Unintended Consequences

These women's weight gain ads seem funny because they are so out of step with most women's concerns today.  But what changed?  My guess is that the whole weight-gain thing really was about larger breasts.  If you wanted more cleavage, you had to gain weight.  But breast implants changed that.  Now one can have an improbable rack while still starving.  So while breast implants are a positive in terms of empowering women to have control over their body, they have eliminated an important counter-balance to this crazy pressure on skinny-ness.

Disclosure:  On a scale from 1=Kate Moss to 10=Rubens paintings, my preferences definitely are in the higher numbers, so I am not without bias.  I also have a daughter who wastes way too much of her life worrying whether her body properly meets societal expectations for fat content.


  1. Hasdrubal:

    I can't help but notice a couple things:

    - Those "no longer skinny" women are still pretty darn slim, they're a far cry from being rubenesque and would be counting calories or avoiding carbs to keep that figure today.
    - It appears that most of those ads are for one product, wate-on. Do you know if the too skinny idea was general, or if this was a niche market? (It's entirely plausible that the website found one company's ads much easier to find than searching for a whole industry, so the distribution of ads doesn't necessarily say anything about the industry.)
    - I can't remember the source, but I remember hearing that the trend in really skinny models happened because designers found it easier to get clothes to hang the way they wanted when hanging them off a flat board. So they started hiring models that didn't have curves. That trend of flat, skinny models in magazines helped drive the image of skinny = beautiful in women's minds.

    The breast augmentation theory is interesting, but hips are another area that people are looking for. See, well, 85% of all hip hop, for examples. :P

  2. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    I'm reminded of a parody of supermarket tabloids that included miraculous weight-gaining diets. "You too can be fat as a hog!"

  3. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    There are arguments that the "ideal" is tied to being rich and prosperous.

    A century ago, when food was sometimes, if not often, scarce, what would today be called "pudgy" was the ideal. Moreover, most women worked outdoors, and hence pasty white skin was the ideal.

    Nowadays, most women sit for much of the day, and don't need to do much physical labor, so it's tougher to stay slender -- you have to take the time out of your day to deliberately exercise. Moreover, they all have office work, so they're indoors all the time... so now a tan is considered desirable, which you get mainly by lounging around in the sun for a half-hour or an hour a day.

    Not claiming it's a correct argument, but the data does somewhat support it as such.

  4. jay:

    In related news, Sports Illustrated will only feature mediocre athletes, rather than constantly dangle unrealistic goals of athletic prowess in front of readers.