Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's Better Than Winning The Beauty Contest?

Not being forced into it in the first place.

[Content/Trigger Warning: body shaming, gender policing]

I've written before on the various body-shaming, gender-policing memes, often spread on sites like Facebook, that go something along the lines of "real women have curves, not the body of a 12-year-old boy."

A more recent version of this meme depicts various famous women who are skinny, contrasts them with other famous women (like Marilyn Monroe) who have have curvier bodies, and says some variation of: "this [arrow pointing to curvier-bodied women] is more attractive than this [arrow pointing to skinnier-bodied women]."

So, yeah. Gross.

What this body-shaming reminds me of are those memes where conservative women denigrate the looks of liberal/feminist women in order to prop up their own status, stripping other women of their beauty and reinforcing the notion that a woman's most important feature is her sexual appeal to men.

Likewise do these Skinny Women Are Ugly memes arbitrarily strip some women of their beauty in order to enhance the standing of a different group of women.

Both instances accept, rather than reject, the premises that (a) a woman's most important feature are her looks and (b) that there is one true way to a beautiful real woman.

Via Jenny David at at Cyborgology, discussing the Skinny Women meme:

"As Heather Cromarty posted over at Sociological images, these memes pit women against each other in antagonistic comparison, and reinforce male approval as the pinnacle of female success. Rather than escape the male gaze, these attempts at feminist liberation work only to reformulate the desirable ends towards which women control their bodies. In short, the female body continues to be an apparatus of (heterosexual)male pleasure."

I can appreciate fat acceptance and the rejection of conventional beauty standards. Unfortunately, that's not what is going on with the Skinny Women Are Ugly memes.

Rather, the meme has always struck me as instances of uncritical, approval-seeking "You go girl!" fauxminism designed not to empower women, but to divide us and cement our status as the submissive sex class. The big take-away from such narratives, especially when they collide with the pervasive fat-shaming narratives circulating in society, is that if you are a woman and you have a body, you can never be good enough, authentic enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, curvy enough, or pleasing enough to the all-important hetero male gaze.

No thanks.

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