The size debate: standards of beauty

Seth wrote:

on the flip side, i have recently been made aware of a thing called "pro ana," which is apparently a niche of the internet dedicated to glorifying anorexia. I will leave you to your own devices to learn more, because the images are devastating.

American media has spent decades in the fight against anorexia so without placing blame anywhere specifically, it's obvious more could be done to deal with this condition. I waffle about calling either anorexia or obesity a disease, but for the sake of argument I'll assume they both are, because it's not hard for me to agree with the fact that intentionally causing a slow death by starvation/overeating is not rational.

to me, the pro ana movement is rooted in the same lack of self respect that drove hundreds of women to tweet "i would let Chris Brown beat me" a few weeks ago, and while maybe this posts belongs in the war against women thread, i think it fits more comfortably here.

Part of the pro ana thing is also deluding yourself into thinking that you can minimize the negative effects of starvation on your body (killing your metabolism, heart problems, etc.) while cultivating the positive effects (being skinny). "Amateurs" might be motivated by comments guys make, or wanting to be thinner to be more attractive, but once people are well down that road it's not really about what other people think at all... then it just revolves around the arbitrary numbers on the scale/tape measure/calorie log. Control, baby. It's like slow-motion OCD. That's where the disease part comes into play.

(Not that I flushed the better part of a decade of my life down that hole or anything. )

Anorexia also has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, for obvious reasons. Most deaths are from heart failure.

well now we get into how to define healthy. sarah wayne callies is five foot nine, 130 pounds. this is a healthy weight. She's also quite fit *and* a mother of a toddler.

Lauren Cohan is five seven or five eight, and 120 pounds. this is a healthy weight. a little thin but nowhere near unhealthy.

Laurie Holden is five six, 120 pounds. same story.

and they're all pretty fit looking. I'm sure Callies can run me down over a 1 mile jog.

So maybe the disconnect isn't with the media, but with the inexorable ballooning of american waistlines.

Seth wrote:

well now we get into how to define healthy. sarah wayne callies is five foot nine, 130 pounds. this is a healthy weight. She's also quite fit *and* a mother of a toddler.

Lauren Cohan is five seven or five eight, and 120 pounds. this is a healthy weight. a little thin but nowhere near unhealthy.

Laurie Holden is five six, 120 pounds. same story.

and they're all pretty fit looking. I'm sure Callies can run me down over a 1 mile jog.

So maybe the disconnect isn't with the media, but with the inexorable ballooning of american waistlines.

Yep. Weight is just a number when you're not taking fitness and bone structure into account. Americans glorify body types that are slight these days, but that doesn't mean all those people are starving themselves into to those numbers. They just happened to win the genetic lottery and fall in the category that society digs now (the ones who are starving themselves tend to have that creepy oversized-head look, because their weight goes out of proportion to their build).

And then people talk sh*t to feel better about their own shape. It's just grade school all over again.

Seth wrote:

well now we get into how to define healthy. sarah wayne callies is five foot nine, 130 pounds. this is a healthy weight. She's also quite fit *and* a mother of a toddler.

And her character is supposed to be pregnant.

All of your examples are just barely not technically underweight, so I'm not quite sure you're making the point you think you're making. Every one of them is at the bottom of "normal" BMI.

So no, not technically anorexic, but about as close as you can get to it without crossing the line - for the entire female cast. It's not just that there's a skinny girl, it's that all of the girls are skinny, and that's just weird.

Where's the 5'9" 168 lb girl with those 38 extra pounds of muscle who is also "normal" weight? I think having some guns would prove useful in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but only the skinny seem to survive here.

clover wrote:
Seth wrote:

on the flip side, i have recently been made aware of a thing called "pro ana," which is apparently a niche of the internet dedicated to glorifying anorexia. I will leave you to your own devices to learn more, because the images are devastating.

American media has spent decades in the fight against anorexia so without placing blame anywhere specifically, it's obvious more could be done to deal with this condition. I waffle about calling either anorexia or obesity a disease, but for the sake of argument I'll assume they both are, because it's not hard for me to agree with the fact that intentionally causing a slow death by starvation/overeating is not rational.

to me, the pro ana movement is rooted in the same lack of self respect that drove hundreds of women to tweet "i would let Chris Brown beat me" a few weeks ago, and while maybe this posts belongs in the war against women thread, i think it fits more comfortably here.

Part of the pro ana thing is also deluding yourself into thinking that you can minimize the negative effects of starvation on your body (killing your metabolism, heart problems, etc.) while cultivating the positive effects (being skinny). "Amateurs" might be motivated by comments guys make, or wanting to be thinner to be more attractive, but once people are well down that road it's not really about what other people think at all... then it just revolves around the arbitrary numbers on the scale/tape measure/calorie log. Control, baby. It's like slow-motion OCD. That's where the disease part comes into play.

(Not that I flushed the better part of a decade of my life down that hole or anything. )

Anorexia also has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, for obvious reasons. Most deaths are from heart failure.

I admit to not having done a lot of research on it (i do find it miserably sexist that men can be anorexic but get to refer to it as intermitten fasting, so I appreciate your insights, clover. especially the part where it evolves from externalizing pressure to internalizing. that's sh*t gets scary. i stand by my original point that more needs to be done about this issue. that there are women and girls triumphant in their starvation is one huge, ugly mark on body image as women know it.

gore wrote:
Seth wrote:

well now we get into how to define healthy. sarah wayne callies is five foot nine, 130 pounds. this is a healthy weight. She's also quite fit *and* a mother of a toddler.

And her character is supposed to be pregnant.

All of your examples are just barely not technically underweight, so I'm not quite sure you're making the point you think you're making. Every one of them is at the bottom of "normal" BMI.

So no, not technically anorexic, but about as close as you can get to it without crossing the line - for the entire female cast. It's not just that there's a skinny girl, it's that all of the girls are skinny, and that's just weird.

Where's the 5'9" 168 lb girl with those 38 extra pounds of muscle who is also "normal" weight? I think having some guns would prove useful in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but only the skinny seem to survive here.

I'm not sure where you're going with this. I'm not a casting director on the walking dead, so I don't know where the Kat Dennings (five four, 197 pounds, extremely beautiful) body type is. I do know that all i'm pointing out is that the women on that show are healthy - just like London andrews or Christina Hendricks are healthy. like Clover said, disparaging any of these women for their height and weight is mean and stupid.

Seth wrote:

I'm not sure where you're going with this. I'm not a casting director on the walking dead, so I don't know where the Kat Dennings (five four, 197 pounds, extremely beautiful) body type is. I do know that all i'm pointing out is that the women on that show are healthy - just like London andrews or Christina Hendricks are healthy.

I don't mean to be ambiguous - my point is that I disagree with you. I think your assessment of their healthiness is wrong. The fact that they're just barely not technically underweight doesn't imply that they're healthy, and this body type is disproportionally represented in all media.

I specifically like The Walking Dead as an example because the characters are placed in a context where physicality is required for survival. Even in a world which is, by definition, survival of the fittest, they have cast women who appear to be very frail.

gore wrote:

I specifically like The Walking Dead as an example because the characters are placed in a context where physicality is required for survival. Even in a world which is, by definition, survival of the fittest, they have cast women who appear to be very frail.

Oddly enough, if you go back and look at pictures of American troops in places like the South Pacific during WW2, where they're often photographed shirtless, what you usually see is a bunch of skinny guys. The country used to be a lot thinner. And our troops less buff. So maybe the skinny women are portrayed accurately, and the big men are bigger than what we'd see in a survival situation.

Incidentally, I doubt Kat Dennings is 197 pounds. If she's 5'4," I'd put her at maybe 140-145. She's got big breasts but a narrow waist and very little belly fat. He thighs and derriere are pleasantly rounded, but there's not an excess of weight there.

gore wrote:

Where's the 5'9" 168 lb girl with those 38 extra pounds of muscle who is also "normal" weight? I think having some guns would prove useful in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but only the skinny seem to survive here.

Michelle Rodriguez is your girl. But yes, that's the exception to the rule on television.

gore wrote:
Seth wrote:

I'm not sure where you're going with this. I'm not a casting director on the walking dead, so I don't know where the Kat Dennings (five four, 197 pounds, extremely beautiful) body type is. I do know that all i'm pointing out is that the women on that show are healthy - just like London andrews or Christina Hendricks are healthy.

I don't mean to be ambiguous - my point is that I disagree with you. I think your assessment of their healthiness is wrong. The fact that they're just barely not technically underweight doesn't imply that they're healthy, and this body type is disproportionally represented in all media.

I specifically like The Walking Dead as an example because the characters are placed in a context where physicality is required for survival. Even in a world which is, by definition, survival of the fittest, they have cast women who appear to be very frail.

i don't mind disagreement. I think hwp, fit women (all three of those women are obviously fit, with callies leading the group) are healthy, and while it confuses me that you don't, i won't belabor the point. I dont understand chubby chasers, either. [edit: referring specifically to people who are attracted to the dangerously obese.it would make *sense* to me in a post apocalyptic show that fit girls survive and Otises (male and female) die.

btw, according to your standards, neither jillian michaels (five two, 120 pounds) nor Gabrielle Reese (six three, 170) are healthy. And while the internet wont tell me her height and weight, i would bet cash that Dreya Weber fits that category, too.

IMAGE(http://www.venicemag.com/content/users/Dreya%20crop.jpg)

Funkenpants wrote:

Incidentally, I doubt Kat Dennings is 197 pounds. If she's 5'4," I'd put her at maybe 140-145. She's got big breasts but a narrow waist and very little belly fat. He thighs and derriere are pleasantly rounded, but there's not an excess of weight there.

I was thinking that too. 197 is way too high.

London Andrews from the previous page is the same height, with larger bust and cup (48F vs 40DD), and weighs 190. I dont see where the estimate is that far off.

Funkenpants wrote:

Oddly enough, if you go back and look at pictures of American troops in places like the South Pacific during WW2, where they're often photographed shirtless, what you usually see is a bunch of skinny guys. The country used to be a lot thinner. And our troops less buff. So maybe the skinny women are portrayed accurately, and the big men are bigger than what we'd see in a survival situation.

It is certainly true that our perceptions have changed over time. "Less buff" the WWII-era troops may have been compared to modern troops troops, but I'm sure that they still needed a substantial amount of muscle mass to lug around all that gear. It's also the case that American troops in the Pacific theater often had extremely challenging health situations that caused them to lose a lot of body mass over the course of their deployment, so having a few extra pounds to lose at the start would probably not be a bad thing.

I'm sure "lean" would beat "fat" in a survival scenario, but I do think that some upper body strength would come in handy - especially if you're relying on melee.

A lot of actors skew towards the beefy side of realism, which is kind of another side of the same coin as actresses skewing towards the skinny side.

Seth wrote:

btw, according to your standards, neither jillian michaels (five two, 120 pounds) nor Gabrielle Reese (six three, 170) are healthy. And while the internet wont tell me her height and weight, i would bet cash that Dreya Weber fits that category, too.

To be clear, I only referenced BMI since I thought that's what you used to determine that the actresses in The Walking Dead are not "too skinny." I don't hold that as any kind of absolute; in fact my larger point is that BMI doesn't tell the whole story in either direction.

I think it's undeniable that actresses in general skew heavily towards the low end of normal BMI, and I don't think that has anything to do with looking "healthy" since they could weigh much more and still easily be "healthy." It so happens that a specific body type is much more heavily represented in the media; women of certain frame types who might try to emulate that body type would put their health dangerously at risk if they wanted to achieve the same weight.

Whether a particular actress is "healthy" or not cannot be determined by BMI alone, but I also think it's interesting to look at female body types within the context of a role. An actress certainly doesn't need much mass to do her job of acting, but I think a lot of characters could be better represented by more substantial actresses.

my point is that it's unfair for you to designate women with body types like Callies or my wife (possibly nsfw) "unhealthy," "just above anorexia," or "frail." that's mean and wrong - just as mean and wrong as calling Christina Hendricks fat.

do actresses skew closer to the slender side of American weight? Sure they do but they are not unhealthy. a woman like early 90s flockhart or cox or de rossi just wont get cast anymore. so what I said remains true: popular media does not fetishize unhealthy body types, and haven't for decades.

you shouldn't use a single show to extrapolate how women are presented in the media, either. Mike and Molly and later episodes of king of queens, as well as How I met your mother, two broke girls, Justified, Jersey Shore, and most anyting with Tyler Perry's name on it stand in contrast.

Still in here pounding that same old drum, Seth? You do realize all you're doing is highlighting the point of this thread in big red letters. Your numbers for Kat Denning would put her at a BMI of 38.8, which is considered moderately obese. BMI is a stupid number for anyone who ISN'T of the socially nominative proportions.

And there's another problem. Using actresses/models for any metric like this at all is a bad idea. They are a specially selected, narrow sample out of the center of the range of human experience and there's no amount of even your definition of dieting in the world that will allow many women to reach that.

I have a better chance of getting into NASA than I do of fitting into your standards. And not because of my weight, per se. I've had to have bone studies done, and my hip and shoulder bones themselves are outside the range of even the skin of one of these people you're holding out as an example. The only way I could reach dimensions you've listed here would be if I flayed myself - my pelvic bones are just over 36 inches around not counting any of the muscles hanging off them. My bones are also thicker than average. This is nice if you're playing hockey, but it also means I can't wear most jewelry. My wedding ring was an 11 (it's now an 8 and on the hand of my 112 pound daughter), and even now 25 years later and at less than half the weight I was on my wedding day I wear a 10.

There are no easy bullsh*t answers.

Yeah, I'm 5'8 and I look downright gruesome at 130, but my sister looks perfectly normal 20 pounds under that. People vary.

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

Well, let's remember something about why all those WWII guys might have looked thin: WWII followed the Great Depression. I wouldn't expect people who just lived through soup lines and the Dust Bowl to show up looking like they they've been downing jugs of whey protein from GNC.

clover wrote:

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

I don't know enough to contribute anything but I found it interesting how people were saying someone is healthy just by looking at them and estimating their weight.

clover wrote:

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

Agreed. I think the wider point of this is that there isn't necessarily a correlation between 'beauty' and 'healthy', both of which are nebulous and highly subjective terms anyway.

Jonman wrote:
clover wrote:

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

Agreed. I think the wider point of this is that there isn't necessarily a correlation between 'beauty' and 'healthy', both of which are nebulous and highly subjective terms anyway.

IMAGE(http://i1094.photobucket.com/albums/i453/czpv/16208243.jpg)

There are only two groups of people whose opinions on beauty I care about: the group that includes me, and the group of people that includes people I think are hot.

I feel like this issue really isn't about beauty as much as it is about acceptability: in other words, it's not just about who we all want to sleep with, it's about which people we do not mind looking at even in a less than fully sexual way.

I think what is going on is that if you are a female and you are in a certain age range, you have to look beautiful in order to look acceptable (leaving aside the issues of age for now, as that's a whole other can of worms).

I also think that's what's going on with fatness: people are saying "fat is not beautiful" but what they really mean is "fat is not acceptable." We treat looks as part of the 'dress code' and if you're a non-attractive woman or a fat person, you're treated like someone who shows up wearing not just ugly clothes, but inappropriate clothes.

CheezePavilion wrote:

I also think that's what's going on with fatness: people are saying "fat is not beautiful" but what they really mean is "fat is not acceptable." We treat looks as part of the 'dress code' and if you're a non-attractive woman or a fat person, you're treated like someone who shows up wearing not just ugly clothes, but inappropriate clothes.

I'll sign on to that. See also: commentary on female politicians' looks/clothing style/weight/hair/general appearance/femininity/ownership of female parts being accepted as a routine part of public discourse.

clover wrote:

Yeah, I'm 5'8 and I look downright gruesome at 130, but my sister looks perfectly normal 20 pounds under that. People vary.

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

agree. not sure what I said to rile up momgamer because, for the thousandth time, i dont have exacting standards.

Momgamer, you're saying that my "standards of beauty," which include women with BMIs of 38+, wouldn't include you. if you're a size 10, you would need to be like three feet tall not to "fit in my standards."

edit. realized you meant wedding ring size. still, i think my indignation is justified.

Please read *all* my posts before jumping down my throat.

This is a complex topic that can't be fluttered away with "the media makes us hate fat people."

Seth wrote:
clover wrote:

Yeah, I'm 5'8 and I look downright gruesome at 130, but my sister looks perfectly normal 20 pounds under that. People vary.

BMI is nice for hitting the side of the barn, but personal preference colors almost everyone's opinion of what's "healthy" based on looks alone.

agree. not sure what I said to rile up momgamer because, for the thousandth time, i dont have exacting standards.

Momgamer, you're saying that my "standards of beauty," which include women with BMIs of 38+, wouldn't include you. if you're a size 10, you would need to be like three feet tall not to "fit in my standards."

Please read *all* my posts before jumping down my throat.

This is a complex topic that can't be fluttered away with "the media makes us hate fat people."

That size 10 is my ring size. I used it as a standardized, industry-wide measuring factor that has not suffered the scale shifting that has happened in the clothing industry over the years that has been described upthread. To lay it out even clearer, when I got that size 11 ring I weighed well over 400 pounds. Today I weigh 240, with a size 10 ring. This is because my bones and more specifically the bones of my fingers are thicker than the average female's, and there's no amount of dieting that will change that. Since I'm 5'3", I'm always going to be more proportioned like a dwarf than an elf (no beard). And in a hundred subtle ways society and the media make it clear every day that this is not good enough.

I have read all your posts, in this thread and others. That's why felt I needed to say that. Time and again you've stated the same ideas (please go back and read what you keep posting in the diet threads) and I read what you posted here that way. I'm sorry if I misunderstood but I went back and re-read and still see your posts that way.

I don't understand how you can negotiate a compromise between those points and your present assertion about Ms. Denning. How can you say you think someone is beautiful, but at the same time you think anyone that size is just making excuses and won't do what you see as the simple, easy work to lose the weight? Because that's what you said about everyone else multiple times. You don't quite call everyone a lazy slob, but it comes through between the lines.

You're not evil or an asshole. You're not alone in this. Not by a long shot. This is exactly what the original post is all about. Someone had the temerity to assert otherwise in print (and with nude pictures), and the negative reaction of society in general raised an eyebrow. There is a serious disconnect here, and the discussion here is trying to get it's arms around that.

Again, I'm sorry if this is coming through the lens of my own baggage but I truly don't understand.

We're agree on several points. I'm not trying to write it off as "the media makes us hate fat people". The point is being made that the media's portrayal of what is "normal" is shaping/warping society's view of nominative physical standards on a general basis, and, more insidiously, as part of the individual's assessment of their own physical being.

I agree with your point that not all those very slender actresses aren't necessarily unhealthy. This is a continuum, and there are people all along it. Though I will say that there are as many health risks for women who keep it that close to the line as there are for women in Ms. Denning's size-range. You have to pay attention either way.

I also assert that the affect goes the other way. Society's current focus on externals and sensationalist methods of getting value also affects what media they want to see, and that message gets passed back to the media makers and they give those people what they want. There's a whole mess of societal context here whirling around like an vapid, superficial Mobius strip.

all great points. My sincere apologies for my part of misunderstanding. let me internalize for a few hours before responding.

Seth wrote:

London Andrews from the previous page is the same height, with larger bust and cup (48F vs 40DD), and weighs 190. I dont see where the estimate is that far off.

Boobs can be way heavy. That's a pretty big difference right there, even with other things being mostly equal.

Andrews has much wider hips and much thicker limbs. Her secret is that she carries the weight spread out over her body, so she can stand nude without a big gut of belly fat. The proportions really workout for her, but I don't think she and Dennings are close to the same weight. Totally different weight classes of hot chick.

I recall reading some study which found that the only factor that mattered for women in terms of their sexiness to men was the waist to hips ratio. BMI apparently has nothing to do with it.

complexmath wrote:

I recall reading some study which found that the only factor that mattered for women in terms of their sexiness to men was the waist to hips ratio. BMI apparently has nothing to do with it.

I think that theory is whatever BMI (using as a proxy here for "how a culture likes its women in terms of thing other than waist to hips ratio") a given culture idolizes, the women it judges beautiful will not only have that culture-specific BMI, but will have a waist to hip ratio that is widespread among different cultures.

In other words: it's a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.

I'm not sure I agree. Different people have very different ideas of what constitutes physical beauty, and I think the waist-hips ratio is perhaps about the only rough constant. If only 10% of the population considers runway models attractive, does that make them the ideal? Clearly, what the media pushes on us and what people actually think are two entirely different things. The problem seems to be that the media-generated ideal is what people strive for, even if it isn't something any individual actually likes.

Regarding the model physique, its whole point is to be a hangar on which to display clothes with as little dissonance as possible. So models are chosen both for this and because they have a presence that produces very compelling photos or whatever. I don't think it was ever a goal that this would be a template for sexual attractiveness, despite how people may have reacted to it.

complexmath wrote:

I'm not sure I agree. Different people have very different ideas of what constitutes physical beauty, and I think the waist-hips ratio is perhaps about the only rough constant.

If you're going down to the level of individuals, BMI will still matter for a lot of those people, just one person will like one BMI while another person will like a different BMI: BMI won't be irrelevant, it'll just vary between people in a way that waist-hips ratio will not.

In other words, I don't think waist-hip ration is a "magic bullet" that you can be any BMI and everyone will find you attractive; instead, the kinds of bodies two different people consider attractive will vary far more widely in BMI than waist-hip ratio.

If only 10% of the population considers runway models attractive, does that make them the ideal? Clearly, what the media pushes on us and what people actually think are two entirely different things. The problem seems to be that the media-generated ideal is what people strive for, even if it isn't something any individual actually likes.

Regarding the model physique, its whole point is to be a hangar on which to display clothes with as little dissonance as possible. So models are chosen both for this and because they have a presence that produces very compelling photos or whatever. I don't think it was ever a goal that this would be a template for sexual attractiveness, despite how people may have reacted to it.

There's certainly an issue of "photogenic" vs. "in-person attractiveness" to all this. Like, to take it to a less controversial area, I've heard people with big heads relative to their body do well on television shows. I don't think many people were whacking off to NBA Jams back in the day, but for whatever reason it just looks better on TV. Not sure if it's been brought up yet (I might even be forgetting I brought it up) but the idea of big headed actors on TV and stick figure models on runways reminds me of something called peak shift:

Prehistoric artists were clearly caught up in peak shift tendencies, creating exaggerated statues like the famed Venus of Willendorf. For their part, the Egyptians perfected a more stylized, order-obsessed human figure, only to have the Greeks break out and create fantastically heroic — but totally unrealistic — images like the Riace Bronzes. So why then are we moderns constantly inundated by unrealistic images of the body? In reality, we humans don't really like reality - we prefer exaggerated, more human than human, images of the body. This is a shared biological instinct that appears to link us inexorably with our ancient ancestors.

http://www.pbs.org/howartmadetheworl...