A naked woman walks into a bar… and Cosmo asks the patrons to list everything that’s wrong with her body.
And you thought Cosmo’s coverlines were bad.
They got nothing on this story, in which Cosmo invited eight bar patrons to deconstruct a normal, healthy woman’s naked body.
Rod: Um, she’s not very athletic.
Emily: … she’s got cellulite and she could be more toned.
Claudia: Her thighs … could do with being a little more toned and shapely.
CJ: [Her bum is] a bit untoned and has cellulite. It’s not really rounded enough.
Ally: I’ve got a similar problem to her with the double bump - you know, there’s one bump where the hips are and then there’s another bump where the thighs are.
Jim: The front [of her thighs] is a little bit deceptive, as the back isn’t as toned.
Rod: It’s got the makings of a good one. If she went running for an hour a day it’d be perfect. It doesn’t take much to tone up, but most girls think that exercising will make them butch, so they eat really healthily and then don’t do any exercise.
And some positive stuff too, but you get my point.
To some extent, I’m perplexed that Cosmo would publish such an insecurity-breeding article in these body-image-conscious times (former Cosmo editor Mia Freedman is even part of a government taskforce designed to deal with the issue). But I also know that these types of articles are like catnip for many women - no matter how much they piss you off, you can’t help but read them. Still, it’s not a cover story, so I’m not convinced it was put in there to increase sales.
Two things struck me about this article. The first was the stratospheric beauty standards referred to. This - and I know it shouldn’t matter - was a woman who by most people’s standards and under normal circumstances (not naked, not placed under a microscope by Cosmo) would be considered “hot”… albeit normal enough that the average Cosmo reader would be able to identify with her.
Yet here these equally normal (and yes, attractive) people were, identifying her every flaw as if she was a magazine photo waiting to be airbrushed into “perfection”. Because, uh, pretty much every woman has cellulite on her ass. And as a fellow hourglass-shaped woman - who does a lot of exercise - I can vouch that “daily runs” ain’t going to give her the body of Jessica Alba. Because as we learned once and for all last year, not even Jessica Alba has the body of Jessica Alba. I got the sense that the constant use of the word “toning” referred not to the effects of working out, but to the effects of Photoshop.
The second thing was that I doubt that most of the people interviewed would have torn her apart in the same way if they saw her in a regular situation. If she was their friend or their lover, I don’t think they’d give a shit that the backs of her thighs weren’t quite as toned as the front.
The obvious internal response to an article like this is “oh crap, I wonder what they’d say if they saw me?” but the truth is, most people probably aren’t spending that much time looking at or thinking about you. Largely because Cosmo isn’t holding a digital recorder to their lips asking for their thoughts (and you’ve got to wonder about anyone who’d agree to participate in this story, anyway). The situation isn’t just highly objectifying, it’s also highly artificial.
Or maybe not. At the International Women’s Day forum I spoke at a couple of weeks ago, a number of women in the audience said they regularly mentally deconstructed and tore apart other women’s appearances - not just in magazines but on the street. Not because they genuinely believed the other women looked bad, but because making judgments about what was “wrong” with them made them feel better about their own insecurities.
My own street-perving tends to be more about admiring good outfits (although I will confess to “meh”-ing at the overrated - particularly the self-overrated), but I wonder if that’s the common experience…