I have started getting the NAAFA Newsletter via email and the most recent update has an brief snippet about a woman from Ancient Egypt who has long fascinated me: Hatshepsut. As I have of late been rather burnt out trying to maintain a constant level of rage against the many atrocities against fatness in daily life, not to mention those being even more forcibly and dangerously foisted upon the rights of women of all sizes, I found this brief mention of an amazing woman from the past to be a breath of fresh air. Not least of which because researching it lead me to the discovering of ANOTHER amazing woman…
Hatshepsut: Woman Ruler of Egypt (First of the few female rules to actually take the title of Pharaoh) for 20+ years (around the 1500s BC), established trade networks to rebuild the wealth of the 18th dynasty, commissioned the first recorded attempt to procure and transplant foreign trees (Myrrh), one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt with hundreds of works commissioned who was not shy about self-promotion of her amazing feats.
In short, she was powerful, intelligent, rich, important and knew her own value. She was unafraid to not only use her connections and monies to the benefit of herself and her nation’s glory but she was out there for all to see: proud and fierce and female. Now, while researching the claims that she was also fat and short I was coming up…short. Most representations of Hatshepsut in images or text refer to her beauty and blooming youth, etc. I was happy to read that she ran the Pharaoh’s circuit in her 40s (go older woman!) but failed to find clear references to the woman actually being short and fat.
However, I *DID* find references to the wife of Parihou/Perehu: Ati/Eti, the Queen of Punt (where Hatshepsut got her Myrrh trees to transplant). This is where the true awesome rests. The queen of punt, you see, was described as “short, fat, long-armed, and with a prominent behind”. Rock on, Fatty Queen!
There is really not much written on the queen (or even her King for that matter) as records are more concerned with the goodies that Hatshepsut brought back from her expedition abroad to the still disputed location of the Land of Punt than with the fat queen from the land they visited. However, she was certainly NOT the general image of a queen, so much so that artists depicted her vastly differently from other generic people images of the day. Her non-thin appearance in such images is, to this day, discussed amongst those destined to find out, from such depictions alone, what was “wrong” with her body. Me? I’m just happily enjoying the idea that a woman was queen of a land abroad and left such an impression that artists felt the need to capture her image.
Perhaps they were doing what amounted to mockery at the time, you suggest? I feel that would have been a waste of time and talents when crafting a relief for the queen’s huge temple of Deir el-Bahri. To me, these images are a representation of a woman that people were impressed with, enough so that they refused to carve her as yet another generically similar body-shapes but felt compelled to portray her as she was.
I say: Rock on you fabulous women of ancient days! You RULED!