Mercedes DeM. sent in this Vanity Fair cover (for April 2009)…
…spoofing this previous cover:
The women on the original cover are sex symbols. We should expect gratuitous nudity. The men in the spoof, in contrast, are comedians and so a direct comparison, arguing that men’s bodies are more off-limits, would be misguided. (Not that I think an argument couldn’t be made, but I don’t think this set of images supports it.)
Nor do I think that these images support the idea that we’re more accepting of variation in men’s bodies than women’s. If that were so, I think the men would actually be nude. Instead they’re covered up. My sense is that they’re covered up because their bodies are, according to rigid cultural standards, gross.
The relevant comparison, I think, would be between the spoof cover and a similar spoof cover featuring non-skinny women in nude body suits. The fact that the former is funny points to how men are allowed to be many things. They can be good-looking and fit, OR they can be not-so-good-looking, but rich, nice, or funny. And we still like them. There is no disdain for these men. We may even like them MORE because they’re willing to pose in ways that reveal how imperfect their bodies are.
I think we would be unlikely to see a similar cover featuring women, even women comedians, because women are allowed to be rich, nice, or funny but they must ALSO be good-looking and fit. A cover featuring chubby women would JUST be gross. It wouldn’t be gross and funny.
Being good-looking and fit is ONE way for men to be admire in our society. Being good-looking and fit is a REQUIREMENT for women to be admired, no matter what else she brings to the table.
I asked myself: in the entire history of Vanity Fair, would we be able to find three women with a similar body type to those men on the cover?
I found two, both featuring Roseanne Barr (images here and here):
The covers feature a comedian who is well-known for being successful while bucking social expectations for women. She’s the exception to the rule that proves the rule. Or is she? I certainly think so. That “Oh, Roseanne!” is about how crazy she is.
In any case, notice that she’s still a sex symbol, while the men in the spoof are decidedly not. They’re spoofing such symbolism. Roseanne, despite her wacky resistance, still has to abide by it.
Tinose — March 10, 2009
I also notice in those pictures that even though Roseanne does not fit the current standards of beauty due to her weight, the way her weight is distributed (large breasts, large hips, relatively narrow waist - though the corset is exaggerating the last two) fits within the standards. I do somewhat wonder if a fat woman with small breasts and a large stomach would run into even more problems.
Lindsey — March 11, 2009
Compare with new magazine Love, featuring naked Beth Ditto on the cover:
Inside she has a detailed interview and many pages of large glossy photos where she is near nude, modeling expensive accessories. I'd be interested to hear your responses.
withoutscene — March 12, 2009
They talk about Roseanne a lot in the book Bodies Out of Bounds, and at least one person talks about the first image of her, specifically.
There are a lot of things about the Roseanne covers that are different from the spoof cover. In the first, you see her from the boobs up (boobs and face are often seen as the only beautiful/sexy parts on a fat woman); for me, it brings to mind all the times I've heard jokes about fat women crushing their partners. Either way, Roseanne is threatening. The image does not seem as "playful" as it might if it were a thin woman on top of him. In the second, all (most of) her fat (less than before, since she lost weight) is reigned in. In general, fat women's bodies must not go unrestricted (not that thin women are ever perfect either). Our bodies must not have creases, our jiggly bits must not threaten to jiggle...at least not in public. Thin women show "restraint" through their thinness. Their bodies do not threaten to spill over.
On a different note, I will say...Will Ferrel would have done that spoof naked....and pulled it off. I think it does definitely say something that they are all in body suits. And they definitely put Jonah Hill in front for a reason.
I always like to deconstruct this image from Monique's Fat Chance, where all the women are naked, but body painted. So, so much going on in this image: http://thetrendsetter.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/monique-naked-011.jpg
Shana B Garrett — March 12, 2009
To the Beth Ditto Comment... you know I think she is beautiful... in a sort of impressionist sort of way... she seems to be almost unreal like a painting of a person... I try to see the beauty in every person... we all have something beautiful about us, but society can be harsh.
Feminism « Life and Times of AlieMalie — March 12, 2009
[...] Sociological Images does a much better job of explaining how this is not ok, specific to these two photographs, than I do. It’s probably because it makes me so angry. [...]
Ben Ostrowsky — March 13, 2009
You kidding? Jason Segel is hot in that pose!
Kim — March 18, 2009
Fat or thin, the industry still does so much to cover up what is undesirable... in every "fat person" shot referenced above, in addition to the thin ones, flaws are airbrushed out. I have a hard time believing that the attractive but fat woman has no stretch marks. I mean, if I looked like that, my weight might not bother me (much). But the fact is that fat usually looks much, much uglier than that. For that matter, so does thin; skin creases often have a weird texture or color on the thin.
Iris — March 21, 2009
More than the use of leotards to cover up the guy's bodies - what I think is the most telling is that the clothed male in the picture stays a male in both versions. The logical opposite would be to make it a woman who is clothed and placed in that subtly possessive position. And yet, no woman. Is it because the pose would give her power? Or is it because there are no women allowed in this rat pack of comedians?
sina — March 24, 2009
plz send me sex picture
On hotness and blogging while female « The Oyster’s Garter — March 25, 2009
[...] A while back, she posted this cover from Vogue Magazine in which Judd Apatow’s chubby actors lounge about in body suits. It’s funny because it’s a parody of another Vogue cover with naked [...]
Le Chat Noir — May 16, 2009
I think society is more accepting of variation in men’s bodies than women’s. Just because the men are covered up doesn't mean that it is because rigid cultural standards dictates their bodies are gross. Even attractive men are not shown nude in the United states nearly as much when compared to women.
It could be that the men were too intimated to pose nude and wouldn't agree to it.
Le Chat Noir — May 16, 2009
Intimidated...gah I hate typos.
Filter » Blog Archive » Feministisk påfyll — May 27, 2009
[...] Dette bilde viser som String-Emil har gjort lenge, la menn posere som damer og det blir komikk. [...]
Rocio Anica — June 11, 2009
When I first read the article for this Tom Ford issue, I was a little struck by the tone when it was mentioned that Rachel McAdams bowed out of the shoot when she found out Ford wanted them to be nude. When you see the rest of the spread, and how all the men are covered and the women are either not or are depicted in ways that strip them of power (not just the models but the actresses!), it's a little disconcerting that they were so bitter. She dodged a feminist bullet.
Anonymous — July 29, 2009
I really think it's funny because it's men in the same poses, not because they're ugly men. If they were well-known handsome comedians, it would be funny, although not quite as funny. That they're generally unattractive helps it because they're so much the opposite of people expected to be presented like that. Chubby women wouldn't be opposite enough, wouldn't be spoofing on it enough, because there's refuge in audacity.
Daniel — August 5, 2009
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Shazi gul — September 7, 2010
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xfox — December 25, 2010
I just think the men are wearing the bodysuits to look more like the hairless, airbrushed women in the second picture. I also think that it might be to make a point about how ridiculous it is to set women in such positions, but maybe I'm just too hopefull :)
“Quintessence” Part 2 « femonade — January 22, 2011
[...] recently saddened to realize that i was about to blow a lobe (thanks twisty) reading sociological images. damn! another one bites the dust. but where does this feeling come from? it actually, [...]
Trixie Lane — February 20, 2011
I agree that Will Ferrel would have done the cover naked and pulled it off. In my husband and I's Old School Pin Up photography studio, we shoot a myriad of sizes and shapes of women. Given the fact we are in the NW, there are more voluptuous and curvy women here than thin, it seems to be the norm. But I think there is a fine line between being threatening and strong. Roseanne seems to pull off both.
To us in our business, it is the way the woman is posed and her personality that can either make a lovely and inviting photo or a not so good photo. It's all in finding the flattering look in each individual.
Women Must Be Fit; Men Can Be Flabby | BroadBlogs — May 25, 2015
[…] By Lisa Wade @ Sociological Images […]