Today’s post is more controversial than anything I have written on this blog before. It is part of August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest.

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I was shocked when watching a movie with a mixed group of men and women when I heard one of the guys say, “yeah I you don’t see a hot model with a muffin top very often.”

To give you a visual idea of what comparison was being made, I show you the definition of a muffin top:

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Image via photobucket.com/user/kingdlou

The “hot actress with a muffin top” being referred to was no other than Brooklyn Decker!

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Brooklyn Decker, Image via thebrigade.thechive.com

Brooklyn Decker is a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model with hips. I think it is heartbreaking that men thing a woman with hips has a “muffin top”. In my opinion THIS is what you call curves! Sofia Vergara has curves. Curves are hips. “Curves” is not a politically correct way of saying bread rolls or muffin tops or medically overweight. I’ve come to dislike the word “curves” because it no longer means curvaceous, to me it seems that it now has connotations of meaning not thin. Brooklyn Decker is thin and curvy.

As a girl who has hips and also likes to enjoy her fair share of pastries, I find it inspiring to see women with curves on the big screen and in print advertisements. Women who look more like me rather than the size zeros or even size sixes. So when a guy made that type of comment, it made me wonder if the “standards of beauty” as determined by the entertainment industry are not only affecting women, but are they also raising men’s expectations? I’m sure there are endless articles out there on this subject and as many have said before: if you flip it around, how many men in everyday life have a six pack and huge biceps?

Steps in the right direction…

1. Dove Real Beauty Campaign

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Image via www.bbc.co.uk

Dove’s was one of the first campaign’s I heard about promoting other types of beauty. I can appreciate Dove featuring women of different shapes and skin tones. My question is: why are they all wearing very unflattering underwear and making “cutsie” expressions? Can’t these real women, with their various shapes, also be seen as sexy?

This woman is a model, but it doesn’t mean the real women in the Dove campaign couldn’t have worn something like this instead:

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Image via www.digitalspy.ca

2. Katie Green – Say no to size zero

I also don’t know why real women are still using Marilyn Monroe as a fall back for standards of beauty and sex appeal? There are and should be more modern-day examples that women can look to.

I’ve recently learned about Katie Green, a model who advocates a “Say no to size zero” petition. She is considered a plus-sized model as she is a size 12 UK (which is about a size 10 US), but technically plus-size in real life is size 14 and above. If I have ever compared myself to anyone famous ever, it would be Katie Green because I have a bikini that looks very similar to the one she is wearing the the photo below and I also have a similar body shape.

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Image via www.listal.com

3. Lena Dunham – Actress & Creator of Girls on HBO

Lena Dunham has to be my favorite person on television right now. Girls is a comedic drama about a group of 20-something girls living in New York, but the big difference is that the episodes cover life experiences of girls that are more relatable/real and they happen to be based on some of Lena’s experiences.

In the show, which is on HBO, Lena often appears scantily clad if not nude. She does not have the typical body type of most actresses seen on TV and she also has several very interesting tattoos on her upper body. Lena has received major backlash for repeatedly appearing on TV revealing her body. I think her body is the type that millions of women can relate to and there should be no reason why she shouldn’t act like any other actress.

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Image via virginiasolesmith.com

The best part is that Lena Dunham is very pretty and although she appears more average looking in the TV show Girls, she can glam up like every other actress.

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Image via www.aceshowbiz.com

I appreciate these models and actresses who stand their ground and give us “regular” women hope that some day, there will be less external pressure to look a certain way.

Is there a woman in the limelight that has made you stop and think or say: “hey wait a minute…I kind of look like her!”? Do you think changing the industry standards needs to come from the models and actresses themselves? The viewers? The industry? Or maybe everyone needs to chip in? Do you know of other examples of a movement towards a new body culture for women?

33 Thoughts to “Beauty of a Woman – Body Culture”

  1. As a male who qualifies as not being in the best of shape, lacking a six-pack or huge abs, I found your analysis fascinating, Nicole. To be brutally honest, I have never heard the expression “muffin top” before, but can appreciate your horror at hearing it used to describe a woman like Brooklyn Decker. Wow.

    For most of my adult life I have believed that the greatest evil in society is advertising – promising false hope at every turn, and always showing us only the most attractive people on the planet in its ads. When is the last time you saw a beer ad that didn’t emphasize sex and feature gorgeous bodies? Have you seen the Moxie restaurant ads? Same thing – all beautiful late-20s/early 30s drop-dead gorgeous women and men.

    I was not aware of Katie Green before your column, but find her to be very attractive in that photo. How can women NOT have curves, FFS? As for Lena Dunham, it took me a while to get into Girls, but I applaud her for what she is doing on that show. She has a less-than-perfect swimsuit-issue body, but hasn’t hesitated to show it in the context of the show, and her character is fine with it. Nothing wrong with that at all. I know the show is aimed at a demographic much younger than me, but the writing is so crisp, it’s hard not to be drawn in.

    You wrote the following: So when a guy made that type of comment, it made me wonder if the “standards of beauty as determined by the industry” are not only affecting women, but are they also raising men’s expectations? My answer – yes, our expectations have been raised by the industry, but have been for decades. Let me ask – by industry, are you referring to the beauty industry? I am assuming so. So who is “to blame” here? The marketers of beauty products, I would say.

    Thank you for a provocative and interesting read.

    1. Interesting conclusion here. I have to put the blame on women themselves. We can sit here and blame the beauty industry all we want, but until women stop using the products and truly believe in their own beauty, we will continue to have this vicious circle. Women need to become more self aware, more confident in themselves, and carve out to the beauty industry what WE think is beautiful, and not the other way around. JMHO.

      1. I agree that consumers have a LOT more power than they realize.

  2. […] Nicole Basaraba: Beauty of a Woman – Body Culture […]

  3. Wow! B Decker and muffin top in the same sentence? Unbelievable. This is why some women are aneorexic. They are trying to erase their curves to fit some illogical definition of beauty.
    We need more mainstream media outlets to imitate Dove’s beauty campaign and embrace the idea of healthy body shapes in all sizes. I was similarly shaped like Katie Green before I veered off course with years of unhealthy eating, but I am on track to get back to that size through exercise and healthy eating.

    1. Thanks Amaryllis. I also think there are women who would like to “erase their hips” because of what we’re used to seeing in the media. I think being healthy is beautiful no matter what shape that ends of being.

  4. […] Nicole Basaraba: Beauty of a Woman – Body Culture […]

  5. I hate that a size 14 is considered a plus size model. Thank you for sharing. While I don’t use Dove (too many chemicals for a chemically sensitive person), I do love their campaign.

    1. I don’t use Dove either, but I think they did well in making one of the first moves towards some positive change.

  6. I think the reason many women still look up to Marilyn Monroe as “beauty” is because she’s much closer to the rest of us than today’s models and movie stars! IIRC, she would be a size 12 today – and would be considered plus size in the modeling industry. She also had curves, like most of us do. The movie, TV, and advertising industry have always depicted unrealistic portrayals of “beauty” but it’s gotten worse through the decades. I’ve met men with those unrealistic expectations. Funny thing is, they usually don’t have washboard abs and big biceps… and they’re usually alone.

    1. Hi Jennettee. Yes, my point about referring to Marilyn Monroe is that she was held as a standard of beauty in HER time and I think there are should be more current examples now, like Katie Green, that we can refer to. Also, thanks for your comment about men’s expectations. I’ve met quite a few of them as you describe as well.

  7. Brave, beautiful… human. I’m still thinking, feeling, processing… trying not to get angry as my own memories of similar feelings to Kate Spencer’s Daily Beast post you linked to (thank you) come through and I look at directories and directories of pictures of my son’s birth and infancy that I hide away not comfortable looking at because I didn’t look better in them….

    This was a great post, Nicole.

    Short thoughts:
    –The so-called “muffin top” is nothing more than a poorly designed swimsuit.
    –The Dove commercial/ad I think was trying to show that being happy and comfortable in your “tidy whities” was fine and beautiful.
    –Other gorgeous “plus size” models? There are tons of them… It’s hard to believe that television and movies cannot find any to put on their shows.

    Here’s one cool article:
    http://www.lovelyish.com/724324902/french-elle-features-model-who-actually-looks-plus-sized/

    Here’s another:
    http://www.complex.com/style/2012/12/the-10-plus-size-fashion-models/#gallery

    All are gorgeous…and the guy who commented on the muffin top, were it real life, would be lucky if he got a second glance from any of them. 😉

    1. Great comments Eden! Thank you. I will also go check out these links.

  8. Fantastic topic, and one that has irked me for years. I hate seeing the cover of tabloids with those “shocking” photos that scream “Guess who’s not ready for the beach?” Ugh. The guy who wrote that crap probably has a beer belly to his knees and walks the beach without the slightest hint of embarrassment. He should. But why do so many men (and many women) feel it’s a sin for a woman who isn’t a size 0 to show her body at the beach?

    You’ve asked a great question, but a difficult one. I think changing the situation begins with us as consumers. I’m glad to see more designers offering stylish lines for women with curves. So many stores act like because I have hips I suddenly want to start wearing a tent with a tablecloth print on it. Then there is the fact that many department stores put the plus size section in the “basement” or some other obscure section of the store, as if women with curves should be hidden away.

    1. I did not know they have the plus size section in the basements in some places. That’s interesting.

  9. Eden made a great point here: “The so-called ‘muffin top’ is nothing more than a poorly designed swimsuit.” For years, Sports Illustrated has featured women in swimsuits that are way too small for them…I suppose to make their breasts and buttocks stick out. *groan*

    As a woman who spent much of my life being not curvy at all, what I notice is that most thin models aren’t naturally thin; that’s the problem. Most of those women look like they need about 10-20 pounds to be healthy. The plus-sized model you featured looks healthy. I don’t even like the discussion of sizes anymore…because some women are healthy at size 2 and other women are healthy at size 14. We come in all shapes and structures, and pretty exists in all of those. Wonderful post, Nicole.

    1. I totally agree Julie. Being a healthy weight for your age and height are what’s important. Health also comes with better looking hair, skin, etc.

  10. Well said, Nicole. I also hugely admire models who are willing to show their bodies without aiming for a size 0. There’s something incredibly gorgeous about such women. Their confidence speaks volumes. As to your question at the end of your post, I think change comes from all involved but it must start somewhere. Probably the two strongest areas would be from the models or from the consumer base. The market will always follow whatever will make it money. If realistic women will make it money, they’ll follow.

    1. I’ve heard that many men find confidence (not arrogance) to be one of the sexiest qualities in a woman. Hopefully more campaigns will continue to develop, more consumers will make effective decisions and more models like Katie Green will take a stand.

  11. I have been on the receiving end of criticism of women (orI have heard it in fitting rooms) when women make comments to their friends or daughters, telling them they look fat in a particular outfit. Sometimes those women just have the hips you are describing! I have wanted to say something but decided against it, not wanting to get into a fistfight in the dressing room at Marshall’s! Women have to change our mindsets about beauty as much as men.

    1. Excellent point Renee. We as women also have adopted some of the perceptions of beauty and I’ve also heard/seen examples like the one you mention in Marshall’s. Good thing you can comment on blogs to get your ideas out = non violent method. haha.

  12. Love your post. I have a ten year old daughter and have love/hate relationship with Disney channel. One thing I do like about their shows is that the kids shown have a range of body types, so kids do see that variety of sizes as normal (granted the stars conform to thin, and their friends offer variety–but at least its progress). One thing I do see, especially for kids coming into themselves, that bigger (as in simply bigger than size 0 or 2) gets translated as big, which can devastate their body image and yet they are perfect as they are. Its hard out there, so even small steps forward matter.

    1. Hi Sabrina. Yes, I didn’t even think as far back as kids and young girls and you’re right I’ve heard that body issues are starting earlier and earlier. It could be that it is even appearing in children’s shows, which is sad. I remember all the Disney princesses of my day being thin, but it was never the focus or an issue.

  13. Kim Jorgensen Gane

    I have always been bothered by men not holding themselves to the same standards of beauty & attraction by which they judge women. I mean, look in a mirror! You’ve aged! We’ve aged! Get over it! Thankfully my husband is not one of those guys, and he loves me for who I am on the inside and for the life we’ve built together. I think I’ll keep him.

    1. As I think a few other ladies have mentioned, there are quite a few average men who hold women to surprisingly high standards. So nice that you have a man that loves you all around! Definitely a keeper.

  14. I have taught my children, one a girl and one a boy, that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and that every one is unique, every one is special. We have no choice how we are born, and we don’t know what a person has been through that may have caused him/her to look a particular way.

    What we teach our children is far more important, I believe, and lasting than images portrayed in the media. We teach our children to have a healthy distrust of what they see and hear, and to be aware of the source and its intent.

    That is what I believe makes a difference. If every adult taught the children in their life to treat others with respect and with understanding that it’s the inside that matters most, perhaps we wouldn’t have the issues regarding body image because of other people’s negative comments.

    1. I couldn’t agree more that parental education is pertinent and not just in the case of physical beauty. Good on you Jolyse for making sure your kids know what’s what. 🙂

  15. Wow, pretty shocking how guys could argue with any of that!

    And I have GOT to get Girls in my library queue. I’ve heard great things and haven’t seen it yet.

    1. You HAVE to watch Girls. It’s great writing and very “real-life” if a TV show can be considered as such. lol.

  16. This. is. awesome.

    I’m a Melissa McCarthy body type, and I am striving to be a Katie Green (love her new-to-me campaign) body type. I savor the thought of having a body as gorgeous as hers is – a real, womanly, healthy body. That a man would think Brooklyn Decker’s hips constituted a muffin top is disturbing and little disheartening.

    I haven’t seen Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” but I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback about it – from women. Thank you so much for addressing this topic, Nicole! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ellen! I love your description “a real, womanly, healthy body.” Very true.

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