In the 1920s, the feminine ideal of beauty was a woman who looked like she was on the verge of passing out at any moment. Linda Lin, a psychologist at Boston’s Emmanuel College, explained to Daily Burn that “femininity was tied to frailness, weakness and vulnerability” a century ago. “Power, strength and muscularity were thought of as masculine traits, and gyms were for bodybuilders and athletes,” she said.
Even as recently as the 1960s, strenuous exercise was viewed as something that could damage a woman’s health. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the idea of a toned, muscled woman began to be considered not only acceptable, but also attractive. While being toned in modern times is considered aesthetically appealing, the new standard isn’t necessarily an improvement over the old one. “The culture is defining what’s attractive, and it’s not more accepting,” said Lin. “Now women can feel bad if they don’t have the right muscle tone.”