[The] DIY attempt at culture jamming [through meme’s] is little more than another form of body policing dressed up as guerrilla feminism. Because apart from the fact that the conversational circle jerk over beauty ideals is so goddamn boring, almost every meme [about body imagine] I’ve seen revelling in women’s ‘curves’ and natural beauty is guilty of three things:
1. Gross crimes against originality;
2. A curiously moronic belief that presence of ‘curves’ is exponentially linked to an increase in size (FYI: ‘curves’ does not mean fat – not all small women look like pre-pubescent boys and not all big women have bodacious bosoms and tiny waists. Stop kidding yourselves.);
3. Betraying the very politics it claims to represent by not just elevating one kind of beauty ideal over another, but continuing to treat ideals as things that matter.
Consider the image of Marilyn Monroe that began floating around a few years ago, in which the tiny (yes: despite a generally touted ignorance that she was some kind of white whale in disguise, she was on the small side of thin) bombshell is compared to a Victoria’s Secret model with gazelle like limbs. Its caption reads: “Fuck society. This is more attractive than this.”
Gleefully, women pasted it on their social media walls and blogs, obnoxiously reiterating to the world that unlike their less sophisticated peers they had a more nuanced understanding of beauty and worth. Real Men, it was claimed, are attracted to Real Women. Women with real thighs, real breasts and real personalities – as if being naturally thin somehow renders you artificial, and depth and breadth of personality needs an equivalently rotund area in which to fit.
Is that what the battle of body image has really been reduced to? A sort of Playtex thunderdome in which the jealousies and insecurities of women who feel victimised by rigid codes of attractiveness take it out on those they assume are favoured by the dichotomy? Defending the rights of women not to be defined by their body shape by arguing that certain women aren’t real plays into an irony that even I can’t get behind.
Recently, the Weekend Australian Magazine ran a cover feature on Australian model Robyn Lawley. Because Lawley is a size 16, she’s classified as plus-size. The piece treats with great fanfare Lawley’s love of food because everyone knows that attractive, robust women who eat are somehow more evolved and better at sex than their skinnier counterparts. In the confused backlash against body fascism, models and celebrities like Lawley are held up as evidence that normal women can, nay, should be winning some of their own medals in the Beauty Olympics.
Here is the one fact you need to know about Robyn Lawley’s ‘normal’ sized body: at 188 cm, her proportionate size 16 is roughly the equivalent of a 165 cm woman’s size 10-12. Admire her for her beauty, certainly. Admire her imposing, statuesque figure and the cheekbones that could cut glass. But don’t patronize yourselves by pretending that her success is somehow a win for women whose thighs meet in the middle.
All of these examples of Real Woman™ have one thing in common. It’s not that they celebrate diversity or that they’re as stale, boring and tired as the kind of limited narrative that suggests only thin women deserve love or praise. It’s that they remind women that the most important thing a woman can be is desirable; that she needs to view herself as desirable, and have that view reinforced by a condescending message of inspiration about how her averageness is actually much more attractive than whatever beauty ideal happens to be fashionable at the time. At its heart, it is an infantilizing, juvenile obsession that still pits women against each other and distracts us from participating in a life free of the pressure that comes from worrying about the stock market value of our looks.
We need to move beyond the comparisons and the memes, the musing over what makes a woman real and what makes her worthy of our contempt. Crucially, we need to start accepting that some women are more conventionally beautiful than others, and that this is okay. We can be adults about it, and accept the diversity we claim to be craving. And maybe if we practice that hard enough, one day we really will cease to care about whether or not the size of our bottoms disqualify us from being either real or attractive, or both.
This is a cut down opinion piece from an Australian newspaper. First of all a caveat, being an Australian piece in mentions an Australian model Robyn Lawley, for those interested she is
I think that this piece is worth posting here. It touches a very interesting topic that is open to endless debate. Also because I think it is one of the best opinion pieces I’ve ever read.
My thoughts are:
I agree about that Marilyn vs skinny model meme. I've seen it around and had exactly the same thought that this backlash against skinny women isn't fair. The whole 'real women have curves' thing is counter-productive. I do think that skinny bashing feeds into the body image crisis that is crippling the self-esteem of women. These meme’s once again show that all that is being focused on is beauty and how desirable a woman is. But...
It is such an emotional issue (something I think as man I could probably never truly understand). The skinny=beauty thing is entrenched, in your face all the time. It makes women feel inadequate and worthless, and from negative feelings like that comes resentment, which results in counter-productive ‘skinny bashing’. No one should be bashed because we should celebrate all sizes but it's unbalanced at present. Skinniness is still the archetype of attractiveness.
To me an allegory is where people feel they have to defend Christmas. Christmas is so entrenched, that it is clearly the dominant western cultural event of the calendar. It does not need defending. It is not under attack. Likewise, the skinny=beauty thing is the dominant beauty value of western culture.
The media bangs its drum about plus size, but it's hollow. Nothing has really changed. The playing field is incredibly skewed.