Miguel sent in this image from the U.K. fashion magazine Fabulous, illustrating the results of their survey (see caveat below) showing that women have a significantly smaller body size ideal than men report preferring.

Just to clarify, those are British sizes. The equivalent U.S. sizes would be 10, 6, and 14, according to this size conversion chart.

I pondered whether to post this, given that I have basically no confidence in surveys conducted by beauty magazines. I wasn’t able to find any information about the methodology, but I doubt they used a truly random sample. My guess would be it was either an online poll or they went out on the street and asked some people who walked by. I also noticed that one question on the survey had one category of “3″ and another category of “3+,” which means the answer categories overlap (or, to put it technically, are not mutually exclusive)–a pretty poor survey design, really. So I would take this particular study with an enormous grain of salt (or use it to discuss research methods and when we should be suspicious of results).

That said, there is evidence from other sources that women do impose a harsher body ideal on themselves than men at least claim they find attractive, so I decided to go ahead and post it as a useful illustration of that tendency. Of course…both men and women report an ideal female body size significant smaller than the average woman’s body.

There is something kind of weird here, though. I’ve seen these types of findings reported several times, and the implication always seems to be that women should breathe a sigh of relief because it turns out we could gain a few pounds and men would still find us (maybe even more!) attractive. This isn’t challenging the idea of conformity to body ideals, it’s just saying we can eat a *bit* more. If you look at the survey results, men were asked a number of questions about how they felt about their female partners’ bodies, whether they would leave them if they gained weight, etc., and women were asked if they worry whether their male partners find them attractive. This reinforces, rather than challenges, the male gaze as an obsession for women. I mean, I think we’re supposed to feel better than men claim to prefer women a size larger than women do…but we also learn that 28% of men said they’d like their girlfriends to drop a dress size. And at the bottom of the page is a link to join the magazine’s diet club to “lose a stone in just six weeks.”

So you could use this, as well as the linked survey results page, as an example of the contradictory messages women often get in fashion mags–that they should love their bodies, go on a diet, find themselves beautiful, and worry about whether their (always male) partners find them attractive, all at the same time.

Thanks for the link, Miguel!

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