Takedown: This and This

SusanOp Ed40 Comments

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This week’s crapdate is in the form of a picture, which has circumnavigated the Internet approximately 40 million times:

This version was taken from knowyourmeme.com, but it’s basically everywhere.

According to knowyourmeme.com, the picture was first on Facebook in early January, and first tweeted on January 16 by yoga instructor Katherine Budig with the text “embrace your bodies + curves!we’re on the same team as our body–love it, treat it right and know you’re beautiful.”

The short answer comes in many, many, many, many forms. One answer is here (for more, check out knowyourmeme.com):

This is also from knowyourmeme.com, but it includes dogs, so it is superior. Unless you feel strongly about dog standards of beauty, in which case, I owe you an apology.

It doesn’t get to the real problems, but it’s funny! Which works.

As shown by the text from the early tweet, the poster of this picture is almost certainly trying to show that they are progressive. You don’t have to be thin to be loved! Real women have curves! You are beautiful!

But if you think about it for more than 15 seconds, the problems become quite apparent. Let’s break it down.

First: the picture is supposed to turn a truth on its head, to fight a system. The problem, though, is that the opposite actually happens.

Imagine if I showed you this:

http://www.biteclubeats.com/2009/06/zins-secret-brownie-sundae.html

Fuck, now I want a brownie sundae.

and then this:

Nope. I don't want carrots. Not even a little bit.

And here’s the argument: Brownie sundaes are for suckers, because they do absolutely nothing for your vision. Carrots, on the other hand, will make you see in the dark.

If you are anything like me (I would wager a guess that you are, if you are reading this), the text did nothing to take away from the fact that I want a fucking brownie sundae, in my stomach, now. The visual that is presented in the “This and This” picture has the same problem: for those who buy into the system, it reinforces the specific standard of beauty, even if the text challenges it.

Beyond that, it is a roadmap for the impressionable. Remember reading Seventeen Magazine as a 13-year-old, and thinking, “Oh, this is what fashion is supposed to be”? The top row of pictures works as a guide for “this is what society thinks is attractive,” even if the bottom row is trying to fight the system.

Which brings us to #2: The system. The system tells us that there is one type of beauty, and the poster is trying to point out the fallacy of such thinking. X is wrong. Y is right. But instead of fighting the problem, it reinforces the idea that there is, and should be, a certain type of body that is beautiful.

But there is no wrong. There is no right. Women come in all sorts of bodies, and thin is no better than fat is no better than curvy is no better than tall is no better than short is no better than white is no better than brown is no better than freckled is no better than blonde is no better than brunette is no better than thin. The value of a person is not found in their appearance. This meme, instead of saying that women shouldn’t be judged by their appearance, simply enforces a different standard.

Which brings us to #3: The point of the post is that “Hey, look at me, I love curvy women!”–as though the picture proves that the poster is accepting of all body types. But it isn’t. It is accepting of a very specific body type, with just as narrow of a framework as the one that is being rejected by the poster. The pinups in row 2 have very specific proportions, and such a body type is certainly not more common than the celebrities from the first row. Marilyn freaking Monroe, for Pete’s sake. That is supposed to represent an attainable standard of beauty?

#4. Speaking of attainable standards of beauty. The top row is made up of candid photos, mostly the result of invasions of privacy, mostly women with beach hair and minimal makeup. The bottom row is made up of carefully staged, specifically lit, Photoshopped pictures, and the women have meticulously done hair and makeup. The women are posed provocatively, and the message is clear: women who have been manipulated to be sexy are sexy! Women who are caught in their natural habitat are not. Once again, the media tells us (all of us, even those who might look like Marilyn Monroe) that beauty is not something that is attainable by natural means.

#5. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves.

In the end, the goal of the post is to make women feel like they don’t have to be super thin in order to be “hot.” In fact, it was reposted by moveon.org to “fight eating disorders,” assuming that thin people are, by definition, sick. Some people are just thin. Some people are just fat.. Some people are just Marilyn Monroe. Oh wait. That’s just one person. At any rate, how does it make sense to champion any standard of beauty as better than any other?

The result of the post is an across-the-board dismissal of: women who are thin (and yes, “real women” can be thin), women as they occur in nature, women who aren’t posed so as to arouse the male gaze, women who aren’t Photoshopped, women who are larger than the “curvy” example, and women who have different proportions than 1950s pinups. It adds fuel to the divisive fire between women, and instead of challenging the system (which is the goal of the original post), it pits women against each other and the only winner is the system, one which encourages self-loathing and a belief that worth is found in physical attributes.

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Susan

I am old and wise.Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.
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SusanTakedown: This and This

40 Comments on “Takedown: This and This”

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  1. Profile photo of bricorama
    bricorama

    Which brings us to #3: The point of the post is that “Hey, look at me, I love curvy women!”—as though the picture proves that the poster is accepting of all body types. But it isn’t. It is accepting of a very specific body type, with just as narrow of a framework as the one that is being rejected by the poster. The pinups in row 2 have very specific proportions, and such a body type is certainly not more common than the celebrities from the first row. Marilyn freaking Monroe, for Pete’s sake. That is supposed to represent an attainable standard of beauty?

    THIS.

    And where are the people proclaiming their love for average sized women… You know besides PCPs everywhere?

      1. Profile photo of bricorama
        bricorama

        Haha not the drug! Primary Care Physician… I’ve heard a lot of people who’ve gone to a PCP for certain symptoms and their diagnosis is always: “You should lose some weight!” Good to know that they go to medical school for 12 years to tell everyone they’re too fat…

        (no offense to any medical doctors out there. I just have huge trust issues with the medical community as a whole…)

    1. Profile photo of KitzyKid
      KitzyKid

      I posted the first one on my facebook. Some guy commented “It was always!”

      I then posted the original picture for context. Another guy said “I prefer the bottom row on that one”.

      Then I stopped posting and decided I should clear out my friends list.

  2. Profile photo of sequined
    sequined

    I’ve seen dudes post this picture, like a self-congratulatory “look, ladies, I’m on your side!” But it doesn’t really make me feel more “accepted.” Why is it any of their fucking business how much I weigh, whether they approve or not?

    On the one hand, yes, you can be attracted to who you’re attracted to. I’m not disagreeing with that. But it’s not your business to tell someone she would look better if her body was different, which is the implicit argument these pictures make. They purport to say, “I like you like you are, even though it’s bigger than Kiera Knightly!” but really they say, as Susan pointed out, “I like an equally narrow range of bodies!”

    One of my dude friends, when I weighed more than I currently do, nicely told me it would be fine if I lost like ten pounds, but no big deal, like it was his business. I’ve been running more the past few years, and I probably lost however many pounds (probably more than 10, dunno), and he said recently, “I think you’d look perfect if you gained like five pounds back.”

    Like it’s your business! Like Kiera Knightly’s body is your BUSINESS!

    It doesn’t make you look more enlightened or nice or pro-woman–it just makes you part of the system where a woman can never be good enough for you/for society/for other women. Nicole Ritchie had an eating disorder! To look thin enough to be photographed in a bikini so the public at large wouldn’t mock her body! And now we’re all as a society going to say, “ew, Nicole, you need to gain a few pounds back [but only in your hips and boobs! please note Elizabeth’s proportions in this photo here and strive to emulate them!]”

    ALSO [God I’m so strident right now–sorry friends!] I suspect that a lot of men and a lot of women, in 2012, who saw a woman on the beach in a regular two-piece swimsuit with MM’s proportions [minus her face] would think she should lose a couple of pounds. In fact, I am POSITIVE the tabloids would be ALL up on MM right this second if she were a contemporary celebrity for being pudgy. And so the picture is fantasy and ridiculous for a bunch of reasons but not least because those women and those photo contexts don’t exist anymore. Those women are sexy–a reified kind of sexy, because they contributed to our understanding of what it means for a celebrity woman to be sexy–, and we don’t critique them day to day for their changing, in-the-moment looks anymore. In 2012, we would. It’s a stupid comparison.

    And like everyone already noted, it just contributes to this culture where a woman’s body is everyone else’s business to judge how much they like it, which is not just unfair but I think dangerous for women.

    Sorry for being so mad… I didn’t realize I’d get going so much. Insert sheepish .gif here.

  3. Profile photo of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    To be honest, I don’t want that Sundae. Only because I’m stuffed towards belly-ache limits (yes, I know but they had sticky toffee cake).

    Besides that: the first thing that I noticed with this was the candid/beauty shot thing. Do people still don’t know that the photographer/editor is the person that decides how you see someone? Darnity.

    1. Profile photo of Susan
      Susan

      Seriously.  It’s like a picture of me on the toilet vs. the glamor shots of me that I got at the mall. Except I don’t let people take pictures of me on the toilet, and my mom never let me get those glamor shots.  So, I guess not exactly the same.

  4. Profile photo of Teri Drake-Floyd
    Teri Drake-Floyd

    Hail to the almighty Susan.

    I used to be guilty of the saying ‘Real Women have Curves’. I liked it because I felt bad about myself and I was able to justify what I saw as being overweight that way. The more I began to think about it, though, the more problematic I found it. “Real Women?” What does that even mean, to begin with? And why are only curvy women “real”? Just because I may have been jealous of my friend who is a size 2 doesn’t make her any less a real woman. By putting her down to hoist myself up, I was only buying into the same old tired practice of pitting women’s appearance against one another and giving physical appearance more importance than it should have. I’m so glad that others educated me on why that was problematic. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all.

  5. Profile photo of MJ
    MJ

    Also, this

    Women come in all sorts of bodies, and thin is no better than fat is no better than curvy is no better than tall is no better than short is no better than white is no better than brown is no better than freckled is no better than blonde is no better than brunette is no better than thin.

    doesn’t mention redheads – because we are the shit, y’all.

     

    1. Profile photo of Susan
      Susan

      Thanks.  I wasn’t even sure if I should do it or not, since so many posts had been going around making fun of it – but then I realized that most of them didn’t touch the real problem.

  6. Profile photo of MJ
    MJ

    #5. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves. Women do not need to hate other women in order to love themselves.

    I think this needs to be number one.

     

    1. Profile photo of fifthpevensie
      fifthpevensie

      this is amazing.
      I never understood the “real women” meme. my best friend is 6 feet tall and very, very thin, and I am short-ish and curvier, and the idea that one of us would be any more real than the other is nonsense. or the idea that one of us is objectively forever better looking than the other based on a couple of fairly arbitrary variables, also nonsense.

       

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