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.