Live Flesh

Zuzu at Feministe noticed a perverse new article on Details, an occasionally homoerotic men’s rag, which includes a picture of the bottom half of a pig’s body, in heels, as an illustration to an article that supposedly praises “curvy” stars such as Gretchen Mol and Scarlett Johansson, among other things. Salon’s broadsheet is echoing Zuzu’s frustration:

…the “Fatties” label and reference to the photo gallery as a “smorgasbord,” and of course the pig in heels, simply confirms the high esteem in which Details’ editors hold women who don’t starve themselves.

As a woman who used to be extremely thin, and as someone who veers from enjoying my curves and the occasional ice cream sundae to crying hysterically in front of the mirror at night and wishing I could chop my hips off and feed myself to cannibals, I AM SO BLOODY TIRED OF THIS.

Can’t I just go a day, or an hour, without being bombarded by messages in the media about what I “should” look like? Can shallow men’s magazines stop having a laugh at the expense of those of us who do not snort cocaine for breakfast just to fit into those jeans from GAP Kids (and let’s be real here, there are plenty of normal, small people out there, but Kate Bosworth is not “naturally” skinny as one Broadsheet commenter claims; she was healthy and hot in “Blue Crush” and has since dwindled down to the point of resembling a couture-clad pogo-stick)?

Why is that the minute I travel outside of America I do not feel the need to flatten my hips? Why is it that I don’t feel the need to diet myself into oblivion when I’m in Ukraine? And hey, I’m not even considered overweight. I’m basically at my healthiest weight, and yet somehow I am not at peace.

I can only imagine what a size 12 woman would feel whilst looking at an article like that, but I’m guessing that all those asswipes in Broadsheet’s comment-section telling her to be a good fucking sport would probably fail to amuse her.

This is beside the fact that most of the women considered “fat” by the editors of Details are only really large in the bosom. Or is Liz Taylor in her heyday reall “fat”? And does that mean that the new “fat” is pretty much anything above a size 0?

How odd and discouraging and catty. Look at the VENUS painting at the top of this blog. Venus, the goddess of love, ring any bells? The editors of Details would call her a bloody porker and tell her to go see Dr. 90210 for a tummy-tuck. Yuck.

P.S. One reader on Pandagon said something that made me feel very anxious and sad:  “This is the kind of stuff that scares me as the father of a daughter.” This stuff is bad enough when you’re 22, but a whole lot worse when you’re 12.

24 thoughts on “Live Flesh

  1. To be honest, I think one has to be awfully sensitive about their weight in the first place to be offended by that article.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t serious body image issues, but that article, to me, isn’t advocating anorexia unless you’re on a witch hunt from the start.

  2. PLUS, I don’t understand why people advocate fat as sexy. Curves are sexy. Fat isn’t. Boobs are hot, hips are hot, but tummy rolls and cellulite…not hot. Obesity certainly isn’t sexy and advocating a person’s right to be accepted as such is only furthering a serious health issue.
    If you want to get down to the basics, its a matter of being healthy.
    I don’t see Venus with a double chin.

  3. Yes, but neither is Venus a size zero, is she? The article calls people like Charlotte from “Sex & The City” “plate-scrapers” which is ludicrous because Kristin Davis is a size 4. Kristin Davis is not obese. Neither is Gretchen Mol. I don’t understand how someone can look at them and call them “fat,” unless, of course, having an ounce of fat on your body immediately qualifies you for Details’ little porker-fest.

    As for basics, the Venus of Willendorf certainly has Girgione’s Venere beat:

  4. And while I’m at it, Marilyn Monroe? Size 14 for most of her career. Heck, she’s featured in their little “plate-scrapers” slideshow alongside Kristin Davis.

    I’m not exactly sure how is it that I’m advocating obesity, but calling Monroe, Mansfield, and Taylor “plate scrapers” is certainly promoting anorexia.

  5. I’m not explaining myself clearly…which is why you have a blog and I don’t. 😉

    All I’m saying is that everyone gets so hung up on political correctness. I saw someone’s comment on the other website complaining that none of the girls in the slideshow was “overweight”. and….? It’s an attitude that in order not to give in to media body image, you have to let yourself completely go. Get fat, pimply and greasy and then blame the system for why no one wants to sleep with you.
    We’d all like to believe that when men say they love curvy they mean a size 14, but who are we kidding…when we’re a size 14, we don’t look like Marilyn Monroe.

    Did Details need a disclaimer: Details is in no way calling these girls overweight. We are not responsible for any binges at McDonalds. Oh, and no pigs were harmed in the making of this article!

  6. Jumping in on this, if I may…

    The interesting thing about this article is the way it tries to “set standards” of what exactly is thin/fat and what isn’t, and I have to agree that it is disingenuous about it. On the one hand it presents itself as an advocate for the larger body, but by defining “larger” with many women who are, in fact, very thin, there is huge potential for guilt-tripping; it’s like saying “you are allowed to be exactly this fat, but any larger and you belong in the same category as Gilbert Grape’s [morbidly obese] mother,” who is mentioned in the article as typical of “the way the public really looks.” It readjusts the point at which the fat-meter is set and has the potential to leave people who DO have healthy bodies feeling that they are on the wrong side of it.

    To get personal about it, it doesn’t matter how careful I am with my diet or how much time I spend at the gym–I could drop out of the rest of my life now to devote all my time to taking care of my body and I’d STILL never look like, for instance, Evangeline Lilly or any of the other supposed “chubby chicks.” Does that make me Gilbert Grape’s mother? Um, no. No, it doesn’t. But if I were an insecure fourteen year old girl whose self-esteem was closely tied to her appearance and who tended to think in extremes, I could see how I could think it would.

  7. Comment deleted as desired. I agree completely with both ya’ll. Details is very stringent when it comes to what’s fat and what’s not fat, and there really isn’t any wiggle room with them. I don’t like that. I think they could have made a good article out of this (hell, Anna Wintour is a good example of skinny-yet-not-freaky), but they turned into a frat-joke instead. We’re old enough to deal with it, but the little girls are not, and they do read this crap nowadays.

  8. I’m confused . . . On the one hand, you resent being made to feel overweight by American standards of pulchritude and find escape from those standards in Ukraine. And yet when a European goes to the Ukraine for exactly the same reason:

    It was absurd and degrading, the idea that he would automatically think me and my friends to be sexually available or even remotely interested in his fat ass, because we were Ukrainian (and poor and desperate and foolish) and he was English (and clever and cunning and wealthy by our meager standards).

    You can see the problem?

  9. No, I can’t see the problem. Sex-tourists don’t go to Ukraine “for exactly the same reason.” Not to mention the fact that there is a vast difference between my size 4 frame, which does reqire to be “loved” for money, and an obese sex-tourist on the prowl for young girls to buy. Perhaps if men like him weren’t exploitative fucks who wanted to humiliate me for the sake of their own self-aggrandizement, I might be a little more forgiving. Real beauty is on the inside.

    It’s back to the drawing board for you.

  10. Oh, and girls in Ukraine are generally not pressured to be thin. That doesn’t mean that they’re not pressured in other ways. I have to go to the grocery store in heels, because of the culture there, and always, ALWAYS answer to the fact that I have no desire to marry my boyfriend and have a kid, like, now.

    Perhaps your problem is not knowing enough about the funny way Ukrainian society pressures its young women, and the not-so-funny way Ukrainian economy leaves them so few options. Confusion is an appropriate term, yes.

  11. True, I do not know anything specific about Ukrainian culture. And most of what I know about IMBs I learned here. But it is clear that the man you described is regarded by women in his own country as being, on balance, undesirable as a mate: he’s thought old, overweight, and “charismatically challenged.” Fair enough, I’m not disputing your assessment. But what if he finds a place where these handicaps are outweighed by some other factor in his favor (money, probably)? If that place happens to be the Ukraine, what is he to do? Stay home? What for?

    The intentions of such a man may be honorable or otherwise (though from what I have read of your blog, you probably object to this dichotomy as it is commonly understood). But that is not unique to its transnational character; plenty of men behave badly in the West . . . and get away with it because they are handsome, “cool,” rich, or whatever. And, of course, plenty of women have mercenary motives of their own, trade up their relationships, etc.

    Absent any externalities I don’t know about, this man has only expanded the choices available to Ukrainian women. That these choices, to use a technical term, suck is not his fault. And Ukrainian women are as free as they always were to respond to his overtures as you did.

    Yes, it would be nice world if Ukrainian women had more choices. It would be a nice world if American women didn’t feel pressured to be thin by the standards of American men. Hell, it would be a nice world if the man you describe had more choices in his own country. But we can’t really all marry Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, and the fact we can’t is nobody’s fault.

    I know you have written passionately about the threats and violence used to coerce Ukranian women into the sex trade. Please do not construe what I have written as an apology for this. But I would be surprised if there are enough visitors from the West to sustain this industry, even if mere prostitution was their objective, though surely they could save their travel expenses by staying in local markets.

  12. The major global sex-trade is a billion-dollar industry, and those billions are not being spent by average Ukrainian men who make a little over a grand a year. Prostitutes can be procured anyway but, a) a sex slave who will do your bidding and/or b) a woman desperate enough to feign being in love with you, are commonly found in economically underdeveloped nations such as Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Thailand, etc. Of course, you are talking about “travel expenses,” and don’t even realize how many thousands of these women are “imported” abroad every year.

    Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, i.e. standards of beauty, are not the issues that drive this so-called market. On the practical level, it’s poverty, and on the intellectual level, it’s dehumanization. “Nobody’s fault”? I don’t think so.

    “The Natashas” by Victor Malarek is very informative on the subjects, it includes interesting statistics. Though Malarek focuses only on the trafficking aspect of the sex-trade, it’s nevertheless a good place to start.

  13. I mentioned “travel expenses” because the subject of the original post was the fat-ass who traveled to Ukraine because he believed his romantic (for want of a better word) prospects to be better there. I don’t have any numbers on how many such men there are in Ukraine at any one time. Dozens? Hundreds? Judging from the Harper’s article I cited, most of them are there, not to have sex with a prostitute whom gangsters forced into the sex trade, but rather to meet, date, and marry a Ukrainian woman. Their lack of social skills means that they pursue this objective with cringe-inducing incompetence–but that does not, in and of itself, make them evil, or dehumanizing.

    But let’s say that his intention is not marriage, but only to “score” with women during his trip. I happen to have an opinion about its morality, but does this not describe the behavior of any number of Brad Pitt clones who trade on their status (physicality, success, style, whatever) to get sex with lots of women? This is now routine in America’s hook-up culture, but it does not suddenly become immoral because fat-ass crossed a border to do it. His travel is only a function of his own relative “market” value in one country versus another.

    In contrast, many Ukrainian women will feign romantic interest in such men for their own mercenary motives. Why should this mendacity escape moral opprobrium?

    Yes, poverty is bad–but it is not the fault of fat-ass. Dehumanization is bad (at least, I think it is; I’m not sure it’s been defined)–but unless force and violence are involved, I’m not sure how fat-ass is doing it any more than the Brad Pitt clones who operate with impugnity. A poor menu of life-choices for women is bad–but fat-ass’ romantic options are also bad or nonexistent compared to those of the average American woman, hence his travel to Ukraine. Relative scarcity is what drives this market, and there is plenty of that to go around.

    The indictment of fat-ass seems to come down to: “American women won’t sleep with you, so Ukrainian women shouldn’t either.” I don’t think this is an objective standard.

  14. No, the indictment of the fat-ass is far more grave than that.

    Men like him are sexist, desiring an “obedient” (i.e. financially dependant) “wife,” and prejudiced, thinking they, as Westerners, are entitled to be worshipped by the world’s poor for their cash. You can view such arrangements from the colonialist and/or capitalist perspective, wherein the poor, if they are desirable enough, become objects to be purchased.

    I take it you’ve never seen an American dude wave a gun around after his Eastern European “wife” has run for the hills. I have. It’s not pretty.

    The American hook-up culture is somewhat more equalized, but then again, I’m not saying it’s rosy either. Not sure where you got that. It is also my belief that men are able to trade “status” because they are men, not because they happen to look like Brad Pitt.

    So don’t shed any tears for the fat-ass and his buddies, please.

  15. Market analysis is useful because it describes and predicts human behavior at the margins of the population. It’s application to subjects like sex and religion does not (or should not) imply that people are property (in the moral or legal sense) or that transcendance is illusory and all faithful are hypocrites.

    So . . . men want what they want. So do women. This is the “demand.” Likewise, men and women are what they are: more and less rich, successful, beautiful, handsome, healthy, obedient, faithful, gentle, humorous, sexy. This is the “supply”, and the medium of exchange. You are, no doubt, a better judge than I as to the source of Brad Pitt’s appeal, but whatever it is (and it isn’t manhood, strictly speaking), he has more of it than I do. Since the demand for Angelina greatly exceeds the supply, he married her, and I didn’t. This is the way markets work.

    Fat-ass may have a sense of entitlement. If this sense is not based on reality, be assured he will return to his native land as sexually frustrated as when he left it. On the other hand, if his sense of his own status in Ukraine is based on reality, then he will be successful in his pursuits. His own experience will judge, and be punishment enough.

    You write that the American hook-up culture is more “equalized,” by which I assume you mean that women enjoy relatively greater economic opportunity. Fine. But why, if material poverty is so bad and unfair, are we so quick to dismiss the sexual poverty of the fat-asses of the world. No doubt, most women dismiss the lack of sex compared to the lack of money. But men have their perspective on the question too: how many men, given the choice beteen Brad Pitt’s money (supposing that it did NOT carry the prospect of improving their sexual market value) and Brad Pitt’s wife, would choose the latter?

    Another example: Tom Hanks and Chris Atkins are both stranded on tropical islands, enjoying similiar material poverty. Yet one tries to escape, while the other wants to stay. Get the picture?

    If I shed a tear for fat-ass, it is because I know that, given competent government, the Ukrainian standard of living will eventually improve. But fat-ass will never get a date in America.

  16. ***Likewise, men and women are what they are: more and less rich, successful, beautiful, handsome, healthy, obedient, faithful, gentle, humorous, sexy.***

    Some of your views on human relationships are frightening to say the least. Goodbye.

  17. I would make an educated guess that Marilyn’s size 14 in the 50s would be about a 6 or 8 today (thank you bracket creep) – which is still damned hot if carried in the right places (as she did – and as Scartlet and the rest do). Attractiveness is mostly about proportionality (ie ratio of hips to waist to bust to shoulders, etc), and the absence of excessive fat in unattractive places.

  18. You know, I haven’t even thought about those brackets.

    It is funny how they work, even today, even between different stores and types of clothes. A particular Gap size, for me, will not match the same J.Crew size for example (yes, I’m a horrible person who shops at J.Crew, I don’t bloody care what anyone thinks).

    Anyway, thanks for reading my little hysterical rant.

  19. You know, I more or less agree with Ф here on the issue that males who are perhaps less socially desirable ‘back home’ suddenly fall into some sort of evil category, and unjustly so. It’s market economy, not malign intent and whatnot.

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