Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Men like women with curves

I cringe every time I hear this. It usually assaults me from the pages of some trashy publication, the latest being the news pages of Cosmopolitan, which advised me that, since nine out of ten men would rather shag a size 10 glamour model than a size 0 supermodel, it was now okay to eat doughnuts.* Thanks for letting me know - I will now allow myself several of those yummy custardy ones with a side order of deep-fried mars bars without feeling guilty. Goodness knows why I still read women's magazines - perhaps I just enjoy defacing them with my red pen. But what really annoys me is when this statement comes from men themselves. Nice, thoughtful men who think they're being really helpful.

"Men like women with curves, so why should you diet to achieve a size zero? Hey, don't worry, eat that chip butty if you want it, because I don't mind if you have a lardy arse. Men like something to grab hold of."

This isn't exactly breaking news, much as it is treated as such every time some dodgy survey corroborates it. We all know that most men have a preference for women with rather more flesh on them than the average Hollywood actress. If women were motivated by wanting to please men, nobody below a size 12 would ever think about dieting. But they do. And it pains me to hear well-meaning men try to solve the problem by telling their female friends that hey, a few extra pounds don't matter to the average bloke.

By suggesting that women should have curves, you are not making an enlightened pro-feminist statement - you are simply perpetuating the idea that women have an ideal to which to conform in order to please men, whatever the nature of that ideal may be. Women's bodies do not exist for male gratification. Women do not shun cake in favour of low-fat low-carb no-taste diet food in order to impress men with their jutting collarbones. The female obsession with weight loss will not be solved by men giving us permission to eat. It's such an arrogant attitude and it really, really annoys me.

An unnaturally (for most women) slim figure is associated with wealth, status, social mobility, stylishness, femininity... There are even crazier factors than that at play - like the fact that skinniness is a trump card for female competitiveness, and that moaning about the size of one's hips facilitates female bonding:

- My hips are so huge!
- Noooo, they're tiny! Mine are enormous!
- Noooo, you're so skinny! I have a jelly belly!
- No you don't! You're tiny! Look at my muffin top!
- Pssshh - if you've got a muffin top I've got an entire wedding cake!

This is repeated ad nauseam, with the slimmer party becoming gradually more and more smug, and the porkier party becoming more and more distressed. But crucially, it gives them something to talk about. There are of course two clear-cut rules: 1 - One must not admit to being happy with any part of one's anatomy; and 2 - One must violently disagree with anything the other party says. Then there's the fact that, since breasts are supposed to be at least medium-sized, any woman who does have a skinny physique can moan about her lack of boobage. See - nobody's left out. It's rather clever really. Of course, there's always the chance that the slimmer woman will attack her peer by saying, "But you've got such a lovely figure! So curvy!" which is as backhanded as compliments get.

Believe me, the body image issue is a frickin' minefield. And if you go in armed only with, "But men like women with curves," don't expect to get out of there alive.

*By the way, this was BLATANTLY an advertorial for Krispy Kremes


Paul said...

Some interesting points. Forgive me for rescuing my sex from this common misconception but I think you'll find most half decent guys have little to no opinion on any form of ideal body shape for the opposite sex, except that she herself is happy, confident and secure within it.

Male Chauvinist Pig said...

Fact - a woman's body was not made for male gratification. Fine.

But does that mean as a male I am wrong to derive pleasure from looking at it? That I am to be lambasted for gaining more pleasure from one body type than another?

Moving away from body shape, am I hellbound for finding girls with long blonde hair more attractive than a cropped redhead? Freckles more attractive than spots?

Why should your objection to a male ideal for a woman stop at the physical? Am I derogative for finding more intelligent women more attractive? Successful independent women? Heck, should I feel guilty for limiting myself to human females lest I offend the feminist sensitivities of our canine friends?

Is it just males that are sexist by having these preferences? Or is it wrong for a lesbian to have views on her partner's body too?

Where do you draw the line?

It's not as if this is completely one-sided either; ever seen a Diet Coke advert? Your argument becomes remarkably hypocritical if you have ever thought, said, or otherwise expressed an opinion as to how you prefer a male body, let alone a preference as to the size of a certain male appendage.

You have twisted a very small part of a much larger debate to fit your own somewhat dubious ideology. Your narrow minded argument serves to highlight the depths feminists now need to crawl to provoke a reaction. The original liberal feminist movement set down by Friedan, Steinem et al, was to promote equality, not run the male sex into the ground with misdirected and hypocritical venom. Shame on you.

The Urban Feminist said...

You appear to have completely missed the point: I am not objecting to a man having a preference with regards to what he finds attractive in a woman. I am objecting to the idea that men's preferences should dictate the amount of guilt a woman feels about stuffing her face with doughnuts.

Also, if you hate modern feminism so much, what are you doing here? Is this someone I know?

Richard said...

Er, are you serious, Mr. Chauvinist Pig? At what point did the blog author profess that it was okay for men to feel that they should mould their body to please women? Her point was merely that while women are pressured to conform to /any/ ideal, no matter what it is, for the sake of men, then feminism is losing one battle. I have no doubt she feels the same about men trying to conform to please women.

She is not directing venom at males - she is directing venom at the narrow-minded of our sex who try to comfort one who does not conform to one ideal by telling them that they do conform to another ideal. They should not have to conform to any!

It is you who has twisted a small part of a much larger debate to justify your own prejudices of the author, by putting words in her mouth and finding implications where there were none. I suggest you read through the post again with a slightly more open mind and a little more attention.

Rich said...

There's maybe too many "conforms" in one paragraph there, but you get the point.

Hannah said...

I agree so much with this! It seems like i hvae a good rant about this very same issue every few months in my own journal - every time some weekly magazine has some 'hey girls - guys like CURVES!' feature. It's so insulting, and have you noticed that where they ask men what body shape they think is the 'best' it's always something to do with Kelly Brook?

Now i have nothing against her or people finding her attractive, but it's a very narrow view of 'curvy'. In Now magazine fairly recently, men judged Keira Knightley and Charlotte Church to be 'too skinny' and 'too chubby' and therefore 'unsexy'. in addition to the usual KB comments. If the feature is supposed to validating, how does it make women with bodies not dissimilar to KK and CC feel? I don't buy those sort of magazines any more, but they have me fuming every time i see one of those stories which insinuates that it's ok, we're allowed to eat, because men think it's sexy.

Schneewittchen said...

It seems to me that this whole debate is not unconnected with the recent and renewed revelations that the pay gap between men and women is widening.

Whilst our own financial security is dictated by the man or men we can pull because we can't earn the same as them, we will continue to be obsessed by how much they fancy us and what exactly they fancy about us.

Anonymous said...

What really annoys me about these magazines is the way that they will feature Kelly Brook/CHarlotte Church/Martine Mcutcheon et all on the front cover, with the title "Curvy Women are SEXY" or "Bums are Back in Business" or whatever, and then 5 pages in have the "best dressed this week - get their style" section (Yes, HEAT magazine, I'm talking about you). This section will feature people like Nicole Ritchie, Kiera Knightley and Kate Bosworth, all of whom have been reported in the past because of their staggeringly emaciated frames.

It's the hypocrisy of these magazines which is one of the worst features. Even when they say "men fancy women who look like Kelly Brook", what they fail to mention is that Kelly B is TINY. Absolutely minute. Whatever the papers say, she is not a size 12 (or whatever they claim she is). She's more of an 8/10 (which, considering the average arse of a British woman is a size 16), is really quite skinny.

These magazine seem to just include "curvy is good editorial" because, as the average dress size of the UK woman increasingly rises, if they continued to only worship stick-thin models, they would end up pissing off, and eventually losing, an awful lot of their readership.

CynthiaC said...

It is quite pssible to be size zero and curvy. A woman with a 23 inch waist and 33 hips would have a waist-to-hip ratio of approximately 0.7. That's considered "ideal" for childbearing and women portrayed in works of art tend to have this WHR.