Monday, September 19, 2011

Behind the Curve on What is Sexy

Waiting in line at a grocery store recently, I found myself glancing over some women's magazines, and I spotted something puzzlingeven as women's magazines go.

One cover featured Rachel Bilson, with the tagline, “How she got her amazing curves.” What-are-you-talking-about, Willis Women’s Health???

First of all, I wouldn’t call a waist the size of a fencepost and two tiny bumps where boobs should be “amazing curves.” Secondly, how does a magazine with this name get so far out of touch with what a healthy woman really looks like? Don’t get me wrong, Rachel is cute—all 98 pounds of her—and there’s nothing wrong with a smooth complexion, pretty hairdo, and big white teeth. But I think somebody should give that girl a sandwich, maybe some eggs Benedict. The poor thing probably has to stay inside on windy days, for fear of blowing into the next county.

Women’s Health, there are millions of beautiful and truly healthy women you could have shown… women with real curves, or at least measurements more voluptuous than 28-24-28. The only thing remarkable about Rachel is that she (or probably her agent) somehow persuaded you to photograph her and call her Olsen twin figure “amazing.”

But there's a lot of this going around. For years, gun manufacturer Kahr has been running magazine ads that show their products in the hands of nearly anorexic looking women, with the caption, "Thin is sexy." (Click here for some examples.) I guess the theory is that consumers will see the model, read the caption, and associate the thinness of their compact pistols with sex appeal. The trouble is, I don't find these women attractive. I know a lot of guys who are into guns and most of them don't either. (And the ads are clearly not targeted at women.) So, Kahr, I'm not sure who you're trying to reach, but most people I know would disagree with your advertising claim. Thin is okay, but it's possible to go too thin.

In contrast to the Kahr, Ruger's curvaceous and
somewhat heavier Vaquero is a sexy handgun.

Tom Wolfe is recognized as a premier chronicler of our culture; for the past 50 years he's observed in newspapers, nonfiction books, and novels how modern Americans think and act. Martha Croker, a character in his 1998 novel A Man in Full, resents her ex-husband Charlie's new trophy wife and others like her, both for their lack of moral fiber and lack of physical substance. To her eye, their bodies are like "12-year-old boys with breasts." (See Rachel Bilson's picture above.) Mr. Wolfe, you nailed it. And Charlie Croker, what's so sexy about that?


  1. You know what? I don't mind a small, skinny woman. You know why? Simple. Because then I don't look so emaciated standing next to her. :)

    Contrasts are sometimes good. I once dated a BYU girl's basketball player. She was 5' 13" (She was NOT 6' 1" - trust me on this. That's a mistake I made only once). She ended up dumping me for someone taller to make her feel more petite.

    So, the edges of the bell curve have their uses as well.

  2. You’re right, Wayne. Petite women are great. In fact, I prefer ladies toward the left side of the bell curve, since I’m rather scrawny myself. But the buxom ones are also nice. Variety is the spice of life!

    I have a problem with mass communication messages that suggest it is normal, desirable, or even acceptable to strive for a body that looks like it’s about to wither away and die. When a magazine called “Women’s Health” idealizes a figure located near the wispy extreme corner of the bell curve, something’s wrong. I don’t follow them, but if it turns out they’ve previously put Queen Latifah on their cover I’ll forgive their Rachel Bilson absurdity.

    By the way, it takes a pretty small woman to make you seem bigger than Jack Skellington. ; )

  3. I agree that saying she's 'curvy' isn't true. She's simply not curvy. I think it's impossible to know if she's too thin, or unhealthy, or whether or not she needs a sandwich, though. You know what I mean? It would be rude to say that an overweight woman needs to skip a few meals, and I think it's exactly the same thing to say Rachel Bilson needs a sandwich.

    Just my two cents.

  4. Thanks, ludakristen. Great screen name, by the way.

    You're exactly right, and your analogy is spot-on, because many larger women are very healthy, and Rachel Bilson may be likewise, but who can say for sure?

    I was being facetious in much of this post, HOWEVER... I disagree with the way society idealizes a body shape that is so unrealistic (for most women).

    I'm not on a crusade against skinny women, but I don't think a magazine called "Women's Health" should hold up tiny women like Rachel as the standard of judgment.

  5. I suppose the only thing that I could say about the "needs a sandwich" thing is that the poor lady probably WANTS a sandwich. Her industry is so rough, I bet most of them are over-gymed and underfed.
    When my husband and I met online he used to talk about his favorite famous body being Paris Hilton. I compared her to a 12-year-old boy and would argue for Salma Hayek, but he was having none of it. When he met me, the 5'8" woman with a 39" around badonkadonk he never looked at little miss Paris again. Go team curves!

  6. I agree that she's not what most people would call curvy. When I hear 'curves', I think of someone more like Jennifer Lopez.

    Maybe her curves are hidden and you have to read the article to find them.