Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Real life invades fashion land
August 29, 2009 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Lizzie Miller is a "plus" size model and a photo of her, sized only 3 inches, is making (some) waves in the fashion world and general media.
posted by Megami (256 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's plus sized?
posted by empath at 9:48 AM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yes, I saw this the other day, and heard she's a size 12 or something--plus sized for a model, but the average woman runs a size 14 these days. Women's plus sizes generally start at what, 16? 18?
posted by misha at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2009


I'm only here to point out that Izzy has the cutest dimples ever.
posted by dabitch at 9:54 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Look! We don't think this woman with a few extra ounces of fat on her body is a disgusting cow! Can you believe how enlightened we are?"
posted by EarBucket at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2009 [85 favorites]


Lizzie! hmm, I guess they're also quite distracting, those dimples
posted by dabitch at 9:55 AM on August 29, 2009


It is a symptom of how far out of control the stick-figure fashion-designer imperative is that this slender and graceful, lanky even woman is considered "plus sized."

I mean, HURF DURF RICECAKE EATERS
posted by Rumple at 9:56 AM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


I think it's a little ironic to see a picture of a woman with no clothes making waves in the fashion world.

Here's another picture of her
posted by delmoi at 9:58 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Since when is Associated Content considered the "general media"? Or was that linked simply because it was talking about the media? Also, the Examiner as a first link?

This is an interesting topic, but the links are a little thin.
posted by limeonaire at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2009


Mmmmm. Curves.

(A little skinny for my taste, but she'll do in a pinch.)
posted by John of Michigan at 10:05 AM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sorry limeonaire, that is all I could find at the time. Feel free to add your own, better ones.
posted by Megami at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2009


This is an interesting topic, but the links are a little thin.

Har!
posted by mazola at 10:10 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Since when is Associated Content considered the "general media"? Or was that linked simply because it was talking about the media? Also, the Examiner as a first link?

I love that the Associated Content "general media" (bullshit) article actually posits the notion that someone who is size 12 is "double" the size of someone who's size 6! If I'm a size 2, does that make this woman six times my size?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:19 AM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also in the news this week:
Plus-size model Crystal Renn fits in her own skin
posted by porn in the woods at 10:19 AM on August 29, 2009


That's plus sized?

My reaction exactly.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:20 AM on August 29, 2009


Read that blog at Glamour. My god, the Glamour editorial voice is so fucking insincere it makes me want to cry.

Nice picture though. Pretty woman. Good smile.
posted by grobstein at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2009


Well, I think there are two sides to this.
1) Yes, sure, she's not exactly 'plus' sized in the way that would be actually representative of most normal women...
2) But on the other hand - she's not emaciated, she looks healthy, she looks happy, she doesn't look like she's been living off of only celery and grapes for the past year...sure it is sad that the fashion world is so abuzz with a woman just because she's not a size 000, but considering that most of the models you see are? I mean, it's certainly a step in the right direction, especially for the many young girls and women who read these magazines and look to them for examples of 'normalcy' and 'beauty.'
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:21 AM on August 29, 2009


To say that she is lovely is an understatement. I hate to be cynical, but I really doubt that the feedback to Glamour was all positive. I'm sure much of it was not very nice at all. The magazine did--as twisted as it is to say--take a risk in publishing the photo, so naturally they're going to count this as a win. An innocuous white lie? It does get everyone talking about body image and realistic beauty standards, but something about this feels like she's been used rather poorly.
posted by njbradburn at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry if this sounds really stupid, but what is the 3 inches in the title referring to?
posted by slimepuppy at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I looks like they're on a quota system with fatties. Every six months. But now that they've gotten widespread coverage, they've bought themselves a good two years before they'll have to revisit the matter again. You'll notice the same trend with modest-looking models.

Also, I wanted to point out that the average American woman's size is not exactly an ideal, given our culture's legacy of overindulgence. However, it's always a positive when people can have a little more self-confidence, however fleeting by next month's issue.

When you see her in the Today Show interview, it's kind of sad to imagine the average model of her height would weigh 65 lbs. less.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 10:23 AM on August 29, 2009


limeonaire, I know lots of feminist blogs have discussed this image, which I guess is more "specialty" media? But anyway, it has been floating around the blogosphere a few days, and the response is pretty much the same as on Mefi: a) that's fat? b) body standards for American women: fucked up!

A lot of writers have connected this image to the Self Magazine cover image of Kelly Clarkson, which was both heavily Photoshopped against her wishes and lamely defended as "empowering" by the magazine. Even when women don't want to look thinner, magazines "fix" it for them.

As a result, tiny little bellies on normal-looking women are shocking things to see in American women's magazines, unless it's in "Celebrity Stretch Marks/Shameful Celebrity Fatness" pics.
posted by emjaybee at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey, is this one of those Metafilter threads where I get to inform everyone about my tastes in women, and secretly expect praise and commendation for it because I'm not only attracted to really skinny women?

Cool.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2009 [65 favorites]


She has big legs and a butt, which I think (from experience) is the primary reason she's
'plus-sized'.

My thick legs have always been the only reason I have to buy size 12 pants because I can't fit them in the jeans-designed-for-people-with-sticks-for-legs sizes, which for some reason seems to be the absolute standard. Natural body shape, be damned! I guess we're all just 'plus-sized' now.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The online-size of the image.

Wow, Crystal Renn's transformation is all positive. It's like even her face fits her better now.
posted by dabitch at 10:26 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


so, some more links to open discussion:

from Sociological Images

from Jezebel (two links, and props for Jezebel's search engine not sucking arse for the first time ever)

and just for a change of pace, from The Sartorialist

(wow...Kate Harding and Feministing didn't write about this? Seriously?)

(Ehm...this isn't to bitch at the OP. I just spend a lot of time reading feminist/sociology blogs :) )
posted by kalimac at 10:27 AM on August 29, 2009


Also, this is a world where the stretchmarks on a 41 years old mother of two needs extra attention in the paper.
posted by dabitch at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2009


T&A. Nice.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2009


Not a problem Kalimac - and I already linked to the Sartorialist :)
posted by Megami at 10:31 AM on August 29, 2009


Sorry if this sounds really stupid, but what is the 3 inches in the title referring to?

It's the size of the picture as it was published in the magazine.
posted by Huck500 at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2009


The 3 inches is the size of the photo on p194 of Glamour.

If you shop in stores with a separate "plus-size" section for women, it starts with size 12. I find it surprising that would be news to any Americans. Women's underwear categorizes size 7 as large, 8 as extra large, and 9 as so large that in many stores, you're doomed to granny drawers, Jockey/Hanes, or nothing at all.

Lizzie is beautiful and appears to be healthy and happy. That can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and it will be a beautiful thing if our culture ever embraces that notion.
posted by notashroom at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2009


The Glamour article did read very self-congratulatory, but magazines tend to do that when touting their own content, so whatever. What I find most interesting is that the magazine runs a photo of an attractive woman and it "causes a stir" because she isn't wafer thin. I think as long as these publishers continue to regard body shapes above a size 2 as something edgy and controversial, then size 2 and below is going to continue to be considered the norm; the "safe" bet for content. What would be nice would be if a fashion/beauty magazine featured women like Lizzy and just shrugged about it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Lizzie Miller Nude in 'Glamour': Redifining Beauty

Associated Content.com: Redefining Spelling

(offtopic, snarky)
posted by BinaryApe at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Megami: Oh, fer...I am brilliant, clearly :)
posted by kalimac at 10:38 AM on August 29, 2009


That's plus sized?

Plus-sized model. Normal-sized real person.
posted by rokusan at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry if this sounds really stupid, but what is the 3 inches in the title referring to?

The size of the image when printed in the magazine. Online images don't have 'sizes' because they depend on the size of the monitor and the resolution.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 AM on August 29, 2009


I really REALLY needed to read a story like this right now. I'm short and have been fairly petite my whole life--in high school I was a size 0-4, and for the past 10 years I've been in the range of 4-8. This was the first year I joined the ranks of many, many women in going from that supposedly (in fashion terms) "normal" range to the edge of what can be bought in standard clothing stores (12-14). And the truth is, it's been eye-opening, and made me pretty mad. Because...maybe I'm delusional, but I still think I'm fairly small to average for the general population. And what really changed frankly had to do with being a late bloomer as a woman--I got hips and boobs, I guess like 5 years late or something. The boobs in particular are what have made wearing a size 8 impossible. I was always on the side of the riot don't diet fat-politics feminists and agreed with them that part of the sizing issue is indeed a societal rejection of women being, you know, grown ass WOMEN, but I'd never experienced what they were talking about until now. My figure's a lot like Lizzie's--I'm still slender looking (at least I think so), but I definitely have "womanly" hips, and my belly exists, it's not freakishly up and down tiny the way it used to be when I was a stick. And it's ridiculous it's such a revelation to see someone like that. These stories always make me simultaneously happy and sad...

I bought my wedding dress custom from a woman on etsy. I was having an emotional block where I kept putting it off because I knew I'd probably be "plus sized" (wedding clothing runs even smaller, I guess to torture and initiate you into the hell of being a bride). The designer I ordered from showed me her size chart...and I was a MEDIUM, once again, for the last time probably. It was stupid, but I had the urge to thank her for that. For having a saner, more realistic scale...
posted by ifjuly at 10:50 AM on August 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


A lot of writers have connected this image to the Self Magazine cover image of Kelly Clarkson, which was both heavily Photoshopped against her wishes and lamely defended as "empowering" by the magazine. Even when women don't want to look thinner, magazines "fix" it for them.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is simply endemic in the industry, after seeing this month's Cat Fancy. Joe Mantegna ... is not who I think of for the phrase "good skin". Really, even at that resolution, compare his face and his arms.
posted by dhartung at 10:54 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, America's Next Top Model already had a plus-size girl win. We already solved the problem.
posted by klangklangston at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey, is this one of those Metafilter threads where I get to inform everyone about my tastes in women, and secretly expect praise and commendation for it because I'm not only attracted to really skinny women?

No, this is one of those threads where I get to feel guilty for being small and listen to people theorizing that my size is due to starvation, despite the fact that I spent the first 33 years of my life as a size 10-12 and eat normally.
posted by elfgirl at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Okay, that photo of Mantegna is creeping me out. Is he going to eat that cat? Or strangle it?
posted by blucevalo at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


see? - the models of the world CAN be rescued with a cheeseburger
posted by pyramid termite at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2009


So 180 pounds, roughly nine feet tall, and totally striking is the fashion industry's idea of what a normal person looks like? If they walked into my local Wal-Mart, they'd be struck blind.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


well, it seems to have startled the writer in that first link into using some pretty convoluted sentence structure. Lizzie Miller is a plus size model who is in the September issue of Glamour magazine nude. a little stilted. and then The photo is one that people can’t stop talking about and Lizzie is amazing by this comment. indeed. lizzie probably is amazing. perhaps even amazed at the writer's word choice.
posted by msconduct at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Video of her appearance on the Today Show. They did not ask her to stand up, but she looks super tall. Also, she has beautiful blond hair and a dazzling smile.

However, she is imperfect, so I had to look away, repulsed.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2009 [23 favorites]


As a teenage girl I am perfectly, all-too-consciously aware of the fat that juts from my thighs and collects at my belly. My mom used to warn me in my early teens that I would get fat and regret it and that I shouldn't eat so much. I got really angry and told her I wouldn't care but when I gained weight from all that depressive overeating I did care, mostly because it felt like a big I-told-you-so. Well I'm not fat, nor particularly rotund, just normal and I still jab at myself everyday because I'm not sure how to embrace my femininity. I think when you're younger femininity is defined too often by shape, because its a concept that's easy to grasp. Older and wiser maybe I'll realize it's something too beautiful to be described by figure alone?
posted by mmmleaf at 11:11 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love that picture. There's something super, super natural about it. Her smile, the way her legs are crossed and her butt is sort of hanging off the back of the bench. It's so comfortable and fun. That would still come across if she was wearing clothes, but not as much. Also, I think we are really conditioned to seeing naked photos with some element of sexuality attached to it. Here, it is pure fun. It's as if she is friends with the photographer and they are making each other laugh, in a completely non-self conscious, joyful way.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:40 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


She's 5-11, 180, for a BMI of 25.1. That's barely into the overweight range, which starts at 25. But since average height for U.S. women is about 5-4, her "overweight" status likely has more to do with bone and muscle than fat; she's one of many people for whom BMI is inaccurate.

Which shows you ... we have no idea what normal is any more.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


The photo is one that people can’t stop talking about and Lizzie is amazing by this comment.

Doesn't this publication have any goddamned proofreaders?


Back on topic, I've often wondered if the mysterious sizing of women's clothing has more to do with height than girth. I speak as someone who is 5'4" and who usually wears a "large." That just seems weird. I'll admit I could lose a few pounds (as in, say, 20 or so) but I'm decidedly not morbidly obese and certainly less so than these "average real Americans" we keep hearing about. And in sports clothes, like cycling shorts or motorcycle gear? Fuhgeddabout it. Not even close to reality.
posted by scratch at 11:43 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a man.
I am a pretty hardcore "gymrat", in that I am in the gym weight training 5 or 6 days a week.
Tryin' to get my Statham on and all that.
I have always been thin without trying and am putting myself thru all this because I do enjoy it.
So that's a bit of context.

Having said all that, I have no idea how women cope with all this nebulous too thin/too fat/not pretty enough noise that you get hit with constantly in a million ways daily.

I woulda lost my damn mind a looooong time ago if I had to calibrate to that.

Also, maybe it's just cuz I grew up in Nebraska but that woman looks less than "plus" sized, but whadda I know?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:48 AM on August 29, 2009


Thanks, Cool Papa Bell. I was hunting around for that kind of data. Very helpful context.
posted by njbradburn at 11:54 AM on August 29, 2009


What caught my eye is the roundness at her belly -- which is my own personal insecurity. I had major abdominal surgery when I was 26, and ever since then my abdominal muscles have slowly but surely been going to pot, and the pooch at my belly has been getting more and more pronounced -- I don't wear skirts or dresses anymore because the pooch is pronounced and makes me look like I'm a few months' pregnant.

Seeing that same pooch on her makes me think, "...huh...that doesn't look so bad. ....Maybe it doesn't look bad on me either."

Thanks, Lizzie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


The neologism "Plus-sized" is in itself insulting. People are just the size they are. We don't go around calling 90-pound waifs "minus-sized." Plus what? Perfect plus fat? I fucking hate it.

So few women are international fashion models because so few women look like international fashion models. It's the tall & thin ones who are irregular, & for the fashion industry to foist that off on average people as an attainable ideal is harmful-- extremely so. I'd like for the fashion industry to pull its collective head out and refer to Lizzie Miller as "normal sized," or maybe leave the whole "sized" constuct out of the conversation entirely. grar
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Many of you have probably seen this, but it is relevant to our interests here, so: One-minute video showing how a naturally beautiful woman is transformed into the media's idea of a "beautiful woman." Much of it is about hair and make-up, sure, but then watch what they do in photoshop at the end, specifically making her face thinner, her eyes bigger and further apart, and her neck longer, than her bone structure would allow according to the laws of biology and physics, etc.

Disturbing, and eye-opening (sorry) to say the least.
posted by tzikeh at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


EmpressC, I have had a pooch since I was eight years old, and have hated it all my life.
That picture made me feel the same way.
posted by Megami at 12:08 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


One-minute video showing how a naturally beautiful woman is transformed into the media's idea of a "beautiful woman."

I'm not just crowing when I say I like the "before" girl better.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:10 PM on August 29, 2009


Genuine question:

If most of the market is composed of so-called "plus-sized women", why are most stores selling stuff the majority of the market can't buy?

Is it that if too much of your clientele is plus sized, your brand gets deemed unfashionable? Or is it that smaller girls buy more stuff, thus making up for their diminished (no pun intended) population?

Someone here must have worked in the industry, and can clue us in.
posted by effugas at 12:12 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


She looks so happy!

I just went out thrift shopping with a friend of mine and were talking about this--we're both size twelves or so and have both been exercising more over the past few months, with no appreciable changes in our size and, for me, a slight uptick in my weight (I think it might be muscle, but I also just switched birth control, so who knows). Even though we should be happy about making the positive lifestyle changes, it's hard to take that as a victory. We both couldn't help but wonder, should we diet? She's one of my only female friends who, like me, has no history of disordered eating and has a happy, functional relationship with food. Neither of us want to change that. Anyway, it feels good to see this woman, with a similar BMI, celebrated as beautiful, even if it's just a token nod.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:12 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


We don't go around calling 90-pound waifs "minus-sized."

Plus & minus are also about the most boring mathematical operators. I'd prefer to be differential sized.

Or you could imagine this exchange:

"Dude, did you see that photo of Lizzie Miller? She is so acute!"

"Acute? She's fucking exponential!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


In some ways less weight can be a social problem too. When I was younger if I didn't conciously eat more than I wanted, I would lose weight. High metabolism and all that. Think 5'11" 130-135lb.

Working to gain weight does not play well with 80% of the people you tell. The thin are bell-curve outliers, just like the obese. There aren't that many of either, so not that many people can relate. Our experience is different than most other peoples'. Many people that would prefer they be thinner get mad about it, jealous about it, or think you are taunting them or bragging. Basically you can't freely talk about your weight with most people. And, if you are thin, plenty of heavier people bring it up and give you trouble for it, not giving you the option of being silent about it. Women were especially upset by my metabolism, more so than men. Probably because society today seems to expect all women to have my body type, and that just isn't realistic.

So, a few comments down someone will pile on saying my problem isn't a problem and I just don't understand. Perhaps I don't, but perhaps that poster isn't fully understanding my experience either. This thread skinny people have been openly derided. People of all sizes are beautiful, why pick sides?
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2009 [16 favorites]


No, this is one of those threads where I get to feel guilty for being small

Awww sniff sniff this made me so SAD. Us fat girls are sorry you feel guilty for not taking as much shit as we have to. We'll try to avoid making you aware of the crap we put up with every day.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


ifjuly, you've been had. You're absolutely normal, and any anxiety you've got about yourself is the result of the fashion industry trying to tell the world about their own stupid standards.

Enjoy your body, and don't worry about what others may think of you.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:23 PM on August 29, 2009


She's extremely pretty. And count me as another man who appreciates a little pot belly on a girl. We are more common than any woman could ever imagine (or seems to, anyway).

What I can't figure out is how you carry 180 lbs on a 5' 11" frame and look like that. I'm six feet and 165 lbs, and I don't think I look much thinner than she does, if any. Is she just packing seven pound boobs or what?
posted by rusty at 12:30 PM on August 29, 2009


scratch: Doesn't this publication have any goddamned proofreaders?

It's just a website, not a publication, which makes it a little less surprising (but no more forgivable).

Antidisestablishmentarianist, I used to have trouble with being underweight when I was younger - I was about six foot and around 130lb when I was 16. As I hit puberty, my metabolism slowed drastically, and I'm now somewhat* overweight, and have to watch my diet. I really miss being able to eat as much and as often as a wanted, but the situation for me before was much more of a problem. It had much more severe implications for my health, and was a lot harder to deal with or do anything about. Having to watch what I eat isn't fun, but is much easier than eating well beyond what I felt I could, and I view it as a bit of a 'luxusproblem' (or 'luxury problem') in my situation. (Not to say that everyone who's overweight doesn't have a real problem, just that in my case I know suffer more inconvenience than downright discomfort and health risk).

*(I'm maybe an inch taller and weighed roughly twice as much at my peak)
posted by Dysk at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2009


"If you shop in stores with a separate "plus-size" section for women, it starts with size 12."

Oooooooh ooooh no, sir or madam, no it does not-- at least, not anywhere I've ever shopped. I am a size 10-12 depending how much I've been working out lately, and let me tell you, all the cute clothing stops looking good on you if you're above 8, and all the plus-size cute clothing isn't manufactured in smaller than a 14 (damn you, Lane Bryant!)

Still, I agree that, however stilted and superficial, it's nice to see at least a tiny nod to someone with a different build in a fashion magazine, and even nicer to see it coupled with a photograph that's both sexily playful and joyful. She's lovely.

It's obvious that the obsession with an "ideal build" and "ideal weight" and "ideal look" is an endemic sickness in our culture, regardless of the fact that ideal build/weight/look is different for every one of us (some think of themselves as too skinny, some too fat.)

I think my grandmother had the right idea: in her immortal words, "Eat when you're hungry, drink when you're dry, sleep when you're sleepy, live 'till you die."
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:34 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Antidisestablishmentarianist, your problem isn't a problem and you just don't understand. :)
People of all sizes are beautiful, why pick sides?
That's utter bullshit. If people of all sizes were beautiful, I wouldn't be posting at Metafilter because I'd be too busy sexually satisfying the non-stop parade of punani going through my bedroom. :)

But I'm fat, and I'm ugly, and so yes I and anyone else who doesn't like how they look will hate on a person who says "I'm *too* skinny, and it's a chore to gain weight!" You might as well tell us about the soul-crushing spiritual malaise of being too rich, for all the fucking sympathy you were going to get.

What you're missing is that weight distribution isn't possible in a bell curve- you can be 100 pounds overweight, but you can't be 100 pounds underweight (except if it's moments before death in the most tragic of anorexia cases). And whether you like it or not, physical attractiveness is the single most important thing about a human being, male or female. Period. Everything else we say is a lie, a fiction built on the stories and fabrications we call civilization. It's about animals rutting with other animals that are the most likely to be strong and disease free. Everything else is a lie that we build up, but underneath it all we just want to look good naked and have sex, sex, sex. We want food too, but being physically attractive also means "I know where the food is- but not so much that I can't chase a gazelle down with a spear or bear children without problems!"

And since you are natural pre-disposed to stay closer to "attractive" in your physique, you have something the rest of us wish for. So... handle your good fortune with grace, and don't be a fucking self-important snob about it.
Women were especially upset by my metabolism, more so than men.
Such a surprise. It's never the guys saying this shit, or promoting this shit, it's women telling themselves this shit. Most guys are perpetually baffled when women act like it's a fucking revelation that their "small pooch", or thick thighs, are not in fact sexual death sentences.
posted by hincandenza at 12:34 PM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


[in?] This thread skinny people have been openly derided.

Where? I think what people are deriding is the fashion industry telling those in the middle of your bell curve that the extreme outlier is considered "more beautiful." I'm just like you -- was 135 lbs. and 6'.0" for the majority of my adult life until my metabolism slowed down at 35. Now, I'm a whopping 155 -- still scrawny, but with a little bit of a gut. I used to get the occasional "I wish!" from a female friend, but never real anger. Going around wanting to be what we're not is so not worthwhile, and it galls me that industries are built upon making people feel this way. If you're skinny - great. If you're not -- great! We are what we are.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


If most of the market is composed of so-called "plus-sized women", why are most stores selling stuff the majority of the market can't buy?

Depends on whether the market equals your customers. I think people in their 40's and older, also tend to settle down in their clothes, so they don't really buy that much.
posted by smackfu at 12:37 PM on August 29, 2009


If most of the market is composed of so-called "plus-sized women", why are most stores selling stuff the majority of the market can't buy?

Quick hint for you: stores are not selling stuff smaller women can buy, either. Is there any woman, anywhere in this country, who can walk into a random clothing store and more often than not find something, anything that she likes that actually fits her well (other than shoes and socks)?
posted by dilettante at 12:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I can't figure out is how you carry 180 lbs on a 5' 11" frame and look like that. I'm six feet and 165 lbs, and I don't think I look much thinner than she does, if any. Is she just packing seven pound boobs or what?

Uh, yeah, probably?

Also, you're a dude. My boyfriend, of a similar height, looked emaciated at 135 where I looked pudgy-to-normal. The higher ratio of muscle on most men's bodies, among other things (breasts, water retention, bone density) makes it very difficult, if not useless, to compare weights between men and women.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here, it is pure fun. It's as if she is friends with the photographer and they are making each other laugh, in a completely non-self conscious, joyful way. (iamkimiam)

An entire book with that relationship between models and photographer.

A woman's smile is, I think, her most erotic attribute.
posted by WCityMike at 12:45 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


"And whether you like it or not, physical attractiveness is the single most important thing about a human being, male or female. Period. Everything else we say is a lie, a fiction built on the stories and fabrications we call civilization."

Bullshit. This the sort of thing that stupid, mean and ugly people say, forgetting that plenty of people who are merely ugly get laid.
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2009 [32 favorites]


game warden to the events rhino: Hey, is this one of those Metafilter threads where I get to inform everyone about my tastes in women, and secretly expect praise and commendation for it because I'm not only attracted to really skinny women?

Hey, no, this is one of those Metafilter where you get to make a snarky rejoinder which suggests but does not actually say you are indeed only attracted to really skinny women (but am simultaneously not at all implicated in how woman are portrayed in the media and advertising because you have such ironic cool), and secretly you expect praise and favourites from your oh-so-cool likeminded fanboys?

shorter me: don't be a dick
posted by Rumple at 12:52 PM on August 29, 2009


Oh, c'mon you guys! Everybody knows that "Plus Sized" just means her measurements are all positive integers.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:58 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


[A few comments removed. It would be awesome if we could not go full-bore frathouse in here.]
posted by cortex at 1:04 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


kldickson: Guys, remember the fact that the fashion industry is largely composed of people who are too stupid to make it in any other field.

No, seriously, every fashion design idiot or model idiot I've ever run across has always acted like they had a head full of bricks. I am not kidding. People in the fashion industry are complete morons.


One of my cousins is a fashion designer, and a reasonably successful one at that. She always excelled at school, and is anything but an airhead. She could easily have made it in many other fields.

You're just being obnoxious, and downright offensive to a whole group of people.
posted by Dysk at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am even more plus-sized. Mefi mail me for naked pics.
posted by snofoam at 1:12 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well I'm not fat, nor particularly rotund, just normal and I still jab at myself everyday because I'm not sure how to embrace my femininity.

It may help if you remember a few things;

1. The way the world/media/culture--which sadly, seems to include your mother (as it did mine) holds women up to impossible beauty standards is fucked up--and is a side effect of patriarchy. In that, women are defined as bodies, not as people. And so who they are is deemed less important than how they fit into whatever's fashionable right now. "Femininity" is just short-hand for "what random people think women should be like." You don't have to embrace your femininity--it's not something you can lose! You are yourself, regardless of how you choose to dress or move your body.

2. As a woman, you have to live in this world, and try not to let it make you crazy. This is very difficult. Don't be hard on yourself or your friends, or in the long run, your mother, for the fact that it is crazy-making.

3. But don't forget that it is, in fact, complete and utter bullshit. When you are dead, no one will give a fuck about your waist size; if they remember you, it will be for whatever you accomplished while you were alive. Try to hold on to that.

4. Seek out friends and lovers who understand these things too. They're out there, believe me.
posted by emjaybee at 1:15 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ah, good, we've reached the downward spiral of 'being 'x' is harder than being 'y', you insensitive prick!'. I was wondering when I could start skimming the rest of the thread for goodies like WCityMike's link and try to avoid the bile and the hatred.

People have it hard. You have it hard. I have it hard. Everyone's got their demons. Say you're sorry, you don't understand, but you'll try to. Say you're sorry someone else feels shit about themselves, because you do understand that feeling. Tell them they're probably really beautiful, and isn't society kind of a pain in the ass sometimes? Tell them it's hard for you, too. They'll be so shocked that someone showed them a modicum of compassion, they'll probably tell you they understand, and they're sorry, and that you're probably really beautiful too.

FFS. Try to understand. Empathy costs you nothing at all.
posted by kalimac at 1:16 PM on August 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


any anxiety you've got about yourself is the result of the fashion industry trying to tell the world about their own stupid standards.

It always makes me laugh when I hear that wrong opinion.


The tail does not wag the dog. There is a standard and it is biological. It's not something made up out of thin air. If it were something made up, then there would be no reason for it to bother you.
posted by Zambrano at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2009


The question for me whenever I see these things is, why don't women vote with their wallets and stop buying these stupid magazines that only feature models in one arbitrary small size? Who buys Glamour? Vogue? Etc.? What keeps them in business? If most women are significantly larger, and say in polls that they have poor self-esteem because of their size, why in hell are they reinforcing the current system? It just boggles my mind.
posted by miss tea at 1:18 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think you should all be repulsed by women who are so obviously overweight.

(Especially if it means that by your rejection of them, more of them are available for me to go out with.)
posted by markkraft at 1:23 PM on August 29, 2009


Fat thighs
Flabby arms
A pot belly still gives good loving.
posted by phoque at 1:25 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not so sure I'd characterize the fashion industry as stupid. It's a whole industry built on making women feel inadequate and then selling them products to fix those inadequacies--evil, yes, but stupid? I don't think so.

Glamour running this photo seems to be a particularly sly move. They get tons of publicity, they get to claim that they're inclusive of all body types, and really? It's ONE picture in ONE issue. They've used Lizzi Miller twice in the last year--and sadly, that puts them leagues ahead of their competitors in showing a diversity of body types. Don't get me wrong--whatever their motives, using a picture of a size 12 woman is great. But surrounding her with the same old advice about weight loss, the usual skinny models, and fearmongering about fat isn't change. It's just a lie.

Self-link: I blog about women's magazines, and I wrote about this here: http://su.pr/23ZBFB
posted by serialcomma at 1:26 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I find myself wondering is the history of how modern fashion became all about the size 2 women. I mean, as recently as the sixties we had major beauty icons who were curvy, but somewhere in the seventies and eighties it all became about women who are a lot thinner than most people, sometimes unhealthily so.

Who changed this? How did they make it stick? How did they change a whole country's perception of what's desirable in a woman's figure? This was a deliberate choice someone made, to promote some hyperskinny model as the acme of beauty, and a series of choices other people made to agree, and start looking for other hyperskinny models.
posted by egypturnash at 1:30 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oops. Here's that (relevant!) self-link as an actual link.
posted by serialcomma at 1:30 PM on August 29, 2009


Also funny from that Glamour article: "But there she is, big as life on page 194 of Glamour's September issue." No, not really.
posted by artifarce at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2009


How did they make it stick?

I saw what you did there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2009


Consider Marilyn and Joan. Hefty--and baby, what a coupla knockouts!
posted by scratch at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2009


egypturnash: "This was a deliberate choice someone made, to promote some hyperskinny model as the acme of beauty, and a series of choices other people made to agree, and start looking for other hyperskinny models."

I blame Twiggy.
posted by shammack at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2009


>No, this is one of those threads where I get to feel guilty for being small

Awww sniff sniff this made me so SAD.


Thanks for proving my point.

>This thread skinny people have been openly derided.

Where?


The first quote above is one.


Here's the thing that both amuses me and makes me sad:

I was the chubby girl. I was the girl who sat around in high school and college and watched the guys I liked watch only the girls that were thinner and prettier than me. I was the girl who stopped taking her mom to shop for clothes because she told me I was fat because she couldn't see my ribs.

I was kinda boyish-shaped growing up and then once I hit puberty, I put on a lot of weight. At 14, I was 5'1" and 135--a size 14 (juniors). From puberty on, my size varied between 10-14. I think I topped out at around 160 after my second child was born. Thanks to serious complications with my third pregnancy, including eclampsia, my metabolism shifted after third child was born. Instead of going back down to the size 12 I was before, I dropped an additional 30 lbs and five sizes. No one was more surprised than me--I, who only 4 years before had written about my amusement at a Gap employee who accused me of wearing the size 1 pants I had accidentally bought and then returned, with the comment, "When I have fit in a size 1 EVER?"

So--having been that girl and having lost weight by virtue of biology, and not starvation, it frustrates me that I now get shit on by other women for being thin. It's not my fault I'm thin. It's not my fault you're not. Ironically, I TOTALLY FUCKING SYMPATHIZE with you because I'VE BEEN THERE.

Yet, just like larger people complain that others make assumptions about them and their weight without knowing anything about them, they often do the same to me, somehow completely missing the fact that it's no different.

(Even more ironic, but less germane to the conversation, it that Lizzie is totally my body type when it comes to women. I like curves and prefer my girlfriends with them.)
posted by elfgirl at 1:37 PM on August 29, 2009 [12 favorites]


Is this where we all compete to affect non-mainstream preferences regarding the female form? Okay...

She's okay, but I could do with fewer limbs, some liver spots, a cleft pallet, and a shaved head.

Honestly, while I find many fat-heavy (as oppose to muscle-heavy) women attractive, in her case the hanging gut is an aesthetic drawback (though she is still in the upper percentiles of attractiveness no matter how you slice it). Would I care about this in any circumstance outside modeling (say, dating)? No, that would be absurd. But modeling is about people as aesthetic raw material for pictures. Having a hanging gut doesn't work, except as a (kind of tortured) pandering to certain political sensibilities.

The way people look doesn't matter. We've wrapped these two independent matters (value as person, person qua aesthetic object) up so tightly that now we have people bending over backwards to say that good people who happen to be unattractive (or just less attractive) are in fact smoking hot. This is dumb. It's fine to have critical aesthetic standards for people in some areas as long as they don't get confused with your other standards.
posted by phrontist at 1:47 PM on August 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


Can we stop cynically assuming that people who say they find Lizzie attractive are liars who are affecting some pose and/or expecting praise and accolades?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:50 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I find myself wondering is the history of how modern fashion became all about the size 2 women. I mean, as recently as the sixties we had major beauty icons who were curvy

Well, just off the top of my head, Twiggy was the first of the very thin models in the 60s; and the shift to very thin models since has to do with a preference for girls over women. See the Chrystal Renn link earlier on, with the comparison between her early modelling days and now: in one she's a 12 year old girl (or looks like one); in the others she's a woman in full bloom. Why this fear of women? Again off the top of my head, I'd say it's related to women taking a larger part of the social stage (lawyers, doctors, politicians, etc.) since the early 80s, and a backlash against that which has shown up in body anxiety, hypervigilance over the regulation of bodies, and so on. Another illuminating link earlier from dabitch with the pap picture of Cindy Crawford, with a closeup on the loose skin of her belly. The horror. That's what, in case we forget, a 41 year old woman looks like after two pregnancies and no followup surgery (unless she, like Madonna, adopts a frantically rigorous exercise schedule and becomes nothing but bone and muscle).
posted by jokeefe at 1:51 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


And while I'm here, hincandenza?

physical attractiveness is the single most important thing about a human being, male or female. Period. Everything else we say is a lie, a fiction built on the stories and fabrications we call civilization.

Riiiight. *tosses out philosophy, art, literature, and music*
posted by jokeefe at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2009


She is not really that big, but in the fashion industry she is, although this is not a unique example anymore. However, in real life the curve skews more towards the heavy end demographically today, no pun intended. I'm not a particularly skinny guy with a waist of 32", but my size is no longer the most popular, and now I'd have more choices if I had a 38" waist, at least where they sell the cheaper clothes. My mom has had a small dress size forever and ever, and she now has trouble finding clothing in her size except in the better stores. I think it's a good idea for the fashion industry to become realistic about body types, but at the same time, I think this shift in attitude is also due to trying to market to the people we've become.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:58 PM on August 29, 2009


jokeefe: Don't feed the troll.
posted by phrontist at 1:58 PM on August 29, 2009


Things like this always bug me, because it's still stuck in some weird assumption that women need to look a certain way (because she's still quite pretty, after all).

I'd be happier if 1) our culture focused less on physical attractiveness, period (though that's a pipe dream) or 2) men were subject to as much scrutiny for their looks (which is far more likely.)

Count me in as one of those people that welcome metrosexuality, and the fact men feel a growing pressure to look good, or at least GROOM themselves. If we're going to be a society that's superficial, can the ladies and more-informed men at least insist on some standards for some of the sloppy looking shlubs walking around?

I, for one, shall begin by boycotting all Seth Rogen films starting today!
posted by thisperon at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, phrontist, point taken, but I recognize hindandenza from around these parts and figured he was actually giving vent to something rather than trolling... but I'll say no more about his comment.
posted by jokeefe at 2:03 PM on August 29, 2009


Thanks for proving my point.

Sorry, your point was that you feel guilty when threads about women's size come up, apparently meaning: other women's issues are really all about you, and you go out of your way to make them so. I think that's the point you just proved.

Note: size 14 is not and never was "fat". So the "I was you once" story is kind of false. Let us know when you're shopping for size 22; perhaps then you'll have a revelation about what the issues actually are. It might help if you listened to what people are saying instead of feeling guilty because you're "small".
posted by Hildegarde at 2:13 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we stop cynically assuming that people who say they find Lizzie attractive are liars who are affecting some pose and/or expecting praise and accolades?

Sure, as soon as I get my praise and accolades.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:13 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is going to be one those threads that brings back my weird eating habits, isn't it?
posted by The Whelk at 2:14 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Empathy costs you nothing at all.

This is a great line. Something we all ought to remember in our day to day lives, far beyond the reaches of MeFi.
posted by modernnomad at 2:14 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guys, remember the fact that the fashion industry is largely composed of people who are too stupid to make it in any other field.

No, seriously, every fashion design idiot or model idiot I've ever run across has always acted like they had a head full of bricks. I am not kidding. People in the fashion industry are complete morons.

There was this idiot fashion design major I had the misfortune to run into once who talked like she was a 12-year-old.
posted by kldickson


If you're so damn smart, when are you going to wake up to how tired, insulting and banal your over-worn schtick has become?
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:17 PM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


Models are clothes hangers. They're supposed to be on the skinny side of the spectrum so that the clothes hang the way the designers want them to for the fashion runway/presentation- with very little input (flesh contours) from the clothes hanger.

It's pretty demeaning. I know ANTM and all those shows make it seem like it's something to aspire to, but everybody who doesn't want to be a model knows better--being a model is like being a plumber (except the plumber is well-educated compared to the model)

People think models are actually "models" as in "model of perfection" when the whole industry is not about beauty in its classic sense at all. They just need very tall clothes hangers. They're just there to serve their purpose. They're not supposed to be thought of as beautiful standards.

That being said, there are very few truly beautiful models. Most are very ordinary looking under the makeup and lighting.
posted by anniecat at 2:17 PM on August 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: we have no idea what normal is any more.
posted by tzikeh at 2:18 PM on August 29, 2009


Another illuminating link earlier from dabitch with the pap picture of Cindy Crawford, with a closeup on the loose skin of her belly. The horror. That's what, in case we forget, a 41 year old woman looks like after two pregnancies and no followup surgery (unless she, like Madonna, adopts a frantically rigorous exercise schedule and becomes nothing but bone and muscle).

Well, it's hard to imagine that the women's fashion industry would not try to market to an idealized version of women, but in our society that ideal is almost exclusively defined by men. So, I agree that these ideals are unrealistic, and in the fashion industry they change and are in many cases just trends. But I think the trend toward the skinny body type was due to several different factors. First of all, the pinup/Marylin Monroe type had been the dominant ideal for a long time, and in the '60s there was a backlash against what that represented, which is a different sort of ideal than the unusually thin, but one still defined by men. Twiggy was a clear break from tradition in many ways, and she wasn't anorexic and was sharp enough to sustain her career outside the world of modeling. She would not be mistaken for June Cleaver. But the magazines which printed her early photos were criticized for promoting unrealistic body types, and she did ignite a trend.

It's a fine line, because there are women shaped like Mae West and there are also women like Twiggy, and a lot of other types which never show up in magazines or film. But the industry does follow a popular trend, so the skinny model became the hot trend for a long time. I'm the last person to defend what they're doing, but I don't think you can attribute the move to skinny models entirely to feminist backlash.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:19 PM on August 29, 2009


It's not a troll, nor am I stupid or particularly mean to have a dead-on-balls accurate depressive realism.

The fact is beauty is the standard that guides our lives. We treat people better for being attractive. We think more highly of them, pay them more, and wish to be closer to them. We desire beautiful people, and convince ourselves the person we settled for is in fact beautiful (just as they did with us) or tell ourselves fictions about the importance of art or music, the importance of humor and personality, the importance of all the things that collectively fit into the space of a cherry on top of the sundae that is beauty.

It's nice if someone is nice, or funny, or creative, or what-the-fuck-ever. But it's far, far, far more important that they be beautiful. We're all just layering that shit on top of the primal needs and desires, which are food, sleep, safety, and sex. Since the first three are well taken care of for most in America, sex is what's left. And when people write music, or books, or espouse their elegant philosophies, or strive to earn money- they're just trying to get laid with beautiful people, aren't they? It's all a front to fuck like bunny rabbits with someone highly symmetrical, clear-skinned, and phi-based in their proportions.

That's not to say that most modern fashion models are particularly beautiful. Stick-figure-thin is not a beauty standard most people believe in, but they do believe in a beauty standard, and silently vote with their actions on what's really important. Christina Hendricks, linked above along with a picture of Marilyn Monroe, is absolutely gorgeous (although it's apparently a hefty amount of padding and clever engineering in the undergarments), and most men I've known would agree.
posted by hincandenza at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a standard and it is biological. It's not something made up out of thin air. If it were something made up, then there would be no reason for it to bother you.

Oh yes, which is why the size of clothing models has not changed at all in the last 50 years -- and why body size is such a universal denoter of attractiveness. It's biology, see. Got it!
posted by Rumple at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2009


If most women are significantly larger, and say in polls that they have poor self-esteem because of their size, why in hell are they reinforcing the current system?

The fatter the average person is, the more fashionable thiness will be. Fashion is a signalling system --- an advertizement for youth, beauty, wealth, and status. Thus what is fashionable will always be that which is rare, expensive, and hip. In a world of plenty, where most people have to actively and consciously work at being not-fat, thiness will always be fashionable. Just as gold embroidery and lace collars and jewels and silk were fashionable when those things were expensive and hard to obtain, the kind of butt you could bounce a quarter off of and need a personal trainer to attain is fashionable now --- especially so in these days when the material and quality of clothes themselves do not serve as well for such signalling.
posted by Diablevert at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


Count me in as one of those people that welcome metrosexuality, and the fact men feel a growing pressure to look good, or at least GROOM themselves. If we're going to be a society that's superficial, can the ladies and more-informed men at least insist on some standards for some of the sloppy looking shlubs walking around?

Um .... well, speaking for myself only, I welcome more women who don't feel all that compelled to follow fashion or wear a lot of makeup. In other words, all women who are secretly slobs, feel free to let it all out. Some of us slobs need to find a match.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:24 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Rumple - don't bother with Zambrano. He'll drop his turd and dash, and he's always wrong anyway, although he likes to frame his opinions as unassailable facts. Starve the troll whenever possible (though it can be hard to resist doing otherwise sometimes, I know).
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]



No, this is one of those threads where I get to feel guilty for being small

Hidldegarde: Awww sniff sniff this made me so SAD. Us fat girls are sorry you feel guilty for not taking as much shit as we have to. We'll try to avoid making you aware of the crap we put up with every day.


Maybe women wouldn't be so worried about their weight if other women didn't pick on each other about it. In middle school, other girls called me names and told be they hated me because I was thin. My college roommates Mom teased her about being fat. It goes on and on, and if it the fact that a whatever sized woman is super-cute wouldn't even be news.
posted by debbie_ann at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]



physical attractiveness is the single most important thing about a human being, male or female


hincandenza, i would agree with you that it significantly affects one's standing in society, but i would disagree with you that it affects men and women to the same degree.
posted by thisperon at 2:40 PM on August 29, 2009


As a teenage girl I am perfectly, all-too-consciously aware of the fat that juts from my thighs and collects at my belly

And so is every teenage boy, by the way, in a good way. I was a teenage boy once, and I know what I liked, and so did every other boy I knew. Don't kid yourself; it's not the detriment you're being led to believe it is. On the contrary.
posted by davejay at 2:41 PM on August 29, 2009


physical attractiveness is the single most important thing about a human being, male or female

It is? I'm a gangly goofy-looking guy, and I managed to get a great wife, a great house, two great kids, a great job, and a large circle of great friends. Also a couple of great dogs. Do you think if I were more attractive, I'd have gotten even more? Cool.

heads off to buy Photoshop: Real-life Edition
posted by davejay at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


the kind of butt you could bounce a quarter off of

What does this mean?!? Is there a type of butt off of which a quarter won't bounce? As far as I can tell, a quarter will bounce of anything.
posted by Partario at 2:47 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


And when people write music, or books, or espouse their elegant philosophies, or strive to earn money- they're just trying to get laid with beautiful people, aren't they?

That's one view. Certainly the drive to procreate is particularly strong, survival being what it is. I don't believe that is the basis for all that is created. Even if survival is everything, legacy in forms other than progeny is one way to satisfy the survival instinct without sex, such as the naming of the George (HW) Bush Intercontinental Airport, because who wants to have sex with him? Well, I guess Barbara did ...

Still, I remember the best music teacher I ever had, a drum teacher, who told the class on the last day of a two week session that the best way to get in the right mental space to perform was to imagine someone you love sitting in the audience, and you're playing to them - could be a dog, sister, spouse, goldfish, but the important thing is that you're putting your heart into it by thinking of someone else. That lends some credence to what you're saying. Although I sometimes imagine playing music for my dog, but it's not about the sex. No, really.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:51 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a gangly goofy-looking guy,

I know you're comment is facetious, but let's consider that by gangly, you mean at least somewhat tall and thin.

I'm gonna assert that your "gangliness" has had some advantage for you throughout your life. Girls aren't gonna diss you as easily, and you are actually respected more to a degree by the sheer fact you're taller than average.

You may be goofy-looking, but don't discount the height factor, dude. It makes a difference in how people treat you, and the small differences add up over time.
posted by thisperon at 2:51 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Beauty is very important in selecting a mate. Extremely important. Beauty is in the personality more than the body, but both matter. Thankfully, there are as many standards by which beauty is measured as there are people on the planet. We all have our individual likes and dislikes, and that is one of the things that makes love so great. Embrace what you find sexy, don't let a magazine or tv show change your mind.

As for beauty in the workplace, etc. sure it is an advantage, but not the advantage. There are objectively beautiful thin people that can't catch a break, and objectively ugly and fat people that are captains of industry.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 2:58 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is? I'm a gangly goofy-looking guy, and I managed to get a great wife, a great house, two great kids, a great job, and a large circle of great friends. Also a couple of great dogs. Do you think if I were more attractive, I'd have gotten even more? Cool.

Yep. Better looking wife, bigger house, cuter kids, and more friends. Probably wouldn't affect the dogs, though.

Well, you asked.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 3:00 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


backinthedaytrollingmeantsomething.jpg
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:01 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glorifying a 20 year old woman who is 5'11" and 180 pounds is ridiculous. She is no more a 'real woman' than any excessively thin fashion model. Unless you consider women with more masculine features (narrow hips, flat butt, defined jaw) to be less than 'real women', and everything that follows that line of reasoning from scrawny and homosexual men not being 'real men'.

The ideal figures for men and women in almost all societies are exaggerations of attractive qualities, from Greek statues to Hindu sculpture. Ramachandran discusses this as 'peak shift', this ppt presentation explores how averageness and exaggeration affect attractiveness of human bodies.

There is strong evidence that a waist to hip ratio of 0.7 in women is an excellent indicator of health and fertility, it's little surprise the majority of men find this the most attractive. The abdominal fat this model is carrying is associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, is anyone surprised men dislike excessive abdominal fat? At 20 years old she has a BMI of 25.1, the data from this review of the 115,000 women in the nurses health study suggests she has a 20% increase in all cause mortality simply maintaining this weight into adulthood.

I am saddened to see so many 'feminists' reacting positively to someone who is essentially unhealthy. The focus should be on education of effective dietary methods to obtain the body women want without sacrificing their health. There is too much misinformation out there for young women to sort through and come up with an effective and safe dietary program. Crash diets, low carb or low fat crazes, energy and weight loss supplements, excessive soy consumption, blind vegetarianism/veganism, cleanses and so on are the results.

The solution is nothing simple along the lines of changing men's perception as to the attractiveness of 'curvy' women or replacing the existing generation of models with another who look different. These are powerful, ingrained biological mechanisms of which we have little understanding of how to manipulate or override.
posted by zentrification at 3:06 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Uh, 5'11" and 180 lbs. isn't really unhealthy. And I think a lot of us could stand to eat better, regardless of body image. I'm 5'7" and 130 lbs, maybe, but man do I love salt, fat and sugar. I'm scared to see what my cholesterol level because I'm sure it's like four digits or something.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:12 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


hincandenza, your theory is one that is easy to believe, especially if one is cynical. But doesn't really hold water as unassailable fact. Simply based on the fact that we all see beauty differently. There's so much variation even within the "standard", and that standard changes with time, and distance and culture and situation. And what you might call "settling", I might chalk up to the amazing power of the mind to be fluid in it's ability to shape your reality to it's purposes.

If your theory of beauty is true, then that old cliche is equally as true. Eye of the beholder and all that good stuff.

Otherwise we'd all look exactly the same, right?
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:12 PM on August 29, 2009


Those who are saying that current beauty standards are mostly biological ... that is, frankly, nuts. Beauty standards have varied so widely throughout history that even a cursory study reveals the notion to be ludicrous.

In the early nineteenth century, the word "plump" was considered a compliment (read "Emma".) Not too much later, corsetry got so intense that the fashion was for wasp waists we would consider deformed even by modern tastes (read "Gone With the Wind".) Think big boobs are a constant? The Romans liked them small. In the late middle ages, looking pregnant was all the rage. A few thousand years before that, some evidence suggests that a nice round belly and pendulous breasts were idealized. In Elizabethan England and many other periods, men were the fashion plates who got intense social pressure to look right. Think about bustles. Three foot high wigs and white face makeup. Heck, ROTTEN TEETH were considered attracted at one period (read "The Tale of Genji").

The notion that men are attracted to a particular specific look because they are biologically responding to some kind of "this woman is fertile!" signal is pretty much sophistry -- it is an after-the-fact theory made up to explain current tastes, and has no predictive power regarding fashion trends whatsoever. If cultural tastes were different, you'd be hearing instead from the biological determinists about how men are attracted to women who are clearly wealthy and have access to food, or whatever. In fact, that's what you often hear about men from such theorists -- in an effort to explain why the social pressure on men to look good is not currently so intense, they've made up some stuff about women being biologically attracted to wealth. Riiiiight.

The fact is, beauty standards are largely a social construct. This is not to dismiss them as nonexistent; social constructs are VERY powerful, far more powerful than many give them credit for. But they are NOT immutable laws of nature. If you believe that, you have been sold a bill of goods.
posted by kyrademon at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2009 [38 favorites]


What does this mean?!? Is there a type of butt off of which a quarter won't bounce? As far as I can tell, a quarter will bounce of anything.

It's really all about getting your aim right.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm going to ignore my initial impulse, take you at your word, and assume your arguments are in good faith.

It's not a troll, nor am I stupid or particularly mean to have a dead-on-balls accurate depressive realism.

Question begging and odd value-assumptions. What is realistic what you've said? Why would there be a link between a theory being depressing and it's truth? What would it matter?

The fact is beauty is the standard that guides our lives.

This statement I agree with to some extent, if beauty is broadly construed as The Good or something. I don't think that's what you mean though.

We treat people better for being attractive. We think more highly of them, pay them more, and wish to be closer to them.

To some extent, sure. But have you looked at the Forbes 100? Mmmm, yeah, I want a piece of these naughty boys.

We desire beautiful people, and convince ourselves the person we settled for is in fact beautiful (just as they did with us) or tell ourselves fictions about the importance of art or music, the importance of humor and personality, the importance of all the things that collectively fit into the space of a cherry on top of the sundae that is beauty.

What about people with low sexual drives? Castrati? Autistic spectrum folks? Monks? Hermits? Old people? I think you'll admit some counter examples when we look at the extremes of human life, and once that door is open I think it can be acknowledged that individual drives complex as well, and not as simplistic as you're making them out to be.

It's nice if someone is nice, or funny, or creative, or what-the-fuck-ever. But it's far, far, far more important that they be beautiful.

Maybe for dating. But clearly we have all kinds of cultural institutions within which the criteria for success have little to do with attractiveness. Academia, politics, engineering, mathematics, porn (at least for men). I hang out with all kinds of ugly people... am I just doing it wrong?

We're all just layering that shit on top of the primal needs and desires, which are food, sleep, safety, and sex.

What about interaction with other people? Understanding the world? Why are those less primal than sex in humans? Assuming you could show they are, you'd then have the demonstrate that they were so important as to all but crowd out those other things. I can't help but think the evidence (you know... the existence of culture) is against you.

Since the first three are well taken care of for most in America, sex is what's left. And when people write music, or books, or espouse their elegant philosophies, or strive to earn money- they're just trying to get laid with beautiful people, aren't they? It's all a front to fuck like bunny rabbits with someone highly symmetrical, clear-skinned, and phi-based in their proportions.

For your theory to be true, lots of people would have to be very bad at getting what they want, because last I checked the guys at NASA aren't getting mad laid, and a lot of them could probably use those smarts to get high paying jobs which (I'm surely you'll agree) could get them nice cars to lure women with.

That's not to say that most modern fashion models are particularly beautiful. Stick-figure-thin is not a beauty standard most people believe in, but they do believe in a beauty standard, and silently vote with their actions on what's really important.

Really important in the context of magazine covers. Yes, I might want the chicks in the fap-magazines to be rail thin and well endowed. That's probably not what I'm looking for in my reference librarian.

Christina Hendricks, linked above along with a picture of Marilyn Monroe, is absolutely gorgeous (although it's apparently a hefty amount of padding and clever engineering in the undergarments), and most men I've known would agree.

Whatever.
posted by phrontist at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2009


What does this mean?!? Is there a type of butt off of which a quarter won't bounce? As far as I can tell, a quarter will bounce of anything.

It's a reference to the military test for an adequately made bed. Yes, I know you didn't actually care.
posted by phrontist at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2009


You can bounce a paper dollar off of my butt without even wadding it up first.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:32 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe women wouldn't be so worried about their weight if other women didn't pick on each other about it.

You know, I never picked on anyone because of their weight. I merely pointed out that thin women shouldn't announce that they "feel guilty" when the issue of how larger women are treated and represented, suggesting that we shouldn't even MENTION the topic for fear of causing them to feel at all uncomfortable.

If you don't like the topic, get out of the damn thread.

Thin girls have nothing to feel guilty about. Unless they talk a lot of smack about fat girls.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:34 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fashion is a signalling system --- an advertizement for youth, beauty, wealth, and status. Thus what is fashionable will always be that which is rare, expensive, and hip.

In case you missed the New York Times Public Editor column last Sunday:
Why would this [JC Pennys] dowdy Middle American entity waddle into Midtown in its big old shorts and flip-flops” without even a makeover of its logo, asked the columnist, Cintra Wilson, a virtual sneer seeming to drip from her keyboard. [...] the racks are full of sizes 10, 12 and 16, but not Wilson’s 2; the petites department has plenty of clothing “for women nearly as wide as they are tall”; and the store “has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on.”
The Times' "Critical Shopper" Wilson through a hissy fit because JC Pennys "invaded" midtown Manhattan. Quelle horreurs!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:50 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


Cintra! Oh Cintra. Did you learn nothing from your own books? Sigh.
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2009


Listen to kyrademon, people. And furthermore, to the women: if you are ever feeling low down about your looks, I suggest reading Katie Hickman's Courtesans or Lael Morgan's Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush, paying particular attention to the portraits and photographs. These were famous beauties, who made their living as lovers and hostesses -- and they look like real human beings.

I think photography itself, and the ten pounds that an ordinary photo appears to "add" to its subject, is the original cause of the unattainability of today's American beauty standards. But what can you do about an entire medium?
posted by Countess Elena at 3:52 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was so busy spelling horreur that I miswrote "through." Gah! Death, where is thy sting? (or rather, Where is my 3 minute edit?)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:53 PM on August 29, 2009


From Secret Life of Gravy's link:

...
How do writers "navigate the fine lines between observation, satire and snark," and when should editors step in to restrain them?

Really, the jokes write themselves.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:10 PM on August 29, 2009


Butch climbs into bed, spooning Fabian from behind.

When Butch and Fabian speak to each other, they speak in baby-talk.

FABIAN
I was looking at myself in the mirror.

BUTCH
Uh-huh?

FABIAN
I wish I had a pot.

BUTCH
You were lookin' in the mirror and you wish you had some pot?

FABIAN
A pot. A pot belly. Pot bellies are sexy.

BUTCH
Well you should be happy, 'cause you do.

FABIAN
Shut up, Fatso! I don't have a pot! I have a bit of a tummy, like Madonna when she did "Lucky Star," it's not the same thing.

BUTCH
I didn't realize there was a difference between a tummy and a pot belly.

FABIAN
The difference is huge.

BUTCH
You want me to have a pot?

FABIAN
No. Pot bellies make a man look either oafish, or like a gorilla. But on a woman, a pot belly is very sexy. The rest of you is normal. Normal face, normal legs, normal hips, normal ass, but with a big, perfectly round pot belly. If I had one, I'd wear a tee-shirt two sizes too small to accentuate it.

BUTCH
You think guys would find that attractive?

FABIAN
I don't give a damn what men find attractive. It's unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same.

BUTCH
If I had a pot belly, I'd punch you in it.

FABIAN
You'd punch me in my belly?

BUTCH
Right in the belly.

FABIAN
I'd smother you. I'd drop it on your right on your face 'til you couldn't breathe.

BUTCH
You'd do that to me?

FABIAN
Yes!

posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


The fact is beauty is the standard that guides our lives. We treat people better for being attractive. We think more highly of them, pay them more, and wish to be closer to them. We desire beautiful people, and convince ourselves the person we settled for is in fact beautiful (just as they did with us) or tell ourselves fictions about the importance of art or music, the importance of humor and personality, the importance of all the things that collectively fit into the space of a cherry on top of the sundae that is beauty.

We're also some of us self-aware, which means we can recognize predilections that aren't particularly nice or useful or logical, and use our brains to become better people and do our part to change paradigms that a harmful or hurtful or just plain pointless.

To put it another way: Do we like to fuck pretty people? Sure. Should we base an entire code of behavior on the fact that we like to fuck pretty people? Well, some people do, but those typically aren't the people using all the mental gifts they've been given.
posted by Never teh Bride at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2009


It's never the guys saying this shit, or promoting this shit, it's women telling themselves this shit. Most guys are perpetually baffled when women act like it's a fucking revelation that their "small pooch", or thick thighs, are not in fact sexual death sentences.

Hahaha!

I am fat. I got fat in my mid-twenties and stayed that way for no apparent reason. I go to the gym at least six days a week, an hour to two hours a day, and have been doing that for six years. I'm still fat, with no cause any doctors can find. I've done diets, I've tried all kinds of things - still fatter than Beth Ditto. I am okay with it, mostly. I'm healthy enough, I just look like I mainline Cheetos, washing it down with extra-calorie Coke and exercise by lifting the remote to change the channel. It's a mystery of science!

And I can always tell when new guys join the gym, because I will be bopping away on a machine and get The Look, because the regulars have seen me enough that my massive bulk holds no wonders. The 'how dare you even be alive' look. I could just about sketch it at this point, because I have seen it so often. Women can be condescending in that 'oh how nice the fatty is going to try to be a pretty princess like we are' inane way, but men are the ones who give me the real nasty glares of disapproval for breathing.

And when I get that look, I laugh in my head and think to myself, 'Fuck you, gym rat. I'm here, fucking up your matchless vista, and I'm not going away.'

Also, I really wish we wouldn't do the skinny versus fatties hardship war, but I can understand how it happens.
posted by winna at 4:46 PM on August 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


scratch: Consider Marilyn and Joan. Hefty--and baby, what a coupla knockouts!

That you see those two women as "hefty" is a perfect example of what the fashion industry has done to the public's perception of the "normal," "acceptable" size of a woman.

People who point to Marilyn as an example of a "big" girl say things like "she was a size twelve!" Yes, in 1960. Sizes have kept moving down, and down, and down, because women look at numbers, not fit. A twelve in 1960 is about a six-eight today.

By the way, Christina Hendricks is not padded on Mad Men. She's spoken frequently in interviews about her body and how much she loves it. If anything, the constricting girdles are making her "curvier," but also smaller in width.
posted by tzikeh at 5:22 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Count me in as saying I found the girl gorgeous. My wife has been trying to lose weight and she's well under a size 12. It drives me nuts. She calls herself gross and fat and harps all the time on her weight. No amount of me telling her, pleading with her to stop before she's gone skeletal on me.

Maybe it doesn't help that I'm 5'7 and weigh 215. Maybe she's just dropping hints that I need to lose a few pounds. *sigh* If I can still see my junk when I look down, I don't think my weight has really reached 'Danger Zone' yet. Fuck you fashion magazine and television people for destroying the Victorian definition of beauty. I like girls with curves.
posted by Bageena at 5:31 PM on August 29, 2009


Or so I am told.
posted by pianomover at 6:00 PM on August 29, 2009


Models are clothes hangers. They're supposed to be on the skinny side of the spectrum so that the clothes hang the way the designers want them to for the fashion runway/presentation- with very little input (flesh contours) from the clothes hanger.

You're completely right - but this is what pisses me off the most.

Clothing design is supposed to be the art of working with fabric in three dimensions around the awkward human shape. Fashion designers who go for skinny models are coping out of the challenge of designing clothes - it would be like architechs making buildings with little to no thought of their function...

oh. yeah. that pisses me off too.

I won't respect any designer until I see that they are capable of designing clothing for any shape - thin, fat, little person or basketball player. Because the artistry and the skill is in making the fabric do what you want it to, not in finding humans to match the fabric.

(Costume designers do awesome stuff).
posted by jb at 6:16 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


The notion that men are attracted to a particular specific look because they are biologically responding to some kind of "this woman is fertile!" signal is pretty much sophistry -- it is an after-the-fact theory made up to explain current tastes, and has no predictive power regarding fashion trends whatsoever. If cultural tastes were different, you'd be hearing instead from the biological determinists about how men are attracted to women who are clearly wealthy and have access to food, or whatever. In fact, that's what you often hear about men from such theorists -- in an effort to explain why the social pressure on men to look good is not currently so intense, they've made up some stuff about women being biologically attracted to wealth.

Yes, yes yes. *favourites a hundred times*
posted by jokeefe at 6:18 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fatter the average person is, the more fashionable thiness will be. Fashion is a signalling system --- an advertizement for youth, beauty, wealth, and status. Thus what is fashionable will always be that which is rare, expensive, and hip. In a world of plenty, where most people have to actively and consciously work at being not-fat, thiness will always be fashionable. Just as gold embroidery and lace collars and jewels and silk were fashionable when those things were expensive and hard to obtain, the kind of butt you could bounce a quarter off of and need a personal trainer to attain is fashionable now --- especially so in these days when the material and quality of clothes themselves do not serve as well for such signalling.
posted by Diablevert at 5:21 PM on August 29 [2 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


Quoted for truth, and excellent historical perspective.

In the past, being fat has been fashionable - not huge, but definitely plump (for women), with the kinds of dimples in your elbows you only get with rounded arms. It was a sign of wealth and gentility - as were pale complextions.

Now people want to be skinny and tanned. Who are skinny and tanned? Rich people.
posted by jb at 6:21 PM on August 29, 2009


And more good history from kyrademon, thanks.

There's nothing like history and evidence to punch mack-truck sized holes in the sillier evolutionary psychology stories.
posted by jb at 6:28 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


kyrademon:

"Those who are saying that current beauty standards are mostly biological ... that is, frankly, nuts. Beauty standards have varied so widely throughout history that even a cursory study reveals the notion to be ludicrous."

Sure, standards of beauty vary considerably among cultures. A WHR of 0.7 being considered the most attractive female form is constant across a variety of cultures.

"In the early nineteenth century, the word "plump" was considered a compliment (read "Emma".) ... A few thousand years before that, some evidence suggests that a nice round belly and pendulous breasts were idealized."

Historical anecdotes are not sufficient evidence to refute a considerable body of research on what men generally consider attractive.

"The notion that men are attracted to a particular specific look because they are biologically responding to some kind of "this woman is fertile!" signal is pretty much sophistry -- it is an after-the-fact theory made up to explain current tastes, and has no predictive power regarding fashion trends whatsoever."

Sure, it is coincidence that WHR of 0.7 predicts health and fertility in women, and just happens to be universally favored by men across race and culture.

"The fact is, beauty standards are largely a social construct. This is not to dismiss them as nonexistent; social constructs are VERY powerful, far more powerful than many give them credit for. But they are NOT immutable laws of nature. If you believe that, you have been sold a bill of goods."

Certain traits (symmetry, WHR ratio, V torso shape, MHC dissimilarity) are powerful predictors of whether or not most people will find a given individual attractive. Some standards of beauty are largely social constructs, many are not, which is why 'beauty is universal'.
posted by zentrification at 6:35 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


People who point to Marilyn as an example of a "big" girl say things like "she was a size twelve!" Yes, in 1960. Sizes have kept moving down, and down, and down, because women look at numbers, not fit. A twelve in 1960 is about a six-eight today.

She was tiny by current standards. However, she was looked soft and curvy, rather than toned and muscular, and that seems to further confuse the issue.
posted by dilettante at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2009


I like some skinny girls. I also like some larger girls. I like some in-between girls. If a woman looks healthy and happy, and is fun to be around, that's far more important to me than her dress size. Based on a lifetime of talking to my guy friends about women, I'd say that most of them agree.

There are certainly thresholds, on both the skinny and fat ends of the scale, beyond which a woman ceases to look healthy (and therefore ceases to be attractive), but most women wildly misjudge the location of the fat threshold.

>it's women telling themselves this shit. Most guys are perpetually baffled when women act like it's a fucking revelation that their "small pooch", or thick thighs, are not in fact sexual death sentences.

Can I get an amen?

Yes, fashion magazines depict (often freakishly) skinny women. It does not follow that men want freakishly skinny women.

Fashion magazines are made for, and consumed by, an almost exclusively female audience. If you want to see the kinds of women that men find attractive, then you should be looking at porn. (I hate to take the conversation here, lest it seem gratuitous—I'd really prefer to avoid the stupid frat-house stuff myself—but can you think of a more reliable indicator of what men find attractive than a medium that's specifically intended to titillate men with images of women?)

And porn is full of women of all sizes and shapes—there's certainly no shortage of top-heavy blonde Barbie dolls if that's what you want to see, but there's no shortage of other body types, either. If you want a site that specializes in [xyz body type], where xyz is anything from rail-thin to morbidly obese or anything in between, there are plenty of them out there. If you want a site that just presents a variety of attractive women without framing them in terms of their body type, there are plenty of those too. I mean, that's what my friends who look at porn tell me, anyway.

Sure, there are guys out there who prefer super-skinny women, and there's a subset of that group who are douches about it—but the skinny-at-all-costs thing really does seem to be mostly by women, for women. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with guy friends over beer trying to understand this. And every time we try to explain it to women, they refuse to believe it. It's a shame that any woman should feel bad about her body; it's doubly a shame when the woman in question is actually attractive and can't accept that she's attractive.

I don't mean to blame the victim. Some guys certainly do stupid, revolting, misogynistic things, and that's a problem. But the primary reason that images of skinny fashion models persist is because women buy them up by the millions.
posted by ixohoxi at 6:57 PM on August 29, 2009 [8 favorites]


was looked

dammit
posted by dilettante at 6:58 PM on August 29, 2009


She's not plus sized and she looks gorgeous. Why is this an issue?
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 7:00 PM on August 29, 2009


Reminds me of the Jamie Lee Curtis article in More Magazine in which she was willing to pose before and after the makeover. I remember how much flak she caught for that.

You mean the things in magazines aren't what the people really look like? Dang.
posted by Peach at 7:09 PM on August 29, 2009


Speaking for straight guys everywhere, I heartily endorse the notion that all it takes to be a sensitive man who cares about women's health and self-esteem is to possess a desire to totally fuck Christina Hendricks. My brothers! It's like an M. Night movie: As it happens, we were feminists all along
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2009 [18 favorites]


I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with guy friends over beer trying to understand this.

I used to be confused about this too. Until a female friend politely explained to me that there's a reason it's called "self-esteem".

Most women I know are aware of the fact that men find them attractive, And I'm sure that it may part of the body image puzzle. The fact still remains that if all it took was an appreciative male gaze to elevate a woman's self-image, they'd all walk two inches off the ground.
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


she's a beautiful, young blonde woman. naked. it's not REALLY a confrontational image. if the publisher's intent was to be more accepting of women's body types, they would just do it. but they're playing it up. even if it's a small photo, it's a stunt.

it would be good to see more diversity in the fashion magazines, overall. when i was buying that type of publication regularly, i'd find myself depressed after looking through vogue, glamour, bazaar, and the like. the models were usually so, painfully thin; and often, they looked angry or sad. it seemed a celebration of a culture of misery and suffering. and, they usually looked like children. also, even though there were a few women of color, they were... well, very few.

at the time, i had an african-american roommate. one day i looked through a magazine she'd brought home: essence.

it was amazing! though i am white, and the models were almost all black, i suddenly found images i could relate to: images of women in a variety of sizes and ages! wearing gorgeous clothing! with more articles about how to succeed in business, than about how to diet! i got a year's subscription. it was revelatory, and in more than one way... it also made me painfully aware of how racist the high fashion industry can be.

at least there are a few more women of color visible in fashion now (8 years on), but it's still a very rigidly defined medium. i don't necessarily want it to be "real" - fashion is not about reality. but diversity - real diversity - that's what i would hope for. i think it would be possible, without wrecking the fantasy.

as for real life? physical beauty does hold power. real, viable power. however, in my experience, physical beauty is not as important as simply being attractive. and no, i'm not talkin' about being physically attractive: it's the whole package. i've known people who were out-right ugly, but were mad attractive; and i've known gorgeous people who were lonely, and socially isolated. charisma goes a long, long way.

hincandenza, i think you have an extremely narrow and angry view of the world. due to this, your view may be very focussed, but it is not accurate. but at least you use the word "hefty" in the better context, when referring to marilyn and joan: their undergarments, and the engineering of the undergarments, yes! are hefty.

but it's a poor description for those women! ample, lush, plump; those words work better. hefty tends to imply ruggedness. but neither marilyn monroe or christina hendricks can be called a rugged dame. (though, that type has charms of their own.)
;-)

anyway. while i think it's interesting that glamour features a model who does not conform to the extreme standards of the industry, i don't think it's genuine, nor is it an indication of real change. if glamour had just used her in a regular fashion spread, with no commentary on her size, the reaction would be far, far less intense. and far more honest. like i said - this is a stunt.

but if they actually did make an real effort to diversify their models? i'd for sure start buying their rag again!
posted by lapolla at 7:26 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


that's a great point you make lapolla. The cultural ramifacations of body image discussions are often overlooked. I always wince a bit when a White female friend says something along the lines how "disgusting" her large butt is. I understand. But it's hard not to wonder... So it's cool to hear of your experience with Essence.

One of my mother's friends was Editor in Chief of Essence when I was in High School. The first time I got to visit the offices... My 17 year old boy hopes were crushed. No models, no actresses. Just a bunch of people sitting at desks...working.
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:46 PM on August 29, 2009


If you want a site that specializes in [xyz body type], where xyz is anything from rail-thin to morbidly obese or anything in between, there are plenty of them out there. (ixohoxi)

To illustrate ixohoxi's point: earlier in the thread, there was discussion about how nice it was to see a nude woman relaxed and actually smiling at the camera, as Lizzie is in the Glamour photograph. Well, witness Happy Naked People. A site that specializes in "happy".
posted by WCityMike at 7:52 PM on August 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Cintra! Oh Cintra. Did you learn nothing from your own books? Sigh.

FWIW, she's apologized on her personal site for that column.
posted by asterix at 8:00 PM on August 29, 2009


>Until a female friend politely explained to me that there's a reason it's called "self-esteem".

This is very interesting to me. I get what you're saying, but—well, it's really hard for me to understand how a [smart|attractive|skilled] person can be convinced they're [stupid|ugly|incompetent], despite heaps of evidence to the contrary. I don't mean to suggest that people are dumb or wrong for feeling that way; it's just not an phenomenon I can understand in terms of my own experience.

I guess the obvious question to ask is: where does this rampant low self-esteem among women come from?
posted by ixohoxi at 8:05 PM on August 29, 2009


krinklyfig: Well, it's hard to imagine that the women's fashion industry would not try to market to an idealized version of women, but in our society that ideal is almost exclusively defined by men.

I'm sorry, are you high?!? Unless I'm misunderstanding you, your belief is that men actually want women to look the way they are depicted in fashion magazines. Alright, granted, considering almost the entire target audience is female, men are waaay overrepresented amongst the leaders in the fashion industry. So, in that sense, yeah, the fashion ideal is being defined by men. However, I don't think that's what you're saying. I think you're saying that we, men, as a group, create[d] the ideal that is mirrored in the fashion industry.

That is utter hogwash.

I do think it's accurate to say that men don't find obese or overweight women to be particularly attractive as opposed to women in the so called "normal" range of weight (I'm talking here about a woman who is, say, 5'2"-5'5" and between 120-150 lbs). However, if you do it purely by BMI, a woman who is 5'2" and 137 is considered "overweight", while a woman of the same height is just slightly "underweight" at 100 lbs. Maybe this is just my personal preference, but I'd probably find the slightly overweight woman more attractive than the underweight woman, and I think most men would too.

I personally would love to see larger women showing up in fashion magazines. Not because I read them, but because I have a buttload of female friends who had various disorders and self-esteem issues because they didn't look like the women in magazines. Maybe 75% of a woman looking sexy is when they believe themselves to be sexy and beautiful. WCityMike is dead on about women's most attractive feature being their smile. Men absolutely melt for a pretty smile. I dare to go so far as to say that a woman having a cute smile is a nearly universal criterion for a man's "ideal" woman. Now, look through your average fashion magazine. How many of the women in those photos are actually smiling? Maybe a few, but most are pouting, frowning, deadpanning, or imitating a fish.

Upthread Klangston made the point that ugly people get laid, whereas stupid, mean and ugly people might not. I've never personally seen or met a woman that I found ugly that I didn't also find to be both stupid and mean. There are plenty of women that I didn't find attractive for any number of reasons, but I really really do reserve "ugly" for people whose ugliness shines from within, if you will.

Also: I don't expect praise or rewards from anyone for finding curvy women hot. Finding curvy women hot is its own reward.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:24 PM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


From dilettante's link:
Marilyn’s reported measurements... 35-22-35 (Dressmaker’s Claim)
I was 34-23-35 for many years, and I wore a four or a six, depending on the designer. So, yeah, "hefty?" Not.

I also thought I was horribly fat. Thanks, beauty and fashion industry.
posted by tzikeh at 8:32 PM on August 29, 2009


Zentrification --

I think it's interesting that my reference to a primary source document from a particular period is considered irrelevant by you, whereas your citation of ... well, I don't know. You didn't actually cite anything. But you did use a number, so it must be Science.

But that means I can't exactly refute your number, having no idea where it comes from. Did it include an analysis of Ruben's paintings? Well, perhaps that was considered anomalous. How about the many so-called Venus figurines? Perhaps they were considered anomalous. In the other direction, did it take into account when corsetry dropped the ideal female waist-to-hips ratio down to an unhealthy 0.6? Maybe that was used to statistically balance out the Rubens paintings.

Now, I can't prove that whatever source that you're referring to cherry-picked their data to make it fit into the current picture of female beauty and reassuringly justify someone's preconceived notions. But I might have an easier time of it if I knew what the source was, because it sure as heck sounds like it to anyone who's taken a look at beauty trends over time.

All that aside, I am also surprised by your first comment in the thread, in which you held up someone with a BMI of 25.1 as particularly unhealthy, and apparently hold up the modern fashion ideal as a more healthy weight to try for. You are aware that one of the big arguments against the fashion industry is that the models are required to be unhealthily skinny, to the point of fainting and having serious problems because of it? That some countries have had to pass laws mandating a minimum weight for models because the problem has gotten so bad? Your implied assertion that the current (and, according to you, eternal) model of feminine beauty is also the eternal (but not, apparently, current) model of health seems dubious to me.
posted by kyrademon at 8:35 PM on August 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


If you only like rail-thin women you're worse than Hitler.
posted by hamida2242 at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2009


If you only like rail-thin women you're worse than Hitler. (hamida2242)

And you probably have your cats declawed.
posted by WCityMike at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2009


This is very interesting to me. I get what you're saying, but—well, it's really hard for me to understand how a [smart|attractive|skilled] person can be convinced they're [stupid|ugly|incompetent], despite heaps of evidence to the contrary.

you ever hear a recording of your voice,and it sounds nothing like what you think your voice sounds like in your head? Now aply that concept to your entire life.

Someone can know that they're [smart|attractive|skilled] and not feel good about it, because the reflection of yourself as the world shows it to you is rarely the image you had in your head.

Or think they don't deserve it. Or think that every single person who says "you're beautiful" is just being nice because they're your friends/family/trying to fuck you, and that's just what they're supposed to say. And people say you're smart, but they weren't there that one time you tried really hard, but your boss called you an idiot in front of everyone, and everyone knows that guy is an asshole, but it still throws a little weight behind the doubt that was already there. And the second you try and compare yourself to anyone else, you automatically have an uphill battle on your hands because every other person on the planet is presented to you as a fully formed person, and you never get to see yourself in that way.

We always get to see how our own personal sausage is made. And it is rarely if ever pretty.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:29 PM on August 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


No, this is one of those threads where I get to feel guilty for being small and listen to people theorizing that my size is due to starvation, despite the fact that I spent the first 33 years of my life as a size 10-12 and eat normally.
posted by elfgirl at 2:00 PM on August 29


Really? I find this hard to believe.

They think your size is due to starvation? They don't think that your size has anything to do with the fact that you are an elf?
posted by flarbuse at 9:33 PM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


It blows my mind when people get so angry at the suggestion that standards of physical attractiveness have anything to do with biology. Never mind the obvious and powerful reasons that evolution would program such standards into us; never mind the quantitative studies which control for culture and support the biological hypothesis. Everyone is equally beautiful, and anyone who suggests otherwise is just part of the patriarchy!

Nope, sorry; some people really will be considered less attractive than some other people by most individuals across cultural time and space. Life ain't fair. I'm no beauty queen myself, but I don't go around blaming society for it.

Of course you can hold up exceptions to the rule (Rubens and Venus figurines and corsetry), but anecdotes are meaningless. (What makes you think Rubens was representative of his time and place, anyway? For that matter, what makes you assume the Venus figurines are representations of an erotic ideal?) To answer the question "are there standards of beauty that exist independent of culture" in any meaningful way, then you need a quantitative analysis. And the quantitative approach suggests that there is a biological basis. The evidence isn't absolute and irrefutable, but you can't just brush it away and pretend it's not there. The existing literature supports the hypothesis, so you can either do your own studies which improve on the methodology and refute the existing literature, or you can STFU.

I'm not defending the standards represented in fashion magazines (which I agree are ridiculous). But it's equally ridiculous to act like beauty is nothing but a social construct. (It's typical of cultural studies stuff to claim that everything up to and including physical reality is just a social construct, to argue from anecdote, and to mistake subjective, ad-hoc bloviating about culture and literature for Serious Academic Research—I've looked through this thread four times for the "primary source document" you mention, and I'll be damned if I can find anything resembling an actual citation. Just because someone mentioned something in an old book doesn't mean...well, it doesn't mean jack shit, actually.)

The notion of a biological basis for beauty standards in no way undermines the push for more realistic depictions of women in media, or any other goal of feminism. It's a mistake to see the biological hypothesis as a threat. I'm sorry for the tone of this comment, but this flavor of liberalism drives me nuts because I actually agree with a lot of its goals (such as gender egalitarianism)—but its disingenuous methods are hurting the cause, not helping it.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:57 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is very interesting to me. I get what you're saying, but—well, it's really hard for me to understand how a [smart|attractive|skilled] person can be convinced they're [stupid|ugly|incompetent], despite heaps of evidence to the contrary.

What's that red thing on the side of your face?

Hah! Made you look.

Seriously, it's that simple.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:21 PM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


This how I tell if a woman is fat. I put my arms around her and if my fingers can touch... she ain't fat.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:29 PM on August 29, 2009


Jumpin Jack Flash: "167This how I tell if a woman is fat. I put my arms around her and if my fingers can touch... she ain't fat."

I bet that goes over real well.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:36 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, witness Happy Naked People Thin Female Porn Stars.

I can't believe I followed the link expecting that site to be anything other than what it was. I'm getting soft.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:41 PM on August 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


ixohoxi -- Did you even read the stuff you linked to?

Skipping for the moment the stuff no one has actually been discussing, like symmetry, here's some of what was said about WHR in your link:

"Women with a 0.7 WHR are usually rated as more attractive by men from European cultures ... In other cultures, preferences appear to vary according to some studies, ranging from 0.6 in China, to 0.8 or 0.9 in parts of South America and Africa, and divergent preferences based on ethnicity, rather than nationality, have also been noted."

Uh-huh.

Admittedly, it then goes on to state the following: "Note: In the studies referenced above, only frontal WHR preferences differed significantly among racial and cultural groups. When actual (circumferential) measurements were made, the preferred WHR tended toward the expected value of 0.7 universally. The apparent differences are most likely due to the different body fat storage patterns in different population groups."

Interesting, if true. So I looked at some of the studies linked, some of which made the claim that they accounted for this for example:

"While Hazda men preferred a higher frontal WHR (0.9 vs 0.7) than American men, they preferred a lower profile WHR (more protruding buttocks) ... However, their theoretical preferences for the actual WHR of women still appear to be substantially different (0.68 vs. 0.78)."

Really. Some of the other studies.

In China, using back-posed figures, "The 0.6 WHR figure was most preferred." No mention of any difference due to actual measurement.

In Cameroon, a very similar study, found that,"The 0.8 WHR figure was rated markedly more attractive than others." No mention of any difference due to actual measurement.

These are all articles supposedly cited to *SUPPORT* THE 0.7 WHR HOLY GRAIL idea.

See, this is the problem. People throw around things like the 0.7 ratio as universal across cultures, like it's settled fact, and its frankly BULLSHIT. People get a notion in their head that something is true and ignore evidence to the contrary, even cite it to support their point. The fact that Hazda men actually possibly prefer a 0.78 ratio, rather than the 0.9 ratio some previous studies found, is being used as evidence to support the 0.7 hypothesis? Most of the other studies didn't even bother to check, and the summary acts as if they all found a 0.7 "real" ratio, even when they found something far difference?

That's not science. It's bullshit.

I am not claiming that there is no biological basis whatsoever to beauty. There very likely is. The symmetry stuff sounds plausible. Preferences do often seem to lie within a certain weight range, although a much wider one than you have probably been led to believe.

But the idea that the particular and very specific preferences of males of European descent is universal across cultures and somehow an eternal truth is bad science. The studies do not support it. This makes many of us feel like the people claiming that the studies do support it have an agenda.

And often they do. If you can claim that your particular preferences have a scientific, biological basis ... well, then, you can't really be held responsible for them, can you? And that's a powerful mental tool against the idea that maybe you should feel guilty for feeling a certain way.

Bear in mind, I'm not saying you should feel guilty for feeling a certain way. I'm also not saying that there is no biological component to attraction. But, in my opinion, far more dangerous than the "flavor of liberalism" that denies a biological basis for beauty is the "flavor" of biological determinist that attempts to posit a genetic basis as an excuse for everything they do, even if the science they claim supports them actually contradicts them entirely.
posted by kyrademon at 10:43 PM on August 29, 2009 [20 favorites]


lapolla: "i've known people who were out-right ugly, but were mad attractive; and i've known gorgeous people who were lonely, and socially isolated. charisma goes a long, long way.

hincandenza, i think you have an extremely narrow and angry view of the world. due to this, your view may be very focussed, but it is not accurate."
See, I don't think that's fair. Literally accurate, maybe even possibly, but not fair.

The tenet I'd continue to put forth is that I and others like me who are physically repulsive are emotionally/love starved the same way people can be severely malnourished. Saying that it's in my head isn't fair. Saying that it's only because of me that I'm alone isn't fair. Saying that my viewpoint isn't accurate because... I guess you don't want it to be accurate, because you'd rather believe in the kind of world were everyone's a beautiful being of pure energy and love and light, and there's NO unfairness, or sad sacks, or tragic cases, where we all are meant to be Jesus McBuddha, etc, etc, etc. Well that isn't fair either.

Saying to someone who's literally starving to death in some wartorn hellhole of a broken-down failed state that they are only hungry because (pick all as desired):It all comes across as nonsense when put into a context where we can't pretend that longing, loneliness, and dismissal by your fellow human being isn't always just in one's own head. I mean, after people point out how beauty is unimportant, how everyone can get laid easily, and how love just pours forth on the just and unjust alike... do you go hang out at children's hospitals and mock the cancer kids for not believing that they aren't sick?

I'm kind of with ixohoxi on the notion that we can foolishly begin to embrace viewpoints and ideas/ideologies with no basis other than our desire to believe they are true- even to the contrary of the physical reality staring us in the face.


Beauty is as I said critically important. I used the cherry-on-a-sundae analogy for a reason: because no one says "let's get a sundae!" and then is happy if they're brought only a single maraschino cherry on a plate. But yeah, you'd also kind of miss a sundae having that cherry. Beauty is the ice cream, the hot fudge, the whipped cream; everything else is all in that little tiny cherry, which you only care about because of how much ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream were already in the bowl.

If you were asked what the most important thing in your life is... how many people answer "gravity!" or "air!" or "the strong and weak nuclear forces holding the matter of the universe together!"? Not many, but if you were trapped in a sinking car you'd consider air pretty fucking important, and if gravity turned off and we were flung out into space, you'd start to miss the weight of the world.

We value the things we don't have, the things we can't take for granted. If you take beauty to a certain level for granted, you start to spout nonsense like how important all these other traits are... yeah, because that person didn't even enter your conscious mind as a potential mate until they were at least this ( ------------ ) attractive. Then and only then do you start assessing their humor, personality, wit, intelligence, etc.


You quite honestly do not know anyone who is ugly and well-loved. Because those friends or acquaintances that you think "they are so charismatic, so what if they're 100 pounds overweight?" Yeah... those friends are a 'tragedy of the commons'. Everyone thinks *someone* should love those people because they sure are darn nice, but no one actually wants to be the one to bite that bullet. But then you happily claim they are very attractive- you're quite sure, I mean, not that you've actually fucked them or would want to I mean of course, to be clear here, but they totally deserve it from like someone y'know, like fershur?- but you won't vote with your genitals. You just expect someone else to, so that your mythical notion of how love, affection, and belonging are suppose to work can be preserved without a threat to your state of mind.

Those who can take beauty for granted will undervalue it immensely: it is as commonplace to them as things like clean water and air, civil peace and order, and a relatively well-functioning, non-corrupt government.

Some of us are living in altogether different geographies of lust.
posted by hincandenza at 10:56 PM on August 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: Well, witness Happy Naked People Thin Female Porn Stars.

I can't believe I followed the link expecting that site to be anything other than what it was. I'm getting soft.
That's odd, I'm having the opposite reaction.

Thanks, I'll be here all weekend! Be sure to tip the veal, and remember to try your waitress!

posted by hincandenza at 10:59 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


hincandenza, you are talking to Metafilter members. It's really weird that you're assuming that we're all extremely attractive people, that you're the only person here that is "physically repulsive" in some way, and that we're here, on a Saturday night, somehow squeezing some time in between our weekly beauty parties. I am just going to guess that a fair amount of people in this thread ARE conventionally unattractive, or overweight, or what have you, and have made good lives for themselves, have loved others and been loved themselves. You don't think anyone here has had sex with someone that they love, who themselves are conventionally unattractive?
This is clearly something that you have a strong emotional response to, but you're ignoring a lot of the things other people are saying, and pretty much discounting the experiences that other people have had that directly contradict what you are saying.
posted by 235w103 at 12:17 AM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kyrademon:

I cited a study with 115,00 women that suggested maintaining a BMI of 25.1 resulted in a 20% increase in mortality compared to a BMI of 19-21.9, which would translate to the woman in question weighing 136 to 157 pounds, which is far from 'model skinny'.

Modeling does not require models to be unhealthily skinny, but that is aside the point. The reality is models are using dangerous methods to achieve their goals, and the result is legislating a minimum weight, not educating them how to achieve this in a healthy manner. A woman can be very skinny and healthy at the same time, they are not mutually exclusive.

Your rant against 0.7 being a specific preference of males of European descent is off base and unsupported by the evidence.
"Results show that neither Indonesian nor Afro-American subjects judge overweight figures as attractive and healthy regardless of the size of WHR. They judged normal weight figures with feminine WHRs as most attractive, healthy, and youthful. The consensus on women’s attractiveness among Indonesian, Afro-American, and U.S. Caucasian male and female subjects suggests that various cultural groups have similar criteria for judging the ideal woman’s shape."
No one was every claiming 0.7 was the universal ideal without exception, rather it is predictor of health and "the majority of men find this the most attractive". There is no doubt this preference can change with ecology, as in the case of the Hadza men, no one is arguing this preference is exclusively genetically determined. Cultural preference for WHR probably varies based on food availability, as the Hadza and Cameroonians lived in relatively food scared environments compared to the western populations who prefer 0.7.
posted by zentrification at 12:29 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Historical anecdotes are not sufficient evidence to refute a considerable body of research on what men generally consider attractive.

I've been criticized for saying this previously, but, you see, this is the thing: I am not sure that I see the point of spending time and energy asking men around the world what they find attractive in the pursuit of some universal beauty standard. Who cares? How can such a question possibly even be phrased so that it even makes sense and means the same thing in all cultures? I question not only the methodology and conclusions of these studies, but why this research is considered important or relevant. Unless, perhaps, I start hearing trumpeted over and over the ideal shoulder/hip ratio for men that women, all around the world, because of biological programming, find attractive. But no, I'm not going to hear about that, because what women find attractive is money and power, no? Nobody cares what women find physically attractive, beyond some bleating about symmetry.

I'm as sick of hearing about the magical golden ratio that makes a woman "attractive". I'm sick of one more measuring stick being applied where there are already enough on any Western female body. I'm weary of the endless judging, measuring, weighing, evaluating, scrutinizing, examining, and metaphorical dissection of women's bodies. And I, like so many other women, can attest that if the magical waist-hip ratio actually meant so much to men, then many of us have found lovers and husbands who haven't got the memo.
posted by jokeefe at 1:09 AM on August 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


"I'm as sick of hearing about the magical golden ratio that makes a woman 'attractive'."

There has never been a discussion here of a magical golden ratio that makes a woman attractive. We are talking about averages, the majority of men prefer a 0.7 WHR when presented with a range of options, nothing has suggested a WHR other than 0.7 makes you not attractive. This is a perceived ideal, not a black and white standard of judgment for attractive and not.

"I'm sick of one more measuring stick being applied where there are already enough on any Western female body. I'm weary of the endless judging, measuring, weighing, evaluating, scrutinizing, examining, and metaphorical dissection of women's bodies."

While this is a lot of pressure, and perhaps not fair, nothing is going to change. Women grow children, how they treat their bodies has significant impact upon future generations, this interest is not going away in the near future.

"Unless, perhaps, I start hearing trumpeted over and over the ideal shoulder/hip ratio for men that women, all around the world, because of biological programming, find attractive."

It's around 0.9, women tend to idealize the most attractive men with broad shoulders, narrow waist and to a lesser extent muscular chest.

"I question not only the methodology and conclusions of these studies, but why this research is considered important or relevant."

You have not leveled any criticisms of the methodology and conclusions of the cited studies, nor has anyone else. Kyrademon's analysis was limited to the consensus of 0.7 across cultures.

WHR is an accurate and inexpensive measure of health, and the observation that men seem to recognize and prefer this is fascinating, it has helped open the door on research into what makes us find the opposite sex attractive. What other reasons are needed to support research on a subject?

"But no, I'm not going to hear about that, because what women find attractive is money and power, no? Nobody cares what women find physically attractive, beyond some bleating about symmetry."

Far from true, there is considerable research into what women find physically attractive, here are a few google scholar searches with relevant literature.
male facial attractiveness
mhc complex attractiveness
menstual cycle attractiveness
posted by zentrification at 2:21 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hincandenza, I think you've got good points, and while I agree with you, I also agree with some of the people you condemn as being in denial.

The fact is, I think your attitude is not that unusual among younger people (perhaps under 25). For a lot of people in their early twenties and younger, physical appearance IS everything. It means power, it means popularity, it means all sorts of attention and gifts and rewards that came about with little or no effort on one's own.

I think people who say that looks don't matter that much forget what it's like to be younger. Or maybe it's been a long time since they've been part of the dating scene, where looks make a helluva lot of difference.

Here's the thing: I used to feel like you many years ago. But life has taught me that there are many shades of grey to what we think are cold hard facts when we're young. With age, you start to experience more of the nuances of life. For example: that men who will pursue the hottest woman in the room are not necessarily the coolest men of the bunch. In fact they may be the most annoying and superficial. With age you will find that not everyone ages well, and that some of the average Janes either blossom or learn to groom themselves in such a way that they are about ten times more attractive than they were in their teens. With age, you encounter quite a few men and women who've "done their time" with physically beautiful people who were batshit crazy or totally douchey, and will be quite happy to "settle" for someone saner and not as attractive. As I've aged, I've felt, "looks are important", but have also grown to feel, "that's nice, but I've got other stuff to worry about."

Aside from age, another huge mitigating factor is location. I've lived in Los Angeles and I can tell you living elsewhere in the country has definitely changed where I put attractiveness on my list of priorities.
posted by thisperon at 2:26 AM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


...do you go hang out at children's hospitals and mock the cancer kids for not believing that they aren't sick?

oh, yah! and after i mock them? i kick them in the shins and steal their candy! you are right hincandenza - life isn't fair. and somebody's gotta teach the children.

egads.

when you write "you" in that rant, it better be a generic "you" and not be directed at me. you just threw out a whole lotta strawman arguments, and then made some extremely ugly and inaccurate accusations.

i can assure you of one thing: you cannot possibly be as physically ugly as the opinions and words you have put forth in this thread; you are a troll. i apologize to the others in this discussion, for having fed you.

bad troll! no cherry for you!
posted by lapolla at 2:51 AM on August 30, 2009


zentrification --

Except that 0.7 being a constant across cultures was exactly what you originally did claim: "A WHR of 0.7 being considered the most attractive female form is constant across a variety of cultures."

Then you later switched to: "There is no doubt this preference can change with ecology", etc. So now it's NOT a constant across cultures. Now it's whatever WHR is "healthy" for a particular time and place, which apparently can vary widely. Well, OK, then.

Look ... I think your heart is in the right place, in many ways. You think it would be misguided to idealize an overweight figure for health reasons. There's nothing wrong with that concept. But I think your attention to it has caused you to miss quite a few of the other trees in the forest.

You say there's nothing wrong with models' weights, only with the methods they use to achieve it. This is incorrect. The minimum BMI instituted for Madrid Fashion Week was 18 (the minimum considered healthy is 18.5). It was instituted because it has become a serious problem in the industry. Luisel Ramos suffered a fatal heart attack during a fashion show. Ana Carolina Reston died of an infection caused by anorexia. A BMI below 18.5 is a dangerous ideal to strive for. It is not healthy.

In fact, hyperskinny models being held up as an ideal are far more likely a cause of obesity than Lizzie Miller. If you set the beauty ideal at too low a weight, whether by starvation or outright photoshopping, you set a standard most people *cannot* achieve and be healthy. They give up, or they hate themselves and binge, or they go on diet cycles that damage their body rather than help it.

I think you might argue that if all that is true, the answer is still what you proposed early on -- education, changing standards, figuring what is a healthy weight and encouraging people to strive for that. Great. Doing *that* requires acknowledgment that beauty standards are to some extent culturally set and are not solely and entirely determined by (widely misinterpreted) science. You can't change them if they're unchangeable.

Basically what I'm saying is, it's a logical contradiction to on the one hand worry about the possibility of Lizzie Miller being considered too beautiful and encouraging people to overeat, and on the other to say that standards of beauty are by definition standards of health. Think about it. Sure, there is a relation, but it is hardly pat or constant.

And when people misuse these studies to claim that the standards are pat or constant and downplay the relevance of culture -- and they do, frequently, and you did earlier in the thread, although you have effectively recanted since -- it is very damaging.
posted by kyrademon at 4:43 AM on August 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have greatly enjoyed the comments here, but let me make one secret clear: we often are told that old people, through the years, have gained insights and experience and view the world in a way that differs from how they (or others) viewed it when younger. The assumption is that the view now held is much the wiser and worth learning about. Ok. But I am over 75 and just perhaps the wisdom (?) I am other old dudes have learned is simply Nature's way of making an accomodation for us while we hang around so that we feel smug about having gotten on in years and my of my aren't we wiser for it? Perhaps our wisdom (?) is but an illusion much as some of what you (and others) had and have when young?

As for that model: if she is not going to be mixing my Metamucil in the morning, what do I care if she is hot, fat, just right, nice, ungainly?
Young babe knocks on door of senior citizen's apt in Florida. A prostitute!
she asks: Supper sex ?
Man: I 'll take the soup.
posted by Postroad at 4:56 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I followed the link expecting that site to be anything other than what it was. I'm getting soft. (ThePinkSuperhero)

Given that ixohoxi was commenting that porn is so diverse as to have sites featuring women of different shapes and sizes, and my response was that as example of this extreme level of specialization, there was even porn that featured women smiling at the camera, I'm not sure why you were surprised to find ... porn that featured women smiling at the camera.

Plus, I don't know as it's really fair to call all of the women posing for these photographs "porn stars." Whether it should or not, the phrase "porn star" has a certain derogatory ring to it, and really, "photographs of thinner-than-normal naked women" ≠ "photographs of porn stars".

While I agree that the site is not particularly ahead of the pack on usage of models of normal body weight, tumblelogs tend to simply collect images found elsewhere, so there's only a certain extent one can do. That having been said, the site in question is not entirely devoid of such models.

In any case, the site owner's evidently noticed this thread, so perhaps he or she will take your critique into account. And, if not, my earlier comment, to which the comment to which you responded was a followup, referenced a photography book that, while not featuring a lot of women of size, does primarily feature models of a more normal body weight.

(Despite the admittedly semi-spirited defense, I am not the site owner.)
posted by WCityMike at 5:09 AM on August 30, 2009


Well she looks happy because that's her job.

I'd be concerned. She's pretty young to already be 180.

And 180 is a lot of weight to carry around a tennis court or ski slope. Casual sports could put her at risk for a knee injury which would trend her up in the 200's pretty quick.
posted by surplus at 5:36 AM on August 30, 2009


In any case, the site owner's evidently noticed this thread, so perhaps he or she will take your critique into account.

If you're reading this, owner of happy naked people, more naked men! And not just the disembodied torsos of men as they're fucking naked women! I'd love to see some happy naked men.

It's around 0.9, women tend to idealize the most attractive men with broad shoulders, narrow waist and to a lesser extent muscular chest.

I guess it's conceivable that this has borne out in research, but I don't think I've ever spoken to a woman who prefers this in the abstract (IE, has mentioned finding men like this particularly attractive), or in the relationships they choose. I have met many women with preferences for bald or tall men. Go figure.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:35 AM on August 30, 2009


Models are clothes hangers. They're supposed to be on the skinny side of the spectrum so that the clothes hang the way the designers want them to for the fashion runway/presentation- with very little input (flesh contours) from the clothes hanger.

You're completely right - but this is what pisses me off the most.


Anybody who has watched Project Runway knows that Designers look on their work as art rather than garments. Change the height, change the bustline, change the waist size and that perfectly draped confection no longer hangs the same way. So there is fashion (the works of art) and then there are clothes (the stuff you buy in the stores.) Fashion is the come-on, the enticement to the clothing buyers. "LOOK LOOK at ME" it screams. "How pretty", the buyers agree, and something designed for a 6 foot, 110lb model is bought to sell to any woman fitting into a size 12 or below. It won't look the same on ordinary women.

Some maverick designer could come along and design their runway collection to fit models that are 5'4" and size 14 (the average size in America) but the clothes won't look as pretty in comparison and the buyers won't be as impressed. Watch one of the "real women as model" episodes of Project Runway when the designers are forced to design a piece of clothing for someone's mom or a teenage girl and inevitably the design that ends up winning is the one being modeled by the tallest, thinnest person.

The only way to get around this is to have your own personal designer or to find a designer who flatters your particular shape.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2009


It blows my mind when people get so angry at the suggestion that standards of physical attractiveness have anything to do with biology.

I'm going to just inch out on a limb here and take a wild guess -- I hope you don't mind -- that you're a guy. Or that you're a woman with a naturally fast metabolism. The reason we tend to get emotional about these things is that beauty standards provide every single member of a culture with a way to cut down every woman, no matter her achievements or power, if she doesn't measure up to them. Tune in to the cruel jokes about Sotomayor, Albright, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton. They say that these creatures are not-woman, they are failed-woman somehow, in a sense that fat or ugly men never are made to feel. To be less than beautiful, for a woman, is to never be good enough. And the game's rigged, because, unless she's tremendously smart and self-possessed, a beautiful woman will never see a beautiful woman in the mirror.

I happen to agree that beauty standards have a biological basis, but nonetheless, this does not mean that our culture received them directly from Darwin's mountaintop. They differ, they change, they have a spectrum. Youth, health and fertility is what they connote. The rest is culture.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:11 AM on August 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm going to go out further on that same limb and say I think biological foundations for attractiveness are complete and utter bullshit. One need only look across cultures and history - hell, just looking up and down your block, really - to see how vastly different standards of beauty are from culture to epoch to person. The whole argument smacks of some eugenics pseudo-science, and it's a pretty laughable. Like trying to prove that everyone in the world loves strawberries or something.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


effugas:

If most of the market is composed of so-called "plus-sized women", why are most stores selling stuff the majority of the market can't buy? Is it that if too much of your clientele is plus sized, your brand gets deemed unfashionable? Or is it that smaller girls buy more stuff, thus making up for their diminished (no pun intended) population? Someone here must have worked in the industry, and can clue us in.

Knitwear designer here, but the principle holds across other types of garments as well: it is considerably more difficult to grade (multisize) patterns correctly at the higher end of the size spectrum, and therefore it's quite expensive to do so. Knit designers whose patterns include larger sizes have major, major followings for a reason...

Woven cloth (think denim, dress shirts, etc) doesn't have the same amount of give as knit fabric does so it's exponentially harder still to grade patterns for it... and then you get into the "ok, what if your bust is just big and not your belly," etc etc etc... for off-the-rack clothes, doing all the iterations needed to fit someone in a wide range of sizes on a piece that's probably going to end up on the discount rack in 6 weeks is just not feasible.

Sad but true.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:42 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to just inch out on a limb here and take a wild guess -- I hope you don't mind -- that you're a guy. Or that you're a woman with a naturally fast metabolism. The reason we tend to get emotional about these things is that beauty standards provide every single member of a culture with a way to cut down every woman, no matter her achievements or power, if she doesn't measure up to them.

Shouldn't that woman reject those standards?

Tune in to the cruel jokes about Sotomayor, Albright, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton. They say that these creatures are not-woman, they are failed-woman somehow, in a sense that fat or ugly men never are made to feel. To be less than beautiful, for a woman, is to never be good enough.

Good enough to who? People who don't matter, that's who. Why should they aspire win the public's affection by changing their tastes (espescially, but not exclusively, in light of how unlikely that is to succeed)?

And the game's rigged, because, unless she's tremendously smart and self-possessed, a beautiful woman will never see a beautiful woman in the mirror.

I don't think you need to be tremendously smart to realize that looking good to other people is no the summum bonum of human existence, or even required to feel good about oneself. You shouldn't hate yourself or be proud of yourself for the way you look - it's irrelevant.

What we have now is a situation where our mass media gives men and women alike supernaturally good looking people to look at. This makes some people, but disproportionately many women, feel bad about themselves for failing to measure up to this elevated standard. They cry out for more "realistic" depictions, they steadfastly maintain all sorts of body types are considered attractive by the general public. I'm skeptical - I think the system we have in place is intensely efficient for delivering what the average American schlub wants to look at, namely very slender young women drawn from certain narrow ethnic categories with perfect complexions and certain proportions. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's only a bad thing if people get wrapped up in superficial concepts of self-worth.

So what needs to change isn't how we judge other people's attractiveness, but rather the conflation of attractiveness and worth as a human being.
posted by phrontist at 8:47 AM on August 30, 2009


The fact is beauty is the standard that guides our lives. We treat people better for being attractive. We think more highly of them, pay them more, and wish to be closer to them.

Oversimplification. Yes, there's advantages, often unfair ones, for being exceptionally attractive. There's also advantages to being exceptionally smart, exceptionally talented, exceptionally athletic, whatever. But it's not an immunization against the problems of the world. Plenty of good-looking people are poor, are treated cruelly by people around them, get diseases, injuries, are victims of crimes, etc. Let's not reduce a worthy subject of debate to a fucking food fight.
posted by jonmc at 8:49 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm going to go out further on that same limb and say I think biological foundations for attractiveness are complete and utter bullshit. One need only look across cultures and history - hell, just looking up and down your block, really - to see how vastly different standards of beauty are from culture to epoch to person. The whole argument smacks of some eugenics pseudo-science, and it's a pretty laughable. Like trying to prove that everyone in the world loves strawberries or something.

Ultimately it's all biological... the charge you could make is that we're rushing (and stumbling) from biological theories to social ones, and conducting our reductionism inappropriately - and I'd tend to agree with you.

But attractiveness has to be based on fitness (ability to reproduce) in one way or another, evolutionarily speaking.
posted by phrontist at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2009


Even if it was a stunt, Jean Paul Gaultier has a history of using 'non-standard' models in his fashion shows. Galliano also used 'plus size' (size 12) and 'older' models in his 2005 (I think) show. YSL used a lovely voluptous Sophie Dahl in their Opium ads (unfortunately she has since slimmed down). So it occasionally happens. But the sad thing is that their is huge commentary about how refreshing it is to see 'real' people portrayed as beautiful, how men think these women are attractive etc. yet it never becomes the norm.
As for the models as coat-hanger argument: there has been plenty of fashion created over the ages that did not require 6 foot skeletons with fake bosoms to make it look good.
posted by Megami at 8:56 AM on August 30, 2009


Megami: As for the models as coat-hanger argument: there has been plenty of fashion created over the ages that did not require 6 foot skeletons with fake bosoms to make it look good.

It's a deplorable fact that most people are probably of the opinion that it'd look even better on a six-foot skeleton with fake bosoms and an inch-thick layer of paint on their face.
posted by Dysk at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2009


I'm late to this thread but... Lizzie Miller's plus-sized?

> She's 5-11, 180, for a BMI of 25.1. That's barely into the overweight range, which starts at 25.

Given her height, her overall good looks and proportion, I'd say she would merely qualify as hawt. Sharon Stone hawt.

Seriously, she's NOT everywoman. Ms Miller may have a BMI closer to the national average, and there may be a jiggle or two, but like most models, she's won the genetics lottery.

Finally, um, she's 20. She's one personal-trainer or celebrity-diet away from toning up down to like 140 or 150, which, although not in waif/heroin-addict territory, would, given her height and good proportions, put her back in A-list hot celeb territory.

So, I guess the positive reaction to her recent 3" photo is healthy, but nowhere near as game-changing as Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign has been.

If Ms Miller is seeking more positive, affirmative attention, I invite her to contact me offline.
posted by Artful Codger at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2009


Postroad--I'll agree there's some truth in that. Though I would also say some of the most disastrous faux pas in life come from inflexible opinion--something that can be assuaged by experience that one will receive over time...if one is open to it.
posted by thisperon at 10:11 AM on August 30, 2009


hincandenza, if beauty is the only important factor in choosing a mate, shouldn't it have been selected for often enough by now that ugliness no longer really exists in the gene pool except in random cases of deformity? If so, then we're all attractive in some way / to some one, and your point is moot. If not, then clearly beauty is not the only thing guiding evolution.*

*unless one is going to argue that rape / forced marriage is the historically significant factor, but then one still needs to explain how the ugly men got into positions of power within society to "earn" beautiful women...
posted by mdn at 10:11 AM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


YSL used a lovely voluptous Sophie Dahl in their Opium ads (unfortunately she has since slimmed down). So it occasionally happens. But the sad thing is that their is huge commentary about how refreshing it is to see 'real' people portrayed as beautiful, how men think these women are attractive etc. yet it never becomes the norm.

She looks like somehow Debbie Harry and Sherilyn Fenn had a baby. If real people look like this, I need to get out more.

I mean, obviously, we're all real people. Tyra Banks is a real person, even though it's hard for me to believe that, and so is every emaciated model ever to shiver down a runway. We may elevate certain people to an above-it-all status on one basis or another -- athletic prowess or artistic achievement or intellectual ability or appearance (and that last does, when stacked against the others, sound pretty lame), for instance -- but we're all just people, no matter what special snowflake status has been ascribed to us by ourselves or others.

It's just that some of us are born getting more than others. Like, becoming a star athlete requires a great deal of discipline, training, et cetera, but it helps a lot to be born with a certain set of genes that make you thicker or thinner, more graceful and/or more rugged -- whatever. I'll never be a professional basketball player, no matter how hard I try, because I'll still be 5'9"; if I did somehow get into the NBA, I'd be there as a curiosity. There's just nothing I can do about that, but if I put in a solid couple hours shooting hoops every day, I'd probably be a good enough player to impress my friends. Maybe for me, that's enough. Or maybe I don't care about it at all. Becoming a professional athlete isn't something most of us aspire to.

But everybody wants to be attractive. This isn't an abstract thing, like "oh, if only I were a rock star," "oh, if only I were a movie star;" you know that shit is remote and not really necessary to leading a happy and fulfilled life. But just being good-looking seems like maybe it is...or anyway you know that being really unattractive could be extremely detrimental. Now, if you're someone like Ms. Dahl, who is clearly just genetically well-off, this is maybe not something you stress about. The fashion industry says you're fat and you probably don't give a fuck, really, because it's obvious to you that you're pretty hot. You're uncommonly hot. People tell you this all the time. Like LeBron James, you lucked out and won the biological lottery. What the hell do you care about BMI?

But if you are a "real" person -- a "normal" person! -- and you'd like to be attractive, BMI becomes something you can shoot for...the same way I could work out four hours a day and never become George Clooney, never be mistaken for Brad Pitt, but have the build the media tells me is what a man ought to look like. So if you become fixated on getting down to a certain BMI, and you make it, what do you care if you're lightheaded all the time and you can kinda tell from the way a guy chatting you up suddenly wrinkles his nose that oh, man, you totally still smell like vomit? You won.

Uh...I've rambled on at enormous length about this, and I'm not sure where I'm going with it, other than to say this is why I think this whole body issues thing catches some women (and, as I think is fairly obvious from the above, some women I've known -- this is not something I crafted out of whole cloth, it's observation): Because, however sick you may make yourself in the process of getting there, starving yourself sick is attainable. Waking up super-hot is not...unless, of course, being hot is more about how you carry yourself and how confident you are, which...maybe? I don't know. I'd like to think so.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2009


kittens for breakfast: Waking up super-hot is not...unless, of course, being hot is more about how you carry yourself and how confident you are, which...maybe? I don't know. I'd like to think so.

Please, share with me the secret so that I too may wake up each morning, confident and carrying myself well.

That is miles more difficult for a lot of us to achieve than you seem to be suggesting.
posted by Dysk at 10:26 AM on August 30, 2009


Please, share with me the secret so that I too may wake up each morning, confident and carrying myself well.

That is miles more difficult for a lot of us to achieve than you seem to be suggesting.


Ha! No, I never said that would be easy; if there is such a secret, I'd like to know it, too. I'm just saying, if you eliminate both the impossible and the attainable-but-possibly-not-worth-the-effort-and/or-potentially-detrimental-to-one's-health, that's what's left. As far as baseline attractiveness goes, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your body -- eat better, indulge less, sleep right, etc. I tend to fall in and out of such routines, and am generally happier when I'm in the midst of one, but they're tough to maintain. Life is hard on us. I wish things were easy. They're not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2009


Marisa: Can we stop cynically assuming that people who say they find Lizzie attractive are liars who are affecting some pose and/or expecting praise and accolades?

Rumple: Hey, no, this is one of those Metafilter where you get to make a snarky rejoinder which suggests but does not actually say you are indeed only attracted to really skinny women (but am simultaneously not at all implicated in how woman are portrayed in the media and advertising because you have such ironic cool), and secretly you expect praise and favourites from your oh-so-cool likeminded fanboys?

This discussion has moved on, but FWIW, I certainly didn't mean to imply the people who make a great show of posting in threads like this about their love of non-rake-thin women are lying! I was poking fun, affectionately I'd hoped, at the longstanding Metafilter phenomenon whereby people feel the need to inform the world of their personal predilections in body shape as if it were relevant, or interesting, or somehow settled the matter. (See also: most AskMe's about breast enlargement or reduction.) As for my secretly expecting praise... nothing secret about it! I made a remark because I thought it was funny and/or perceptive, and I am gratified that some other people agreed.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:13 AM on August 30, 2009


Anyone remember the recent study that found that overweight and obese women have more sex? Seems worth mentioning.
posted by dilettante at 11:19 AM on August 30, 2009


Ah, see, I don't really visit the breast augmentation/reduction threads on AskMe. Apparently I've been missing this phenomenon of people talking about their personal tastes in What I Like My Wimmins To Be.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:21 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Kyrademon:

I should have said 'relatively constant' across cultures; there is not much evidence to suggest wide variance aside from the Cameroon and Hadza studies (the 0.6 Chinese datapoint can probably be discarded because subsequent circumferential measurements found 0.7).

A BMI of under 18.5 is dangerous for most individuals, it does not follow that it is dangerous for everyone. Say 1% of women 15-29 can maintain low BMI without ill health effects, that still leaves roughly 300,000 potential models in America. Luisel Ramos and Ana Carolina died because they chose to ignore their health for their profession, who knows if minimum BMI laws would have saved their lives. I've yet to come across any data that suggests maintaining a sub 20 BMI for 10 years and then moving to a higher BMI (as many retired models seem to) is dangerous for your health. No reports of models dying early into retirement like athletes who abuse steroids.

Models, and the ideals of beauty, will always be unrealistic because of peak shift, and how we seem to respond to slight exaggeration of attractive qualities. They are taller, more beautiful and able to maintain lower body fat levels than the majority of the population. Elite standards in any field are always unachievable by the general population. None of us will ever be a fast as olympic sprinters, trade stocks as well as the top traders at Goldman Sachs or be as successful/attractive/happy or mother/father as the best in the world.

Aside from female body image, no where else are the elite members of any field/discipline/profession regarded as setting unrealistic expectations for average members of society. They are goals to strive for (most unachievable), and some people take dangerous methods to achieve them. Athletes use drugs, traders break the law, musicians destroy their hands through overuse, people have destructive plastic surgery, misguidedly parent their children etc.

Some people seem to be upset with the idea that all of the research presented on western men concludes that the majority of men find a 0.7 to be the most attractive waist to hip ratio, and the observation it also correlates well with general health and fertility. This does not create a standard of beauty, or definitions of health. No one has ever challenged the idea that markers of beauty are fluid and change across cultures.

I never offered my opinion on whether or not Lizzie Miller is beautiful, most people probably find her so as she is a model. The problem here is glorifying a woman who is overweight, in a society where the majority of women (and men) are already overweight. As I said before, not having a 0.7 WHR does not disqualify you from being beautiful or attractive. Markers of beauty are usually markers of health and fertility, WHR, facial symmetry, testosterone handicapping, breast size and symmetry are all good predictors of fertility.

The same sort of 'media pressure' exists for men, with the omnipresence of bodybuilding and fitness magazines with men far more muscular and defined than the average male can hope to ever achieve. Male models are in fantastic shape, male actors in film all work out and generally look great. This is mostly male on male pressure, competition to be more attractive.

The same goes for the pressure on women to be thin, it is not caused by unrealistic expectations in the media, it is simply natural competition among women to be more attractive. A lot of men barely discuss their preference or honest opinion of their partners reaction because of over reactions like this. Women create the majority of the pressure through social discussion of how they compare to other women.
posted by zentrification at 11:35 AM on August 30, 2009


Phobwankenobi:

Have you ever talked with a man who talked abstractly about preferring a symmetric face, symmetric breasts and 0.7 WHR? Being tall and bald hardly affects waist and shoulder width, or chest muscularity.

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing:

The some biological foundations of attractiveness are very well understood, the science has looked across cultures and history. Accusing it of pseudo-science in eugenics without any further argument is extremely weak criticism in light of the research being discussed.

No one has offered any criticism of the methodologies or conclusions of any of the cited literature.
posted by zentrification at 11:45 AM on August 30, 2009


The same sort of 'media pressure' exists for men, with the omnipresence of bodybuilding and fitness magazines with men far more muscular and defined than the average male can hope to ever achieve.

Tangential to that: I wouldn't deny that there exists some form of social pressure on men to be model-pretty, but I'm not entirely sure it's on the same level as the pressure put on women. Case in point? TV sitcoms. Almost every single one of them pairs up your "average shmoe" type of guy - pudgy, balding/bald, kinda dopey/goofy looking - with a woman who is by all accounts television/movie pretty. The media message here seems to be, men can be physically unattractive and still end up with model-pretty women. TV sitcoms isn't a very scientific body of evidence, I know, and I'm not by any means saying that as in television, so in life. But it seems a common enough trope to be reflective of something with regards to media messages towards men and women.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:51 AM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


The some biological foundations of attractiveness are very well understood, the science has looked across cultures and history. Accusing it of pseudo-science in eugenics without any further argument is extremely weak criticism in light of the research being discussed.

No one has offered any criticism of the methodologies or conclusions of any of the cited literature.


Sure they have. I think it should be fairly obvious that individual people have different tastes with regards to attractiveness, and that there have been varying media images of what attractive is over the ages, and that there are varying ideas of attractiveness across cultures that the very idea of a golden standard of attractiveness is ludicrous on the face of it. Attractiveness is a subjective assessment; by its very nature you cannot come up with a common standard by which all peoples abide. My language might have been a little brash, but it's a point I'll stand by - some universal standard of attractiveness does strike me as a bit eugenicish, and the very term "attractive" itself is so entirely in the eye of the beholder that it's comparable to trying to find that one food that all the world finds delicious.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:55 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: Tangential to that: I wouldn't deny that there exists some form of social pressure on men to be model-pretty, but I'm not entirely sure it's on the same level as the pressure put on women. Case in point? TV sitcoms. Almost every single one of them pairs up your "average shmoe" type of guy - pudgy, balding/bald, kinda dopey/goofy looking - with a woman who is by all accounts television/movie pretty.

I agree with you so wholeheartedly with you that there is nothing like the same media pressure on men. I do think that the reason for the pairing you describe is just as much that it is a basis for humour due to the incongruence of a pretty girl with a slobby bloke. I'd be more convinced of the message you attribute to it if it were more commonly seen outside of comedy, specifically.
posted by Dysk at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2009


I agree with you so wholeheartedly with you that there is nothing like the same media pressure on men. I do think that the reason for the pairing you describe is just as much that it is a basis for humour due to the incongruence of a pretty girl with a slobby bloke. I'd be more convinced of the message you attribute to it if it were more commonly seen outside of comedy, specifically.

Yeah, I'd rather not get into all that, as it's pretty thin ice and I prefaced that statement by saying that television sitcoms are not a scientific body of evidence. I do though find it interesting that the "comedy effect" still requires the woman to be "pretty enough for television".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:04 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The same sort of 'media pressure' exists for men, with the omnipresence of bodybuilding and fitness magazines with men far more muscular and defined than the average male can hope to ever achieve. Male models are in fantastic shape, male actors in film all work out and generally look great. This is mostly male on male pressure, competition to be more attractive.

Except there is no female Jack Black*, or Seth Rogen, or other schlubby-but-beloved (and usually happily married/paired off) model in Hollywood. Fat women function strictly in secondary roles in mainstream Hollywood, if not as punchlines. The common Jackie Gleason sitcom formula of fat (often stupid, often semi-succesful, often abrasive) dude + attractive wife is still omnipresent on TV and in movies, though. These things are also true. And they illustrate that the expectations we set for men and women are not equal.

The idea that women would create such a situation is, I'm sorry, laughable. However, the knowledge that oppressed groups often internalize and enforce their own oppressions (such as dark-skinned peoples valuing their lighter-skinned members more highly) is well-documented.

Which suggests that there is something more than pure, disintested, evolutionary preference going on here.

Not that I think I'm going to convince you; I think you are way too heavily invested in protecting your viewpoint, for whatever reasons.

*and if you bring up Roseanne, I'd like to point out that a) she is an outlier and b) her very existence, much less her success, still seems to generate amazing spews of hatred and vitriol from many members of the populace, male and female. And she's not on TV anymore, whereas my other examples are still alive and kicking.
posted by emjaybee at 12:05 PM on August 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


This just showed up in my RSS feed. Ironically, it showed up at the same time as this Mefi FPP. In this analogy, would Mefi be the pot or the kettle?
posted by WCityMike at 1:00 PM on August 30, 2009


Look.

I sat down to write a detailed response to the points that have been raised, but frankly that would take three hours, and I have other things to do, and this thread already my blood pressure up way more than anything on the Internet should. So I'm only going to address a few main points.

kyrademon: yes, I was referring to the second paragraph you quote, which talks about actual WHR as opposed to frontal WHR. And, yes, I took the Wikipedia citations at face value. I only have access to two of the seven cited articles, so I can't review the evidence in detail, but I'll be taking a closer look at this. If it turns out that you are correct about WHR (and I'm not conceding that just yet), then I thank you in advance for correcting me. (If you, zentrification, or anyone else can memail me links to other studies on the subject, I'd appreciate it.)

And thank you for explicitly stating there is "very likely is" some biological basis for beauty. I might have been wrong on the particulars, but that's really all I was trying to say. It's completely stupid to pretend that "biological foundations for attractiveness are complete and utter bullshit". Your original comment made you sound like a member of that camp, and it's that to which I was responding. Apologies if I misconstrued you (but that really is how your original comment reads).

I'm not going to debate the exact parameters of the biological standards, but I think it's safe to say that the morbidly obese, and those with obvious diseases or genetic deficiencies would be considered sexually unattractive in any culture, with extraordinarily few exceptions. (No one has proposed absolute, universal laws that apply to every member of the human species, anyway—only statistical tendencies.)

I'm not unattracted to eight-hundred-pound women with three eyes because of social conditioning. I'm unattracted to eight-hundred-pound women with three eyes because billions of years of selective pressure have found that mates whose phenotypes differ that much from the norm are a poor reproductive bet, and have programmed my genes accordingly. (Substitute "severely undernourished woman with running sores", if you prefer. Substitute "man" for "woman", if you prefer.) Obviously I'm citing an extreme example, and I hope no one is silly enough to think I'm drawing a parallel between a size 12 model and an eight-hundred-pound mutant. I'm simply using this to refute the notion that there is no biological basis to beauty whatsoever. Because there quite obviously is. We can debate the exact parameters of the biological standards, but it's absurd to pretend they don't exist.

[deletes another 5,000 paragraphs in an effort to keep this short]

I have no agenda, I'm not part of some conspiracy to make women feel bad about their bodies, and I don't think I've done anything that I should or do feel guilty about. I'm just a dude trying to participate in a conversation that is Relevant To My Interests.

Leave aside, for the moment, whether the biological hypothesis in general, or the WHR hypothesis in particular, are correct. I think a lot of people hear someone say "men generally prefer a waist-hip ratio of 0.7" (or whatever), and hear a mental voice which completes the sentence with "...and you're less of a human being if you fall outside of that range". No one ever said that, and no one's trying to suggest it. Countess Elena's comment exemplifies this. By all means, correct the factual error if there is one (preferably with citations of empirical studies rather than vague hand-waving about literature), but don't leap to the conclusion that we're sending coded messages to undermine your self-image.

(The question of why so many women hear that voice certainly deserves attention—in fact, I think that would be a much more productive and interesting line of inquiry.)

Argh; my efforts to make this quick and concise have failed, and I'm still leaving out a lot. I just wish we could have these conversations without the accusations and the suspicions of ulterior motives. I agree that there are problems with media representations of women, and sometimes it feels like nothing I can say will convince (certain) feminists of that.

I'll be monitoring this thread, but I've already spend too much time on this, so I probably won't reply to any replies. I'd be interested to read them, though.
posted by ixohoxi at 1:26 PM on August 30, 2009


It's completely stupid to pretend that "biological foundations for attractiveness are complete and utter bullshit".

Maybe I wasn't clear, but when I say the "biological foundations for attractiveness are complete and utter bullshit," I mean it's ludicrous to believe that our planet's billions and billions of people abide one golden standard of enjoyment for a purely subjective quality. You can find that "stupid"; I find it bizarre to contend otherwise.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:32 PM on August 30, 2009


I'm curious as to the range of ratios described by the literature, or rather, not described by the literature. The literature seems to say that cultures "converge" on something between 0.7 and 0.9, but the detailed discussion in which the variance is described seems to be behind paywalls. And this is one case where advocates overstate the magic mean numbers without looking at the variance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, you don't need there to be "one golden standard of enjoyment" for there to be a biological basis for things. We don't all find the same things attractive, but there are many things that virtually all of us find unattractive (such as open sores and rotting gums). There is a lot to indicate that there is a biological basis for this.
posted by Dysk at 1:40 PM on August 30, 2009


We don't all find the same things attractive

This is exactly what I'm saying.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2009


it's ludicrous to believe that our planet's billions and billions of people abide one golden standard of enjoyment for a purely subjective quality. You can find that "stupid"; I find it bizarre to contend otherwise.

Yes, that's a bizarre and ludicrous notion, but it's a straw man. Again, the biological-standards-of-beauty hypothesis doesn't claim that there's one golden, absolute standard or "Holy Grail" or whatever. It merely says there are certain tendencies (to which there will always be exceptions).
posted by ixohoxi at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2009


It merely says there are certain tendencies (to which there will always be exceptions).

That sounds a lot different than citing rather specific numbers and saying that what human beings find attractive spans cultures and across history and has been systematically determined by science. Might not be what you're saying, but it's a point that's been put across with great certainty here.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2009


ixohoxi: Except that if the variance underlying those tendencies is fairly large, then most of what get called exceptions are hardly exceptional. And meanwhile it's hard to say that those tendencies are strictly biological given the cross-cultural variance. As is usual, nature v. nurture is a crock of shit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:50 PM on August 30, 2009


the problem with all the charts and ratios and studies and standards is that they exclude all the other factors which also influence our choice of potential mates.

Sure, we can all look at some famous person in a magazine and agree to that person being "more attractive and/or desirable" but that just becomes a lot of armchair strategery that has no relation to battlefield conditions.

I live in New York City. As fine and varied a reproductive pool as one could hope to find in this world. There are days when you can go out and have your head turned every minute. Each person more beautiful than the last. Gorgeous people from all walks of life, all cultures, including the people you see in the magazines, tv and movies.

But somehow you can see 100 beautiful people a day, and not fall in love 100 times. Even if 98 of those 100 people cause you to think filthy thoughts, and one of those people was Famke Janssen, and she actually smiled in your general direction, and "wow".

But somehow that girl I met at that party last week who was nowhere near the megawatt beauty of the movie star on the corner is still crowding out all my thoughts. In my mind she's the cutest thing I've ever seen, and I can't believe she would even talk to me, much less go out with me. But after a few dates, we don't really get along, and she somehow goes back to being that goofy looking chick that my friends were insisting I could do "better than" anyway.

As real as beauty may or may not be, there's so much more going on that can't be measured or manufactured If it could be made, someone would be selling it to us already. They cant sell us what Brad Pitt was born with, so instead they use Brad Pitt to sell us other stuff. And when you haven't experienced the real thing, or the real thing has bitten you in the ass like it sometimes does, it's easy to think that lure of beauty is real. But as long as you just sit there and look at it with desire, you will never realize how false it is. Go out and try and grab it, and it becomes all too obvious what little substance was there all along.

Please, share with me the secret so that I too may wake up each morning, confident and carrying myself well.That is miles more difficult for a lot of us to achieve than you seem to be suggesting.

Just go out and live. There was a time when all I did was sit in my apt. playing videogames and lamenting how fat and unattractive and lonely I was. And I had all sorts of theories about the world and my place in it. There was no magic pill that got me off that couch. No secret. But I did. But when I'm traveling, or hanging out backstage at a concert, or on a date, or just having a good time with friends, I know it's not because I've changed, but simply because I've gone out into the world. I'm still the same person. I Look the same, still trying to lose the same 20 pounds. Only difference is I now know how little that stuff matters.

The point,as it relates to this discussion, is that there is no substitute for the real world. Standards, andratios, and studies... We're arguing about maps. Go walk the road.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:18 PM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


billyfleetwood, I do hope you're not trying to insinuate that all I do is sit in my apartment playing video games and lamenting how fat and unattractive and lonely I am. Because that's only partially true, and I only sit in my house because I'm waiting for university to kick off again. I barely play any games, I could stand to lose a few pounds, sure, but I wouldn't call myself downright fat, and my unattractiveness is mostly down to my choice of hairstyle, beard, and dress sense.

My point was that 'self-confidence' isn't something that everyone has, and "just getting off the sofa" (which is something I do quite a lot, under normal circumstances) doesn't bring it about for everyone. I'm akward in social situations, and it's not for lack of being in social situations.
posted by Dysk at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2009


Have you ever talked with a man who talked abstractly about preferring a symmetric face, symmetric breasts and 0.7 WHR? Being tall and bald hardly affects waist and shoulder width, or chest muscularity.

No, but I've definitely heard men talk about how they don't want to date fatties, or however else you'd want to phrase "preferring a 0.7 WHR" colloquially.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:52 PM on August 30, 2009


Brother Dysk...that was what I did. I don't know what you do.

my point is that I don't have any more "self-confidence" than I did 10 years ago. But I live a much more fulfilling life. I'm socially awkward, and prone to self-pity. My experience in the world is that these things aren't social, romantic, or professional death sentences.

Ok, some of us have to work harder, so be it. My father always said "hard work never killed anybody" I would protest with stories about coal miners and such, and then he would say "I'm pretty sure the front yard isn't going to collapse on your head and bury you alive, so quit being a smartass and go mow the lawn"
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:26 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it hilarious that a guy can say this:

At 20 years old she has a BMI of 25.1, the data from this review of the 115,000 women in the nurses health study suggests she has a 20% increase in all cause mortality simply maintaining this weight into adulthood.

And then turn around and put this stinker out there:

A BMI of under 18.5 is dangerous for most individuals, it does not follow that it is dangerous for everyone.

Do you care about health sir or don't you?

I am saddened to see so many 'feminists' reacting positively to someone who is essentially unhealthy. The focus should be on education of effective dietary methods to obtain the body women want without sacrificing their health.

Essentially unhealthy? An active young woman who is a few pounds above the cut off for the BMI range and you deem her essentially unhealthy? You know, I'm all about encouraging people to be healthy, encouraging women to be strong and fit and this is exactly the kind of absurd bullshit that keeps them away from all of that.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


effugas: If most of the market is composed of so-called "plus-sized women", why are most stores selling stuff the majority of the market can't buy?


It's because sometimes it's not feasible economically to profit from plus sized clothes. Here's a good article on the subject. (I'll try and dig up some others, but I find the statistics in this one to be pretty interesting).

Basically, all thin people are the same. But every fat person is fat in their own way.
posted by bluefly at 5:27 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


bluefly, I may no longer be very thin, but when I was, I had real trouble getting clothes that fit me*. Most thin people may be the same, but some of them have freakishly long arms and legs.

*(I still do. Apparently slightly fat people don't usually have freakishly long arms and legs either.)
posted by Dysk at 5:51 PM on August 30, 2009


Brother Dysk, I was (badly) paraphrasing the statistics in the article. Did you read it? There are a lot more people on the plus size range, but they are all spread out. On the lower end of the size spectrum, the number of people in each size is higher. That's what I meant.
posted by bluefly at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2009


Every time I look at the photos of Lizzie Miller -- speaking as someone who can look at naked women all the time both at home and in the locker room -- I always keep coming back to how pretty her skin is and how straight her teeth are. There are all sorts of genetic lotteries.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on August 30, 2009


I always keep coming back to how pretty her skin is and how straight her teeth are. There are all sorts of genetic lotteries.

Economic lotteries, too. There's a big difference in how your teeth look if you have had access your entire life to no-expense-spared high-end modern dentistry, versus if you went to the free dental van every few years when something hurt too much to bear. Not to say that you can't be poor and have fabulous teeth -- but all my neighbors who are poor have dental problems.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 PM on August 30, 2009


Culturally relative, too.

All evidence points to the English apparently preferring crooked teeth.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:29 PM on August 30, 2009


UbuRovias, not necessarily crooked, but not unnaturally perfect and shining whiter-than-white, either.
posted by Dysk at 6:37 PM on August 30, 2009


"Unnaturally perfect" is the correct term. There's something so very uncanny valley about the American dental model; no individual 'personality' evident.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:57 PM on August 30, 2009


I always keep coming back to how pretty her skin is and how straight her teeth are. There are all sorts of genetic lotteries.

My bumpy red skin and crooked-ass teeth weep at the injustice. That and the residual economic pain of the no-insurance wisdom teeth extraction.

Ow.
posted by The Whelk at 7:21 PM on August 30, 2009


In re this exchange:

Tune in to the cruel jokes about Sotomayor, Albright, Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton. They say that these creatures are not-woman, they are failed-woman somehow, in a sense that fat or ugly men never are made to feel. To be less than beautiful, for a woman, is to never be good enough.

Good enough to who? People who don't matter, that's who. Why should they aspire win the public's affection by changing their tastes (espescially, but not exclusively, in light of how unlikely that is to succeed)?....You shouldn't hate yourself or be proud of yourself for the way you look - it's irrelevant.


For real? Are you for real arguing that looks are irrelevant for women in public life? Sorry. I'm being cutting and that's rarely helpful. But this strikes me as asinine pabulum. Sure, in a Marcus Aurelius's Meditations sense, it is foolish to be proud of your looks, as they're not really an achievement. But looks are a very, very important to someone who gets hired based on how popular they are with the general public. They got Sarah Palin onto a national ticket. Sure, if she'd merely been good looking, that probably wouldn't have been enough. The rest of the package helped. But she could have been the most bear-huntin' baby havin' folksy-ass governor the state of Alaska ever did see, and if she'd been all that in the the body of Shelly Winters you'd never have heard her name.

There are ugly politicians of both sexes. The right kind of charisma, the right name, the right place at the right time, and you can get there, even with a face like a sackful of nails. But being pretty helps with a lot of things in life, not the least of them attaining the heights of political power. The possession of beauty has consequences, important consequences, well beyond the realms of catwalk-adoring and mate-finding, including in the attainment of political, cultural and economic power.
posted by Diablevert at 8:00 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


They say that these creatures are not-woman, they are failed-woman somehow, in a sense that fat or ugly men never are made to feel. (Countess Elena)

As a man who has been obese for the past thirteen years, I would, with some anger, with great emphasis, and from personal experience, utterly deny the validity of your assertion here.
posted by WCityMike at 8:07 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Diablevert: Sure, if [Sarah Palin]'d merely been good looking, that probably wouldn't have been enough. The rest of the package helped.

The rest of the package helped?!?
posted by Dysk at 8:10 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


ch1x0r:

"An active young woman who is a few pounds above the cut off for the BMI range and you deem her essentially unhealthy? "

For her BMI to be in the 19-21.9 range, the most healthy range according to the nurses study, she would have to loose a minimum of 23 pounds ....
posted by zentrification at 12:49 AM on August 31, 2009


A good chunk of the sizing trauma women deal with would be completely eliminated if manufacturers just used ACTUAL UNITS OF MEASUREMENT when labelling clothing. I mean it works for every other object known to humankind -- we purchase TVs by inches, gasoline by the gallon, fruit by the kilogram. A man can walk into a store and buy a shirt to fit his 15" neck with little hassle. Only when it comes to women's clothing does this rational system give way to absolute chaos. Sizes are not standard between manufacturers, and they are constantly changing!

No other industry on earth would be able to get away with this ridiculousness. I think of how utterly stupid and inefficient it is to attempt to buy anything this way, and I wonder at the contempt the fashion industry must hold for women that it perpetuates such a tortuous system.
posted by emeiji at 1:06 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zentrification -

BMI does not cause sickness or death. At best, BMI may be associated with lower or higher risks of mortality. It cannot be said that having a certain BMI "results in" a higher risk of mortality, as you have claimed. Socioeconomic status, access to health care, genetic predisposition, stress levels, the physical havoc wreaked by dieting and eating disorders etc. are all part of the picture as well.

That said, I'm not sure it's even correct that having a BMI in the overweight range is associated with higher mortality than "normal" range. Plenty of studies have indicated otherwise (either no greater mortality, or lower mortality). This study of older women found the lowest mortality risk associated with the "overweight BMI" range. The findings are similar for older men, where both overweight and obesity are associated with lower mortality risk than "normal" weight. This study published in JAMA found "overweight" BMIs associated with fewer deaths than "normal weight". Here's another one, concluding "Overweight was not associated with excess mortality." This well-reported Canadian study found that "Overweight (BMI 25 to <30) was associated with a significantly decreased risk of death" and "when compared to the acceptable BMI category, overweight appears to be protective against mortality."
posted by Danila at 2:14 AM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


It cannot be said that having a certain BMI "results in" a higher risk of mortality

s/b

It cannot be said that having a certain BMI "results in" increased mortality, which is what you actually said. Certain BMIs are associated with a higher risk of mortality, most especially underweight.
posted by Danila at 2:19 AM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some of us are living in altogether different geographies of lust.
posted by hincandenza at 3:56 PM on August 30 [8 favorites +] [!]


More depressing than the fact that hincandenza has such a narrow, bleak view of humanity is the fact that people actually favourited his comment(s).

Body image is fucking us up, no question. Even though humanity continues to copulate and procreate, fashion trends and advertising and models and actors are messing with all of our heads - women can't win because there is no perfect size, and if there was, they would have a blemish on their skin pointed out or told they have split ends or poor posture; men are increasingly falling foul of the same issues - metrosexuality has brought a kind of balance; guys are making more of an effort in the looks department, but finding they need to spend more and more time in front of the mirror to keep it up.

And because body image is fucking us up and our self-esteem is assaulted in so many ways, it's breeding this contempt - as this thread shows amply. Skinny women can't feel aggrieved because fat women feel more oppressed. Guys can't give their honest opinions - or even be believed. Fat guys think the entire world is against them because we're only driven by biological urges.

It makes me sad. It makes me angry. I have my own issues. I see my flaws more than my virtues. I feel less attractive than most of the people I know or meet. I'm called on my mild form of self-loathing and occasionally I can see what other people are talking about. I'm not perfect. Nobody is, but we're all built of stronger stuff than that - we just don't always want to believe it.

But if I existed in a world where I really thought that it was only biological urges that drove everyone, I don't really know how I'd cope. I'd probably become really bitter and post long rants at MetaFilter, wondering why people won't give me the time of day. But I don't because I know there is more to everyone than that. Because I have family and friends and acquaintences and colleagues who are driven by creativity and ideology and thought and feeling and more often than not express themselves through words and deeds than senseless rutting just to fulfil a basic biological need.
posted by crossoverman at 5:02 AM on August 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


...For whatever reason, I feel like this little anecdote is needed.

There was an episode of King Of The Hill when Peggy was going through all kinds of anxiety about the fact that she had big feet. She was going to all sorts of lengths to hide that fact, and then got found out. She was sitting in her bedroom feeling dejected, and Bobby came in to check on her while he was on his way out the door to a water pistol fight. He told her, "Mom, you shouldn't let that bother you. I'm not bothered by the fact that I'm fat."

PEGGY: You're not "fat," Bobby, you're "husky." Just like it says on your clothes.

BOBBY: No, Mom. I'm fat. But you know what? Big deal. I'm also funny, and polite, and smart. And I have friends, and even a girlfriend. And now, if you excuse me, I'm going to go shoot her with a water pistol. (Bobby starts to leave) ...What are you going to do today?

And Peggy sits, blinking, for a moment, and then gets a determined look on her face. And then in the very next scene, she proudly marches into a shoe store and asks to see what they have in a size 16.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2009 [7 favorites]


Screw all of you. I'm pretty.

Pretty fat!

Ha!

posted by grubi at 7:40 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


For real? Are you for real arguing that looks are irrelevant for women in public life?

I'm actually going to agree with you on this with the caveat that looks are extremely relevant for men in public life as well. Do you think it's a coincidence that every president since McKinley (except, I think, Jimmy Carter) have been above average height? Often by several inches? Would John Edwards have been a top tier candidate if he looked like Don Rickles? Were Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr., or Obama ugly, average, or good looking? (Ok, Reagan was damn old but he used to have movie star looks).

So Carter was below average height and Bush Sr. was kind of wonkish looking, and both were the only 1 termers since 1976. Coincidence?!? I THINK SO! But the point is still valid. Looks are extremely important for top tier politicians. You can certainly win elections if you're ugly. But you're unlikely, these days, to become Senator or President.

If you don't like it, blame television and the Kennedy-Nixon debates. That's where it started.
posted by Justinian at 11:23 AM on August 31, 2009


billyfleetwood is dead on when he exhorts us to get up off the couch and go do things (disclaimer: I am not suggesting that everyone who is lonely and overweight is a shut-in; there's a lot of luck and persistence involved). I'm not overweight but I know a lot of people who are - male and female - and they tend to be married, successful, and seem pretty happy. One thing they have in common is that they have social outlets that allowed them to meet their mates. I'm not talking about singles bars, or a co-rec sports team, or some other thing that might be intimidating to someone who is really overweight or feels "ugly". I'm talking about renaissance fairs, Scrabble clubs, drum circles, or weekly pen-and-paper role playing game sessions. In doing the things they actually enjoy, they are feeling better about themselves, and people are seeing them in situations where they are relaxed and happy. Surprise - they meet people! Obviously it's not that simple, but it helps to live life, and not live it in isolation. There are many ways to do that.

The few very heavy or not conventionally attractive people I know that are really lonely tend to have some other thing going on that turns people off, or are themselves only attracted to thin, good-looking people.

Also: Avoid mainstream media like the plague, especially if it deals with body image.

Also also: I'm 40 and most of the people I'm thinking of are 30+. They were all miserable in their 20s in various ways.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:18 PM on August 31, 2009


Were Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr., or Obama ugly, average, or good looking? (Ok, Reagan was damn old but he used to have movie star looks).

Hunh. I'm actually not sure what I think about that. Obama I would say is above avergae, despite the ears. For the rest, it's a bit hard to say as they were all elected as men in late-middle life. I wouldn't call any of 'em a silver fox, personally. I mean, is the proper scale, "Good looking for a man of thier age"? Or just "good looking"?

But yeah, I think looks are relevant for politicians of both sexes. That's.....what I said. Hell, I'd even raise you: If JFK had Eisienhower's looks (and ditto for Jackie and Mamie) then I doubt the cult of Kennedy would have been near so powerful.

Nevertheless, I would say that I think women politicians are more frequently and more hashly criticized on the basis of their appearence, and that while good looks help both sexes, the lack of them hinders women more. It's not impossible, by any means. But for a female public figure being insufficiently feminine or attractive is considered a huge weak spot, definitively undesirable, the first and easiest point of attack.
posted by Diablevert at 2:05 PM on August 31, 2009


Hunh. I'm actually not sure what I think about that.

How about this, then:

Obama: 6'2"
Bush the Lesser: 6'0"
Clinton: 6'2"
Bush the Greater: 6'2"
Reagan: 6'1"
Kerry: 6'4"
Gore: 6'1"
Dole: 6'2"

All at least 3 inches above average, and most often 5+ inches above average. The only candidate since Reagan who has been even below average, much less short, was Dukakis. And if you remember that election he was portrayed as ridiculous and unserious, and kind of goblin like. And he was barely an inch below average.

Perhaps not being very attractive isn't seen as much of a disadvantage for male politicians, but being short certainly is. Men can get away with being plain as long as they are tall. Women can get away with being short as long as they are pretty. Neither strikes me as particularly good.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 PM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


You forgot Perotland.
posted by cortex at 4:44 PM on August 31, 2009


What an admiralable pun.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:46 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always thought that the risk of mortality was 100% for everybody.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:59 PM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


To follow on slightly from Justinian, isn't it the case that the bald presidential candidate always loses?*



*(with the disclaimer that I don't know whether or not this is true, and that even if it, I do not take it to imply anything about anything other than attempting to run for President of the USA)
posted by Dysk at 5:06 PM on August 31, 2009


All at least 3 inches above average, and most often 5+ inches above average. The only candidate since Reagan who has been even below average, much less short, was Dukakis. And if you remember that election he was portrayed as ridiculous and unserious, and kind of goblin like. And he was barely an inch below average.

John McCain's height is listed variously as 5'7" and 5'9" according to a little light googling. (Wiki has an interesting article on this whole topic, actually.) H. Ross Perot is, according to imdb, 5'5". He was a mere third party candidate, but his 20% of the vote is widely accepted to have been one of the biggest factors in Clinton's victory. Perot's height was definitely talked of and parodied, among his other eccentricities, but I don't recall very much at all being said about McCain's. His relative age, definitely.

I mean, I'd certainly concede that being tall and imposing may well help you command a room, and that's probably a handy quality for anyone seeking high office. Lincoln, Peter the Great and Washington are all still talked of in this respect. But aside from the myth that the taller presidential candidate always wins (it's only 53% of the time, according to Wiki) you don't see candidates' relative height mentioned at all. I'd be curious to see some stats on Congress in the matter --- that's a much bigger sample and might be able to tell you if this is a real trend or just a fluke. (After all, we've only had 40-odd presidents.) So being tall is probably beneficial but perhaps trivial, it's hard to say. I'd bet that looks have a bigger effect, but don't know how you'd measure.
posted by Diablevert at 6:38 PM on August 31, 2009


So being tall is probably beneficial but perhaps trivial, it's hard to say.

You point out that it is a myth that the taller candidate usually wins. It's correct that this is a myth. But that hardly contradicts the notion that height is extremely important for a presidential candidate when you're talking about two candidates who are 6'2" and 6'1", or 6'4" and 6'2". Maybe the shorter of the two wins, but "shorter" is still 4 inches above average.

How can it seriously be argued that height is trivial when almost every serious presidential candidate since TV became so important is significantly above average height? If McCain is 5'9" that's average, 5'7" would indeed be below average. But McCain gets a bye about proving his manliness since he was tortured in a vietnamese prison camp for years.

I'd be curious to see some stats on Congress in the matter --- that's a much bigger sample and might be able to tell you if this is a real trend or just a fluke.

True, but on the other hand neither do I see discussion of the appearance of female candidates for house seats. So you'd have to look at whether appearance seems to matter as much for both sexes for those sorts of positions to make it fair.

Oh, here's one that applies to both male and female candidates: weight. The most trivial glance at members of congress and presidential candidates will tell you that politicians tend to be much slimmer than the country as a whole. Both male and female.
posted by Justinian at 7:20 PM on August 31, 2009


No other industry on earth would be able to get away with this ridiculousness. I think of how utterly stupid and inefficient it is to attempt to buy anything this way, and I wonder at the contempt the fashion industry must hold for women that it perpetuates such a tortuous system.

The customer has to go in the store, because she can't buy clothes without trying them on first. Can't just send someone else, or safely order from a catalog. While there, she might buy other stuff on impulse. Same thing with Wal-Mart's site to store shipping that requires you to go all the way to the back of the store to pick up your stuff. It may or may not be an unintentional effect of the sizing on the part of the manufacturers, but could be hugely beneficial to the retailers.

/paranoia
posted by dilettante at 3:35 AM on September 1, 2009


For comparison: recent Australian Prime Ministers, most recent first:

Kevin Rudd: 5'10"
John Howard: 5'7"
Paul Keating: 5'11¾"
Bob Hawke: not sure, but shorter than Howard. On the other hand, he set a new world speed record for beer drinking: a yard glass (approximately 3 imperial pints or 1.7 litres) in eleven seconds, which increased his stature in the eyes of the aussie voters.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:36 AM on September 2, 2009


Oh sweet jeebus. I'm listening to the BBC's World Have Your Say right now and Lizzie Miller is on and a bunch of complete morons are going on and on about how enormously HUUUUGE she is... she's what, 5' 11" and 180?

Then I guess I was a fricking MOO COW when I was 5' 7" and 163 as a super-active high school varsity tennis player with thigh muscles that could've cracked walnuts if asked.

(Yeah, I would have been 25.5 BMI according to the NIH, and she's 25.1).

You just can't win, can you?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2009


You just can't win, can you?


Think about washing machines and other household devices. They were always marketed as a way to relive a wife's drudgery and free up more time. hell, they even called them "conveniences". But what happened? Standards of cleanliness rose, the demands became harder so people could distinguish themselves better. Same thing happens in the Attractiveness Game, you can't squeak by with clean teeth and clear skin and a refreshing lack of smallpox sores. You gotta be thinner, fitter, tanner, buffer, healthier, and cleaner than everyone around you. You also better have all the right things and the right taste in things, all arranged in the right way and you'd better as fuck keep up on what the newest, nicest thing to have or talk about is before anyone else does.

Chained to the fast lane in the Red Queen's race against the Jones', the only way out is to resign yourself to being invisible.

or spend all day online, whatever
posted by The Whelk at 12:42 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


An article, with comments about this issue in the Guardian.
posted by Megami at 1:44 AM on September 6, 2009


« Older The Warrior Writers Project brings together recent...  |  What the World Needs Now Is Lo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments