Jul 7, 2007

The Skinny On Things

When I saw these images on One Jewish's Dyke's website, I knew I had to respond. Guess who the British t.v. show judges picked for having a sensational body? The 154 lb. woman on the left or the 112 lb. Peter Pan on the right? Yup, you guessed it. They chose the skinny male impersonator on the right, she who is still waiting for her body to flesh out into a womanly figure.

As far as my practiced eye could tell, the only figure flaw the woman on the left might have is her thighs. Reading the comments to this post are even more illuminating. People's responses are the same as mine. But one of the commentators must suffer from the same self-image as the woman in the illustration below.

I also venture to say that Kirstie Alley, Janet Jackson and Oprah Winfrey, with all their money and fame and talents, are unable to get a handle on their body images. One senses as we watch them balloon, lose weight, and regain the same weight over again that their systems are completely out of whack. It seems that Janet, who fought so hard to lose weight and get back in shape, is putting all the weight on again, as these recent photos attest.

When I encountered the image below my immediate response was Ewwww!

Then I realized it was Madonna looking her age or perhaps a few years older, as I have seen 50 year old women look equally as stringy.

The person who posted this picture gushed about how beautiful she looked and how fabulously toned she was. Huh? Give me Monique's round curves over Madonna's dessicated albeit very fit body any day.
We live in an age when ordinary bodies are not good enough for magazine covers or advertisements. Case in point, Katie Couric, who is short and petite and not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, was made to look downright lillipudlian.
And think about the controversy a few years back regarding the ever fabulous Kate Winslet, whose natural curves are simply amazing. I not only love this woman's acting, but also her outspokenness about her love for her body AS IT IS - fit, firm, and womanly. In the controversial GQ cover, where Kate's body was elongated, she claimed that her legs looked slimmer by 1/3. Looking closely at the photo, Kate has been stretched to the point where she looks like she is wearing size 14 shoes.
There was a brouhaha of a different sort regarding Keira Knightly, who was accused of being anorexic. I'll go on the record to say she is not, that she is naturally thin and "enjoys" a high metabolism. In fact, looking at Keira's body reminds me of when I was 22. I ate like a pig, and yet my girlfriends wondered if I had worms. My clavicles were pronounced, my rib cage showed, and I couldn't keep the weight on. It helped that I walked,took public transportation, and played tennis and hockey. But those days are long gone, and these days I struggle with my weight just like anyone.
Besides, this is what an anorexic looks like. See the difference?

Here's what someone said in response to viewing this photo of regular, slightly (if at all) overweight women:

I have been brainwashed by models I guess, but the fat girls in the white underwear are ugly and shouldn't model.

I actually think these women are lovely.

Here's another issue about body image that I find disturbing. We aren't allowed to grow old. There were some scathing comments about John Travolta's titties in this photo. The man is 53 years old! Give him a break. Besides, what's wrong with aging? What I like about John is that he doesn't pretend he's someone he's not. He no longer plays the young Lothario, and in fact, he doesn't mind making fun of his image. And as far as I can tell, he looks no different in this photo than most well fed, sedentary men his age. Would you prefer that he mutilate himself like, well, let's show the most obvious example, shall we?
The photo that began my little tirade today was this one of Sienna Miller. She is thin, she is lovely, and she felt quite comfortable wearing an outfit that made her look 3-4 sizes bigger. Good for you, girl.

But the fact that I noticed she looks big does point out our society's (and my) obsession with weight. If Janet Jackson is too heavy, and Kate's normal curves aren't good enough, and Keira Knightly is anorexic, then WHAT EXACTLY is a healthy female body supposed to look like? Oh, now I get it. We should aspire to do both at the same time. Like Angelina Jolie, who is skinny and fat in all the right places. Here's a photoshopped image of her, as if Angelina needed more perfection.

Might as well give up now and go eat a pint of Haagen Danz ice cream.


ArtfulSub said...


I will NEVER understand this phenomenon. I try to do my small part by featuring female athletes at my blog. NONE of whom, in any sport, are BONE-SKINNY. With some very successful female athletes actually a tad over-weight during their playing days. The majority have bodies that real humans find attractive.

If I had any talent with photo-shop, I'd create neck-down body shots of athletic women versus those the media-maggotry pronounce "sex symbols". And poll readers.

I'd guess 95% would pick Anna Kournikova's over Paris Hilton's.

So, how the heck did the Hilton-Bod become the proto-type?

Anonymous said...

I find it disturbing that the accepted standard of beauty on both men and women are the same as a CHILD's body. Children are leaner, without fat in other places that an adult SHOULD have. I find it disturbing that in an age of escalating crimes against children that it is somehow fashionable and appropriate to portray the pre pubescent body as something to BE attracted to in the first place. I think that society better take a good hard look, in particular the people at the helm of this nonsense. It is not sexy or attractive.

Men and women SHOULD have curves. Some curves are in a size 8 while others are in a size 16 and up.

The point is that as a culture we need to stand up and establish firmly that undernourished and under developed bodies are NOT attractive.

Take a trip to Brazil or Mexico, look at the men and women there. They are FAR more attractive and beautiful. Curves and all.

Eat a sandwhich.

Damselfly said...

I would just like to add....

Coincidently, this is something I've been ranting about all day...just ask my husband. We were walking down our main street today after picking up some bagels for breakfast and we passed another couple where the woman had the body of...Emme. (Not that I am much of a different body type) The male of the couple was a handsome guy and it was quite obvious that he was completely taken with her...arm wrapped around her waist, etc. I must also say that she and I were 2 of the better dressed women on the street. Many men really love shapely women and the media is telling them that's not ok...just as it is telling us that it's not ok to BE shapely.

You should google Brendan Fraiser and Pierce Brosnan....2 of the sexiest men in Hollywood, IMO. BOTH of their wives are women...sexy, sophisticated, mothers with bodies that show their life story...and why shouldn't it. They did something amazing by growing a little person inside and giving it life...I did it too..and all I want to do is SCREAM at the fashion world (and America for that matter) "I AM REAL...DRESS ME...I DARE YOU!"

Needless to say...fabulous post!

BML said...

I am always slightly shocked when I see the body of someone who is anorexic...and knowing that they don't even realize how terribly thin they are!

Marius said...

First, thank you for saying that Keira is not anorexic. As you mentioned, she's always been naturally thin. Before becoming a huge Hollywood star, she appeared in smaller Brit films; she looked thin then as she does now, but she's always been healthy. She's a young woman for crying out loud. In fact, in the film Bend it like Beckham she proved to be quite the athlete, performing most of her own soccer moves. Honestly, how many anorexics can do that?

Damselfly, you are right; it's terrible that the media has lost touch with reality. Beauty and sensuality don't come in one shape and size. There is more diversity in the real world; these media types need to get with the program.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a contrast.

The young woman on the left looks lively, healthy, and engaging.

The young woman on the right looks weak, tired, and sad.

The four ladies in their undies look pretty and like normal women to me.

artfulsub, my favorite big, beautiful, and curvy athletic body would have to be Serena Williams. What a woman!

Anon 12:38, thank you! When Tim Gunn made the "plus size" comment last season on Project Runway about one of the models; it prompted a post much like yours.

The poster was disturbed by the idea that the ideal female runway model's figure is that of a pubescent boy. I think the poster was also disturbed by what that says about us as a culture.


Linda Merrill said...

Excellent post, as usual, Ms. Place. I think our whole culture is schizophrenic when it comes to weight issues. I'd say it's a new way of keeping women down, except that it's been going on to long to be "new". I think we as a culture are weight obsessed because we're looking for perfection in ourselves and others that's not possible. I'm someone who's never been thin - the one time I came close I was convinced - and told by others - that I still had 30 lbs to lose! Needless to say, I gave up. If I weighed now what I weighed then, I'd be hot! (just like those women in the dove commercial/white undies). Meanwhile, a young relative of mine is being treated for anorexia - she was a chubby child who lost it all, and couldn't stop. She's working on it but is still 15 or so lbs. underweight. She now weighs around where I thought I was supposed to weigh when I was her age. Weird, huh?

I agree - Kate Winslet is stunning now and I imagine she will be at 50. Meanwhile, Madonna looks like a crone.

I feel for Ms. Jackson - hard to go up and down so publicly when one is known for one's hot figure.

Very thought provoking.

Big Fella said...

The need of too many people to abuse their bodies in pursuit of some artificial ideal is nothing more than a manifestation of their low self-esteem.

Your post inspired a similar one today over on BFD Blog!

BigAssBelle said...

i have been brainwashed by models I guess, but the fat girls in the white underwear are ugly and shouldn't model.

that is just so, so sad. yes, we have all been brainwashed by television, movies, magazines, billboard images and the like, nearly all of which have been photographically enhanced to create a perfect image.

a perfect image and one unattainable by just about everyone without knives and anesthesia and prosthetic devices implanted and on and on and on and on. i am offended by so much focus on making ourselves into something we are not, especially when the wish to be perfect is based on nothing more than lies.

it is especially infuriating, given the level of eating disorders among women, that we are told that the perfect, PERFECT woman's body is practically emaciated, with enormous overinflated breasts.

for a very, very, very, very few women, that may be possible. for the vast majority of us, even if such thinness were possible, if we had the bone structure, musculature and such to be twig-thin, the breasts would also be smaller. as nature intended. really, it's just outrageous. we are told we are not good enough at every turn, we are convinced and brainwashed that we should NOT be who we are, we are encouraged to mutilate out bodies for the sake of social and self acceptance and it is all just crazy-making, eating-disorder-producing superficial CRAP that, ultimately, means nothing.

i have at long last abandoned dieting as a way of life. i have dieted for over 40 years, have dealt with eating disorders most of my life and now that i have simply given up dieting, i find that the obsession with thinness, with what i eat, what i'm going to do, what diet i'm going to start, oh my stars is that my ass???? has vanished.

vanished. my head is quiet. i can eat anything i want. the scale stays the same. i am grateful beyond measure. i say we should stop the insanity and recognize the value inherent in each of us that is based in our humanity, in our hearts, souls and minds.

cars wear out, our bodies change too. i am proud to live in my body today, given what i've survived in my endless efforts to become something i am incapable of. what a freedom to accept myself as i am. and to able to eat a portion of the fresh blueberry crisp i made last night? without guilt?? wow! what a delight.

women's bodies have always been coopted for one thing or another. the idea that our bodies OUR BODIES!!!! can go into and out of fashion enrages me. what will i do with my twiggy-style body in the year that zaftig comes into fashion? it's insane!! strap down my breasts! lift up my ass! cinch my waist so tight i get internal organ damage! put drops in my eyes to have huge pupils and lose my eyesight! put cream on my face that eats away my skin! we have done this to ourselves for centuries. i say it's time to stop, to practice self acceptance and self love and to REJECT these falsehoods we are fed by the media.

refuse. revolt. recover.

Anonymous said...

I'm recovering from bulimia and honestly I didn't know how awful I looked until I saw some holiday photo's from a few years earlier and compared them to a recent one.
I'm still not 100% happy with myself but at least I'm safe. I was so ignorant to see the damage that I have done to myself. Its not just the image, its the internal effects, the ones you can't see that are the most horrific.

I hope to God this illusion ends soon.

Annette said...

Great Blog!
I wish the news media would latch on to this...but they wont.
We have to support each other and show our friends and other people we happen across, that we are NORMAL.
Europe is working on putting a law in effect stating that a model CAN NOT be less than the lowest weight for her height on the height-weight chart.
Europe has the highest mortality rate for models because they idolize the 12 to 14 yr old figure.

paul said...

Great articles, but I hate inaccurate information, at the top of this page the story of the two girls in the gold swim suite it is the girl on the left who won the overall competition, the skinny girl on the right was voted off and never even made it to the finals. I live in the UK I watched the show. This made it into the news because it was a positive sign for healthy looking women.

Anonymous said...

WOW I was just using google to google "normal bodies" and came acroos this blog... It is inspiring and i wish more of this could be brought up in media because it seems EVERYONE feels the same. I am 5'5 and weigh 125 and yet I still rant about getting fit... it is impossible to transform ourselves to the photoshop image. I know that when I see a normal picture of a celebrity in magazines once in a blue moon, I almost get inspired that hey I don't look half bad then! That is not how any of us should be thinking and I know it. It is so hard to get that out of our heads do to this pressure.

It's a never ending battle...

Anonymous said...

I have to say that all my life I was training hard until 2 years ago. I was in a competitive sport, training 2 hours and a half a day and was tested in school as having excellent physical shape. Height: 5"4, weight:125. I am eating healthy and doing all the right things. Yet, I am always the "fat one". My skinny friends can't jog for more than 5 minutes, eat crap and still, they get all the attention for being thin. I say fuck it. People rant and rave about bigger girls being oh so unhealthy, saying things like "eat less", etc. But in the end, when you have a perfect diet and a perfect physical shape they still call you fat if your body is a certain way. The girls in the pic are beautiful. Also, EVEN if you are overweight you are beautiful. How come we can say both Picasso and Da Vinci created masterpieces, yet go and say that humans need to look only one way to be considered beautiful. I think the problem here is not weight, it's mental illness. You can dislike tomatoes, and others can like them, but you have to be mentally ill to tell people who like tomatoes that they are disgusting. Point. To everyone who thinks having flesh is unhealthy, I'll say being insane might be even worse. Way to go society! Kill all sanity!

Anonymous said...

Curves are sexy but cellulite isnt! Lets just make that distinction.