The obsession with thin... captured by Jessica Hagy at Indexed:

I'm far from the only person who remains slightly perplexed about the modern fixation on thin. Why now? Why is thin so venerated when fat/plump/round/large was for so many eons?

The answer, my friends, is simple: rarity.

I could get into evolutionary psychology (where fat women were fertile, therefore more desireable to men), but I think it's more in the aesthetics of beauty than anything.

Beauty, by its nature, has to be rare. Yes, beauty is everywhere and we're all beautiful in one way or another, but I'm talking basic, physical attractiveness. A dandelion may be beautiful, but it's common. We see it all the time. No big deal. But a wild orchid- we stop and look and admire and ohh and ahh. Or a Yugo vs. a Maserati. They're both cars, but the Maserati is unusual. Very few can have it, making it much more desireable.

Large women may have been considered generally more attractive simply because extras in food were rare, giving it the lure of the exotic. Now, food is more abundant, and thin becomes a rarity- which is just what the indexed card says. It's also a status symbol- and it's really hard to deny that.
And maybe (I'm going out on a limb here, and not even sure I believe it myself but...), just maybe, our fears over obesity and the size of our butts is fueling the whole "size zero" model thing. The more we see ourselves as fat, the more alluring the skin and bones of models become. It's the same reason. Corporations feed into this, trying to tell you and sell you on how to become something you're not.

By saying "fat is ugly," the almost automatic correlate is "skinny is beautiful." Which is bullshit, really, but there's a lot of people who buy into it.

I don't know that there's a solution to this problem. Because beauty (as judged by large-scale, cultural standards) is always going to be rare and hard to get. It just is. But maybe we just have to try a little harder, and widen our perceptions of it.

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saa said...

That is very interesting. I wonder the same thing all the time....Why now? Rarity..hmm something for my brain to digest...

Carrie Arnold said...

And I think the social status aspect is very closely tied to the "rarity" part.

I don't know that I have the brainpower right now to think it all the way through, either! :)

CookieGirl said...

Carrie, I've thought about this before and completely agree. It makes me so angry. I want to DO something to widen the media portrayals of beauty. I'm not sure what one person can do, but over the last year or so I have had this intense longing to make an impact, to communicate to people this precise injustice. I think the "beauty as rarity" concept prevails because it means someone, somewhere will always be able to create business opportunities in selling us things to help us become what we are not. Then of course, those with money can afford to look most ideal.

You know, it's not even just low fat content that they advertise as the current beauty ideal, there are specific body shapes and facial features that women are meant to aspire to. Proportions that are deemed more attractive than others. Even if you starve all of your fat away you can wind up finding you do not have the ideal female shape, e.g. a small defined waist. So sad.

mary said...

Rarity is a person who is comfortable in their own moccasins. Media banks on that. Nurturing our children early on to like who they are and to also like others as they are is the beginning of a healthy person. Beauty is and always has been in the eye of the beholder. So, behold your beauty!/*

derrp said...

Interesting graph. If a woman's "value" is in large part determined by the size of her body, and the size of her body is tied to the cost of food, I have two questions. First, "value" implies someone doing the valuing... who is doing the valuing in the case of women? Second, why is a woman's value so closely tied to her body size in the first place? Who decided that?

The answer is: men.

Men have objectified women for ages, i.e., d valued us only for our physical utility to them, sexual "attractiveness" and ability to birth and raise "their" children. I.e., our ability to increase their social status.

Think about why diamonds are so expensive and such a status symbol. Their utility to the person wearing them is just that, it confers status upon them. And diamonds do that because they are rare, and so in order to possess one you must have some kind of advantage over other people - in this case, money. And as we all know, money = power in a capitalist society.

I for one am sick and fucking tired of being seen as a status object.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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