February 6, 2003 12:51 PM   Subscribe

As far as I am concerned, this icon of the 60's was the start of the media's ridiculous emphasis on the skinny female form.
posted by konolia at 12:56 PM on February 6, 2003

We only want you when you're seventeen
When you're twenty-one
You're no fun
They take a polaroid and let you go
So they'll let you know
So come on

posted by four panels at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2003

sick and sad. goodbye, norma jeane.
posted by gsalad at 2:56 PM on February 6, 2003

As far as I am concerned, this icon of the 60's was the start of the media's ridiculous emphasis on the skinny female form.

Well, not really, as a quick look at 1920s fashion and culture illustrates. (A thinner form was also emphasized in Classically-influenced fashions of the late 18th/early 19th centuries, and the "boyishness" of the flapper form had its roots in some Edwardian fashions.)

But I react to images of Twiggy in a wholly different way. In fact, I remember vividly how happy, relieved, and downright liberated I felt the first time I saw a picture of Twiggy 20 years ago, back when I was a tall, flat-chested 14-year-old -- to be blunt, it was the first time I ever saw an image that said to me that I could be pretty without big boobs. I had never seen that before, and it's not something I've seen much since. (No wonder I became a 20s/60s retro freak.)

I also think that this meme about the media only showing "skinny women" is inaccurate (there was a thread about just this topic a few months ago, but I keep getting a Cold Fusion error when I try to search). I mean, honestly, look at any Victoria's Secret catalog or Jennifer Lopez/Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera video and tell me with a straight face that *my* 5'9", 125 lbs. (even with a milkshake in one hand and a cheesecake in the other), barely-any-booty body type is the universal ideal that's being emphasized on a daily basis. I can promise you -- from the endless frustrated attempts to find clothes that actually fit to strangers coming up to me in public to tell me that they want to take me home and feed me* -- that it's not.

What has become emphasized, in my opinion, is in fact a largely unnatural combination of ectomorph and endomorph proportions -- large breasts, tiny waists, curvy rear ends, evenly lean arms and legs. The vast majority of women -- size 2s and size 20s alike -- can't attain that ideal without plastic surgery combined with a real dedication to body-sculpting exercise. In short, I think what's being idealized is much closer to Barbie than Twiggy.

I don't mean to sound like I'm lashing out at you, konolia, or that I dispute the legitimate criticisms of the beauty and fashion industries, etc., etc. But claiming that there's a "ridiculous emphasis on the skinny female form," in my opinion, doesn't quite match what's really going on culturally. What's more, such statements often carry the assumption (sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit) that "skinny" women aren't, in fact, "real women" (read: sexy, desirable, beautiful, etc.). Hey, there was even a recent movie entitled "Real Women Have Curves." Well, not quite. Real women come in all shapes and sizes, including those of us who happen to be slim/lithe/willowy (all much nicer descriptors than the ugly-sounding "skinny"). Twiggy (or Louise Brooks) was and is every bit as much a legitimate example of female beauty as Marilyn Monroe.

On preview:
sick and sad. goodbye, norma jeane.

*Yes, this has happened. More than once.
posted by scody at 3:27 PM on February 6, 2003

twiggy had the most adorable face, i remember falling in love with her when i was little because of her huge bambi eyes and never gave it a second thought that she was very thin. it seems to be natural for her, seeing as she's maintained a bony physique her entire life... calling her sick and sad is unfair and pretty much uncalled for regardless. anyways, can't we love both twiggy and norma jean for their individual allure...?
posted by t r a c y at 3:43 PM on February 6, 2003

She was in The Blues Brothers.
posted by mecran01 at 4:00 PM on February 6, 2003

She has some odd namesakes.
posted by tss at 6:15 PM on February 6, 2003

I guess I was thinking back to the late sixties and seventies when models really did have to be practically anorexic to get work.
posted by konolia at 7:55 PM on February 6, 2003

"As the first teenager to become a supermodel..."

This may be an even bigger part of her importance. Twiggy paved the way not just for Kate Moss, but for the appeal of compliant, nonthreatening teenagers like Liv Tyler and Natalie Portman.
posted by transona5 at 8:10 PM on February 6, 2003

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