Body Acceptance Gone Wrong: Why This Photo Doesn’t Make Me Feel “Hot”

when did this become hotter than thisI know that images like the one above are supposed to make me feel better about my body; sharing the photos of old Hollywood actresses against today’s starlets on Facebook and Twitter is some women’s way of cheering on their friends. It’s supposed to send the message: “You shouldn’t feel bad because you don’t look like too-thin movie stars…Rah rah rah!” But the thing is, it doesn’t. Like the Nigella Lawson vs. Gillian McKeith photo before it, or the recent PLUS Model Magazine photo shoot, I know the intention of this graphic is good. But in reality, it’s just adding more pressure to comform to unforgiving ideals…and encouraging women to feel better by hating on each other.

I first noticed the graphic on a friend’s Facebook feed last weekend, accompanied by an avid conversation about which body type men find more attractive. Then I saw it on Twitter, shared by famed yoga teacher Kathryn Budig, who encouraged her fans to feel better about their bodies. Her tweet read:

embrace your bodies + curves! we’re on the same team as our body—love it, treat it right and know you’re beautiful.

I know everyone meant well. (Even those whose feel-good strategy involved tying self-esteem to what men find attractive.) But the underlying message of the photo is that one body type is more beautiful than the other; how is that supposed to make me feel good?

I’m no more likely to look like Marilyn Monroe than I am to be mistaken for Keira Knightley on the beach. No matter how much I eat or work out, I’ll always be working with the same set of genetics, and comparing myself to women who don’t resemble me in the least is never going to feel good, whether they’re a size zero or a size eight.

Just because you call a woman beautiful who isn’t stick thin doesn’t mean you’re promoting body acceptance. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: We won’t resolve our body image issues by creating a battle between size 12 and size zero, or judging someone’s health by rudimentary and outdated measures. What we do need is greater diversity in body shapes and sizes in movies, TV shows and magazines.

That’s why this photo, from IndieWire’s coverage of the Golden Globes, makes me happy:

golden globes body types

No two women look alike in that photo. Their bodies aren’t carbon copies of one another gussied up in a different kind of dress; they genuinely have different body types and weights, and they all look great. And, even better: IndieWire didn’t comment on how their dresses looked on their bodies or whether they looked too thin.

Ladies, here’s my plea: We can’t build each other up if we continue to pit ourselves against each other on the basis of our body types. Thin women don’t deserve to be shamed any more than heavy women do. And no singular beauty ideal will ever be good for women, so let’s promote diversity instead of comparing one uniform ideal against another.

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    • Hanna Brooks Olsen

      Wow, this image is so body-negative! Everyone is different, and calling out thin women doesn’t help anyone. Since when is putting someone down better than being positive?

      Yay this article!

    • NotThumper

      It’s not about “thin women”, it’s more the fact that we know the majority of today’s hollywood starves themselves to look like that. Not all, but most…and it’s sad.

      • Briana Rognlin

        I definitely agree that it’s not good to look at actresses who go to extremes in order to look the way they do, but I think this photo/graphic in particular completely misses that point. It just shows super thin women and compares them to thin but “curvier” women, and discusses how “hot” they look. Do you know what any of these actresses eat (or ate)? I don’t. And just because Marilyn Monroe was heavier than Keira Knightley doesn’t mean she didn’t have her own demons and health issues to deal with… Overall, I just think this ad has the complete wrong focus.

      • self help

        Not for nothing, I’m a grown adult and I weigh 90lbs. without “starving” myself. Contrary to popular belief, some women are naturally thin and not anorexic.

      • Leigha

        What I find interesting is that Keira Knightley does not look too skinny. Her stomach looks pretty toned to me. But because she has a very flat chest, it makes her look a lot smaller. So when the picture implies that the women on the bottom are hotter than those on the top, it isn’t just saying that women today are too skinny, it’s also implying there’s something wrong with not having a large chest (which is altogether too common as it is).

        At least, that was my initial reaction to it. Regardless, I get very tired of the “real women have curves” mentality. Women who are naturally smaller and/or flat-chested are women too, and there is nothing wrong with finding them attractive. I’m sick of hearing how “disgusting” it is to be skinny.

    • matsumama

      WOW. The point of this pictoial is to celebrate the female form as it is NATURALLY, before anorexia and plastic surgery became the ‘norm’. You, author, deriding the comparison does little more than throw the whole point into the trash. The POINT is that women are GORGEOUS as they are, not how men want them to be crushed into degraded forms of ideal. Your derision does little to encourage the natural female form; all you’re doing is adhering to societal demands. Tell you what; mock the ‘curvy’ former sex symbols all you want. Bind your feet while starving yourself; I’m sure you – and your lacerated self-esteem – will be a ‘role model’ in no time.

      • Nancy

        …Did you even READ the article?

      • Briana Rognlin

        Hi Matsumama,

        Did you read the whole post? I can’t help but feel like you didn’t read everything I wrote here.

        My whole point is that we shouldn’t adhere to societal demands if that means putting a single body type on a pedestal; idealizing one kind of “curvy” sex symbol doesn’t make me feel any better about my body, because I’m not any more likely to look like one of them than I am to look like one of today’s super-thin starlets. I’m not mocking any one body type (or starving myself)–I’m saying that we should be celebrating all body types instead of just one.

        Briana

      • Rebecca

        You’re right. The point IS that women are beautiful just the way they are. Not the way men want them to be. But your attack is misjudged. The four ladies on the lower half are the “men like women with curves” ideal. The four on the top are “men like thin women.” Neither of those is, as you say, “as they are, not how men want them to be crushed into degrade forms of ideal.” If you seriously think you can stand ground in an argument that Marilyn Monroe and Betty Page are not male-endorsed ideals, you need to remember girdles and corsets. Whether clinching waists or skipping meals, women have been working toward the “perfect” body for ages. The only problem is that this body changes with fads and fashion. That’s what this article is all about.

        And to prove my point that the lower four incited just as much insecurity, here’s an ad for skinny girls who wanted curves (compare to our ads for curvy girls to lose weight):
        http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2008/08/xlg_skinny_girls.jpg

    • Lori / See Magazine

      While I see and appreciate the points you’re making with this article, the thing you have to remember is that – you’re right – these images are purely to make people feel better about themselves. The reason these have such virality online is because they do just that. I don’t know the history of your body but as a woman who’s been overweight for most of my life (I plumped up in kindergarten), seeing bodies that are ANY larger than the idealized 36-24-36 getting some praise is heartening, even if the larger body is nowhere near my own size. It represents permission to release an ideal of unachievable perfection.

      It may not do that for you, but I’d imagine it does for others as well.

      Thanks for an insightful article!

      Lori
      Founder/Editor
      See Magazine
      http://www.seemagazine.org

    • Emily W.

      Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    • Kj

      Hear hear!

      I saw this start appearing on Facebook, and was like, *eyeroll* …here we go again.

    • Peter N

      I prefer girls in the top row. sorry, but facts are facts. grow up.

      • NotThumper

        Well to each his own I guess. If you prefer a girl who looks like she’d break if you banged her then so be it. Growing up has little to do with it.

      • Peter N

        Actually, it does. This article is a prime example of what religious conservatives do, which is force their opinions on others. Growing up, in this case, would mean the actual acceptance of other’s preferences and beliefs, even if it is uncomfortable with what they think is right.

      • self help

        So everyone must conform to what you believe then? Right, let’s talk about “growing up.”

      • Peter N

        No, it’s the fact that I have a right to opinion. It’s not about conformity, which is a secretly veiled in this article where everyone MUST accept the truth that the bottom row is more “attractive”. Quite the opposite.

      • caroline

        Of course you can have a preference. But “facts” have got nothing to do with it. No one said we need to believe that the bottom row is most “attractive.” That’s the exact opposite of what she’s saying, actually.

      • Briana Rognlin

        Peter, I don’t even understand what you’re saying, and I wonder if you even read my article.

        First off, I’m not forcing my opinion on anyone. As far as I’m aware, Blisstree doesn’t have a staff who goes door to door and forces our online content down anyone’s throat.

        And if you read the article, you’ll see that I am arguing against conformity and against the photo entirely. As caroline pointed out for me, I’m not saying the bottom row is most attractive; I’m saying the opposite.

        The point of this post is to talk about what beauty standards set by Hollywood and the media are doing to women’s self-esteem and mental health. Of course you have a right to consider whatever you want attractive, but I just think that women who don’t fit that bill shouldn’t feel bad about themselves because of it (or spend their lives trying to conform).

    • Ellen W.

      Thanks for talking about this!

      The thing about all of the women in the bottom row- they were all shot with professional lighting/makeup/hair etc. The women in the top row are at least just out on the beach. And Keira and Kristin were actually swimming!

      I *do* have the “classic” hollywood type body, but I’ll be damned if I wear an underwire swimsuit and stay out of the water so I don’t mess up my hair.

    • Robyn

      Thing is, the underlying theme is sex / sex appeal and THAT is what we all need to get rid of in media and in our minds to get to the acceptance that you are talking abut of ourselves and not pitting each other against one another.

    • mr w

      But the way we define ourselves is completely based on comparisons with others. It would be impossible to understand the idea of an individual without others.

      These type of arguments are, whether purposely or not, a pseudo-defense mechanism.

      How are you going to deny the fact that there is a progression from ugliness to beauty? If everyone was beautiful, then no one would be. You yourself are making the “feel good” argument you argue against.

      You argument is flawed, reactionary. Albeit, it probably makes you feel better about yourself.

      • Briana Rognlin

        I’m not arguing that there’s no such thing as beauty or ugliness; I’m just saying that those things are set by social standards, and currently, society seems to be stuck on the idea that there’s only one archetype for physical beauty in women–we should either be “curvy” or “skinny.”

        I understand the idea of the individual being defined by the other, etc., but I think that’s a pretty weak defense for maintaining the status quo when it comes to beauty standards.

        Honestly, even if my argument is philosophically flawed, or you think it’s shallow of me to make an argument in hopes of “making myself feel better,” I could care less so long as it helps women feel better about themselves. Feeling good about our bodies is the whole point; too many women let body image hangups drag down their mental and physical health because they feel judged by ridiculous standards.

      • mr. w

        but if the point was to make women feel better about themselves, why argue against the original picture so self-righteously

      • mr. w

        I honestly think that there is a lot of comfort found in that picture.
        Beauty is a transient and cultural idea. It changes rapidly. Don’t be so hung up on it.

      • Briana Rognlin

        I think it’s a good point that beauty is transient and that we shouldn’t be so hung up on it…I just don’t think that’s the message of the graphic. Most people are sharing this in the spirit of making beauty a “skinny vs. curvy” debate, and that’s what I’m disagreeing with.

    • Cece

      I’m having a hard time understanding why the majority of comments on this article have so little to do with what it’s actually about. Nobody should be up in arms about this, she’s trying to say she’s on every woman’s side.

      The point is that women should not hate one another because of their sizes, and images such as the first one do nothing but fuel that very hatred. For instance, that image imparticular says, “Size 8 is better than size 0. All women who are size 0 are gross-looking. If you are bigger than that, you are better.” It’s insulting to those women who are naturally thin and send the (false) message that it’s okay for larger women to dislike them.

      In reality, there is no justifiable reason to foster any kind of hatred between women at all, regardless of the sizes they wear.

    • syuda

      Angelina Jolie is not curvy at all. They need to replace her with Christina Hendricks

      • Miaq

        I think you missed the point of the article… the reason that compilation is great is that they all represent different body types and are all beautiful. No one said Angelina is curvy – the whole point is that she isn’t, but she is still beautiful, much like the other women there are curvier but are also beautiful. It isn’t about “curves are better” or “thin is better”.

    • Terria

      Thank you for this article. I have really been trying to figure out what is supposed to be so empowering about by seeing photos of the ‘healthy, voluptuous’ hollywood stars of yesteryear compared with these modern celebrities. Most women aren’t shaped like Marilyn Monroe. Most women don’t have the 21-inch waist Elizabeth Taylor had at the height of her fame. In a way, the women on the bottom half of the photos have figures that are more impossible to obtain: not only do they have wasp waists, they also have proportionally large busts and hips. Those beauty standards were different, but they were still beauty standards.

      Again, bravo to this article, and all of the others like it decrying these supposed ‘empowering’ images.

    • thatfatgirl

      I like the original image, because those women were more natural for the 50′s, there was way less fat people (statistic, not saying it is better) people wore girdles and women hadn’t been exposed to the same level of needless antibiotics and added hormones in food production. I, after seeing the image originally posted by a male in my social network, I knew it is an issue for men, women’s body issues. There are men being brainwashed to one size is better than another, beauty and personality didn’t matter. I use beauty in the sense of it being in the eye of the beholder. I feel for young men, who feel they need to be in the closet about the type of girl who is his preference. It is hard, I can’t imagine what being a homosexual is like, people pretending to accept you cos if they ostracise you they are discriminating.

    • Jordan Long

      Just because you can see your abs doesn’t mean you are starving yourself. if you eat healthy and workout everyday you will be skinny.

      • Kristen

        Not entirely true… I know women that work out and eat well and they are not skinny. BUT they are healthy. Some people are genetically wired to never be able to achieve the super skinny ideal.

      • Anna Crouch

        NOT true. I work out almost everyday and eat very healthy. You can’t see my abs. Even though my body fat % isn’t even that high (slightly under the “normal” range….that’s just me naturally), you still can’t see my abs. I hold any fat in my hips and stomach. I’m just not predisposed to having washboard abs. Abs and being thin DO NOT mirror health. Lets just get that out of the way right now…..

      • Maria

        I have visible abs and I have them even though I am not a maniac at the gym. Not a wash board though but you can see them. AND I have fat on my belly, it is not muscles and skin, there is fat in between but you still see the abs :p I have an hour glass figure so my waist is a lot smaller than my hips/bottom and shoulders/breasts. You can’t say that Keira is anorexic, she has ALWAYS been fit like that, she is naturally tall and slender. Depending on your natural body type you will look very different from the same type of work out and diet.

    • cath

      i see your point, but i think you are wrong. he women above are pushed to look like that and i am sure that if you worked like they do, you would look just the same….except for the shape of your skeletton. i believe that your body represents who you are and what you do. and that the natural way of eating and drinking whatever you feel you need is the best way of keeping your body in form. we are pushed to look like those women….and this is revolt. but not against them ….against society. i would never hate any women just because she is thin, i actually have 2 models in my circle of friends….and i love them both. no one is critisising any of that ladies.

      its just about sick attitude of society.

      • Maria

        Skeleton really? I don’t see a skeleton in the pictures!! I feel to pushed to look like bloody Marilyn Monroe or Kim Kardashian by MEDIA and people like you but I fight against it. Whats wrong with Keira Knightley?? She is NOT anorexic there, she is SLENDER and has MUSCLES. Working out a lot is a hell of a lot better choice than not working out. As long as you eat when you are hungry and doesn’t stop til you are full and get fresh vegetables and protein and all you need from your food it is absolutely nothing wrong with being slim. I would look like Keira (or maybe I should say Shakira as I have rounded hips like her and my body resembles hers) if I didn’t binge on sweets quite often. However it is not healthy that I binge on sweets. It is just sick to say that that is better for me than to stop it because I would look like Shakira does. Or maybe you don’t have a problem with Shakira because she has HIPS. An annoying thing is that people don’t understand that Jennifer Lopez for example probably has a stricter diet and work out HARDER than Keira Knightley. They have DIFFERENT BODY TYPES. Keira is tall and has a natural low hip-waist ratio. Beyonce is suppose to be a “better” ideal than I don’t know.. Nicole Kidman but Beyonce probably is hungrier and harder on herself. It is her body type that makes her curvy, she can STARVE before videos to be able to show off her tiny waist since her hips are big any way from the way she is built and the way her body works and where she loses fat.

    • anonymous

      You are very wise and absolutely right. I have always been uncomfortable with this kind of body comparison too, but just couldn’t find the words to explain why. You explained perfectly why this is so wrong. Thank you.

    • Amber

      Great photos and points raised here… And Marilyn looks so pretty.

    • Tony

      No, we shouldn’t like “all body types”. People should like or find attractive whatever it is that THEY like.

      If someone prefers skinny over “curvy” or fat, so be it. It’s ok. If someone prefers curvy over skinny, that’s cool too.

      You shouldn’t have to find EVERYONE attractive so some people feel better about their bodies. And someone shouldn’t accuse women who want to look more like the top row of girls of having a “negative body image”.

      If that’s what they want to look like, or already do, and THEY are happy with it, then let them be. I’m sick of everyone saying everyone has to like and be ok with everything.

      Good God doesn’t this country have enough to worry about?

      • Kristen

        I think the point isn’t that you have to like it, but that you have to accept it. Whether you are attracted to someone skinny or chubby or thick or muscular is irrelevant. The point is that you shouldn’t judge it, or deem it “wrong.” Everyone is going to have preferences towards what they are attracted to, without a doubt, but the point is you can’t judge someone for what they look like regardless of whether or not you find it attractive. Most body types are genetic, just like your race is.

        And we have plenty to worry about in our country, however, body image is something that SHOULD be worried about. Anorexia is a mental disorder that has more fatalities than any other. The medical complications of someone underweight or overweight or “normal weight” but purging are valid concerns. Someone with an eating disorder when younger can have complications for the rest of their lives. Weight and body image concerns are only rising and spreading to the male gender and as well as every race there is. Those affected are getting younger and younger and older and older. I just read an article about 4 year old boys and girls worrying about their weight.

      • M

        You don’t have to LIKE everything, but you shouldn’t INSULT the types that you don’t like.

    • Brooke

      Agreed. Plus, many of the models/actresses/women of the 1950 and 1960′s were just as unhealthy, even if their weight didn’t reflex it. Many of them were taking diet pills. Actually I’m pretty sure if you actually compared the measurements of Bettie Page vs. the average model today, you wouldn’t find a huge difference. Most of the difference we see in these images is to due the the positioning of the models, not their actual body size. If you look in the older pictures the women are all in sultry positions (which the exception of Marilyn and by the way, her weight often varied) that are taken from the side, all of the above images are taken from the front.

      • Bob

        Au Contraire!

        Bettie Page weighed 128 lbs, was 5 feet 5 inches tall and was 36 – 24 – 35.

        The average model today weighs about 117 lbs, is AT LEAST 3 inches taller, and is 34-24-34!

    • Ann

      http://booksavvy.tumblr.com/post/16328459342 THAT one. That’s the good one.

      • Mia

        That’s the perfect one. I’m been in recovery for the past three years and that is the first thing that has made me inspired. Thank you.

    • ReasonableThought

      My dear Briana Rognlin,

      you missed the intention of the image entirely! It was never supposed to make you feel anything about your body. It all started with some people calling Christina Hendricks “fat” on a Chan board, which sparked a debate on what a “sexy” woman was. It went overboard when people, completely oblivious to the 40s and 50s, said that the mainstream has never found “non-skinny” women sexy. Then it became about what was trendy then, and what is trendy now. And then this 3min. paintshop job was born.

      It was never about body-acceptance, but more about the shifting trends leaning towards unrealistic potrayals of both sexes… The other image that accompanied this one (but didn’t make the rounds) was the image of a hairy-chested Sean Connery, next to a shaved David Beckham- with the same tagline “When did this, become hotter than this”

      There are people on twitter and facebook who think “The Onion” articles are genuine journalism… you cannot educate every dumb person!

      • Ann

        You are completely missing the point. Did you think that 4chan was the first place to touch on this issue? Really? I guess you are right, you can’t educate every dumb person.

      • Katie

        honey, the problem is what is being done with the picture, not where it originated from. I don’t care if it originated from a funny sarcastic news article or from being pasted to the front of the white house. The picture has unfortunately lost its meaning now after being passed from person to person. Now it, like the game of telephone, is being passed with one intention: to say “ewww gross! skinny people!” Even if the picture does not clarify that, the people commenting on the pictures sure as heck do. It’s a bunch of angry hormonal women bashing anything that is smaller than a size 6. I comment directly from one girl on my news feed: “Eww… those women look like disgusting ugly skeletons. When did such ugly women become acceptable on this planet, much less celebrities?” Instead of embracing every body type, people are now spreading skinny-hate. It’s just as bad as hatred towards bigger women. It’s one insecure woman against another.

    • Catherine B

      I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder for 5 years. I have a very poor body image, I hate my body everytime I look in the mirror or step on the scale. It started out just wanting to be more healthy, ie eat more vegies and fruit, less fat, less sugar, exercise more. Somewhere along the way I stopped seeing myself clearly. I thought any amount of food was too much food. I throw up everything I eat. I have so much shame and guilt that goes with my eating disorder. I feel selfish for how I feel about my body and around food. I wish I could have a more possitive body image. But when I first saw this picture I felt worse. It didnt encourage me to eat more or stop throwing up. I have to hear from family and friends about how I look like a skeleton. I look disgusting because of how thin I am, I am made to feel like less of a woman because I dont have the curves that would make me look like one, and now seeing it ALL over facebook. It feels like its not just me who hates my body, its EVERYONE. Even when I was working really hard at recovery and I gained a little bit of weight I still didnt have big boobs, or a big butt. I was still pretty small. And I still didnt have a possitive body image. Over the years I’ve met alot of women of all shapes and sizes. Some of them where plus size, some had all kinds of curves, some where stick thin (because thats just how God made them) and some had the same issues that I deal with everyday. And they are ALL beautiful, just in different ways. I think every woman out there needs to know that she is beautiful. We all need to find a way to feel good about ourselves. And comparing one body type to another and saying the one is more beautiful then the other is just wrong. Its body bashing, its hurtful and cuases alot of pain. I want to feel just as beautiful as a woman who has big boobs and a big booty. I want to feel like just as much a woman as any other. I have a hard enough time feeling good about myself, why should anyone else have the right to keep me from that? Words hurt and can make a bad situation worse.

    • bodynsoil

      Fantastic viewpoint, at a time when Lindsay is trying to rebuild her spirit she need support, not adversity. Also, agreed on how we need to build up our peer groups and not work to make they feel less worthy.

    • Ana

      Men just dont know the pressure most women go through because of what the media portrays. This issue is not a big deal yet it is for most.

    • Maria

      Besides I think it is ridiculous to say that the women who are suppose to be heavier are actually just as thin as the the women who are supposed to be too thin! They have the same size, they could share clothes for fuck sake!! Maybe the bottom chicks BREASTS are bigger and they have applied more make up but that doesn’t make the message “better”.
      It is REALLY disturbing to see that people are feeling free to insult slender women! We have hearts too! Or maybe I am in the middle. I work out a lot and have small sizes but I am still very curvy, maybe I would be considered “ideal” for my hour glass body type then, but I don’t have massive breasts and I am only 161 cm tall. Another annoying thing. Tall girls have often felt free to comment in an insulting way about my bloody height. I get so angry over this bullying. It is NOT okay to bully skinny women or short women. Jesus. To make us all feel better about ourselves we have to stand up against comments like “Christina Hendricks is a REAL woman”. All women are real women for fuck sake!! We are all NATURAL and it is NOTHING WRONG with having visible abs and muscles and to be STRONG. Do you feel like the most beautiful girl in the world? Good for you BUT DON’T MAKE A CRUSADE AGAINST ALL WOMEN WHO DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU!

    • Maria

      I agree with Leisha. Keira gets bullied for having small breasts and that is just discusting. Since when is it “positive” for women to get pressured to have big boobs? Keira would maybe have to be over weight to get big breasts. Would that be healthy?! She is great because she hasn’t gotten silicone in them. A much better role model than Marilyn Monroe who was one of the first stars to get BREAST IMPLANTS

    • K

      Good one. I posted it on the “Stop the Skinny Bashing” facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-the-Skinny-Bashing/215507911878959

    • http://twitter.com/iaurmelloneug Eugene Hung

      That’s really well put. Thank you!

    • Nick

      For first picture, that never did become hotter it just became widely favored because the models looked like that and teenage girls tend to copy the magazines.

      • 538659

        All of the bottom pictures are hotter than the top pictures. To think otherwise is promoting anorexia in women. You White men should stop doing that.

      • Dick ballson

        fuck you