Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Variety is the spice of life

Variety is the spice of life

“Find fits for every body type,” the ad says.

Hmmm, I see tall and skinny in the first frame. Tall and skinny in the second frame. Tall and skinny in the third frame. And tall and skinny in the last frame.

Lisa Wade over at Sociological Images wonders,

Are they actually mocking us? Do they really think we are so stupid as to not find the text and visuals in this ad laughably mis-matched? Are they trying to offend all people outside of this “range” of body types so that they don’t wear their clothes? I just… I don’t know.

She goes on to observe that fashion advice almost always aims at “Getting women’s bodies, whatever shape they might be, to conform with one ideal body type: the skinny hourglass figure.”

The advice is all about trying to hide the shape of a woman’s actual body so that everyone looks just one way. Here’s advice for women with a “pear” shape. Use clothing to:

  • slim your hips and thighs
  • draw attention to the upper part of your body
  • balance your figure with shoulder pads
  • a roomy top will de-emphasize your bottom
  • offset your hips
  • avoid side pockets, they add bulk where you least need it

“Why not highlight that awesome booty and tiny waist and shoulders?” Lisa asks. “Work that pear-shape!”

Others celebrate variety as the spice of life. Check out these lines from a piece called, “That Girl: What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful” @ Absurd Grace.

I want to teach my daughter appropriate and healthy ways of seeing herself so that she doesn’t have to go through the same self-deprecating madness that I went through. It horrifies me that she could possibly grow up to be fearful of being perfectly herself, imperfections and all.

I think I will start with making a rule that she doesn’t look at Teen magazines in order to know what beauty is. Instead I am going to teach her that to look differently is real beauty. To use your natural physical attributes that are unlike everyone else is what makes you charming. And to have a balanced, kind, compassionate soul is desirous. If you can look deep inside of yourself, into your heart, and know that you’ve acted with those characteristics – that is beauty.

Everything else is just detail that can and will change. But who you are, inside, and what makes you different on the outside, that is where the stunning comes in.

I’m on vacation. This is a rerun. (The beauty ideal has changed a bit since this came out — with more of an emphasis on bigger butts — but the ideal remains narrow, none-the-less.)

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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 November 26, 2014, in body image, feminism, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. I agree that these models do not represent different body types. How many woman have this body type? I would say not a majority. It would be nice to see larger woman with more curves and of different heights. I am very tall and have a hard time finding longer pants(it has gotten better since in school, as a kid i was always in “high waders” do to no long length). Nearly all my friends are at least 5 inches shorter than i am, they tend to have different issues with clothing and body types. I think they are all beautiful, and i also get tired of always hearing how to hide different parts of your body because you are not a size 4 with toned abs. Plus size should not be a size 10, that is still way under the average size of a woman. We never hear these things about men’s bodies…what is their perfect size and shape? I think women are too hard on each other and men have some unrealistic views of what a “woman should look like”. We look like this…what we appear as clean from the shower, before make-up, doing our hair and squeezing into clothing that can be uncomfortable. I like to be comfortable in my own skin, so don’t take seriously beauty, fashion advice from magazines or advertisements.

  2. We always accentuate on the outer beauty…to me, the inner beauty matters more and really hard to find these days….

  3. Give me the pear shape all day long and every day. I don’t care if she is a size 6 or 16. What matters most is her intellect, personality, passion, and her sense of self.

    It is truly horrible that women feel they must to hide their beauty to conform.

    Variety IS the spice of life, indeed.

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  4. ” to conform with one ideal body type: the skinny hourglass figure.”

    That sounds like a contradiction, as these women in the picture don’t really have an hourglass figure. Usually skinny women don’t have curvy bodies. Hourglass figure suggest curves to me, not just boobs but hips and butt as well. Victoria’s secret models for example, really aren’t hourglass. It’s deceiving, because people see the bigger boobs for the women’s smaller frame and think that. But hips and round, bigger booty gives the hourglass figure. A woman that is bigger on the bottom, yeah that’s pear shaped. For example, Sofia Vergara, I’d say is hourglass figure and her body is sexy, but it’s definitely not like these models here. Men like women have meat on their bones and legs, hips and ass, so I don’t understand the continual picture of these ads. I find these pictures possibly attractive, but not sexually attractive.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. This isn’t putting anything down as the women’s legs are attractive, etc. But to me personally, I don’t find them sexually attractive, because like I said. I and many guys like curves below and not just up top. The woman on the right, where it shows her butt. Her butt is pretty small and not that curvy. I’m not saying a huge butt, but I like a woman to have a “booty” as well as many guys do. Women with hourglass figures have a “booty” too, like Sofia Vergara, Beyonce, etc.

    • Well, it’s hard on women to have all these strictures they’re expected to follow. No wonder 80% of young women have poor body image. And yet most men find most women sexually attractive, which you have agreed with in other posts. So an awful lot of women end up losing self esteem and feeling unattractive for no reason. Sad.

      • “And yet most men find most women sexually attractive, which you have agreed with in other posts.”

        YES!!

        Unfortunately, most women find most men sexually UN-attractive:)

        I think the reason so many young women have body image issues is because of the popular media/culture. They all have bought into the notion that they have look like “dimes.” If these young women are seeking the attention of the men whom they find attractive, perhaps those men can demand they look like the women pictured above? After all, these men do have lots of options. Options most men do not have. Just saying.

        So, young women should be happy with their bodies. They should stop stressing over how they look to a handful of “hot’ guys.

      • Luckily tastes vary so I’m sure all men will find women who find them attractive. Though it can take some time to find mutual attraction.

  7. Belated wishes for a happy Thanksgiving Georgia….As for body shapes and sizes , it is desirable to maintain a perfectly exercised and toned body but that is not the be-all and end-all . More than the shape and trim , what matters is fitness , even if you are stocky . Above all else , what really matters is your sense of self and inner beauty , which in turn will reflect on your bearing . Like I have a fair idea of what you are , looking at your pic . Enjoy your holiday….with greetings from Mumbai …Raj .

  8. I am a bottom heavy woman. I would like to see a woman represented that didn’t have the same thin figure with big boobs. Us boobless women don’t get much love. 😦 I’m built like iggy azeala.

  9. The way that a lot of models look now a days dont even attract me. I’ve acually talked to a lot of guys seeing if any of them thought they look good that skinny. Almost everyone said that they are really pretty but would look better with more meat on them bones. So I dont get why the goal for women is to look like this instead of a healthy thick woman.

  10. Wow, this ad is like a bad joke! It looks like they just cut and pasted the same person!

  11. I think this ad look good. The model in the picture is tall and skinny. Those Jean look good on those models. But I strongly believe that this picture is not a standard for all women. I think that we can’t be all become model and have good shape. Some people are easy to get in shape than other, some have professional people taking care of their food and exercise everyday so they can get in shape quickly. And we all know nowadays picture using a lot of Photoshop. If the Jean doesn’t fit you or look good on you just go to the store and return them then buy another pair of Jean that you like. When I look at Abercrombie Ads with various men with abs and I thought that look cool, they look good and fit in those clothing. I don’t think there are any problems with the good looking model in the ads and when talking pictures us mostly using some apps on phone or some professional program to enhance the picture. Abercrombie model actually come to the mall shirtless and my girlfriend really enjoy looking at them. To be honest I have no problem with that and I enjoy looking at those abs too because I think that is what we can archive if we can wake up early, work out, eating healthy. I try to work out but then I quit because I like to play video game more and stay up late hang out with friend. I think we can have a happy life without model shape. So I guess for other people if getting in shape is the only thing that makes someone happy, they better work out and see what the best they can archive.

    • Based on observation of people I know, plenty of Women who don’t look like models seem to be happier than plenty women who do. But unfortunately, a lot of young girls don’t understand that an end up getting depressed and feeling bad about themselves.

  12. I think this ad is pretty ridiculous, it is obvious that there are 4 different style of jeans in the picture, and it is clearly obvious that it is the same model in all four of those jeans. How is that variety? If it is a different person in each of those jeans, they could’ve at least tried to have different shapes and heights in each of them. I think girls and women are getting mixed messages all the time. In magazines we see ads of super skinny tall women, and girls wish to be just like them. But in “the streets”, and in today’s popular music all you hear is guys say that they want a girl with “meat on her bones”, a girl with a big butt and curves. And unfortunately you hear women say that they are “real women” because they have curves. Seriously?! That means I’m not real? I am definitely not one of those tall skinny women, and I don’t have all the curves. How is that supposed to make me and other women/girls like me feel? It really upsets me that this society throws all of this on us and expects us to want to be like the women in the ads or the women in the rappers music videos. We as women need to empower each other to be ourselves, no matter our physical appearances and stop trying to conform to what society wants us to be. All women, no matter their size and shape, are REAL WOMEN.

  13. I completely agree most models represent one type of body type. I am short and have big hips and a big booty so I have a hard time shopping. I often go through magazines and see outfits that look really cute but when I go to buy that same outfit it doesn’t look the same as the tall slim model that was wearing the outfit. The hardest thing for me to do is find a nice pair of jeans that fit me perfectly. Normally I have to buy a pair of jeans one size bigger, which causes them to be really long and really loose around the waist. I think jeans are made to fit the tall slim model in the magazine. I wish they would realize that there are women of all different shapes and sizes, and that they would start designing close that will fit the different sizes. As time goes passing it seems as though having a “big booty” isn’t a bad thing any more, and women are even doing squats to try and get a bigger booty.

    • Yeah, we seem to be broadening out a bit, as I note in my comment at the very end. But girls can still and a feeling penned in if they don’t have a few desirable looks — and despite the fact that most men find most women sexually attractive, Anyway.

  14. I so agree- the vastness of feminine beauty has yet to be portrayed in advertising and the media–even when supposedly that is what they are doing. It is my hope that any daughter of mine or for anyone else it will become easier for them to see their beauty unrestricted by society’s limited perceptions.

  15. I find this blog post to be very interesting. The ad goes to show that not all women’s bodies are accepted. The funny thing is, every woman’s body is different. There are such a variety of women’s bodies, yet there is only one that is accepted as beautiful: “tall and skinny.” Our society has such strict standards of beauty that most women do not abide by. Yet so many women strive to be society’s definition of beautiful, which is very impossible to obtain. The media does such a wonderful job of emphasizing the idea that women’s sense of value is directly correlated to their physical appearance. This idea should not be the case yet so many men and women alike internalize the idea that women are supposed to be beautiful and strive towards beauty above all else. I really enjoyed reading the excerpt from “That Girl: What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful.” The words are hauntingly accurate and points out the flaw in our society: young girls are brought up by social pressures to believe that “flaws” are not acceptable. However, these flaws are not even flaws, they just happen to be naturally occurring attributes that mainstream society deems as unattractive.

  16. I find this article interesting as it shows that women don’t fit one size and every woman’s body is different from others but the society tries to conform that there’s only one acceptable body type for women. Women should have the skinny hour glass figure which is attractive. However, this is not true as every woman is different and have different asset to showcase but women are brought up to believe that to be attractive she must conform to what the society believes in about beauty. The media and advertisements are great in emphasizing the ideal beauty that women should strive for and put social pressures to younger girls to believe that beauty is very important. As example this advertisement tries to send a good message that with wearing this jeans will fit every body type but it fails to provide solid evidence as it just showcase different type of jeans with the same body type which is tall and skinny.

  17. That ad is pretty laughable, there is absolutely no way that they think that covers all body types, shapes, and figures for women. I at most see two, and those two are remarkably similar. It’s crazy how much of an influence the media, fashion designers, and big name clothing companies have on what women and especially young women perceive to be beautiful. Skinny is not always beautiful, everything is beautiful in its own way; and truly being yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin is the more beautiful than any false beauty standard there is out there. It’s true and nobody can deny it that beauty standards have gotten completely out of control. The way women are photo shopped in magazines is not even human, no natural human being has those attributes and it gives millions of girls a false sense of beauty that is unhealthy.The beginning of the second quote from That girl What makes you different makes your beautiful, says it all; “It horrifies me that she could possibly grow up to be fearful of being perfectly herself, imperfections and all”. We are all beautiful in our own way and being yourself is the best possible attribute to have.

  18. The idea that women beauty must be constructed into preconceived accepted forms is a very constricting perspective. This concept can be perpetuated by both men and women. If men pursue women like the socially accepted standard because they believe they should, and women construct their appearance because they also believe they have to, then there is no clear end to the cycle.

    Personally, I believe both natural and constructed beauty can exist. I enjoy hikes to experience nature and its simplicity in existence. The timelessness and tranquility people feel from nature is partly attributable to the fact that there isn’t a constantly changing standard of beauty. The woods, mountains, and rivers exist as they were created and have no desire to change to some socially constructed concept of beauty. Yet, these very timeless things are appreciated for natural beauty by countless people.

    There is also beauty in things that have been made. Some things are not naturally occurring, like art, and only exist because an individual has decided to take the steps necessary to create something that didn’t previously exist. There is beautiful art that people have made, and many share an appreciation for the aesthetics and beauty of art. Women should be entitled to alter their appearance, if they choose, but it becomes an issue for society when people decide not to decide for themselves what they find attractive and follow the opinions of others.

    -Spencer

  19. I never really paid close attention to ads that claim that they have different fits for all shapes and sizes. Now that I have read this article I realized that the fit of the jeans pictured in the ads all look the same. Whatever their definition of different shapes and sizes is, is completely different from mine. All of the jeans seem to fit the same and all of the body types pictured look the same as well. I believe that the increase in support for women of all sizes is causing companies to try and sell the same products but in different ways. They can no longer only advertise to women who are extremely thin because they will most likely be called out for it. They have to find a creative way to say that being thin is still the goal without making it as obvious as it was before.

  20. The topic of body image is one that I have yet to come to terms with. Having ‘struggled’ with noticeable weight changes all my life, I find myself insecure about my body image from time to time. As a young adult, I picked up those teenager magazines (i.e. seventeen) with women who looked nothing like me yet I found myself wanting to look like them. As a senior in high school, I had found myself developing an eating disorder. I felt the pressure of wanting to look beautiful and for me at the time beautiful was thin. It also didn’t help that my sister who was 10 months older than me was as thin as a pipe and I well not as thin. I’m thankful that it didn’t get bad to where I needed the doctor or called the attention of my parents but everyone assumed that I lost all my ‘baby fat’. Soon after, I gained back most of that weight. It wasn’t until years later as an a 27 year old woman that I decided to lose weight but this time I lost weight with endless exercise. My obsession wasn’t the exercise but wanting my body to look a certain way. After months and hours of exhaustion, my body did not look like my sister’s or those women on magazines. The idea of having to conform to society’s expectations cost me my time and sanity. Now I understand that most of the advertisements on magazines or like the one above are all photo shopped to look thin and perfection. In addition, women have also had surgery to molded themselves to match society’s expectations (i.e. big breast, big butt, full lips, etc). In real life all women’s body are different and have imperfections and I’m glad I learned to accept and love my body and accept that my jeans do not look like those on the advertisements (and never will!).

  21. I work in retail and I am constantly dealing with women of all shapes and sizes. I working in our jean department and deal with this constantly. It blows my mind that the company is proud to fit the needs of every customer and make sure they leave confident but our manikins who displays the jeans are all size 24 ( a double zero). Most of my customers every day are either 28 or 29 so It frustrates me that we do not support these body types. Sadly within fashion we want to make people feel beautiful but I realized that we do it according to societies definition and not according to what makes them feel confident. Most importantly this needs to change within retail and advertising. I am not proud of working for a company who does this but I can stand up for true beauty within this large company.

  22. This is very true beauty ideals are so far from reality. I watched this TED talk about this one Model, Cameron Russell telling her life as a model, in which she explains that looks aren’t everything. She explains how that girl on the pictures was not her and that it was something superficial that someone else created. That’s a good point in this article since it is true that this type of things (media/ads) have a great impact on the youth. We really need to teach coming generation that beauty ideals don’t always stick to only those tall, skinny and Anglo features everyone wants. Beauty comes in all sizes and in all colors.

  23. In modern times, advertising has brought a lot of illusions to the public. The scenes which are showed to people by both the television advertisements and the posters are processed later. In the advertisements of all fashion brands, the models’ stature is the best, and through later processing, they are made to be “perfect”. The public are accustomed to this atmosphere, and they are actually affected unconsciously. People see this kind of modified advertisements so much that they think people’s stature should be like this, then they go to pursue for this kind of stature, but some excessive pursuit will cause some extreme things happen, especially for the influence of teenagers, in order to have a good stature, some people even go on a hunger strike so that they have anorexia finally. Everyone wants to be beautiful, but people should have a right direction to pursue for the beauty.

  24. Marilyn Jauregui

    Ads like these are truly heart breaking.Telling a woman they all have to be the same size is like telling a dog to walk on its hind legs… I think we need to stop telling women what they have to change and start telling them to embrace what they already have.

  25. This post was very interesting to me as I am always intrigued by how advertisements try to sell their products. I have never seen this particular denim advertisement before, and I definitely think it is one of the most ridiculous ads I have ever came across. Personally, I think it looks like the same model is modeling each pair of jeans, which makes the advertisement all the more ridiculous since it says, “Find fits for every body type”. There is only one body type represented here, and this represented body type does not represent how the majority of women look like. After reading this post, I’ve come to realise that a lot of fashion advice do in fact always seem to favour only one body type. The advice tend to always include something to do with “hiding” parts of one’s body in order to achieve the look of another body type. Instead of advising people to embrace their own figure, a lot of fashion advice try to change their figure into something else. It is unfortunate that our society has such a narrow sense of beauty, and that its strict beauty standards cause a lot of women to struggle with body image issues.

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