The Objectification of Marie Antoinette
“Let Them Eat Cake!” We have all heard these famous words that were once supposedly uttered by the infamous former queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Known for her extravagance, arrogance, and various sexual escapades, Marie Antoinette quickly became an image of sexual objectification and complete hatred among the people of 18th century France.
Born in 1755, Marie was quickly molded to fit the physical and beauty standards of the French aristocracy. After a new hairstyle, more polished wardrobe, and dental work, the young Austrian was ready to assume her position as wife of King Louis XVI and the new queen of France. She assumed the throne as a figure of elegance, grace, and wealth. An image that had been carefully cultivated and that was of the utmost importance to her. She dreamed of being accepted by the aristocracy and in order to do so, she would have to perfect the part.
Although the French were not necessarily thrilled about their new Austrian queen, Marie’s image was quickly tainted as tales of her greed and healthy sexual appetite circulated through the nation. But how did the image of one woman, known for her polish and elegance, become so quickly associated with immorality, sexuality, and contamination?
Historians continue to analyze the denigrating image of Marie Antoinette in the eyes of her people. Even if there was some validity to such rumors it seems that Marie’s predicament was the result of a growing fear throughout the French nation. Change was inevitable and with a foreign queen whose personality and opinions were rumored to dominate that of her rather unintelligent and submissive husband, worry seemed to pervade the French population.
As the French people continued to view Marie in a role of political authority and female empowerment, she became the victim of the tabloids and her image was tarnished. No longer was she seen as an emblem of wealth and royalty as cartoons depicting her in compromising sexual situations spread like wildfire throughout France. Instead of queen, she was now referred to as whore, lesbian, or adulterer. Even if the French queen was guilty of participating in such acts, it is undeniable that she was targeted out of fear of her authority and power over the king and his body of governance. Since the beginning of time, anxiety has surrounded women of political power, making them targets for scandal and scrutiny. This has become evident even in modern society and was illustrated in the case of Marie Antoinette. As the queen seemingly grew more powerful, her image was constantly debased and her body was objectified in newspapers that circulated through not only France, but also the rest of Europe.
The French population continued to target Marie Antoinette until her execution by the guillotine in 1793. She was stripped of her elegant clothing and led to the scaffold as the crowd taunted her like a common criminal. Her beheading was symbolic of the final act of degradation against the despised queen. As her head fell from the blade, the French finally accomplished their goal of eliminating Marie Antoinette and viewed her death as a symbol of the end of the monarchy and the beginning of a revolution.