PaleoliTHICC: Understanding the Woman of Willendorf using contemporary fat studies

head shot of Shelby Jones

Name: Shelby Jones
Major: Anthropology
Minor: History
Advisor: Dr. Siavash Samei; Dr. Beth Derderian (second reader)

Best All-Around Presentation

My research focused on the Woman (“Venus”) of Willendorf figurine, one of the most famous Paleolithic figurines. Rather than arguing that she is a depiction of a fertility icon or a Mother Goddess, I argue that she should be understood as nothing more than a depiction of a fat woman. I also ask what modern perceptions of the Woman are. The initial research conducted for the literature review of this project indicated that there were four distinct anthropological “camps” that explain her creation: the Woman as a fertility icon, the Woman as a toy of some form, the Woman as a Mother Goddess, and the Woman as a fat person. Additionally, rather than keeping the Woman planted firmly in the Paleolithic era, I tie in the contemporary theoretical framework of “fat studies” to understand her place in the world as a fat woman. Fat studies is a discipline that aims to place fat bodies at the forefront of conversations and bring awareness to the oppression that fat people face. Jeannine Gailey’s theory of “hyper(in)visibility” further narrows the perspective on the Woman and experiences of those fat feminine bodies that resemble her. In order to answer the question about the modern perceptions of the Woman, a survey was sent to the College of Wooster student body, and the responses to this survey were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this research further, please reach out to me at: sjones22@wooster.edu!

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Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

13 responses to “PaleoliTHICC: Understanding the Woman of Willendorf using contemporary fat studies”

  1. David McConnell says:

    Congratulations, Shelby, on completing this very innovative project! Best of luck with the final weeks and with your post-graduation plans.

  2. Shelby Jones says:

    Thank you, Dr. McConnell! Hope you’re well!

  3. Siavash Samei says:

    You have done just a phenomenal job Shelby. I am very proud of you and honored to have had the pleasure of guiding you and learning from you through this incredible project.

  4. Mark Graham says:

    Hi Shelby — This is excellent work — really innovative. From the time you talked with me about your project, I’ve been looking forward to seeing this presentation of it. Thank you for this work, and congratulations!

  5. Megan Fisher says:

    #1 Best title of the year!!!

    So proud of you Shelb!

  6. Shelby Jones says:

    Thank you, Megs!! I love you!!

  7. Claire Eager says:

    Shelby, congratulations on this amazing project! Your theories, findings, and presentation are all compelling. I got to see her a few years ago and I’m wondering whether/how you think the size of the object itself (tiny! or tiny relative to human bodies; small for an art object) figures in to this?

  8. Jennifer Faust says:

    Congratulations on your “Best All-Around” award, Shelby!

  9. Rachel Jones says:

    Congratulations Shelby!! I’m so proud of you!!

  10. Dean Hernandez says:

    Congratulations on this wonderful project and your well-deserved award, Shelby! So thrilled to see you get to this place in your Wooster journey. All the best!

  11. Beth Derderian says:

    Hi Shelby, congrats on a fabulous project and again, impeccable title! I enjoyed reading your IS and learned a lot.

  12. Georgia Hopps-Weber says:

    What a wonderful presentation Shelby! I really like this take on the Woman of Willendorf and LOVE the title!

  13. Kate Beutner says:

    Shelby, this is great! I’m so glad to see your incorporation of fat studies into your project on this well-known icon.

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