The Skinny on the Obsession With Skinny: Whose Obsession Is It, Really?

Recently, my girl friend and I attended a documentary screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. There was a red carpet with a step-and-repeat before the show for members of the media to take pictures of the directors and cast. The small theater we were waiting to enter was showcasing three short films. My friend had worked on the third short being shown so I waited to the side of the carpet, holding the cast and crew’s purses and jackets as they posed and preened for pics taken by the press.

Then, almost in a slow motion teen movie type of way, a group of super cute guys made their way toward us.  Being a single lady, I am always on alert for a flirtatious run-in so naturally I perked up. I made eye contact with one of the guys and we smiled at each other as he made his way to the red carpet. As they waited for their turn in front of the cameras, I sized up the group. I recognized a few of them from TV and then realized that they were in one of the other documentaries being premiered. As soon as it registered who they were – I did something awful: I stereotyped them. I thought, ‘These guys are from Hollywood and most definitely are into hot Hollywood chicks… as in super hot, smoking body, twelve feet tall supermodel doppelgangers.’ While I don’t think of myself as completely misfortunate, I am a mere 5’2” and lets just say nobody is knocking down my door to ask me to model their underwear for a billboard. So, rather than talk to the guy that I had a split-second glance thing with, I threw in the towel and went inside.

Ironically, one of the films premiered that night addressed women’s obsession with beauty and the influence that media has on women’s self-perceptions. Director Lauren Greenfield interviewed renowned fashion photographers, models, actresses and everyday women who openly discussed the pressures women self-impose when it comes to beauty. While this film did not address men and their views, I couldn’t help but feel it related to the core of my own insecurities. I myself don’t buy into the feeling of needing to live up to the ‘perfect’ image constantly being shoved down our throats by the media because I studied fashion photography and have worked in the field for over ten years so I know that the beautiful models have been Photoshopped to a point that as beautiful as they are, in real life they don’t even look remotely like they appear when they appear in print. My belief was that men, for the most part, believe the facade and conclude that a specific body-type defines a female’s desirability and they go off in search of this unrealistic notion of female perfection. This type of thinking made me throw in the towel when I saw the attractive guy outside the theater; I assumed based on his entertainment profession, he would be holding out for someone resembling Giselle Bundchen. Was it stupid of me to stereotype him and pathetically insecure of me to think this way? Absolutely. And yes, of course I realize that not all women aspire for a certain body type solely to attract men – but let’s be real, it’s one of many reasons.

Back to the festival. After the films debuted,  a Q&A session was held with the directors of each filmWhen it came to Greenfield’s turn to discuss her film, she called on one of the guys from the group of gents I had seen entering the film festival. To my surprise, he commented, “Don’t women realize that super skinny model look is not what most men want? We like healthy, curvy womanly bodies.” I might have eye rolled in disbelief. Then, one of his buddies added, “Yeah, I think that the media is really catering to women’s obsession with the perfect body thing – because it isn’t there for us. Most guys I know want something else.” I heard the guys ‘uh-huh’ and nod their heads in agreement.

Um, excuse me – what? Of course – different strokes for different folks, whatever floats your boat, there is a lid to every container – yeah, I get it. Not everyone is into the same thing. But this totally makes sense! Could it be the media is catering to the female obsession with perfection? I mean, look at women’s magazines. We buy them, not men. And most photographs depict our idea of perfection. All along, I had assumed that this super skinny image was being catered to what men want – silly me! What are we feeding into, ladies?! Although this is not breaking news, this was my personal ‘a-ha’ moment. Knowing that not all men are in search of Bar Rafaeli’s body double made me feel better about my own body. I expect some of you to say how sad it is to feel validated by this statement – but I think that I speak for a lot of women. Not all, but some.

I asked a few good men out there – in fact, I went straight to the guys I would have stereotyped before. I asked them what they thought of this column and this is what they had to say:

“Full figured, model skinny, voluptuous; beauty is how a women rocks it. I love all types (of) bodies shapes and colors. As cheesy as it may sound – beauty comes from within!!”  – Hollywood club owner

“My job, in a lot of ways, is to take photographs of very skinny women in order to sell clothes to all of the ‘normal’ women that want to be her… The truth is, we all have different tastes. I crave the day we get back to celebrating the Marilyn Monroe types.” – Fashion photographer

“You always hear guys talking about our love for ‘the girl next door’. I don’t know about your street – but the hungry looking girls making pouty faces, well… they don’t look like any of the girls from my neighborhood.”  – Cutie college student

So basically, we need to give ourselves a break and give that obsession the middle finger. It’s all about being healthy, strong and happy! Let’s not forget that. It should never be about anything – or anyone else.

Oh and you’re probably wondering about that guy. He chased me down after we all left the theater, lifted me up in the street Dirty Dancing style and we ended up making out in the rain. Just kidding, I never saw him again.

  • Lola Jacobs

    As a 5’2″ 95lbs woman (yes I know im on the skinny side but please hear me out) I love this article!! And I believe that a woman’s true beauty lies in her heart and she should be measured by the merits of her personality, not by the number on her scale. I love hearing that men apprecite all body types and I think that men in the public and especially in Hollwood need to be more vocal about this because a lot of time the “Model Syndrome” trickles down to the everyday guy. So thanks Allie for representing the short girls!

    • Allie Kingsley

      Well said, Lola!!! Thank you! xo

  • Brianne Chelius Romrell

    I absolutely loved this Allie! You’re an amazing writer! This is something I’ve struggled with and I love that you’re addressing it! Can’t wait for your book! Love ya sweets!

    • Allie Kingsley

      Thank you Brianne! Your story is amazing and you are an inspiration xo

  • Elisabeth Miller

    This is such a pervasive problem and I love this article!

  • Sarah Sheridan

    I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a cutie and thought “hey cute” which is immediately followed by “but I’m no skinny minnie model” and other negative thoughts of myself, crushing my own fleeting fantasy of meeting someone. Sabotage to myself, constantly. I ruin it before giving guys the chance to ruin it for me! You are right on the money with this, what we do to ourselves. I will now try more often to give my obsession the bird!!

    • Allie Kingsley

      That’s awesome Sarah!!!!! Remember the bird next time you’re faced with those nonsensical thoughts xox

  • Elana Ganopolsky

    great article. I Really appreciated it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Melody DuVal

    I agree and disagree. When I was in highschool I didn’t want to be thin because I saw thin models and thought I needed a perfect body. I wanted to be thin because my thin friends got a lot of attention from guys. And my friends wanted to be thinner because the more weight they dropped the more attention they got.

    In college it was a lot different. More like what you’re saying here. And I do think I often cut off options because of incorrect assumptions. But those are not based on hollywood, they’re based on my earliest experiences with what guys wanted.

    • Caroline Jeffery

      i think part of that has to do with maturity. i think boys are equally fed this idea that they should be into skinny girls, “popular girls”, but as they mature they kind of realize it’s B.S. and college is a good place to broaden ones horizons, both male and female.

  • Bee Condon

    As an FFP (Former Fat Person) Kelly Osbourne style (lost weight for health reasons) — I think the underlying thing is the people or society in our imagination that we want to please and not actually our real selves or even real other people. The media induced society more like, which thrives on negativity and criticism.

    Oh and sometimes I wonder while I’m still on the progression of my own body I have to wonder where I should be but I have to make a step back and wonder where all that is coming from — is it sizeist? is it an obsession with skinny? No, it’s just a side effect from my adrenaline addiction to working out…. maybe… ask me some other day.

  • Lisa Wiz Clague

    Men come in all shapes and sizes, and we love them. We don’t obsess about at guy’s ass not being perfect (although we truly appreciate it when it is), or his shoulders being too narrow (although broad shoulders do appeal to our primordial instincts), or if he has a bit of a paunch. Why are we so forgiving of men and not of ourselves? The “men who date models” are attracted to the kudos and ranking it gives them in their ‘pack’, generally speaking. Most men I know are attracted to healthy women with confidence. We women torture ourselves with this, I know, I’m one of them. But don’t ever let this get in the way of you going after that cute guy you fancy. You don’t know he’s going to say “no”, and he may even say “yes”, and that’s fantastic on so many levels. And Allie, I can’t imagine any man in his right mind saying “no” to you.

  • Kaitlyn Halsema

    ahaha, the ending made me laugh. i can empathize a lot with feeling that way but then i thought about mad men (because that show teaches me all of my life lessons), and i realized that they spend just as much, if not more, time talking about how beautiful betty is as they do drooling over joan. while i think january jones is a goddess, i’m proud to be counted amongst christina hendricks any day!

    • Allie Kingsley

      All the ladies on Mad Men are so insanely gorgeous! Excellent point! :)

  • Engelin Frei

    OMG!! loved this article!! I’ve been having the same feelings about this for some time, and I actually posted this today on my blog
    you, of course write sooooooooo much better, but still. Love your articles, you’re kind of my new favorite!

  • Allie Kingsley

    Thank you for the props, Engelin! I loved your blog as well. Very insightful and well written… keep it up! xo

    • Engelin Frei

      Oh, dear!! I screamed of joy and glee when I read your comment!! Is that weird?? LOL! Made my day… Scratch that! My whole weekend!!<3

  • Caroline Jeffery

    this whole topic reeks of submitting to the male power structure. women are, more often than not, the put upon party to look good and be attractive, and men are the put upon party to judge and make the definitive decision on whether to go for it or not. this is an age-old social construct, but i’d like to think american society is getting to a point where the rules aren’t so rigid and binary as they used to be. as you say Allie, “It’s all about being healthy, strong and happy! Let’s not forget that. It should never be about anything – OR ANYONE ELSE.” let that apply to every human being on the planet, male, female, or otherwise.

    • Allie Kingsley

      I see where you are coming from, Caroline – but I assure you, this article is absolutely not submitting to the male power structure. It is a concern of everyone at some point in their lives at least to be attractive to someone – whether that’s the opposite or same sex. Everyone has different levels of necessity on the matter. This was told from my perspective and how the topic effects me personally and specifically. That is exactly why at the end I pointed out ‘or anyone else ‘. For me it is toward men – for some people, they feel pressure from their parent to look a certain way. Or their ballet teacher. Etc. My point was where does this pressure originate from and who was it for. I was using the opposite sex as an example. It’s not the most pressing topic as our society is indeed getting to a better point, surely however it is still relevant and crosses many minds. I feel it necessary to put it out there so that anyone who feels alone in these thoughts can relate on some level and know that they’re not alone and furthermore feel empowered to change it.

  • Kate Goldfine

    Great comment Caroline, and great response Allie. This article did make me roll my eyes a bit- the opinions of “real guys” being used to validate that woman are okay just as they are. I understand that we all want to feel attractive and that the article is written from the point of view of a straight woman. I struggle with this myself; in fact I put on shorts today (a rare occurance that I hope to make less rare) and started criticallys checking myself out and my husband said, “Stop! Your legs look great, exactly as they are supposed to look. Stop looking in the mirror!” And I did, and went downstairs to read this post. The point is, I hate that I needed his validation to help me feel okay. I hate that we still have/need articles like this. I look forward to the day when you (Allie) wirte an article about how you went to this premiere and knew you looked great because YOU knew it, not because someone told you. I look forward to the day when I leave the house in shorts without stopping for a second critical look in the mirror. I certainly appreciate the comments by the movie hotties and my sweet husband but I just wish the weren’t necessary.

  • Pauline Dao

    For me the pressure comes from both the media and from men. The media showing pictures of attractive women make men want them, too. At school, my male classmates talk about their female celebrity crushes and what physical traits they like on women. And to be honest, hearing them talk about being in love with women like Megan Fox, Scarlett Johansson, etc, makes me feel bad because it made me believe that if I don’t look or act like those women men won’t find me attractive. And I don’t look anything like the “sexy” model-like celebrities. So what you said in this article makes me feel a little skeptical. It made me think about how guys feel about girls obsessing over their male celebrity crushes. Does it male guys feel bad, too? Or is it just me?

    • Allie Kingsley

      Miss Pauline… I think that the key word here is ‘pressure’. This is just a guess, but I can see how those guys might be sitting around in class and agreeing with each other because nobody wants to be the different one and say otherwise. All those actresses are gorgeous but I’m sure there are other actresses who aren’t the obvious answer that some of your classmates find attractive too.
      Think about this: in teen movies, the male heartthrob is usually super buff and chiseled – a stereo typical jock type. Now think about your crush – I bet he doesn’t look like that guy. But I am willing to bet that your crush thinks that is what girls are looking for based on the same assumptions we have. The pressure does go both ways.
      Also worth mentioning: you don’t have to look or act like the ‘sexy model-like celebs’ to be sexy – you have to look and act like yourself and not fall into the pressure of acting otherwise. Because trust me, there are so many guys out there who are going to find you alluring for your own reasons and you won’t even have to try. Just be you! I promise – being comfortable in your own skin, being confident and being authentic – all very sexy! xo

  • Audrey Pelsor

    Thank you so much for this article! My friend and I have been talking about this a lot and I have to say I get annoyed when the “media” is often blamed. There are so many other factors and I agree that ourselves are up there.

    To be honest I’ve been putting the blame on guys lately, which is unfair (as proven by this very post). That blame though comes from a couple guy friends I have who recently have said that they only go for “fit” girls. Again it’s unfair for me to blame them b/c in my head I’m interpreting that as very thin and not me. As a result I assume EVERY guy agrees with them and my self-worth decreases.

    So, thank you, Allie, for passing on the “real guys'” opinions and reminding us that sometimes we’re our own worst enemies.

    • Allie Kingsley

      Thanks Audrey! Look, some guys do only want ‘fit’ girls… some guys only want girls over 6′ tall… some guys only want girls with six toes… the point is, not everyone wants the same thing! And thank goodness for that! xo

  • Hillary Rose

    This is an amazing and eye-opening article (that is lovely written)! Serves as a reminder that truly beautiful women need to be happy and content in their bodies.


  • Erin Jobs

    I don’t care if dudes want to date fat, skinny, healthy, curvy, whatever. I think it is sad that this article suggests that their preferences, no matter what they are, are our cues breathe a sigh of relief that we are after all “okay” and dateable.

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