How a men’s magazine gave me confidence that Elle could not.

I am a huge fan of the anti-plastic surgery, no-makeup, aging-naturally, don’t-retouch-my-photos movement that’s been taking hold among a small but significant number of celebrities. 

In 2003, Kate Winslet was up in arms about this retouched photo on the cover of GQ.

Kate Winslet, whom I thought was so beautiful when I first saw her in movies in the ’90s, is now 20 percent more awesome to me because she refuses to starve herself and won’t get plastic surgery. I love that she takes a stand against retouching. I love that a growing number of ladies’ magazines are open to publishing unretouched photos and make-up-less shoots and photos of “plus-size girls” and using women over the age of 35 as cover girls.

This is a fabulous trend. If only it were the norm instead of the exception.

I wish Winslet or any of the natural beauty activists were on the covers of any of the ladies’ magazines that have arrived at my house since the fall.* But the vast majority of the cover girls,  actresses, models and fashions in those magazines have catered to an imaginary world full of wrinkle-free women whose dress sizes top out at 8. An extremely unscientific survey of the cover girls in my magazine rack currently includes several young starlets, the super-slender Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore, who has been criticized for being too skinny as she ages.

Sophia Loren has said that young actresses need to "mangia!" I'm paraphrasing here.

I realize some women have trouble putting on weight, but most people I know struggle with the opposite problem, as do I.

“Too skinny” is not a problem I will ever have unless, god forbid, I end up in a survival situation. Even then, the chances of me getting “too skinny” are pretty slim because before starving to death I would

1) eat songbirds, squirrels, bugs, bark and weeds, probably poisoning myself in the process, or

2) be killed and eaten by my friends and relatives for the fat reserves I carry with me at all times.

I digress.

Witness Marilyn Monroe eating dessert.

Moving along, I’m tired of reading women’s magazines and feeling overweight. So the other day I went to the website of a men’s magazine instead.

Normally I try to stay clear of men’s magazines, particularly the articles that focus on women’s bodies, but I was sick of reading Elle and wondering what it would be like to fit into a size 0 pair of skinny jeans. (I’d have to shave several inches of bone off my hips to make that happen.) One Google search later, I’d found this gem: Men’s Health’s 100 hottest women of all time.

Now before I get into the list, I’m not saying that women should start adhering to standards set for them by men’s magazines. I am saying that while women’s magazines display a certain kind of figure as ideal, not everyone sees it that way.

Jayne Mansfield is smart enough to know that she can eat AND be attractive.

Look at this list. Some of the ladies are listed with their measurements. One of them (Jayne Mansfield) is listed with both her measurements and her IQ (163). These women are all shapes and sizes. Sure, there are a lot of skinny gals from the ’70s and today, but many of them look as though they’d never dream of starving themselves. Look at Ann-Margaret. There’s a lady who looks like she eats food. Number one is Jennifer Aniston, who might be skinny, but I’m glad she’s number one, because she seems genuinely nice.**

The point I’m trying to make here is not new. It’s trumpeted all the time. It’s just that the message – that there is no real standard of beauty – doesn’t always hit home. There are days when I just don’t feel attractive, or when I pine for my twenties or even my teens. And even though I know that’s a fool’s gambit and that in 10 years I’ll be pining for my 30s, I do it anyhow.

It’s normal for individual people to be insecure every once in a while. We all have bad days. What’s destructive is when a whole culture of people (American women, for example) are insecure all the time. In a time when the decent women’s magazines show me slimming clothing and size 2 dresses and the trashy ones publish articles focusing on diets, gossip, and sex tips, it was refreshing to see a list, created by guys who find smart, talented, funny and kind women attractive and who define 100 different body shapes as “hot.” The only thing that could make the list better would be more women of different ethnicities.***

After looking at this list, I got up and looked in the mirror. I felt beautiful. I logged onto Facebook, and congratulated myself on being friends with so many other beautiful women. I looked at a family picture and what do you know? My family is just rank with lookers. I told my husband all of this, and he agreed. And then we went out and had pizza for dinner.

* Thanks to a few shopping trips to Lohmann’s this fall, I am now the recipient of a lot of women’s magazines. Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle and Marie Claire all visit my house monthly. So does Food and Wine.

**  Sesame Street pro tip: Being nice trumps being curvy or skinny or what-have-you any day of week.

*** I counted about 10 women of color on this list. But that’s still a really small percentage when you’re talking about a list of 100.

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3 thoughts on “How a men’s magazine gave me confidence that Elle could not.

  1. As far back as high school, I never met a single guy who thought super skinny girls were really hot. The hotties were so due to their faces, not their bodies. I question if the anorexic look was ever really in, or if it was just everyone thought everyone else thought it was.

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