Social Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

Why is the (American) standard of beauty so often associated with just weight?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21365 points ) October 1st, 2011

Lately, I’ve seen this picture of Marilyn Monroe floating around the internet usually with a caption that says something about how she was considered sexy in her day and now stick-thin is considered sexy and ain’t that just horrible.

However, there are still other standards of beauty in this country that no one worries about changing. What about race? Body type beyond mere weight? Height? Coloring?

Why is the standard of beauty so often associated with weight when there are so many other factors?

Yes, I do know that there are super models who are not white, and not blonde-haired and blue-eyed, but I have observed that white and blonde is still more often considered the standard of beauty in this country.

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22 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

This goes both ways. It feels like you want to make it about how males judge women. If anything males are less picky. It is your fault that you try to live up to a impossible standard and guys say, “I don’t really care if I don’t look like Brad Pitt.”

JilltheTooth's avatar

@johnpowell : “It feels like you want to make it about how males judge women.”

Where in the Q do you get that? I didn’t get that at all, I see her asking about the general modern social standard.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@johnpowell: Please point out in the question where I said that this was the male’s idea of a perfect woman and I will edit it. :)

cheebdragon's avatar

Brad pit doesnt look all that great these days, so no worries there….

Marilyn Monroe may have been bigger, but she wore it extremely well. Google Christina Hendricks (from Mad Men), I think she’s kinda like a modern Monroe.

Fashion models usually have very androgynous features (with the exception of Victoria Secret), bigger girls naturally develop, so they lose their appeal to fashion designers.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@cheebdragon: Yes, I know who Hendricks is, perhaps you can answer the question now?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I do think that the fashion industry has stepped up in portraying a variety of beauty… excluding body shape and size. Fashion models often have freckles, or curly hair, or a gap between their front teeth. The sort of things that are not necessarily conducive with the blonde-haired, blue eyed, smooth complected image that I gather you are portraying as the ideal.
I don’t think that you’re wrong about it still being portrayed as the ideal, but I do think the other issues have been addressed. For some reason it seems that, as a society, we are unable to shake the obsession with weight.
Probably because it is quite profitable to tell your average (and larger than average) woman that she is too fat, and that she would do best to spend a small fortune and the majority of her life attempting to change that. I mean, what kind of fashion and beauty products could they sell us if we all had awesome self esteem?

efritz's avatar

Might have something to do with America’s work ethic. Fatter=lazy, in some people’s minds, so fat would be unappealing. In Marilyn’s day women were homemakers, not workers, and thus more objectified. Could be part of this phenomenon, at least.

cheebdragon's avatar

Men will fuck anything, dicks really don’t discriminate. Women judge other women far more harshly than any man I’ve ever known.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I think we assign value to things we think are hard to obtain.

It is hard to be thin, rare. We admire it, and wish it for ourselves. When we see it in a person of the gender we are attracted to, it becomes sexual-ized.

Blackberry's avatar

I think @Imadethisupwithnoforethought is on to something. How many people seem to have genetically gifted, “perfect” bodies? Even small people have defaults that might prevent them from being a desirable model. I don’t see many men nowadays that look like statuesque roman warriors. :/

Oh, and that’s my favorite picture of Monroe. I love her juicy thighs!

Cruiser's avatar

What I would like to get more data on is why women are the ones who seem all obsessed about this so called standard??

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I never thought it was mainly about weight, more about shape of the weight. Aside from that, I grew up with a general accepted ultimate standard of beauty that said the blonde and blue eyed anglo looking girl was the top American Beauty. In my own circle of multi-ethnic friends growing up (80’s), I can remember if you weren’t that standard then you hoped to at least be light skinned with anglo features and a fantastic personality.

Blackberry's avatar

@Cruiser So far, to my knowledge, on facebook I’ve only seen women secretly take pictures of strangers (women) and post it, criticising something they are wearing. Haha.

Ela's avatar

There are no set scales for the other standards @KatawaGrey and a person would have to be a fool to try to implement one. Who is going to come out and say that certain races, heights or colorings are standards of beauty? Plus… a person’s weight is something almost anyone can change. Weight loss is a multimillion dollar business (targeted mainly toward women) and the majority of them women are vain. As long as some major corporations can keep their pockets lined with human insecurities, they will do so.
Beauty+Healthy sells.

I believe the standard of beauty is often associated with weight because being overweight is generally seen as unhealthy. It does make your body work harder overall.

btw – Marilyn Monroe had curves while women today have rolls.

Pandora's avatar

I think when it comes to skinny stick girls, only girls think this is an attractive quality. Most guys tend to like a healthier looking girl. That is why fake boobs and fake asses are being bought so often in this country. Girls want to be skinny but look somewhat healthy and desirable.
When I say healthy, I mean a girl who looks a bit tone with healthy looking weight for her height and muscle tone.
I remember going to a club in Japan where there were European models there. They were tall and extremely skinny and looked sickly. They looked like WWII camp refugees. People don’t get that the magazines pictures make them look healthy with big billowing clothing and make up. They just look heavier in pictures. If women saw what they really looked like they would rethink wanting to emulate them.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Because it is very obvious. You don’t really have to “look” to notice weight. You do however have to somewhat humanize a person pre-judgement in order to look them in their face.

Mostly when others judge, they tend to do it best *Or worst as the case may be… from distances.

Weight isn’t something that you can hide or obscure. It is one of the most obvious instances that compile a persons overall appearance and it is an easy target because a person CAN judge it easier from a distance.

DreamTrees's avatar

White and blonde is the standard for many things, and for decades advertising was geared towards blondes. These days, there are less of them, and so standards have changed, but are not necessarily different. All women are beautiful, so some have said. It’s pointless to ask why beauty is thought to be one thing or another. If the models in the products you buy are objectionable to you, complain to their corporate offices, or the advertisers who sponsor the shows—they listen to the almighty buck, especially if you promise to take it to their biggest competitors.

Like beauty, ugly is also in the eye of the beholder. I have seen photos of mutts that are better looking than some men on some dating web sites, but to each his or her own.

I am still white…and blonde with green eyes….as my picture shows the reader. I like who I am, but I can also appreciate someone who is olive complected with raven hair. I do the best with what I have, and if someone doesn’t think I am beautiful, it doesn’t matter to me, and I cannot be swayed by what the media shows me. I am my own person, and for 60 years of age, that isn’t too bad.

Ela's avatar

I think corporations listen to large groups, not individuals @DreamTrees. Cover Girl will not change their foundation compacts because I call them and say I don’t like it and am now purchasing Neutrogena. Granted if I and 10,000 fellow consumers complained their ears would perk up and take notice.

I don’t think that the American standard for beauty is just weight, though much emphasis is directed toward it. America focuses on weight because it effects almost the entire audience, everyone weighs something! If we are doing specs… I am auburn with brown, 5’6” 145, in my 40’s and very comfortable in my own skin. I choose not to post a picture because it truly does not matter what anyone thinks of my looks or if I look great for my age. Everyone has something about them that is beautiful (even mutts on dating sites). Sometimes you just need to take the time to look for it.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Also note that those women of African descent who are supermodels tend to have more European features. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Weight may not be the main or only component that serves as a criteria for American beauty, or that in many parts of the world, but it has its place. It is hard being heavy and symmetrical at the same time. In many cases symmetry equals attractiveness. Smooth skin with out cellulite or bulges appears better. Curves that blend together for a symphony of the eyes are better than seeing bulges and ripples everywhere.

Nightline once did a segment on the face of the model industry and some attribute that change to the introducing of the Barbie doll. Before Barbie came along, models were shorter and more boy-like of frame. They were not tall and busty. Then Barbie hit the stores and girls wanted to be like her. Models all of a sudden became 5ft 9in and taller, and were more busty. Then the 60s happened and you had Twiggy show up, and the height stuck but the thin was about to begin.

DreamTrees's avatar

Beauty has always been held to a higher standard. I will reiterate: if you don’t like the standard and feel it is discriminatory, write a letter of objection. You can also contact the press and ask them to investigate the story; this may be of interest, if there is a news-worthy angle. You can also collect signatures or start a Web site of like-minded persons willing to support your cause. The last thing a sponsor wants is bad press + the Internet. News travels fast—bad news, even faster.

For anything else, all any of us can do is try to be as attractive as we can; whatever that is for you.

1) Avoid sun.
2) Do not smoke.
3) Drink lots of water. 8–12 glasses a day. (Not Coke. Not Juice. Water.)
4) Find the best products you can afford and use them faithfully. Keep makeup to a minimum, and cleanse your skin twice each day.

Last, but not least, be thankful and happy, and do something nice for someone else with a smile on your face. Start doing this every day. You will feel beautiful inside and it will show. It’s magic!

rooeytoo's avatar

Whose standard of beauty is not at least partially based on weight? The candidates for Miss Universe that I have seen in the paper (believe me I don’t watch beauty pageants on telly!) are all skinny and while I have never seen an alien participating, they do come from all over the world.

Generally speaking fat is not attractive but then again neither is stick thin. Seems as if someone with a bmi in the healthy zone would be the most attractive and that would not be overweight.

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