The Worst Idea

[Content Note: Body policing; misogyny; heterocentrism; objectification; evo psych; fat hatred.]

Yesterday, the Telegraph published a gross piece of linkbait [DoNotLink used] titled "'Schoolboys should tell girls their idea of a perfect woman,' says expert." It begins thus:
Teachers should encourage boys to tell girls their idea of a perfect woman in attempt to quell body image issues, a renowned child health expert has said ahead of a teachers conference on Wednesday.

To fight a "neurosis" amongst school girls on body fat, teachers should get boys to tell girls what they find attractive, including other qualities beyond pure looks, said Aric Sigman, author of "The Body Wars: why body dissatisfaction is at epidemic proportions."

He said it was important that teachers picked boys from an older year group because girls look up to them and they are not direct peers so it would be easier to talk about body image issues.

"It would be helpful for them to explain that what they find attractive is not just physical qualities but also qualities like caring, the sound of a girl's voice and her body language."

...More importantly, Dr Sigman said, boys should tell girls "that there are women who appear model-perfect visually but are just not sexy and there are girls who do not seem model material but are very attractive."

Dr Sigman also said the subject of female body dissatisfaction has been exclusively dominated by women so far and that it was time for men fight political correctness and get involved.
There ain't enough fuck you in the entire world for this garbage.

David Perry offers a good response to the article, in which he notes that the good doctor's idea "reinforces the patriarchal notion that what girls should be concerned about is to what extent they are or are not attractive to boys. Attractiveness remains the key arbiter of personal worth. Instead, the way to fight body image issues is to de-legitimize the male gaze as the arbiter of what is and is not 'good.'"

Absolutely. And this, with its admonition that men must take charge and insert themselves into body acceptance work, does the precise opposite of de-legitimizing the male gaze. Instead, it seeks to reify the male gaze as the most important arbiter of female body acceptability.

And this heterocentrist, misogynist, objectifying proposal presumes, once again, that there is a universal—or at most a very limited spectrum—of appropriate, attractive, sexy female body types among men.

This is not true, despite the strong cultural disincentives against male attraction to fat female bodies, the harsh judgment and penalties faced by men with fat female partners, and the pathologization of men who attracted to fat women.

Iain and I are currently fascinated by a show airing on FYI called "Marriage at First Sight," in which single (straight) people participate in a social experiment in which they're matched by relationship experts in an arranged marriage. (This show deserves a whole post of its own, at some point.) A new season just started, and lots of potential participants were interviewed, many of whom were accompanied by family members and/or friends, enlisted to project the appropriate amount of scandalized horror at the very prospect.

One thin white man, who was ultimately not picked as one of the to-be spouses, was interviewed with his very thin white mother sitting beside him. He was asked what sort of body type he preferred, and he responded by saying he liked hourglass and pear shapes. "Pear shape?!" his mother exclaimed, horrified. "Do you know what that means?" He replied, looking suddenly apologetic and embarrassed, that he did. "You don't want a pear-shape," his mother instructed him. "A nice slim girl would be perfect for you."

Even the hint that he might be attracted to fat women immediately resulted in auditing of his preferences and shaming.

So, what is the place for a young man with that sort of preference in the good doctor's proposed program, which is explicitly designed to tell girls that they are allowed to have "some fat," but obviously not too much eww gross yuck. What is the place for a fat girl who is found attractive by men whose preferences exist outside of the limited spectrum of acceptability being defined?

Again, attraction should never, ever, be used as the model of a human being's worth in the first place. But in addition to that fuckery, this program also more deeply entrenches the pernicious idea that there is essentially a universal human spectrum of attraction, which underwrites the pathologization of deviant bodies and transgressive attraction to those bodies.

That ain't helping anybody. Even the mere proposal should be treated with utter contempt.

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