About two weeks ago, Samantha Escobar wrote an article entitled Little Women And Heavy Husbands: A Brief History Relating To The Outrage Against Normal-Sized Women for The Gloss. I actually read it about a week ago, and found the article highly intriguing. I wanted to post about it then, but I decided to let what I'd read sink in, and make my own observations and possibly come up with another reason for this gender inequality when it came to physical appearances and media (because that's what psych majors do).
Ms. Escobar presents solid reasoning from one side of the gender divide when she writes:
"the reason so many husbands on television shows are overweight and frequently have traits deemed undesirable while their wives still fit in the traditional beauty standard is likely the exact same reason so many porn stars are chubby, hairy and have incredibly average penises. Making normal, “everyday” men feel as though they can obtain the “ideal woman” drives the entertainment value up for male audiences. Even if that’s not why the audiences choose to watch the show, it is a natural side effect from having the same image of a heavy man with a thin woman driven into your brain over and over."
I agree with this wholeheartedly, but there is something more to be said about why the "normal-sized woman" - a size 14, and probably not in possession of impeccable skin- is not well represented in our television culture. Girls are already under extreme pressure from their grandmothers to be amazing homemakers, mothers and wives by being demure yet savvy, but due to the shift in cultural norms, they are also being encouraged to be extremely well studied, powerful, and compete with the "big boys". Well, how better to combine both worlds than to have beautiful women who nowadays most likely have some sort of high-powered job, who are able to keep a household running smoothly, AND who remain faithful to their men, despite the fact that he has put on about 50 pounds since marriage. The woman has control over everything in and out of the household, except for what the man eats, and what he does when football is on TV.
It so happens that this paradox stems from the women's revolution, where women wanted to be recognized as competent members of society in the same fields men dominated. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a complete change in mentality, so women are still viewed as primary caretakers, but are starting to be seen as joint breadwinners...at the same time. Which is actually a lot more difficult than being either homemaker or breadwinner. Women have been cast back into an almost subordinate role, in that they won't leave a man who lets himself go because she loves him too much, but he can and will leave her if she gains a few pounds or gets a few wrinkles. The media may have started off nobly in trying to show women that they could be both beautiful and exceptional, while showing men that they would be lucky to snag such a woman. It has quickly devolved into nothing more than body-shaming the average woman, and glorifying the man who feels no need to maintain his body for the enjoyment of both himself and his woman.