Bellies and Boobs

Lizzi Miller of Glamour Magazine

Plus-Size Model Lizzi Miller for Glamour Magazine

This woman is gorgeous, isn’t she? This image is utterly feminine.  Her body is soft and luxurious looking.  There are no hard edges.  Ask your spouse, partner, or an appropriate person what they think of this image.  I think that this woman’s roundness only adds to her appeal.  A lover might want to touch that loose belly, kiss it, bury his face there for a while.  Her breasts are not visible in this image, but I imagine that they are as full as the rest of her and probably hanging a little lower like her belly.  A lover would want to spend a lot of time there, too.  Her bottom is full and soft as are her thighs.  There is a lot to delight in here.  Do you see what I see?

Let me say this clearly.  We are not defined by what is done to us sexually, but if we can imagine a lover loving all the parts of us–even the parts of our bodies that we do not like (especially the parts that we don’t like)–then it might be easier for us to begin to see ourselves differently.

Do you think that Ms. Miller’s body is beautiful in any way? This photo of Lizzie Miller appeared in Glamour Magazine in September 2009 and received more emails and letters than any other photograph to date.  Clearly, American women appreciated Glamour’s use of a “normal” woman.    I think her face is beautiful.  It’s her smile, I think.  She looks completely comfortable and happy with herself, and that’s attractive.  And, oddly, I’m drawn to her stomach.    I think that only adds to her overall appeal.  I think the softness of her lower body increases her feminine appeal.  She looks very good naked.  No matter your body type, do you feel comfortable with yourself naked?

The Singer Pink

To contrast Ms. Miller, I’ve given you Pink.  Pink is a very talented woman; I’m not “picking on her”.  What I want to point out is that the media uses Pink’s body type far more often to sell products, ideas, entertainment, maintain and further the standard of the new North American ideal of beauty, but who is setting this standard? Objectively speaking, whose body type do you find more aesthetically pleasing? Pink’s body is obviously more toned.  I like Pink’s body.  Speaking for myself, I am probably closer to Pink’s body type than Ms. Miller’s.   If Ms. Miller’s body type, in times past, represented the archetype of femininity, then one could assert that Pink leans toward a newer and more extreme kind of beauty.  Her body fat percentage looks to be so low that she’s losing her breast tissue.  She’s got the coveted “six pack” which is very hard for even men to attain.  She has the body of a committed athlete.  She is beautiful, but it requires enormous commitment in the form of a rigorous diet and exercise to maintain her physique.  How realistic or attainable is this definition of beauty? Why do you think this new definition of beauty is more popular and used more often in advertising and in film than Ms. Miller’s representation?

The media seems to represent women in the extreme.  Actresses must be a size 0 or 2, but then they must have large breasts, too.  It’s a challenge to have such a low body fat percentage and maintain breast tissue, too.  Articles are published in noted psychology journals citing that men prefer the hourglass figure.  So, what’s a woman to do who has a more athletic build? What about women who carry extra weight around their waist? What about the changes women undergo after giving birth? What if you’re a woman who really loves her lean abdomen? What about that loose skin you find there now? All the celebrities seem to have their babies and be back in fighting form within 2 weeks–no loose skin on their bellies! How is this possible?!  The media in all its forms sells its own ideal of beauty, and we get to choose to buy it…or not.  This goes for men, too.  We have the privilege of deciding what our own ideal of beauty will be.  We have to do the work of  recreating our ego-ideal.  If you are an athlete, strong and hard, then revel in it.  If you look like you just stepped out of a Rubens’ painting, then take joy in your own wondrous form.  Wherever you fall on the spectrum of beauty, enjoy yourself.  In any case, we can be soft and hard at the same time.  For those of us who have given birth, those muscles pushed a new life into the world, and the skin that might hang there now once had to stretch to allow for the growth of that little life.  It’s a beautiful metaphor not only for what a woman is but also for what a woman can do.  Strong and steely, soft and feminine.  All at the same time–no matter your form.   It’s something to think about the next time we look in the mirror and can’t decide if we like what we see.  Who decided for us what our definition of beauty was going to be? You? Or someone else?

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3 thoughts on “Bellies and Boobs

  1. Great body shaming there, well done. Not every woman fits into the media ideal, and clearly they don’t all fit into your ideal either. You are saying (even though you seem to be falling over yourself trying not to be offensive) that only certain body types are feminine, womanly or attractive. How is that any different from what magazine editors and advertisers do?

    • Actually, I don’t think my language is shaming at all. Your response to me, however, is. The first statement in particular. Why the visceral, amygdala-driven response? Where’s your pre-frontal cortex? I’m not too sensitive, and I can engage without taking it personally. If you read blogs at all, then you’ll know that blogs are written from a certain point of view. The writer’s. That’s the beauty of blogging. The photo I used was first published in Glamour magazine, and that particular photo garnered more responses to their editorial team than any other photo in the history of the magazine. Why do you think that photo made such an impact? Think on it. Because that model meets society’s definition of ‘fat’. Perhaps I ought to state that in this post. The average American woman is a size 12 to 14. Did you read the other posts surrounding this post? This post was part of a series on body image and ego-ideal. I am not saying that only certain body types are womanly. Not at all. But, historically, there are archetypes of what is seen as feminine. I’m not making that up. There are theses, novels, etc. devoted to the topic. Have you seen Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”? Have you spent time in museums? We are in an interesting era where the ideal for what is viewed as “feminine” is shifting to the extreme–size 0. Who is deciding that? I used Pink’s image as a foil because her body type is representative of a more masculine body type, and I stated that it’s beautiful, too. Is it feminine? I am speaking in terms of the historical definition of the archetype of feminine beauty. I would say ‘no’–not in the same way. Compare Pink’s body to, say, the Venus de Milo and then compare her to The Doryphorus. Both extraordinary examples of physical beauty. But, which sculpture does she resemble more? The Doryphorus. Not exactly, of course, but she doesn’t look at all like the Venus de Milo. Are you seeing my point? Am I going on to say that one form is more valuable than the other? More desirable? Sexier? More feminine? Personally, I don’t hold an opinion. This is where filters come in. I wrote the first paragraph the way I did because so many women struggle with distorted body image, weight issues, etc. if they DON’T fit into a size 2. Someone has to say that Lizzie Miller’s body type is “utterly feminine” and “gorgeous” because everyone is shouting from the rooftops that Pink is. And, she is.

      There is nothing shameful about this discussion. This is an academic discussion. If you experienced a shame response–something rather visceral and vehement (which you clearly did based upon the almost accusatory tone of your comment) in reading this post, then why? I’m not tripping over myself not to be offensive because I don’t find the topic to be tricky or offensive. Do you? If so, then why? Do I think that the 21st c. archetype of feminine beauty should change? Yes. Has it? The European view of woman is very different than the North American view of women and sexuality. I think that North Americans could learn a lot from the European view of women and sexuality. The biggest problem that faces American/North American female consumers is that the majority of them *want* to look at and assimilate the fantasy version of the female. They want to look at their own ego-ideal on the advertisements. Being closely tied to the entertainment industry, whenever a size 6 has been used in a TV show or film, the female viewers have had a fit. They hate it and call her ‘fat’. They want the size 0. And, the actresses suffer. They want to watch the dream and immerse themselves in it. Hollywood and Madison Ave present the extreme–an impossible beauty which, I believe is becoming the new archetype, and women are eating it up but hating the taste. That was my point. The extreme nature of the evolving notion of beauty.

      How is my view akin to Madison Avenue’s? How is looking at a woman who is 5’4″ and a size 14, pointing out that her body type used to be the definition of beauty but, at this point in history, is no longer, shaming? How is pointing out that a leaner, fitter, stronger, and, yes, more masculine form, shaming? For the record, I am 6′ tall. I am a size 6. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of not-so-nice remarks from women and men because of my “form”. There have been times in my life that I looked a lot more like Pink than any sort of pin-up girl. I’ve heard women say that the media is fucked up because women who are 6 feet tall and a size four just don’t exist, and if they ever met one they would stab her with their mascara wands. And yet, that’s the very woman most North American consumers want to see in the ads and films. The statistics back that. Why?

      I really appreciate your comment, and I think I would have preferred to have a conversation with you over coffee. You are the first person to say that this post was shaming. i wrote this post in honor of a friend who was actually a mother and an athlete. My biggest desire is that we would see all women on the spectrum of beauty represented in the media. It’s women and consumers themselves that are dictating that. Sadly.

      • Sam, I made some changes to this post, making my language more inclusive because I really don’t think that only certain body types are beautiful over others. And, I stated more clearly that I was speaking in terms of archetypes and historical context. In that regard, your comment was useful.

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