The ideal woman doesn’t exist

I don’t know where this image of three inexplicably naked and differently sized women is originally from, but it certainly isn’t new. It reappeared on Twitter today and I couldn’t resist asking my followers, “Is this true, or an excuse for nudity?“. Before long there was a small flurry of responses.

The first few replies I received were from men stating, somewhat predictably, that they preferred the size 16 model and that the size 8 woman was “too skinny”. @theknickermafia then pointed out, quite rightly, that everyone’s taste is different. Next @Traumata wondered why ‘men’s ideal’ should matter to women at all. “It always comes across to me as ‘you’re being silly, men like curves. Surely you want to look how men want?’, but I can see the benefits in showing beautiful, happy women who aren’t model sizes. There should be more of that.” @pekingspring said, “Reality looks pretty hot to me, TBH. Or should I be tutting at the flagrant objectification of women?”, while @snarey concisely declared it to be “oversimplified nonsense on both counts”. @MrSnowgarden suspected it was just an excuse for nudity, but also had issues with the image that were too long for Twitter’s 140 character limit! When someone asked which I preferred/aspired to, I simply replied: “I don’t aspire to be anything other than me. I think confident women are attractive, whatever their size.” As I suspected, there was much discussion to be had on face value, but what do we think the original point of this image is, and has it been lost?

The big problem is that, well… they’re naked. Whatever you think of the point the person who made this image was trying to put across, the nudity simply distracts from any worthy message regarding improving women’s body image and instead just brings it all back to sex. Whether or not they should, these days most people look at an image of a naked person and find it sexual. No matter what the age, shape or size of the person concerned, it’s pretty much always seen as a sexual act to get your kit off in front of a camera. If the person appears to be under 16 or over 70, it’s viewed as disgusting because ‘you shouldn’t be thinking sexual thoughts about them’, should you? If the naked person is fat they should be covering up, if they’re thin they should eat something, because it’s just not considered to be sexually attractive to be anything other than ‘normal’ (not by me, I hasten to add).

So, by removing these women’s clothes, whoever created the image has ensured more people will look at it and talk about it, but I think they have also ensured their original point will be lost. Whatever that was, my point is that all three of those women look amazing, so why should we be worrying about shedding or gaining a few pounds as long as we’re healthy? Even if you do decide that you want to make a few changes to your appearance, remember that the only person you should really want to please with the way you look is yourself. The reason these women look great is because they are confident. There is no denying that Gok Wan’s show How To Look Good Naked is an inspiration when it comes to finding the confidence to love yourself the way you are. We really do need more of that kind of thing.

I cannot find the original source for the image accompanying this post so, if you know where it’s from, please contact me so that I can credit the photographer and/or publication. Thanks.

9 thoughts on “The ideal woman doesn’t exist

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  1. I look at this image and wonder about hair removal, actually, but I'm odd 😉
    Also, there's a standard bit of research methodology in psychology that involves looking at real vs idealised body shapes, differences between groups thereof, and associations with etc etc, an yes, you are right, naked people are never shown, we just use body shape outlines.

  2. What I think this image demonstrates most prominently is that sizes 8 through 16 are acceptable body sizes to be shown in mainstream media so long as they have been made-up and photoshopped.

    > my point is that all three of those women look amazing, so why should we be worrying about shedding or gaining a few pounds as long as we're healthy?

    I would make a more radical point than that – how they look, how much they weigh, and their health are nobody's business but their own.

  3. As a man I have to say all three women look extremely attractive.

    Have to say that my own measure of attractiveness is based on the face, a pretty face is the deciding factor above size, bust or anything else. whether that's just me or not I don't know but has always been my deciding factor.

    For what it's worth my own opinion is that a woman who is happy and confident in her own skin will be attractive to any man irrespective of whatever size number she may be. I'm not trying to be PC or anything like that, just trying to reflect what I find attractive in a woman

  4. “Ideal”… Almost funny. Yes, the very good point that happy, healthy, confident individuals are where it's at.

    It's slightly complicated by the fact that humans are social complex characters and being “ourselves” necessarily derives from our interactions with others, but the meaning is clear, I think.

    I wasn't all that bothered by the nudity, but I'm unusually indifferent towards nudity, so perhaps that's why I didn't care so much about that part.

    In the article, reference was made to the image's attempt to comment on being “sexually attractive” (with a parenthetical disclaimer by the author!) and it reminded me how looking fabulous and being sexually attractive are different things, all too often confused. I agree with the author's remark that they look like they look amazing, happy, confident, healthy etc.. But I didn't find any of the images sexually attractive — they'd have to talk for a start.

    And that brings me full circle back to the matter of the ideal woman, or person, from a sexual attraction perspective. Someone's words, actions and intentions are such an overwhelmingly powerful factor for me, I have noticed over the years when my feelings about physical appearance have shifted, led by the person's interactions, rather than the physical appearance leading the way. So, yes, there can't be “an ideal” because we're all individuals, but moreover, even an individual's tastes reflect their participation in a complex society and may change over time.

    What a funny, silly little picture someone carefully airbrushed into existence!

  5. @Holizz – That's a good point. Looking at a photo and deciding that someone looks 'unhealthy' is entirely subjective and I shouldn't be making judgements based on what I assume the state of other people's health is. You're right, it's none of my business.

    @armareum – I searched for some of the text that's on the image, along with 'FHM' and got this blog post which claims to have found the image on the News of the World's magazine website. The link to the original story is broken though, so I don't know if they got it from somewhere else! http://student-body.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-kind-of-body-do-men-really-like.html

    @JL – I can't really make a decision on whether or not someone is sexually attractive without first getting to know them either. It's amazing how some people can. Do personality and intelligence count for nothing with some folk? It's a real shame that many people can't see past the superficial and realise that it's who we are inside that really counts.

  6. I will definitely admit that I find people attractive sexually by how they look- not body size per se, but how they move, their body confidence, how they carry themselves. Seeming comfortable in their skin is a huge turn on, and no matter how much I like someone's personality and intelligence, I probably won't find them sexually appealing if the way they take up space isn't sexy to me. It's a viable strategy that works for some. That said, no matter how confident and attractive to me someone is, if they're not intriguing when I get to know them they won't maintain my interest.

    Obviously intelligence is more than just book smarts, but I'll say that distinction anyway- I like people who have some passion/drive/knowledge, whether it's something I share or not.

    As for the nudity, I actually liked it (though of course it's edited) because while you can dress various sizes of bodies to look really good or really awful, naked you just have skin and flesh. Being able to see the shadow of a belly, the thickness of the thighs- that really meant something to me, especially as it's SO RARE to see women over a size 8 naked ever. But then I also don't see nudity as inherently sexual- the way they're posed, coquettishly, is what makes it a sexual image, not their nudity, IMO.

  7. that picture has been photoshopped to death….I think it inadvertently proves that the media has no concept of reality…maybe it would be nice if instead of its saying their dress size, it said lawyer, scientist, doctor….come on ladies stop worrying about this stuff, i wanna see you land on the moon one day.

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