Outside the world of runway models, a degree of fatness is desirable–but only in certain places. We talked about desirable fat body configurations, but what about that gray area dividing thin women from fat known as “voluptuousness”? Society is willing to accept fat body parts, but distribute it throughout your entire body and watch folks retreat. Over the years, our culture has often swung back and forth between desiring voluptuousness and desiring androgynous thinness. Models are considered beautiful, exquisite even, but unless they have some “curves” they aren’t so much considered sex symbols. The models who get attention for their sexiness are curvier models (and “curvy” is of course, relative) like Gisele or any number of Victoria’s Secret representatives. And there are certain celebrities whose bodies possess the proper amount of badonkadonk to be considered sex symbols. I’m talking about bodies like Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks’, or unreality star Kim Kardashian’s.
Most rational people wouldn’t call them fat, but they have individual bodily characteristics that mimic fat women’s body parts–specifically a big ass, big tits, and big hips. There’s a partner to this that’s usually not spoken when discussing how great “curvy” women are, and that’s possessing a small waist. Unfortunately for me, stomach rolls are apparently not considered “curves.” My response to that is that they seem to curve pretty well. But, I digress. Society wants some of our erogenous zones supersized, but leave it at that, please. You would think the cognitive dissonance in believing some fat body parts are acceptable while reviling fat in general would blow people’s minds, but most people don’t think that deeply. They prefer to marinate in contradiction. The fact that Hendricks and Kardashian are called “healthy” in comparison to say, so-called “anorexic thin” models reflects our culture’s current pendulum swing to finding women with a bit of extra meat on their bones desirable. What switch goes on in our collective minds to allow big butts and big hips a pass but big thighs and arms get cut out of the game? Personally, I attribute a lot of it to the overall objectification of women.
These fat body parts are made acceptable because they contribute to the hypersexualization of women. It’s no accident that women who possess these characteristics are constantly referred to as sexpots, “bombshells,” and seductresses. The word “voluptuous” has many definitions, but they all refer to some kind of “sensual enjoyment”–so really, any time a woman is referred to as such, they’re basically being rendered solely as an object of sexual desire and a source of pleasure for the male gaze. Rather than something women should strive to be, voluptuousness is a cage in which women are confined and displayed to produce sexual excitement for the viewer. Any way you go with fat, whether it’s a fat body or fat body parts, we’re running into walls trying to keep fatness as Other.
Our culture’s relationship with sex is contradictory and Puritanical. Our culture’s relationship with fat is convoluted and confusing. And our culture’s relationship with women is oppressive, demeaning, and objectifying. Add the three together and you’ve got one witches’ brew of a complex situation that will take a whole lot of work to unravel. While we’re working on society, we must also do work on ourselves so that we recognize objectification and hypersexualization of fat body parts is not something that’s really desirable. Sure, it’s great that you’re seen as sexy because you’ve got the proper measurements, but do you want attention to be paid to you solely as a product of an oppressive gaze? Fatphobia hurts everyone–fat women, thin women, and women who are considered “healthy” but voluptuous. Just one more reason why fat is a feminist issue.