 2016. 

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Jim Tritten is an established author who lives in New Mexico with his Danish author/artist wife and five cats.