I recently ran across this infographic explaining the so-called changes in size of Playboy models from the magazine's inception in 1953 through January of 2009. As you can guess (because we all know what everyone will say is going on already without the graphic), it supposedly illustrates that Playboy models have become much skinnier through the years--while somehow maintaining those big ole tatas. As my mother used to say, "If you want the tits, you gotta have the hips as well." Basically, Playboy models today are a bunch of anorexics who've gotten surgical breast enhancements, but they used to be bodacious babes with plenty-o junk-in-the-trunk and everywhere else besides.
Meh. As is pointed out in the comments on the infographic, it's a little weak as far as evidence of any kind of substantial change in this area over time. I think we can all agree that anecdotal evidence lead us to that conclusion before any of us even looked at the thing, but it's neither here nor there. What I really want to adress is some of the language used in the blurb surrounding the infographic. Specifically this part:
Playboy's Playmate data sheets (you know, where they claim to enjoy cupcakes and The Deer Hunter) provide height and weight, among other stats. Our analysis shows that models are shedding pounds and gaining altitude at an alarming rate. To be fair, Playmates provide their own measurements, so they could be exaggerating. Plus, we wouldn't put it past the editors to stretch the truth (i.e., Miss March 2008 may not actually want to write "comedic short stories" — or have a 21-inch waist). But who cares? What's interesting isn't the veracity of the numbers, it's what the magazine thinks its readers will find ideal.
I've been noticing this a lot lately, and it is nothing new. This specific piece was written by a woman, but it sounded so mysoginistic that I actually assumed it was by a man--until I remembered that women talk shit like this about women all the time. What's worse is that we do it in a misguided attempt to defend womanhood from all the other women who are doing it wrong (and, let's be honest, possibly stealing our menfolk in the process). What's so offensive to me about the above? It's the part where the author mocks the idea that a Playboy model might actually have aspirations that don't include taking her clothes off or being sexy for money. She might "actually want to write 'comedic short stories'", but, hey, we all know that's not possible because women come in two kinds: those who can and do (take their clothes off and otherwise exploit men for money), and those who can't so they actually learn skills and work hard at accomplishing "real" goals. Most of the people with whom I discussed my ideas about women posing for porn (see a couple of posts ago) all asked the same question: "Yeah, but would women actually do it?" My response? "Not when posing for some silly naked pictures comes with so much stigma on so many levels!"
Girl-on-girl crimes such as this one are nothing new. I suppose one could argue that I'm in no position to claim that it's a crime in the first place. If the author of this blurb is anti-porn, for instance, then her judgments about the women in porn would simply be part of her value system. Ultimately, I think it's impossible for us to demand that others make no judgments. We simply have to be prepared for the fact that whatever choice we make, there will be those who deem our choice unacceptable. I tend to have a more "live and let live" philosophy, but even within that ideal I bump up against my own prejudices. My hope is that I will notice those prejudices in the way that I choose to describe the "kinds of people" who make certain choices and work to change those prejudices. Often the way we explicitly describe our beliefs don't hold up to the ways that we discuss certain topics in more casual situations. The words that we choose tell us more about what we actually think than what we say when we explain what we actually think.
We often don't even know ourselves what we actually think.