When Did This Become Hotter?

when-did-this-become-hotter-than-this[1]By Rebecca Gardner

Because of its popularity on the Internet, this image has been a hot button of conversation, controversy, and conflict. Comparing thin modern day celebrities to slightly more voluptuous sex-bombs of a former era, these pictures make a statement: the standard of beauty is no longer realistic and the ideal is too thin.

This simply isn’t true.

Yes, women are judged on a harsh scale when it comes to body shape and size. But this meme reinforces it.

By stating that the women on the bottom row are hotter, beauty is narrowly defined and women who don’t fit are marginalized. A woman may be naturally thin or athletic but because she lacks Betty’s voluptuous curves her perfectly healthy body is now judged too thin or too athletic.

And who’s defining “what’s best”? John Berger famously declared, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” So “When did this become hotter?” is all about the eyes of men declaring who’s hot. And who’s worthy.

The image also reinforces narrow gender norms. Other than Kiera Knightly’s six-pack, all are bathing suit clad and overtly feminine. Again with the exception of Knightly, all are posed in traditionally feminine ways—tilting heads and submissive stances.

And, all the women are white, no minorities allowed.

Finally, the picture reinforces the notion that outer beauty determines a woman’s worth. And that has huge psychological ramifications—low self-esteem, depression, self-harm. Other interests and talents become diminished as women become more one-dimensional.

In addition to broadening notions of beauty, we need a more solid platform on which women can build their identity. Celebrating intellect, athleticism, creativity, and compassion adds serious dimensions.

Women come in varieties of shapes, colors, heights, widths, personalities and abilities. To celebrate our womanhood, those variations must be recognized and admired, and this image does nothing of the sort.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 9, 2013, in body image, feminism, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Completely my point of view regarding this set of pictures as well, but I have one last and rather shallow point to make. All the photos on the bottom are posed and edited, well lit and all that jazz, whereas the ones on the top are ‘candid’ photos. I know it’s not the point, but it just popped into my head as I was looking at it.
    I wish that attractiveness was simply a matter that concerned the people involved in the attraction, not an entire industry based upon it.

  2. I really dislike this meme as well. I’m naturally thin and find it just places the hurtful comments normally aimed at larger women onto thinner women. It’s not changing anything. Besides, I may be in a minority here but I silently(in my head) objectify men so I can feel less objectified myself. Messed up, yes but it makes me feel better! LOL Why should men “get away with” being out of shape and having unsightly body hair? :P

  3. You summed up my view about this meme entirely. Thank you!

  4. I definitely agree with the fact that just stating what is, and is not sexy makes it hard for women to be comfortable in their own skin. As a man I will acknowledge the fact that the general idea of beauty as far as the media goes has definitely changed, and that change does catch my attention as a male. Even now it is difficult to keep my preferences from influncing my comment in a biased way. With that said I also agree that it is quite obvious that men are controlling the self image of women by showing them women thinner than what we all know as common in real life, I say this because women come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, and personalities; proving the plausible point that somewhere that white men decided they had a preference for the bodies of their women. The fact that there are no minority women in the pictures is appauling to me being considered a minority myself. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, everyone is beautiful even without reassurance from others.

  5. as a larger lady, of course I love to look at the curvier stars of days gone by, and I totally understand where the creator of the meme was coming from. on the other hand, I have a lot of naturally slender friends, and that they are constantly told that they are not “real women” breaks my heart. it seems that no matter how you look, as a woman, you can’t win! and you must always be compared to others. surely we can do better.

  6. Funny how none of this applies to men. Sure, Taylor Lautner is all buff, but it was wrinkly, slovenly Hugh Laurie who got the “sexiest man of the year” award from whatsitsname magazine…

  7. While I agree with the sentiments of this post, I would also like to add that the Internet is a strange and often absurd (on purpose) community.

    The meme shown in the post I think is going out of its way to show a completely lopsided and bias view of what beauty or “hotness” is, as defined by modern popular culture. It shows only extreme examples of modern skinny women, and specifically doesn’t show images of skinnier women from the past (which most definitely existed).

    I would also like to add to the discussion that “skinny” is modern fashion isn’t just a fad for women, but men as well. It seems to just be a general trend in fashion for things like “skinny jeans” to be in.

    (Off-topic, but AMAZING name for a blog. Love it!)

  8. Teresa Gonzalez

    I agree with canbebitter comment “as a woman, you can’t win.” Recently there has been a lot of popularity with curvier women in entertainment (e.g. Kim Kardashian, Sofia Vergara & Beyonce). Hopefully this continues. Actresses and entertainers do have a lot of pressure to stay faintly thin and maintain an image. It would be nice for media to portray real women and represent women in all sizes and ethnicities. We need to support actresses such as Melissa McCarthy and singer, Adele. These full figure women are beautiful and very talented. Hopefully young women can see that talent and beauty come in all sizes.

  9. Although the women on the bottom are a bit more “voluptuous”, I’m not inspired by this picture. All the women in the picture, top row and bottom, are still defined beautiful by only their looks. They are all still slaves to a man’s perspective and what society perceives as outside beauty during their specific time that each posed for their photograph. I agree with the author when she wrote that “the picture reinforces the notion that outer beauty determines a woman’s worth”. So what are any of these women really representing? I personally will never look like any of them, and I don’t aspire to. If I were to play some word association, the first thing that pops up in to my head when I think of Marilyn Monroe is “sex symbol”, when I think of Bettie Page, I only think of “pin-up girl”. In regards to the top row, when I see Heidi (does she have a last name?), I think of “plastic surgery”. When I think of Nicole Richie, I think of “eating disorder”. I admit, I only judge from the outside. I’m sure the women in these pictures have done handfuls of exceptional things with their lives and celebrity status, but who would ever know? Who would ever think of that first? I would choose to have internal beauty than outside hotness any day.

  10. I agree with the post, especially when it says that outer beauty determines women’s worth. Ridiculously, this still is happening today, and it will continue. I witness in my real life that often sexy beautiful women get attention from the guys, sometimes they are priority to other simple women. I love when someone calls me beautiful, pretty, but not sexy. The word sexy makes me feel like I am an object. Actually, I’d rather be called interesting, intelligent. I have to admit that everyone’s desire is driven by appearances, regardless of what someone’s personality or ‘inner beauty’ may be like. I am initially attracted to someone because of their appearance, but once I get to know someone better I can recognize his inner beauty, I fall for him. I would like to think that a man will fall in love with my inner beauty. Yes, I definitely care for my outer looks, but I never ignore how to look beautiful from inside too because i know that beauty won’t last, it will fade with time.

  11. This article is so true,women are always subjected to being criticized about the way they look,first beautiful ment being thin and now being sexy means having curves. this is driving women crazy ,always having to change to fit into what society thinks is “hot”,no wonder why so many women are so depressed and have low self esteem,they can never seem to fit into society views.Woman are always going to be ridiculed If these types of pictures are being put up. We will never be taken seriously or looked at for what matters like our personality and abilities. Every woman is beautiful and we all come in different shapes and sizes and colors, being beautiful shouldn’t only pertain to the outside but rather for who we are and our character.

  12. I fully agree with this article. So many women convince themselves that they are fat and that they should therefore strive to lose weight when they look completely fine. The spectrum in regard to female beauty is so narrow that those who do not belong in it greatly suffer psychologically. Through television shows, films, and music videos, the idea that thin women are what society values and the idea that women who are not thin should be ashamed are endlessly indoctrinated into women. Through activism, those who shape popular culture should continually be reminded of the adverse effects that they are producing and influenced to widen the spectrum in regard to female beauty significantly.

  13. This meme is posing a loose question, when did famous woman’s body types trend to rather skinny? Visually comparing the 1940s/1950s pin up style adds and fashion shoot photos with candid photos of today’s overexposed starlets at the beach. The meme is doing a poor and improper comparison. I do think the “Hotness” meter is generated mostly by the fashion industry, media (specifically films, television, and magazines) famous woman are told what to wear, and how to portray their brand/image by designers, stylist and publicists. In turn influencing the public substantially. I have never heard a man say woman are sexy when they wear bubble dresses and chunky accessories. But woman spend a fortune on fashion because the industry has pitched that you will be attractive to men if you are stylish.
    The comparison of images and question is simply stupid and obvious to me. If they are really just asking when did woman get so skinny the answer is…. between the 40s and 2000s!
    The 60s fashion portrayed woman still curvy and feminine with the exception of the fashion icon Twiggy. The 70s did not vary much with body types. The 80s was definitely a change the “lets get physical” revolution was in full swing and woman who were “hot” where healthy athletic sun kissed ladies with lots of cheer! Black woman where also advertised more commonly but I couldn’t say the same for ladies of Asian or Latin decent.
    So to answer the meme the 90s! In the 2000’s many minority woman are found to be attractive skinny to curvy such as Beyoncé.
    Fashion and the media are influenced by each other, current affairs, pop culture trends, cultural issues and more, and because trends and styles are always evolving I do think the skinny obsessed society will trend to a healthier look in due time.
    The real problem this meme has though is that it is yet another way to suggest the woman are only hot if they have the “correct” body type and pose in some “sexy” manor for a photo! I suppose, as ladies we need to use our consumerism to show these industries what is expectable to us. For example only buying periodicals that portray woman as healthy and diverse!

  14. Yes, I agree with the writer. We all have heard the saying, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”, but it is also true that the viewer’s eye is shaped by the images that are thrown at as, by the media. Today, we live in a media world where we are constantly exposed to what we think is a female ideal. We are constantly fed with images of beautiful thin, sexy and happy woman in magazines, newspapers, commercial on television, advertisements, movies, internet. This current ideal of beauty leads to so much physical and mental suffering. Anorexia and bulimia cases are increasing, especially among young girls. Also pictures of famous moms in media, who quickly got in shape after pregnancy are everywhere, which results in women having plastic surgery, going on crazy diets in order to get this “quick fix”. Fashion designers, makeup companies and those who hire models, are the one who show the society this fake visual body and face ideal. They need to start thinking about the consequences and take responsibility for their actions. Let`s hope for a change soon.

  15. I am so glad that you have brought this picture up for discussion. For many people this was such a great picture because it was taking attention away from the abnormally skinny women in society which many try to imitate. Yet, at the same instance it was causing every woman to try and decide which category they fit in. When i looked at the picture i know i am on the smaller scale, i can feel a bit insecure about myself because i don’t have those “womanly” curves. It’s not okay to categorize women by shape. I too believe that every woman is beautiful and different, better yet beautiful because they are different.

  16. I think that sometimes men and women think that they are being progressive when they reject the pressure on women to be very thin. However, memes like the one in the article are just enforcing another form of body shaming. We should be embracing all healthy female body types. A women’s femininity shouldn’t be defined by how curvy she is just like a women’s attractiveness shouldn’t be defined by how thin she is.

    Also, the idea that there is/should be a single standard of beauty, be it thin or curvy is absurd. Women are naturally all different shapes and sizes. The pressure to mold your body into whatever the current ideal body trend is leads to serious confidence issues.

    The meme also seems like it comes from a place of entitlement or arrogance. Like, how dare women embrace a body type that they are not personally attracted to.

  17. I fully agree with this article. The spectrum in regard to female beauty is so narrow that those who do not belong in it always suffer psychologically. Various forms of popular culture such as television shows, films, and music videos influence so many women to want to modify themselves because they make them think that they are not beautiful. This picture is indeed such. In my opinion, through activism, those who shape popular culture should continually be reminded of the adverse effects that they are producing and be influenced to widen the spectrum in regard to female beauty significantly. Kiera Knightley is beautiful in her own way, and Marilyn Monroe is in her own way. Beyonce is beautiful in her own way, and Janis Joplin is beautiful in her own way. Scarlett Johannsson is beautiful in her own way, and Meryl Streep is beautiful in her own way. It is simply stupid to define what is beautiful specifically.

  18. Looking at the picture it reminds again how women no matter what they do or how they look are never good enough and they have to live up to the social norms that are extremely stressing. I myself have been skinny most of my life not because I have wanted to but I just never gained any weight and I was always teased about this. And I agree this picture only reinforces the fact that women are suppose to look a certain way and if they aren’t they need to which of course leads to other issues. I’m just saying that as hard as it is women need to start appreciating who they are no matter how they look and all the possibilities of what they are capable of doing. I know living in this society it is the hardest the thing to do but I also believe its not impossible.

  19. I think we can all agree that women should be proud of their bodies whether they are thin or curvy. A healthy body and a healthy mind is ultimately what every woman desires. Yes their are women out there who go beyond lengths to maintain what seems like an unhealthy “thin”, and that’s where the line is crossed from the society’s pressure of a sexy image. But there are plenty of women who maintain a healthy and physically active lifestyle and are as thin as the women in the top tier of this meme. No matter what, curvy or thin, men will be interested in what they like. Some like curvy and some like thin. Does it make one hotter than the other? Only in whosoever eyes is judging.

  20. Personally this article is actually very much true because thats the first thing someone says when they see me. “Your beautiful”!,and i ask them whats beautiful about me and they respond that they like my body. First of all you can’t even see my body through my clothes and second your saying that because I am skinny. People view skinny people as beautiful all the time. Ive met a lot of skinny people and they are not beautiful to me personally because of their personality. Ive met a lot of people that arent’ on the skinny side and they have the best personality in the world and in my eyes they are beautiful to me. I think people forget about what’s really inside about a person then just viewing them on what’s outside. All that matter’s really is if a women is taking care of themselves by eating right and working out. Nobody should just judged on their size because everyone in the world is different.

  21. I think the way society is set up no woman can ever feel comfortable in there own skin because society’s view on what is beautiful is all messed up! Women feel that skinny, light complected skin and straight long hair is beautiful and don’t embrace there beautiful brown, kinky hair and vivacious curves. The image above doesn’t even contain any minorities and it only talks about white women and there view on whats beautiful the meme doesn’t focus on all women of all ethnicity’s and body image. I also feel that because the world is so male dominant that women won’t ever feel comfortable unless they love themselves because mens views on beauty can impact a woman’s self esteem. For example, in a lot of music videos the light skinned, big butt girls with long hair are considered more superior than the adverage skinny girl with a darker shade of skin and no butt shots or breast implants. I honestly think women should learn to love themselves and stop focusing so much on the media. DEFINE BEAUTY FOR YOURSELF, LEARN TO EXCEPT YOURSELF WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL!

  22. Women and Beauty have always been a topic for discussion among both men and women. Women define their beauty and worth through societies ideals. The sex-bombs from the former era at that time were deemed beautiful by society, therefore it was. And who controls the main sphere of societies norms and culture? Men. Men have dominated the sphere of education, work and culture for many centuries, giving women little to no influence on the images that are made by men for women. Men say that being skinny is ideal today therefore women feel that, that is what beauty is. Unfortunately like Rebecca Gardner had mentioned “By stating that the women on the bottom row are hotter, beauty is narrowly defined and women who don’t fit are marginalized”. So either way someone is left out and is categorized as undesirable. I completely agree that it creates women to become more one dimensional. The only solution is to begin to change the image of women by recognizing that any variation of a women is beautiful. To combat this wrongly portrayed image of women, women need to recognize that it is not nature that determines beauty but society and culture that does. And lucky for us, change is always inevitable, especially if there is someone out there willing to change it.

  23. I’ve seen this photo go around on Facebook before and it amazes me how much being so called “beautiful” changes with the time. But one thing that stays the same is that it’s all about looks. No one ever talks about a woman’s personality, or how smart they are, or how nice they are. It’s all about what size they are and if they have a physically appealing face. I have always been told I was pretty, but not many people have said you are so smart, or nice. I went out on a few dates with this guy once and he kept saying that I was beautiful and that I had a nice body. I was a little frustrated that he kept saying these things so I asked him why he liked me besides my looks. He couldn’t come up with anything and the date-ended right there. The fact that I had been friends with this guy for two years, went on three dates with him, and he couldn’t even come up with one valid reason he liked me pissed me off. Beauty and worth should not be based on looks, what really needs to be looked at is the persons overall personality because at the end of the day we have to interact and deal with each other’s personalities, not looks.

  24. Jessica Silva

    Wow… This article is in my opinion is agree to disagree. I believe that no matter what women look like whether big, small, short, tall and pretty or ugly people will always find something to criticize women just to make them feel bad or at times less of a person. But at times, also words makes us women feel go or bad especially if it’s regarding our bodies and our looks. For example if you were to call a women sexy it’s a compliment or an insult because you don’t know how that person feels about their physical appearances. Women at times feel certain ways because of what the media puts out for us to see and how to look. We try to be what were not and do things that at times aren’t the right things to do. But that’s because were influences by the media, magazines and celebrities. In my opinion I think everyone is BEAUTIFULL in their own ways.

  25. This article is very accurate. Women are always being judged by other women first on how they look. We live in a society now where women think being thin is beautiful but it really isn’t. It’s unhealthy and risky, the things women do to become thin. Even if you were thin and beautiful, other women will still find something to criticize about in you. Curvy or thin, I think men will still be interested whether you’re thick or thin. I agree with Jessica that everyone is beautiful in their own ways!

  26. Mei Yan Anson Lui

    I agree with the author that the standard of beauty is no longer realistic and the ideal is too thin. In today’s world, the standard of beauty has been changed for a few times, from naturalistic to artificial. The trend of plastic surgeries is getting serious now as the definition of beauty right now are long hair, big eyes, sharp face shapes, thin, big breasts and butts. Women who are not qualified to the above conditions will be criticised by males. Thus, it definitely lower women’s self- esteem and self perceptions. Therefore, plastic surgeries are the only solution to rebuilt their self perceptions. Personally, I absolutely disagree with this trend as it is stupid to fulfil something that keep chaining all the time and also a waste of money. Everyone has gifted, I believe inner beauty always more importance than outside beauty.

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