"Real Women Have Curves" and Other Ways You're Not Helping

"Real Women Have Curves" and Other Ways You're Not Helping

"You're not helping!"

That's what I want to yell every time I see a picture of a curvaceous '50s bombshell with a caption about how much sexier that aesthetic is than today's super-skinny ideal.

A few days ago, I came across a picture on my good friend's Facebook profile with the words, "When did this become hotter..." superimposed on images of Nicole Richie, Keira Knightly, and Kate Moss, and "Than this?" on images of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page.


Photo by John Loo.

The first two comments were from someone named David: "It didn't..." and "Have you ever heard someone say 'I wanna fuck Nicole Richie'?"

Great, that's just what women need: More guys telling us what they think is sexy. Thanks for that, David. Duly noted.

I know that my friend -- whose body type, oddly, happens to fall more on the Nicole Richie end of the spectrum -- wasn't trying to insult skinny women. But this is not the first time I've seen a well-meaning individual attempt to celebrate body diversity by taking the wrong-headed "real women have curves" route.

I wrote, "Can we stop with this shit? There's no need to pit women against each other. It doesn't help and it's stupid," to which my friend replied, "It's just showing a change in the media, none of that Jacky."

"No," I commented back. "It's not just showing 'a change in the media'; It's pitting skinny women against curvier women. Don't tell me there isn't a value judgment implicit in the question, 'When did x become hotter than y?'"

I didn't bother commenting again, because she then then proceeded to completely prove my point by saying, "I really didn't think of it in that way. I just like the aesthetic comparison showing how most things look trashier now."

Right, so skinny women look trashy. Fantastic.

In general, I'm sick and tired of comparisons between hourglass-shaped '50s pinups and skinny women. Recently, my mom's friend posted a picture of Marilyn Monroe that said, "Before anorexia and implants... There was something called sexy."

What are we being told here?

1. Anorexic women aren't sexy. That's exactly what anorexic women need to hear -- that they aren't attractive. That'll definitely help them with their issues. It's not like having doubts about their bodies is what caused them to become anorexic in the first place.

2. Women with implants aren't sexy. Any woman who chooses to modify her body in a politically incorrect way (funny how so many people have no problem with tattoos but think getting implants is the most degrading thing a woman can do to herself) is unattractive.

3. It's important to have big boobs like Marilyn, the epitome of sexy, but they have to be real. Because remember, implants aren't sexy.

4. Have curves, but make sure they're in all the right places, just like Marilyn.

Noted, noted, and noted.

Let me make it loud and clear: There is nothing subversive about a huge-titted hourglass figure. Nothing. For millennia, and even today (for I hardly consider high fashion emblematic of mass culture), bodacious, child-bearing bodies have been admired, painted, sculpted, and adored. Posting a picture of Sophia Loren or Christina Hendricks on your Facebook as if it were some sort of radical, daring alternative to opressive patriarchal beauty standards is foolish at best, and harmful at worst. As someone who has struggled with anorexia, seeing these kinds of images doesn't make me feel good, it makes me feel like being a womanly, curvaceous Venus is the only alternative I have to being super-skinny. The reality is that I, like many women, am neither very skinny nor lush and voluptuous. I have fat on my thighs and small boobs. I am imperfect. Where do I fit into this dichotomy?

There's nothing wrong with analyzing how standards of beauty have changed through the years, but telling women that they would be sexier if they looked a certain way doesn't help anyone.

College student, future history teacher, and feminist.

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