The Daily Mail reported today that Marilyn Monroe was voted top beach body of all time. Which in itself, is somewhat offensive—we’re talking about real women here, not a pie-baking contest—but their spin took it to an unnecessarily body-negative level: Instead of praising Marilyn for her timeless looks, they took the chance to bash skinny girls, deeming curves “victorious” over other body types.
The headline, which reads as if written by high school bully, pretty much sums up everything that’s wrong with the piece:
Bad luck, skinny girls! Victory for curves as Marilyn Monroe is crowned best beach body of all time (ahead of Kim Kardashian and Kelly Brook)
The article quotes “experts” who think the survey shows a trend towards better body acceptance. Sasha Nagalingham, a spokesperson for Debenham’s, the British retailer that commissioned the survey, thinks the results should make us feel good:
With the average cup size of the list going from a C to a D in just one year, they are proof that a voluptuous figure is even more desirable that ever before.
Our results tell us that looking great on the beach is not about being the thinnest or the youngest woman around.
Women are increasingly appreciative of figures that symbolise all the great things about womanhood.
But she also says that women are increasingly willing to buy bust-enhancing swimsuits:
And women want to imitate the look; sales of gel-filled bust-boosting bikini tops increased by 58 per cent last season and we have extended the range ready for the spring 2012 swell.
Someone, please explain: How do increasing sales of figure-transforming swimsuits indicate that women are feeling better about themselves?
Another expert, Jenny Caven, the director of Slimming World, which commissioned the survey, also offered a misguided attempt to paint the survey in a body-positive light:
We think it sets a good precedent for women. We shouldn’t all struggle to be really skinny.
This is a good example for young women to see that real women have real curves.
I’ve already written about how calling “curvy” women more beautiful than skinny girls isn’t body positive. The idea that a single body type could somehow be a realistic beauty ideal for all women is ridiculous, whether that type is a size zero or a size eight.
Caven is absolutely right that we shouldn’t all struggle to be thin. But teaching girls that if they don’t develop Marilyn’s 37-23-36 proportions, they’re not a “real woman” is no way to teach body acceptance, either.