Great! Another Thing to Hate About Ourselves

Show me a body part, I’ll show you someone who’s making money by telling women that theirs looks wrong.

Comments: 217

  1. Hannah Davis doesn't look like Hannah Davis, either. It's called photoshop. That's one thing women who are insecure about their looks should remember. The models in the magazines don't look like the models in magazines. They are all manipulated.
    I wish women would just rebel at the idea that we have to go through the pain of ripping public hair out by the roots with wax, or ruining our joints with six inch heels. Weren't the flappers with their two inch heels and public hair cute and sexy? If it hurts, why do it?

  2. I couldn't agree more with this comment. Ms. Davis has had professional makeup and hair design, lighting and photography for the SI photo shoot, and hundreds of photos were no doubt taken. Add retouching to that mix to produce the image seen on the SI cover. Among other things, retouching eliminates lines, wrinkles blemishes and stray hairs, and adjusts skin tone to create a perfect tan.

    Add it all up, and the real Hannah Davis can't match the image on the SI cover.

    Unfortunately, many girls and women are judging themselves against a Photoshop fantasy.

  3. I will scupt my lady parts when men scupt their penises

  4. Have you never heard of aesthetics? I haven't wanted sexual relations for quite some time (menepause) , but I still don't want to be repulsive - I see myself in the mirror & others see me. So what I do for my appearance (like a chemical peel) is for me & anyone who happens to see me, not for some specific guy (or gal - I was bi-sexual). But I remember now when I had a nose job (1962) and a woman in my building asked me why I'd done it, since I was 'already married'. I divorced in '67. I still like my nose.

  5. You have to give the editors of the NY Times credit, an article about women's bodies and an illustration that is so prudish it makes one laugh!

  6. It wasn't meant to titillate - it's just a cartoon! I saw the model for the current Sports illustrated cover interviewed on Charlie Rose. Needless to say, she was not at all embarrassed by her photo. We have all seen a lot of nudity of various kinds on the street, but this beats all. We are a very tolerant culture for viewing the body, but this pose was not even attractive. It is pornographic in its truest sense, but not very successful given what I hope is airbrushed (maybe not). Gee, is it that hard to be a whole person?

  7. No, the 'prudishness' of the illustration - as you perceive it - doesn't make us laugh. It is the hilarious look of the blonde checking out the obviously tampered with pubic area of the other one.

  8. If you think this is prudish, you have wildly missed the point.

  9. For a sad look at how much we've "improved," I'd urge women to check out "Sports Illustrated Covers Through the Years" on the SI website.

    If you click back to the 1970s, suddenly women look normal again. You think, those women look like women you see on the beach. They do not have ginormous breasts. They look like really nice but "unimproved" women.

    And somehow they were considered not just sexy, but among the most sexy you could be. And it was, for many, attainable sexy. In addition, the space between that and what many women looked like wasn't that far apart.

    I wish we could get back to that--so women wouldn't feel they are so far from the ideal, and that so much work--and "work"--was required to reach some almost mythical standard. Also, that men used to apparently consider pretty normal looking women sexy enough for a magazine cover.

  10. "They do not have ginormous breasts. They look like really nice but "unimproved" women."

    While I agree with the point you are making actually the ginormous breasts probably has more to do with all the hormones they give cows that the girls ingest drinking milk for the last 2 decades.

    The reality is the advertising world makes their money on this kind of stuff. In the early 1960's according to the TV commercials at the time the major medical scourge the US was facing was "mid-drift bulge" but with the right girdle you could beat it. Somewhere in the mid-1960s "mid-drift bulge" was replaced by 2 even worse medical scourges thanks to the all knowing advertising industry. That's right folks, "ring around the collar" and "dandruff".

    The advertising industry whole business is in shaping our image of a perfect body and in the process sell us stuff to attain that image. Look at the toy industry with Barbie and you will see a totally warped image of what a woman's body should look like. Unfortunately girls today aspire for that body that shouldn't exist in nature.

    These days with photoshop and computer generated images it gets very hard to figure out what is real. In the 2nd Hobbit film the she-elf towers over her love interest dwarf but in the real world the dwarf is actually about a foot taller than her.

    I wonder these days how many people spend much time in the "real world", not enough I think.

  11. Take a look at "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" or any other movies from the 70s and 80s. There are so many real boobs and real butts and real faces and there was even real hair. That to me, is sexy. Real is sexy. Maybe the U.S. will become like Japan, where men date and mate with plastic dolls. If that's what men want, let them have it!

  12. Thanks for the tip. I just did that, and you're right! In fact, some of the women, their suits and poses, look absolutely virginal. Not to mention covered up. I guess the men back then instinctively knew what so many seem to have forgotten: the less you show, the more there is to yearn.

  13. I like women just as they are
    Not sliced, trimmed, altered to make par,
    Why chop off pell mell
    What's au naturel,
    Sports Illustrated's gone too far!

  14. Larry, you are one in a million.

  15. Larry Eisenberg for Poet Laureate.

  16. Larry, you always make my day!

  17. In ten years SI will feature a woman in a bikini with a top but the bottom replaced by a skillfully braided and beaded bush. Women will go to special beauticians to have theirs "done". Women with sparse hair will get extensions. This fashion will be just as annoying and painful as waxing.

  18. In 10 years time nobody cares to know what is out there, who displays what, where and how. Everybody will be thinking selfishly about themselves and not the society, the representative groups whether large or small as the law is bound to change with the customs. Customs became the law in many instances and the customs will govern the law just like the gay orientation nowadays accepted as a norm. In 10 years time ethics will not be just ethics but ethics will be as many ethics as your human body cells represents. As science progresses by leaps and bounds nature and natural way of life will exceed the imaginations of today. In short people will be saying 'and what is wrong with that' or 'why can't I have two separate and unique experiences to fill my life' or 'I see this as nothing wrong as it adds pleasure in life'.

  19. Fetishizing, ugh. Looks like a prepubescent girls mons.

  20. I LIKE the idea!! Let's do it! ;-)

  21. Let us not compare our 40 selves to 20 yr olds who are groomed to the last inch. I have been to other countries where women do not shave their facial hair, their legs, their underarms, their private parts, etc, etc. We may not be used to that but they seem perfectly fine with it. Now when we become menopausal and all that estrogen disappears, you will be plucking and shaving those huge hairs that come out of your chin and your leg hairs get so long you can feel them blowing in the wind. Huge hairs grow behind your knees and up your thighs. Also, all your body hair goes gray. Trust me, age changes everything.

  22. In my 20's, I overheard a tattoo artist advise a young woman that a panoramic sunrise on the small of her back might be beautiful and unique, but in 30 or 40 years it might resemble a spider crawling our of her butt crack. She opted for a butterfly on her hip. I got the yin-yang symbol on my upper arm and left it at that.

  23. Or the opposite happens--most body hair falls out on the arms and legs; eyelashes and pubic hair thin.

  24. Cheer up, ibivi - after age 50, body hair starts to disappear - everywhere. Something to look forward to...

  25. Very timely, Ms. Weiner, and as usual a fantastic article. One can visualize your literary predecessors nodding vigorously in agreement. Sometimes the most persuasive and therefore the best way to address serious issues is through pointed humor. Insecurities are very real and may well lead to great unhappiness, especially when looks are concerned. This is near... impossible for men to comprehend, of course, given what we have gotten away with for millennia in regard to our physical features.

  26. I'm just glad I'm old and secure enough to see my body as my own, and can ignore what some people say I need to fix/change/enhance. How do we convince our young women that they can be themselves.

  27. Homo sapiens (and Femma sapiens?) took all that trouble to evolve losing some body hair but left enough to cover parts that need protection. Or something for those lovely smelly glands to nestle in. Hair is absolutely necessary to the sense of touch. Take it all away and you have as much feeling as a billiard ball.

    Next trend? Pull out all those annoying and unsightly eye lashes. So what if they protect the eyes? They make women look stupid. Stop with the eye lashes already and all the rest of those things on your body. Women, by ridding yourself of that ugly hair you are helping the free global markets of capitalism. Get a Romanian - eyes with no lashes. Then men will approve of you and love you. Isn't that what "beauty" is all about?

  28. I'm Romanian - and I have eye lashes! And I don't hate them! And I really think I need them too!!!!

    Is that the opposite of a Brazilian these days?

  29. Excellent commentary on a prickly situation.

  30. Thank you, Ms. Weiner, for calling out the insidiousness of the self-improvement-industrial complex that continues its inexorable march (literally) up one side of the female anatomy and down the other. I'm a girl's girl -- I've got a serious Sephora habit and I'm perpetually back on a diet. But I'm frankly too strapped working at my career, maintaining my marriage and friendships, and keeping up my little household to spend actual time or money on the latest and greatest "problem areas." Still, there's no doubt of the general low-grade anxiety I experience stemming from the relentless cataloguing of women's supposed body and sartorial failings.

    "Camel toe," "thigh gap" and all the rest are concepts invented to turn a profit at the great expense of everyday women. But just because someone out there has invented them, we don't have to buy in. We can agree to disagree with those whose upside relies on our believing we're just one nip/tuck (or goop-in-a-tube or workout routine) from good enough.

  31. You are of so correct. I am so glad to be old and have matured during the 70's and 80's when natural beauty was in vogue. We cared about what we looked like but I don't think it ever came close to the level of today's narcissism. Would Christy Brinkley even make the cut today?

  32. I'm far older than you are, and I was thinking about the old stars of Hollywood and even the ones who modeled for SI. I seriously doubt any of them would have thought that much about their "lady piece" as some of the young women today appear to do. Probably to a woman they would wonder what in heck is going on with women today that they will torture themselves to do things that make them look like little girls again.

  33. "Would Christy Brinkley even make the cut today?"

    Pun of the year!

  34. Three points. (OK, get the rotten tomatoes ready.)
    1. This is an inevitable consequence of the sexual revolution. Don't get me wrong; the last thing I want to do is go back to the bad old days. (My closet is full, no room for me in there.)
    But the ubiquity of sex and bare flesh is like eating 5-alarm chili at every meal, or the children's story about the girl who wished for 'Christmas every day.' You get sated, bored, jaded. When a man felt thrilled to get any glimpse of what lay beneath the clothes at all, the bar was set lower.
    2. Also, our definition of beauty is relative - an outlier on a bell curve. As Rod Serling noted, when everyone is beautiful, no one is. Surgery, cosmetics, and other methods of attaining 'beauty' simply move the goalposts. Once it was enough to have 'nice' teeth; now 'beauty' is perfect rows of blue-white fluorescent Chiclets. Slim is now exaggerated to the point where having any intestines makes you look fat. And so on. 'Just as we can't live n Lake Wobegon where all the children are above average, 'beauty' by definition is always reserved to the few.
    3. Don't blame SI. If you get on this treadmill, it's your own choice. (Me, no one gets near the end zone with a scalpel except to save my life. Just thinking about it ... Brrrr.)

  35. At least it's not as drastic as breast implants. Sales are unaffected by the obviously fake, stuck-on "perfection" of the results. We are all porn stars now.
    whether we like it or not.

  36. Beg pardon, this is not the natural consequence of the sexual revolution (whether you love it or leave it), but of monetizing it.

  37. Beg to differ, Judy, for the reasons given. You might re-read my original comment to 'get' it. There is a difference, which I think you don't 'get', between repression and reserve.
    The value of a commodity is determined by its scarcity or rarity. Sex - at least garden variety plain sex with average partners - is now like pennies on the sidewalk which no one even bothers to pick up. Yet there was a time when a penny was worth something. We keep having to add bells and whistles to make sex something special - and as those bells and whistles become normalized and mundane, sex has to become more exotic to grab attention and hold it.
    Another analogy could be loud noise, or a smell. After awhile of prolonged and continuous exposure, you cease to notice it - so to get attention one must ramp up the decibel level or slop on more perfume.

  38. When I first saw the cover, I said, "Weird. Why doesn't she have any pubic (please, not public) hair?" I'm beautiful just the way I am, thanks.

  39. The last unexplored area of the Barbie doll.... I suppose we should have guessed that we would get there eventually.

  40. Good grief this makes me glad I'm old!

    What ever happened to the good old days when a man was just happy to get there? We didn't have to "landscape" it, much less scorch the earth with wax or lasers. I mean, I'll weedwhack the edges before going to the beach, but I've never taken a Zamboni down the freeway!

  41. Love it!

  42. I may need a new keyboard. I was drinking my morning coffee while reading this comment. Nicely put.

  43. Well said EK. Laughing out loud here.

    But it's still the good old days and a man is still "just happy to get there." The rest is (unnecessary) advertising.

  44. Dear Ms. Weiner: Did you realize there is a rather overlong description of a vaginal reconstruction in the novel (1969) and movie (1972) "The Godfather?"
    New? Hardly...

  45. I suspect that with the internet Sports Illustrated days are numbered unless they can figure out a pay model. This smacks of desperation.

  46. Most men care about this less than you might think; they too know that porn is fantasy.

  47. I think you're right for men over 30 but a good deal of younger men have accepted the fantasy as the reality.

  48. But the problem is that tween and teen girl do not.

  49. Please - enough of the hand writing and gnashing of teeth. She is a beautiful woman with a beautiful body - including her "lady piece" as the author calls it. Let's all just enjoy this.

  50. Sorry...bigger issues to consider here in a year 2014 where NFL domestic violence and college rape are now been seen more clearly by the public.

  51. Wipe your spectacles, professor. She's a caricature, a photo-shopped shell of a woman held up as the fairest of them all. It's all smoke and mirrors, but until we all know this, the farce--and the ridiculous shame that many take on as a result--flourishes.

  52. Along with death and taxes, one thing you can always count on is the Times criticizing some aspect about the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. At least this time we are spared the sociological, philosophical, historical, metaphysical (and don't forget patriarchal!) analysis.

  53. As an older woman, I'm curious because people talk about this yet I haven't seen stats: Just what percentage of women now wax their public area? I ask because I wonder if this is something that women feel pressured to do out of a false sense of conformity.

    One year my public school ran an effective survey about alcohol/drug use--it asked students anonymously who had ever partaken. The results were surprisingly low, not much higher than 50%. The impression everyone had - has - is that *everyone* in the school used drugs/alcohol & to not use them meant you were an oddball. But the fact was that you were far less of an oddball than you thought.

    Could a similar thing be happening with shaving and artificially manipulating 'down there'? I don't know, but I'd be interested in actual surveys and stats. If women knew that, say, only 20% of women shaved and plucked, for instance, not only would the 'bush' crowd feel less of an outcast, but the 'shavers' might decide that it's not necessary to suffer the discomfort.

    Men might think the proportion is much higher since women in porn ubiquitously shave & this impacts men's image of women, subconsciously or consciously. But many women don't shave, I do know that. I just don't know the percentage. Isn't it more empowering for us to really know what our bodies are actually like, around us, than to worry about fake manipulated images of starved women in magazines & what one creepy couple is doing at an office?

  54. You have a point. But the media create a "reality" that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the most critical thing is how this impression (in the literal sense) changes the future by influencing the young. You and me above a certain age can take a step back and think, but don't forget all those teenagers out there who are being groomed for life-long behavior by their media diet.

  55. Good points! What you say about impressions people get when a certain percentage have something done, this is what happened to breast sizes. So many have had breast implants that we have forgotten what normal looks like. It's sad for real girls and women.

  56. The majority of patients I examine in my office under 25, male and female, are shaved. Now more of the older patients are, up to their 50's, including men. In the past if a patient had a genital wart or lesion treated no one would think of having them sign a consent because with pubic hair it was a non issue. Now myself and many of my peers make sure the patient is informed there could be a skin color change or scar after treatment because the appearance of genitals is important and more public for many.

  57. " . . . an unruly bit of body that women are expected to subdue through diet and exercise."

    I never heard a male discuss this subject, ever. But I've been privy to innumerable conversations among women about it.

    Who exactly is doing the expecting here?

  58. @Polymat -

    You've never visited the right websites apparently.

  59. This!

  60. The last sentence is your essay says it all. As I write this, my local station is airing "Have a turkey neck?" What would we women do without these 'educational' adverts to guide us!

  61. "With hard-core pornography available to anyone with a laptop and a credit card..." Update: Hard-core porn now available to anybody with internet access.

    Have you ever actually needed a credit card?

  62. Good try but the article seems to miss the most important part. When a woman (or man) shaves off their pubic hair what do they resemble? A child. In other words, the cultural message is that woman should look more like girls. In other words, pedophilia. Add to that the presumptive immaturity of the Sports Illustrated editors and the model, and you have moved even closer to pedophilia.

  63. along with men who want women to sit on their laps in public places such as waiting rooms.

  64. That is the first thing I thought about when reading this article. There is something rather creepy about any man who seems to thinks a woman's "ladypart" should be clear cut.
    I'm wondering how men would feel if women told them that they, too, would like to see a neat and clean "manpart" just like their brother's was when he was 7 yrs old? That would be an interesting conversation.

  65. True for women, but also for men. Have you noticed all those hairless male chests lately?

  66. >

    The human organism cannot accept its creatureliness, a residual side effect of a failed or incomplete castration complex, when the small child sees that Mommy is not a goddess but just another animal. It could be worse, Oedipus tore out his eyes.

  67. I agree we have to draw a line. Unnecessary surgery is something I won't do, especially to please someone else. But it's a very competitive dating world out there, especially as we women get older...So I completely understand the laser hair removal, etc.

  68. Blame Hollywood and their obsession over superficiality and appearance. And never forget that Hollywood is a major donor to the democratic party, which makes the "war on women" so absurd.

  69. This is probably wasted on most NYT readers, but I get it. I doubt if either party has a war on women. Only if the women allow it and continue to fall for and put up with that kind of silliness.

  70. Why would you blame Hollywood, they only put out what the public wants to see. The blame is on us as a society for putting up, and encouraging it.

  71. "With hard-core pornography available to anyone with a laptop and a credit card...."

    Never mind the credit card. Free hard-core porn is all over the web.

  72. A laptop is not needed either.

  73. According to a friend, right?

  74. The image in the second paragraph, of the pretty girl sitting on the man's lap in the waiting room, (rather repulsively) illustrates one reason why the fetishization of hairlessness continues. Men like it. I really, really don't want to speculate why because it grosses me out, but alas, women have been removing hair for centuries. Sure, it didn't really take off until skirts got shorter and companies realized they had a nice big marketable product to sell, and it seems there was a brief hairy moment in the 70s where everyone let their freak flag fly - but like lots of awesome things, the 80s killed it. So, whatever. Go on. Seriously I can't get past this public lap-sitting thing.

  75. This is one rat race I am not entering.

    Enough.

    Dim the lights if you don't like it.

  76. I'm with you on this one, all cats are gray in the dark.

  77. One day in high school, our gym instructor made us sit down on the basketball court so he could tell us, "Some of you guys have the abdominal muscles of a five-year-old girl."
    His aesthetic may have been different from SI, but I think it's the same infantile micro-fixation on body parts that helps propel several different industries and the continual tide of new silly obsessions referred to in this column. It's also basic to pornographic visualization - focusing on sections of the human form, rather than the entire human. My next handy buzzword, of course, is "commodification" - the desperate search for something concrete that we can improve (by spending money) and thus hike our personal value in the market.
    This fractionating of the self, turned inward - by men and by women, against the body and toward one's inner life - is the internalization of criticism and disrespect, and the opposite of actual understanding.

  78. Your gym instructor didn't reference the abdominal muscles of a five year old BOY. Why was that, do you think? Because it was meant to be a put down to be compared to a girl. Girls, females, women: just not good enough. Something to be disparaged, ridiculed, controlled. Bodies not good enough, hence all the focus on surgery and thighs that don't touch, not good enough at work, hence unequal pay for equal work, constrained as vessels for bearing children (anti choice), because controlling reproduction is the mightiest form of power over the female of any species.
    I hope the young woman sitting on the lap (really, in a doctor's office) of the older perv wised up eventually.

  79. What would the consumer economy be without “infantile micro-fixations”, whether on the body or other things; how would marketers survive without “pornographic visualization” and, of course, “commodification”? Having saturated the market for useful consumer goods, capitalism inevitably turns to increasingly obscure, arcane, and preposterous “micro-fixations”… Excellent comment!

  80. Too bad you missed the sexual revolution. I'm 73, & you seem awfully prudish to me.

  81. What does this have to do with sexual revolution, Jenifer? I'm 70, and I lived through the sexual revolution and the women's movement. In those days, women were taught that they are okay just the way they are, which brought about more enjoyment of sex for women. Today, women's bodies are more objectified than ever, and the more women are told their bodies aren't perfect enough, the more self-conscious they are about about taking their clothes off and exposing their imperfect selves. For many women we have gone back to the custom of having sex with the lights off.

  82. Geez, way to support a sister, oh you giant of the Sexual Revolution.

    For me, part of said revolution included at the notion that women owned their bodies, and I believe that may have led to displays of hairy pits and burning of bras.

    Point being.... There is nothing prudish at raising the flag about the fact we are moving further and further from those ideals. Hannah Davis' exposed parts are meant to evoke the look of a child. Whether we like it or not, this now will intriduce yet another expected and accepted standard of beauty for women....especially young women who are most prone to that pressure. Meantime, can't say the same scrutiny and focus is being applied to men's comparables.

    I still remember a critical comment from a boyfriend about my untrimmed nether regions, twenty years ago. I didn't watch porn, had no idea that there were some things as landing strips but I do remember the humiliation of having somehow missed a social cue. Years later I still feel the anger that he felt entitled to criticize me that way and I let him.

    Bravo JW for raising this.

  83. Sad to see that you missed the other revolutions that were taking place at the same time. The article isn't about limiting sexual expression, it's about the continued objectification of women. Remember that revolution? It's not over.

  84. Here’s the usual problematic line that you expect to find in these clever complaint essays.

    "Now, each year brings a new term for an unruly bit of body that women are expected to subdue through diet and exercise."

    The sly passive voice of course allows the writer to be evasive about who should be called to account for the madness she writes about.

  85. The "usual problematic line"? The bikini line?

    Ahhhhmmm.

    "As usual delicate flowers like Robert who don't get the joke will protest too much."

    Feel better? Gotsa proper noun.

  86. Grow up and acknowledge his point.

  87. NatWidg

    As a grown up I see Robert's infantile inchoate point and bullying, which I expressed by my sarcasm. Now I see an underling who does not get it.

    Here is a clue: the writer wrote what she chose to write from her POV and did it well. Robert chose to prissily decree she should have written on his issue. Robert, and you, believe you have a greater truth that subsumes hers to which she must submit. You do not. You have a clueless greater ignorance. Now acknowledge my point.

  88. All of this will continue until women wise up and simply turn away. We all have bodies which are nature/God-given. They look different. We are the fools when we let someone with an agenda tell us that one type is the 'right' type and that all others are defective.

    I remember at a thin time in my life walking down the street behind 3 slim women all of whom wore jeans. The three all looked vastly different with only one having a triangle shape (narrow waist, wider bottom), which was the shape I craved (I come from a long line of butt-less women and am not pear shaped) and assumed to be the most desired. For a bit I found that sight of those 3 women depressing because it showed me that no amount of effort on my part was going to change my basic shape into another. What I needed to reshape was my thinking, which I did.

    Let's stop letting retailers and hawkers of 'fashion' magazines and sellers of gym memberships tell us that our bodies are not right. Life is too short for such nonsense, sisters.

  89. "What I needed to reshape was my thinking, which I did." Beautiful!

  90. As any real man will tell you, women are beautiful in their natural state: lumps, bumps, hairs and all. Unfortunately, certain influences in our culture have discovered that there is good money to be made in promoting an illusion of women as pre-pubescent adults with clear skin, blue eyes, a size 2 waist and less body hair than the average alopecia sufferer. As if things in our world aren't difficult enough for women, this cynical glamour can and usually does weaken their already shaky self-esteem to the point where they feel inadequate.

  91. European men make such good lovers because they love women because they're women....fur, scent and all....

  92. Once again an article about the hardships of being a woman that totally ignores an added burden of some of us: Skin Color.

    Wake me up when as you gloss over archives of Sports Illustrated covers, you notice the lack of women of color, save for one or two. So imagine with our unmanicured private parts etc, we must now deal with being non-white. Most magazines have dealt with that problem by bleaching our faces or simply never having us on their covers because apparently non-black women can't identify with us, but we do. (Then once we publish magazines targeted at us as a solution, we are called separatist.)

    By the looks of this and countless other feminist narratives that only speak on gender inequality and not race, I believe the magazines. As a black woman, even if I had the stomach and pruned private parts, I would probably not get as much love as many white women who don't have either.

    So this article doesn't touch my soul. My mother and her mother didn't even have time to worry about how the world may view their sculpted figures, they were too busy being made to feel ashamed of something they could not hide: their skin tone.

  93. I believe that ALL women are made to feel ashamed of something they can not hide: their gender.

  94. Sex sells. It sells ads and ads about everything else. Sex sells booze, drugs (illicit or not), gym fees, guns, jewelry, violence and war. The issue is not whether women can attain what men an women know is a distorted and absurd standard of "beauty." The issue is not whether we are a prudish society. We are not, since we are literally flooded in sex-driven narratives before birth. The issue is why do we, women included, consciously consume it all, at the tune of billions of dollars every year? Otherwise, we would not have beauty pageants, cheerleaders, hooters, hunks, jocks, johns, pimps, strippers, bachelor/bachelorette parties, spring breaks to go wild, fantasy cruises, and viagra. But then what would we do with all the boredom, time, and money? Have sex?

  95. Many SI swimsuit photos are so doctored as to be laughable. If you look at the cover of just 3 years ago, it shows 3 or 4 women all with their rear ends pushed and their upper bodies twisting around to look, that they look like female satyrs. I kid you not: the effect is unsettling, if not a little disturbing.

    Needless to say, this is not a topic I give much thought to, particularly at this stage of my life. I almost feel sorry for any woman who derives her sense of self esteem from body parts that are largely genetically determined but perpetually found wanting.

    I'm even sorrier for young women like the one you described in the waiting room of your (ahem) laser beautification center. To have her boyfriend objectify her further by paying for procedures she likely never would have dreamed of, had it not been for the fantasies and largesse of lover boy is truly sad.

    I had a friend in NJ--a lovely woman--who underwent a breast enlargement in the 80s at the behest of her then boyfriend, who had abusive tendencies to begin with. Her self esteem was so poor that this woman--independent in very facet of her life--felt compelled to follow her boyfriend's directives. After they split up, she was left with the medical fallout from breast implants that had to be removed.

    The whole episode was so sordid in the rehearing, that I could only wonder: how many other women get talked into gratuitous, often dangerous, procedures they feel is the only way to please their men?

  96. When I was a very young woman, I was mesmerized by the beautiful models on magazine covers. As a girl, I did not think anyone was more beautiful than Brooke, although Christy Brinkley came close; and in my early 20s, I could not get enough of Cindy. I was unaware that photography could be manipulated. Me, and other girls or young women, were vulnerable to destructive scrutiny and were highly impressionable. Girls today are no different. Technology today is powerfully changed and advancing. It is more crucial than ever that mothers and fathers raise our daughters and our sons to recognize that what we see truly does not exist.

  97. I once talked to Christie Brinkley inflight. (It was when she was married to Billy Joel--1980's?) She was absolutely gorgeous and friendly too. She was a natural beauty!

  98. (Sigh) My mom worried about her undercarriage to the extent that it affected her health. It would do American women, and men, to do the same. Data that is now a couple years old indicates that the BMI is now grossly underestimating the rate of obesity because we have not only gotten fatter, we have lost large amounts of muscle since the '70s. We are currently approaching two-thirds of the nation being obese.

    So, by all means fret, sculpt, improve your diet and get some exercise. If being attractive in some special place is the driving force, go ahead and embrace it. Under all that, trimming a stone or two of flab will knock down the risk (or certainty, as we now stand) of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and other less-than-lovely ways to die.

  99. In the brave new absurd obscene world, here is one area where equality is becoming reality. The demeaning dictates imposed on women are increasingly imposed on men. Hair removal, augmentation of this and that, 'fixing' the other thing, slimming here, extension there. Men are well on their way to being just as mindlessly slavish to pathetic 'body fashion.' (We've been mindlessly slavish to plenty of other things for ages. Just think of ties. What possible rationale is there for choking off oxygen and blood supply to the brain — unless it is to bring everyone done to the level of the brainless fashionistas who come up with these gimmicks in the first place or to ensure that office automatons can't actually think?)

    The irony: Nudists, baring all, have done away with more of fashion slavery than all those fretting about what to wear, or what to bare. (More, not all.)

  100. Forty years ago I was working in a film cutting room. On the wall was a poster of a blonde woman her dress flying up - a copy of that famous Marilyn Monroe pic.

    She seas totally surrounded by a halo of arrows pointing to all her body parts with captions listing all the kinds of products which could be sold to correct her defects. (Remember cancer inducing vaginal deodorants?) It was PR for a male owned 'women's magazine' called Cleo, which prided itself on male centrefolds & sexual liberation.

    With the benefit of much hindsight, I no longer see women as 'equal' or 'liberated' or anything else but even more vulnerable victims of almost infinite variations of male aggression & abuse.

  101. This is so on the money. Yes, it seems now that very nook and cranny of a woman's body needs to be groomed and "improved" in some way. Here's my take on this phenomenon:

    1) Now that women have become more empowered and powerful in various realms, it's interesting that current beauty standards idealize infantilizing women's bodies with pre-pubescent hairlessness and curve-lessness - except of course, for surgically enhanced, gravity-defying, plastic-looking breasts;
    2) There's also the clear disgust with flesh - so of course, women's bodies must be as firm, tight and hairless as statues. Flesh should never seem at all "fleshy." Our Puritan heritage clashing with our sex-obsessed culture.
    3) Porn has become so pervasive in our culture that the way women look and behave in porn has become our norm in the real world
    4) Together with all the above is the misogyny that's become rife in our culture. Sadly, it seems many young women are internalizing this misogyny into self-hatred or at least, hatred of their bodies.
    5) Most of the women I see at the gym or running, including the new mothers doing their stroller workouts, seem so desperate - as if they're in a grim life-or-death battle.
    6) All that money spent on surgery, lasering, and other expensive beauty treatments is money not used for savings, investments - or even pure enjoyment.

  102. I can remember going to Europe in the 1980s for the summer and feeling liberated because almost no one shaved their legs or under their arms! And when the outlandish fashions of the past were widely dismissed even in the US as unnatural. Being clean and tidy and attractive is one thing, but spending so much time and money on alterations to one's body that very few people will even see is just another way in which the 1%, in beauty if not financial terms, now rule.

  103. This 'fastidiousness' about eradicating women's public hair is troubling when one asks oneself what's driving it. The first thought that crops to mind is uncomfortable--that men are excited by prepubescent girls. Prepubescent girls with large breasts is some kind of having-it-both-ways Nirvhana.

    The second thought is more biblical; that women are inherently dirty. We must erase anything that interferes with our becoming a top-to-toe expanse that is smooth, shiny and spotlessly clean. Will bald heads be the next erotica?

  104. A brave response to a ubiquitous problem. But we too have a choice (as women). Hopefully those more educated and evolved will transcend this cosmetic crazed society and see each other for who they are. Great industry for more plastic surgeons creating more plastic people. With everyone looking 'soooo good,' where's the mystery of individuality gone?

  105. I fear that the trend is more unnerving than depicted and accounted. It seems that Holllywood starlets started the practice and they used clever display techniques like getting "out-of-low-slung cars in miniskirts". How else might a beautiful celebrity differentiate herself but to remove the last vestiges of cover (including no underware) and display a nude, bald pelvic floor. Paparaazz photography is always at the ready to lionize the fad and memorialize the peeking. Natural women might ignore the trend and keep things in place and enjoy life without abnormal psychology.

  106. It's a great article, and shame on anyone who characterized it as prudish. Sexual revolutions aside (and having lived through it, I'm not sure it was all that revolutionary compared to the more modern level of shenanigans that characterize modern love), what is going to be left to unveil? I think all we're ultimately doing is desexualizing all that was once bathed in erotic mystery. And anyone who had a plastic Barbie doll recognizes where they've seen that mons pubis before...

  107. Capitalism chases profits by finding a market and, for a price, exploiting it.

    Somewhere along the line women became consumed by their looks and sexual appeal, opening the door for capitalism to do what it does best, exploit a market and which it has done here to the tune of multiple billions of dollars annually by employing psychological warfare in marketing and advertising...convincing 'the mark' (women) there is something wrong that needs fixing (in order for them to have a chance to succeed as a woman) and "this product" is the only thing in the world that offers salvation from the embarrassment of xyz and the chance at being fulfilled as a woman...

    Good luck convincing women not to take counsel of their fears.

  108. I resent the accusations leveled by several comments equating the shaving of women's pubic areas with a disposition towards pedophilia on the part of men. My wife and I regularly indulge in oral sex and we have agreed that this is made much less messy by keeping things clean in our respective pubic areas. This is a simple courtesy which enhances our respective enjoyment of this act. I don't doubt that there are men out there who may enjoy shaved pubic areas for questionable reasons, but please don't paint all men in such a negative light with the broad brushstrokes of your stereotyping. A little research would yield innumerable articles supporting the fact that there has been a trend for quite some time for men and women to groom their pubic areas for the benefit of their sexual partner.

  109. "Grooming" is different than paying for painful and costly wax removal of every spec of fuzz.

  110. "Keeping things clean in our respective pubic areas." Ever hear of soap?

  111. Let's be clear: this preference for pubic-hairless, skeletal women is really about two things: pedophilia and misogyny. It's about men (and some women) who can't deal with the true physicality or emotionality of adult women, and so seek to infantilize them.

    Thirty-plus years ago, second wave feminism worked hard to wrest women from this kind of objectification. But with the mainstreaming of porn, and the distortions of photoshop, many young, presumably educated women, are mindlessly embracing it, and calling it a choice. Please. No psychologically healthy person makes a choice to starve or mutilate herself, and admit or not, that's exactly what many of these behaviors and procedures have devolved into.

  112. Woman buys a women's magazine, edited by women, with impossible looking woman on the pages, and tries to live up to those woman's standards. Exactly how are men invloved?

  113. As an artist/crafter I am repeated conscious of the Gold Mean or plainly a ratio determining proportions of associated parts of a whole. Body shape idealism in our culture can be traced back to the Da Vinci drawing of Vitruvian Man. Wik: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvian_Man. It's quite a rigorous criteria.

    Realistically, our obsession with the ideal classic form, has garnered some outlandish exaggerations. If I had my druthers I'd prefer the concept that a beautiful mind informs the form contemplated. The contemplation of a beautiful mind is informs reciprocally. This notion allows for beauty to be held throughout a complete lifetime. Truth and Beauty are co-referents. We are born with the truth. The beauty part is conditional, not on rigorous externalities, but rather on existential decisions. Obsessing about getting a piece of work just right sometimes gets frustrating. Frustration is not beautiful.

  114. I applaud the writer's sentiments, but it's necessary to point out that the editor of the swimsuit issue (MJ Day) is a woman, not a man. Many, if not most, of the insanely unrealistic standards of beauty that the media propagates are created by women, directed at other women. The culture of heterosexual men isn't based around policing women's body shapes. They don't have to; heterosexual women do it for them.

  115. You must be, frankly, delusional. Men crave young women and women must compete, if they want men, by constant diligence towards their appearance. What a waste of life and talent!

  116. N/A; And WHY do women do this? Because men have expectations of "beauty" and acceptability. Women want mates, and are bamboozled into modifications to try to insure getting one....aided by the intense marketing and advertising (which IS still a male dominated field). It is the same reason that women subjugate themselves in relationships, put up with abuse (verbal, emotional - physical somewhat less) at home and at their jobs. There IS inequality for women....did the old man who had the young girl sitting on his lap in the waiting room have HIS body adjusted to make it more pleasing to her? And women, though in their youth, often are most attracted to the young stud, are far more accepting of who a man is vs. what he looks like physically.

  117. You write that "The culture of heterosexual men isn't based around policing women's body shapes. They don't have to; heterosexual women do it for them." I agree that many women do as you say but I think that is because for so many, many decades the male perspective has been predominant. That typical perspective regarding women's' roles has been instilled into female thinking for so long that many now see themselves through a male viewpoint. I think it can also be easily argued that males have been subject to the same process, leaving us to play our structured role as well.

  118. And then there are the side effects: failed procedures, maintainece, big expenses, side effects.

  119. Well I've always found au naturel to be plenty appealing. I think my own wife, in her unsculpted, untouched beauty, to be pretty darn sexy. She has great skin for one thing and a pretty face. But the fact is I'm also turned on by how smart and talented she is. It's why I married her.

    What a concept. Are women doing this for men or for other women?

  120. I agree with Siobhan's and Linda's comments, especially with Linda's point about heels. I know they're supposed to look sexy, and that the stretched-out leg that results is supposed to advertise availability, and that they give the walking wounded what Bobby Vee was singing about in "Poetry in Motion" when I was younger, and still listened to pop lyrics: "Poetry in motion, see her gentle sway; a wave out on the ocean could never move that way."

    What I didn't understand then, and still don't today, is why women wear heels at all, or "rip... public hair out by the roots with wax." Sounds barbaric to me. I know, I know, SI and its readers want all women to look like 16-year-olds, except with bigger breasts -- it strikes me that this is part of a reversion to high school values that make the jock and cheerleader more desirable than the nerd. Yes, I was a nerd in high school. I didn't care about sports then, and I don't now. Except possibly what Siobhan points out, that these illustrated women are "sports" in the biological sense, a mutation, a freak of nature.

    It's too damn bad that men are willing to entertain themselves with fantasies about such mutations, whether genetic or editorial.

  121. I am a physician and see many women who are developing methcillin resistant Staph infections MRSA from all the shaving in the pubic area and now I am seeing men shaving with subsequent infections We are only at the beginning of this further epidemic of Staph infections from this type of shaving

  122. I don't think it's so much what she's exposed but how she's posed, and that the pose suggest she's about to reveal more. This is, by the way, not unlike similarly provocative poses that male models add to their portfolios these days.
    In fact, I'd bet is was inspired by them.

  123. What makes this even worse is that Ms. Davis is the girlfriend of beloved Yankee Derek Jeter. Women who idolize this supposedly all American 40 year old will now think that there is even more they have to "fix" to be worthy os such a man. never mind the age difference and all that means in terms of men's ability to age gracefully versus women's need to try and look ridiculously young at all costs. Look how Hillary Clinton is demonized over her looks - something that another brilliant woman Eleanor Roosevelt also endured. Brains? Independent thinking? Those can't be added or reconstructed.

  124. As a heterosexual man with a healthy sexual appetite, I can't even fathom the thinking that would make a male mind care about changing this landscape.

    But apparently there are absurd depths of female insecurity, and mediocre dust motes of shallow men not worth any woman's time who give voice to insane demands.

    I refuse to acknowledge the existence of people this puerile.

    I will continue on with my life pretending that this level of shallowness and insecurity does not exist, thank you very much.

  125. Part of the issue is that if someone were to lighten his or her hair upstairs, then it is problematic if the downstairs does not match in color. The easiest solution is waxing or electrolysis. So I guess it begins with people's desire to be blonde.

  126. I have reached the delicious age where I could not care less what the latest stupid message is for women and their bodies. I am comfortable in my skin. I am probably invisible and anonymous to most others when I leave my home, and that suits me fine. I live my life without stressing in the slightest about the latest SI cover or silly body-fashion trend.

  127. I cannot shake the association of pubic shaving with avoiding pubic lice. That kills the porn implication asap.

    Men who seek such reductive quals are out there and good to avoid. One rejected me for not having the "perfect manicure" (protects them from rejection, eh). Then that guy in the article with the young thing in his lap. Really creepy.

  128. Well said!

  129. It is typically the people who do not have the popular, attractive features so often promoted that criticize those very features. If a woman wants less body hair, or to have a nice "bikini bridge", or a nice "thigh gap", why criticize her? People always prefer to look at beauty rather than the alternative ... it is not only a product of marketing, but of human nature. If some people work hard to enhance their beauty, more power to them. It is always easier to sit on a sofa and eat chocolate bars and munch on chips, getting fat while "blaming" others for being beautiful.

  130. The point isn't about criticizing those who wish to attain beauty. The point is that beauty is subjective and the people who are creating the common tastes of today (and yesterday) are the ones selling the cures. I don't know I would go as far to say this is a new problem but the immediacy of social media trends and the desire to get on board with the next big thing supposedly has been fueling the speed in which these new trends come to light.

  131. I understand what you are saying ... I just disagree with your categorization of the situation as a "problem". I would say that it is more a fact of life ... not necessarily good or bad.

  132. If anyone things any of this "body on display" is empowering to women, they are nuts. It is the same old game--women as sex objects that really shouldn't say no. Its time to wake up. Men and their "just give it to me" attitudes have taken over the empowering women movement and made it into a sex for sale, cheap movement at the same time women who have miscarriages are being arrested and investigated. Its all part of the same culture and its wrong.

  133. The SI cover was inevitable. It is as if Disney started making porn. The person displayed does resembles a human woman, albeit one who was modified sufficiently (by either the surgeon or the photoshop technician) to make her a caricature of femininity.

  134. The author is concerned that " the shot has left women and girls with another raft of insecurities," but vaginal reconstruction seems to be the only treatment she really is concerned with. This is where she draws her line in the sand. So she approves of everything else. That is not empowering to women at all.

  135. Read her article again, Martina. She never says she approves of everything else, and makes it clear that she disapproves of everything BEHIND that line in the sand. What I found interesting was her euphemism for her boyfriend - "my gentleman caller..."

  136. Several months ago on an escalator there was a young woman ahead of me with unshaven legs. This was not golden fuzzy leg hair - it was black, with hairs nearly an inch long. Not only was it not repulsive, it was interesting because in our culture it seemed akin to a statement. I wanted to know who she was - this woman of courage and integrity. I wasn't so rude as to approach her, but my admiration for her act of defiance has rendered her the most memorable stranger of the year.

  137. She may have been from Europe. The last time i was over there women as a whole did not shave, pluck, all that much. The beach scene was different too. And you didn't have to look like a model to go topless or even entirely naked. Age too was not the issue as it is over here.

  138. Great article, however it misses the point that vanity is a big part of our psyche.

    The desire to fix or to improve our looks is as old as history.
    So if someone wants to wax, tuck or trim, that is great; looking like
    a Neanderthal is passe.

    Just keep focused on a healthy approach and moderation, and don't forget that your
    emotional being needs attention and nourishment. Meaningful friendships and
    empathy towards others is what makes you beautiful every day!

  139. I'm sensing a creeping (or stampeding) culture of blame everywhere I turn. Blame the police, blame the government, blame media, blame the bankers, and on and on and on. Indeed there are times when something really needs to be fixed and then measures should be directed in the appropriate direction. But this article just panders to the blame culture - "women are expected to subdue..." What? I am a woman and I do pretty much whatever I want. It's walking up a mountain alone or in a parking lot at night where I feel nervous and that's not right. But I'm not going to let anyone tell me what needs to be shaved or what I should wear or how large the gap is between my thighs. Come on!

  140. True, but count the many times you have to explain and even justify yourself when you do "pretty much whatever you want."

    I am not a woman but I suspect most women simply don't care to shave every week just to please someone that "likes that way."...

  141. Well if the blame fits….

  142. Thank you, Ms. Weiner, for calling out the insidiousness of the self-improvement-industrial complex that continues its inexorable march (literally) up one side of the female anatomy and down the other. I'm a girl's girl -- I've got a serious makeup habit and I'm perpetually back on a diet. But I'm frankly too strapped working at my career, maintaining my marriage and friendships, and keeping up my little household to spend actual time or money on the latest and greatest "problem areas." Still, there's no doubt of the general low-grade anxiety I experience stemming from the relentless cataloguing of women's supposed body and sartorial failings.

    "Camel toe," "thigh gap" and all the rest are concepts invented to turn a profit at the great expense of everyday women. But just because someone out there has invented them, we don't have to buy in. We can agree to disagree with those whose upside relies on our believing we're just one nip/tuck (or goop-in-a-tube or workout routine) from good enough.

  143. The other option is to stop paying attention to this nonsense - and stop playing victim. Instead mourn the fact our society is so out of whack, and find like-minded men and women to call friends and lovers and be done with this mainstream objectification that ruins souls. Take your power back. I refuse to play by these silly rules and give my attention to this un-evolved nonsense. Yes, it's lonelier, there's less people of this mindset, but we are out here and not obsessing about someone else's ideas of what is beautiful. Its a privilege to be able to do this (we are living in the USA)... and you can define beauty on your own terms, and choose to find men who do the same (and who somehow how transcended objectification and pornography, but they are out there too). Just offering. And PS - sometimes women are the ones that judge themselves harsher than men do...

  144. I agree with you, Barb, when it comes to my own assessment of my body and attractiveness, but I have heard my teenage daughter refer to her various body parts as 'disgusting' and wonder if any boy/man would ever find her attractive (she is beautiful by any standard, by the way, and also very intelligent). I have tried to convince her that most men prefer a real woman, not one mostly shaped like an adolescent boy with boobs. I also tell her that lasting relationships depend on emotional intimacy and respect, that initial attraction only goes so far, and that many outstanding relationships develop out of friendships in which people fall in love with each other's brains, making them also feel physically attracted. But of course, I don't know anything and probably won't until she is about 20. How do I protect her from this insidiousness in the meanwhile?

  145. My husband thinks my ladyplace is fine as it is, and his is the only opinion I care about. Anyone else who has an opinion can just keep it to themselves.

    I have absolutely no problem with nudity, but I find the SI cover objectionable. There is a line, and they definitely crossed it.

  146. Good grief! All this worry and fussing and fiddling, all the years of trying to fix myself. How can I ever attain the body and clothing of today's female celebrities? I feel like I should either hide under a big coat or smock so no one knows, and have my face and neck made over, or maybe go outside. I even looked at my school yearbook and found girls of "normal;" size; i.e., 28" waist at high school graduation and 26" after meeting my husband to be. Abdomen flat as a pancake. And I was happy. Today on TV I see only "mannequins" who have primed themselves to have eyes and mouth that are trained go this way and that, clothing that appears to reduce to size 1 or 0, body parts that go out and parts that go in, with cleavage down to there, and shoes on stilts.

    My conclusion is that I look pretty good, all things considered, at my lofty age. Except all women on the screen and in catalogs make it clear that anyone past the age of 50 no longer belongs. Only clothes with Lycra and spandex, which pinch and squeeze, are suitable. Maybe it's a conspiracy to do away with older women!!

  147. That cover's very close to porno but it sneaked by the censors I guess.
    I feel sorry for females these days, they have to look good both dressed and undressed which is too high a standard for mere mortals.
    Guys can have either looks, money, success or fame, so we have it a bit easier in life.

  148. There are plenty of commercials, magazines, etc. that show men in the same kind of light, yet men don't get their panties in a bunch over it. Let women decide whether or not they want to change the way they look; that decision is totally up to them. Undeniably, almost one hundred percent of the women who make the decision to change their body do so willingly and don't feel like they've been pressured into doing it by what they've see in a Sports Illustrated magazine. We don't need people going around telling us how bad it is that these fads exist, because it really isn't that big of a deal.

  149. I wonder if women are altering themselves in these ways primarily to impress men, or if it is something that lesbian women generally also find important.

  150. Thanks, Jennifer. Great article. I was laughing while reading some of it, but it really isn't funny.

    I'm old enough that I had never heard of "thigh gap" until I read this article. It is ironic and amusing, after feeling self-conscious in ballet classes years ago because I thought the gap between my thighs made me look strange and sort of bow-legged, to learn that this has now been arbitrarily deemed a highly desirable trait.

    Think of how much more women could accomplish if we didn't waste time on all this stupid stuff. And this article didn't even get into the social unacceptability of gray hair.

  151. I love the use of euphemisms here. They are hilarious. And on the substance: when the "no pubic hair" thing started to become fashionable, I figured "fashion" had well and truly jumped the shark. I really, really don't want to have sex with a man who is apparently fantasizing that women look more like pre-pubescent girls. That's all kinds of creepy. I'll stick with men interested in adult women.

  152. The assault on women's bodies is shocking and another bit of cognitive dissonance rampant in our society. It is intended, like most advertising these days, to divide and conquer. And alas, many women go along with it.

    A number of years agoI was invited by a client to a Christmas bash, it featured a striptease and dance by a man and a woman. It was quite erotic, both were shapely and excellent dancers, obviously sportive, with one caveat. The dancing woman had fixed boobs. And the next daywhen I visited the client, all the guys there,mostly 20 years younger than I am, thought exactly the same.... This attack on women's bodies is also a pernicious attempt to explain to men what is sexy and what not. ... But in our puritan society, who is going to openly say what they like...

  153. Jennifer,

    I feel this ties in with the fashion industry's obsession with thin. To this day, while there are increasingly more women fashion designers, many of the movers and shakers ARE indeed men. I am tired of these (mainly) men and women expecting those who want to wear nice clothes to look androgynous "to be fashionable."

    Back in the mid 90s, I called into a daytime show on CNN that had Calvin Klein on as a guest. I was a size 6 at the time but I asked him why there did not seem to be nice clothes for people of all sizes. Mr. Klein's response was something about him not catering to larger women and that "they" had other options. I am not sure if he/his company does make clothes for larger women nowadays and while his clothes can be wonderful, I always keep in mind that he looks pretty androgenous himself.

    On a related note, I saw coverage of Ms. Anna Wintour at Kanye West's "fashion show." I don't know many women who would be caught dead in a bra top with tight leggings and a jacket and boots and pretty much nothing else. It made me LOL because it reminded me of the story "The Emperor's New Clothes." What fools we are.

    And as to the older man in your story, there is no fool like an old fool.

  154. The author should stop complaining. It's the women, that love the impossible competition. Men are actually turned off by all the anorexic models in the magazines. "This one will not bring you a healthy baby", is what the lizard part of our brain tells us. But women seem to love the comparisons. And the harder to achieve "perfection", the better.

  155. It shames me as a man to think what men have done to woman throughout time and are still doing. Unimaginable physical and emotional harm; social, economic, and political oppression; every kind of exploitation imaginable.

    And perhaps the worst part of it all is turning each woman against herself and each other. Rise up, rise up. Mother Earth needs you all now.

  156. One of my favorite artifacts from ancient Greece is a vase painting of a satyr plucking a woman's pubic hair. The practice is not new. The age of Perikles produced no Hollywood movies or women's magazines. Women have always primped, plucked, etc. to attract sexual attention. It's programmed into the genes. So have a glass of wine, relax, and grab a Groupon for a Brazilian. You might just enjoy the excitement in your lover's eyes.

  157. Actually, one of the reasons they plucked and shaved that area was to control lice. The Egyptian upper classes shaved theirs heads (and every place else, as well, for the same reason). It was a health issue more than anything.

  158. It should be noted that all revealing pictures that appear in national magazines have been extensively photoshopped, smoothed and altered to eliminate all vestiges of "imperfections" that the model might have. They are not real women, they are Disney creations.

  159. Women need to stop being approval seekers and instead seek self-value.
    The new SI issue should be a brown-cover display in stores, but that has nothing to do with most women. Many women spend too much time and energy worrying about what others think - especially men - and not enough time engaging in activities that enlarge their brains and shrink their negative opinions of themselves. Do what men do - build your world around yourself.

  160. Just another version of telling women what they "should" be doing. Why not keep it to yourself. We're fine just as we are.

  161. In 1841, John Ruskin (1819-1900) was inspired to write "The King of the Golden River" for Effie Gray: she was twelve years old. In 1848, she married him and "... he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April." Thank goodness, she eventually shed Ruskin, married Millais and had eight children. Can it be that the previouslyl-ridiculous Ruskin is finally finding companionship and sympathy?

  162. Jonathan Swift wrote a great satiric epic poem of an idealistic lover who sneaks into his beloved's boudoir and is progressively more disgusted to discover the many ways in which his ethereal angel is mere clay, not only enhanced by numerous artifices, but (gasp!) only human. (The hysterical climax, alas, is a couplet that can't be printed in the NYT.)
    His poem ends: 'I pity wretched Strephon blind/To all the charms of female kind;/Should I the queen of love refuse,/Because she rose from stinking ooze?/ .../When Celia in her glory shows,/If Strephon would but stop his nose/(Who now so impiously blasphemes/Her ointments, daubs, and paints and creams,/Her washes, slops, and every clout,/With which he makes so foul a rout) /He soon would learn to think like me,/And bless his ravished sight to see/Such order from confusion sprung,/Such gaudy tulips raised from dung."
    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180934
    Similar to the sentiments so well voiced by Meghan Trainor:
    'I see the magazines/Workin' that photoshop/We know that [deleted] ain't real/C'mon now make it stop/ .../ I'm here to tell you every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.'

  163. IDK, maybe I am just to old school. I prefer my wife ( and when I was single, my girlfriends) to be au naturel. Why mess up perfection? And silicone enhancements- the same. I truly believe that God created perfection (at least from this male's perspective) and nothing can improve on that. Some commenters have called this current trend, rather pedophilia-like. I could not agree more. I just believe a woman should enjoy all of her body as it is. SI or 5th Avenue should not dictate. Besides, can't you just picture these dudes on the other side of the camera? My image is a fat, bald, socially-inept, guy only wishing in his wildest dream he could even score with any female, not to mention this idealized, unreal version of the female form.

  164. As grown adults we believe we can take or leave (and be criticised for it) the unrealistic expectations of women's bodies. But what about the young girl who is constantly being bombarded by these messages? What does she see and feel about her own appearance when all women in the media look the same, but none of them look like her? Even the most sensitive, responsible parents cannot combat the message that she will never be as "beautiful" as society expects her to be.

  165. I have also noticed my teenage daughter use the term "disgusting" in reference to her various body parts that don't match the latest trends. She even complains that her beautiful dark brown eyes are not a lighter color. It takes self-hatred and insecurity to a new level that I find really disturbing. She is also convinced of the importance of being "hot". My daughter is very intelligent and usually logical, in middle school rolling her eyes at girls who only talked about hair and clothes, but now that she is in high school her intelligence doesn't protect her from these thoughts, or the belief that her male classmates have the same opinions about the 'acceptable' female form; I have not been able to convince her otherwise. At least she has never bought into the belief that she has to 'dumb down' around guys.

  166. Really great article!
    As a woman, am I the only one alarmed by men who remove their very sexy chest hair? They look like pre-pubescent boys and not at all sexy to me. The thing is it is lasered off never to come back again and I think it is sad.

  167. I love chest hair too....a man without it is a meal without wine.

  168. If women are waiting until they can perfect their bodies in order to meet cultural expectations, good luck. If women rail against the media, yelling "Stop doing this to us!" and expecting a change, good luck there, too. The more absurd things get, the clearer it is to me: Quit listening to those voices that demean, anger and diminish you. Pay attention to something else, like deciding what kind of life you want to live, and then living it.

  169. Thank god, I'm way too old to have to worry about reconstructing my vagina, sculpting my moms pubis and waxing away my public hair. But I feel terrible for the young women who believe that they must do these thnigs to be beautiful. It's not just disturbing, it's heartbreaking.

  170. The less they have on the inside, the more they have to sculpt, preen, pluck the outside.

  171. Let's call the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue what it is - pornography.
    Instead of putting a cover on it, announce it. The bar code will be activated at the cashier or when the home copy is opened, "You are supporting pornography. This objectifies women."

  172. She is objectifying herself. The objectifying lies not so much in the hairlessness below as in the huge breasts she has chosen to have. No woman with that physique could naturally have breasts that large and round. (That aside, I'm sure the publishing industry will happily support your bar code idea.)

  173. As a white male who has benefited from white privilege over the years, I feel great shame that I have not realized, until reading this heartfelt opinion piece, how much this "sports journalism" issue every year objectifies and dehumanizes women of all backgrounds.

  174. Thank you for this opinion piece. The present age with ubiquitous media access is very detrimental to the goal of people finding their personal balance and developing a sound and healthy self image. Especially if - as you correctly note - there is a lot of money to be made in fanning people's insecurity and promoting the "what will others think of me" anxiety.

  175. I certainly don't see men, vain as they are, in general knocking themselves out to be fit, or attractive women. For some reason, their very amazing, large egos think they look just fine no matter how fat they are. Their bellies hang over their pants to the point where I worry, they are going to fall down, bad facial hair, combovers, really bad dental hygiene and other images come to mind. Let's all just concentrate on getting healthy and ignore people like the SI models. This is another desperate example of magazines trying to keep themselves afloat. With one third of the country obese and two thirds overweight we really have to concentrate on that issue and ignore pornography disguised as a magazine cover.

  176. Actually, I just looked at the cover. She's adorable.

    I resonate with the sentiment of the piece, but am confused about the focus. Are we talking vaginal reconstructive surgery (for health and comfort - my grandmother had that) or for looks and feel (internal or external?)? Or are we talking about neatening up or removing pubic hair? And because it's convenient to not have it dangle out of its shielding panties or bathing suits or because we're trying to meet our own or our partner's aesthetic expectations?

    I look at that adorable model on the cover of Sports Illustrated and she reminds me of that perfect picture of a butterfly in National Geographic.

  177. "Adorable" and "butterfly" aren't what I get when I look at that cover photo. Still trying to explain to my 14-year-old feminist daughter why that magazine came in the mail to our house.

  178. Being a hipster, being cool. Now, it's shaving one's pubic hair. Expressing one' individuality, freedom? Nope, it's just mass conformity. The pop culture slaves do what their fashion masters command. Oh well, it's good for the consumer economy in some way, I guess (special razors, pubic shaving cream?).

  179. This trend doesn't warrant much analysis. I have to believe women subject themselves to this "beauty-fix" because they really like the way they look afterwards. Why else? It's impossible for me to imagine a man implying, suggesting, or demanding any woman undergo regular "clearing" down there.

    And yet women never stop trying. They get a new dress and expect their man to notice - and of course, he doesn't. Their friends will - but the man - dumb to the world. Still issues in the lower regions is not exclusive to women. Men too overly obsess. Anyone who's seen modern porn has seen both sexes defoliated to the extreme. And the actors are so much better looking than you and me.

    While the women have achieved "perfect bodies" especially through the aid of plastic surgeons the porn men display a g-d given attribute for which no surgery provides. And we're left to believe that this is what women truly fantasize. What's wrong with us?

  180. What women are or are not doing to the mons pubis is a side issue--as is the pruning and de-hairing of the female body. After all, the ancient Greeks pruned and waxed their bodies to no end. No, the core issue at stake rests elsewhere--namely, in how, exactly, women use their freedom in society.

    Call me a prude (thank goodness the Times permits pseudonyms--my family would freak out me for writing this comment), but if you look with any detachment at our magazines, television shows, movies and popular culture in general, women commonly play the role of prancing, vamping, vulgar street prostitutes.

    As to the SI cover in particular, well, yes, even in today's terms, it's over the top for a non-pornographic magazine; in a decade, it will probably be nothing. On a deeper level, it makes me wonder about my sex in general--about how a presumably intelligent and beautiful woman who is neither a prostitute nor a player in the porn industry, in order to make money and achieve fame, willingly sells her body this way.

    I know, I know, the umpteenth wave of feminism claims this is genuine liberation. Even so, that women in the West now use their hard-won freedoms to pull down their panties for all to see is not exactly what Mary Wollstonecraft had in mind.

  181. We could learn a lot, I think, from the cultures and religions that value personal modesty.

  182. Not too much. I would hate to go back to the 50's. I was there. An uptight time.

  183. I know in many shows women prance, but some of my favorite shows are the NCIS brand. There the women have guns and can kick the butt of most men. Occasionally they do use their sexuality, but for every time one them wears a sexy outfit, then have bested twenty suspects. Another one of my shows, which is getting too soap operaish, is Suits. There the head of the firm is a woman. Is she hot, maybe too hot, yes, but still a strong and smart woman in the lead.

  184. What upsets me most is that women no longer consider their body merely "imperfect" they consider it "disgusting." The level of self hatred is shocking. I stopped shaving my legs and underarms; my daughters, both feminists, were repulsed. Women at the gym stared at me with a look of disgust, as if I hadn''t bathed. A young woman I know, highly educated and otherwise intelligent, told me that she was not going to breast feed her baby because it would ruin her breasts.

    Of course women want to be attractive, and there is no shame in that. The "beauty industry" has twisted that simple natural urge into a self destructive obsession. They are not doing it for some anti-feminist political agenda, they are doing it to make money. The porn industry, and the SI porn-light, feed into this destructive cycle in order to make money off of men's quite natural urge to fantasize about unobtainable women. We are all dupes.

  185. ML: great insights...I'm just not sure that men's "quite natural urge" hasn't been cultivated while women's vehemently discouraged. I think it's time to blame culture and not genetics.

  186. ML, spot on. Because "Fifty Shades Of Grey" is now a movie hit, women will also buy into being physically hurt and humiliated as being "normal".

  187. Your comment totally flashed me back to middle school. I remember sitting in classroom when there was a bit of downtime and people were chatting. I remember nothing else of the circumstances or conversation except for the one moment that remains crystal clear in my memory: a female classmate declaring "Oh my God! I would not even want to sit next to a girl who doesn't shave her legs! Like, ew!"

    It wasn't aimed at anyone in particular, but as a non-shaving 12-year old, I remember thinking with mild alarm that I'd apparently dodged a bullet and learned how not to make a major social faux pas -- and luckily, before I'd been caught. Better get on that now!

    Kids learn from what they hear and observe around them. We expect people to do this -- to pick up on social norms and to follow them. Sure, as adults, we supposedly have free will, nobody's holding a gun to your head and forcing you under the plastic surgeon's knife, etc.. But some of those seeds are sowed young and quite forcefully -- with the outright disgust that you described -- and have really twisted themselves up inside people by the time that more critical thinking skills and/or alternative points of view present themselves.

  188. It's been a really long time since I was in the marketplace, but are there men out there now who will actually turn down the opportunity to have sex with a woman just because she doesn't have a perfectly sculpted and hairless mons? Or who has peach-fuzz on her arms? Or who doesn't turn herself inside out and spend thousands of dollars to look like some kind of mythic nymphette? Back when I was dating, men didn't seem to be all that picky, and thank God for that!

  189. Yes, many men are now very picky and will comment if they prefer a particular way of doing things. They have also become quite lazy. The established pattern among men of a certain age is the expectation that you will show - up at their door ready to do the deed. And if you show any sign that they're going to have to put any kind of effort in - like take you out for a drink or heaven forbid - a date, they immediately vanish. It's a byproduct of people no longer holding one another accountable, the hookup culture, and I can only conclude - relaxed parenting.

  190. This procedure is for infantilizing women; making them look prepubescent. Weak and powerless. Requested by OCD domineering husbands. And will give a woman painful sex forever.

  191. That's YOUR opinion. Personally, I don't find it painful. I find that it makes it more pleasurable. It was not requested by my boyfriend. It was my choice. I enjoy the way it feels. Just like we shouldn't judge when someone doesn't shave or wax or whatever their pubic area, we shouldn't judge when people do.

  192. As a mother of an 8 year old, I want to cry. My daughter is being teased for being too skinny. How do I begin to tell her that we all have our own body type and that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to look? How can I teach her to develop her intellect, that what is important is how she treats others, and that a girl can and should be judged on what she does and says, versus how she looks? This latest S/I photo makes me sick to my stomach. I appreciate the thoughtful writing of Jennifer Weiner.

  193. Harry Potter. Read those books to her. Hermione is a plain girl, but one of the most amazing characters. She absolutely brilliant and a wonderful role model. The girl who saves the dayand everyone wants to be because she's smart and only because she's smart.

  194. Ms. Weiner's take represents sanity. My husband points out the sexist part of a woman is what's between her ears. Her mind.

  195. Love this piece. Funny and dead on. What a scam. Advertising and consumption in general is fueled by endlessly creative shaming.

  196. In the real world where I talk with people every day, nobody cares about any of this model-perfect business. I don't know why people in the media have a need to obsess about other people in the media.

  197. How about we love ourselves for who and what we are and stop comparing ourselves to airbrushed women whom in real life can't even compete with their photoshopped selves.

  198. Unfortunately, the 12-24 year old youth do not understand these are not real pictures!!! Every magazine, every cover, every ad, every reality TV show is airbrushed and photo shopped. Maybe the only one that wasn't, was snookie!

  199. To each his (or her) own I guess. There's plenty of happy places to settle between 50 shades and close the shades.

  200. I am also 44 and I echo the author's comments about today's crazy euphemisms for areas of the female body. When it comes to feeling good as a woman, I have to say that I've consciously thrown away the self-hating language (and torture!) and instead have embraced whatever makes me feel luscious. Sensuality and arousal begin in the woman's mind, and there is nothing more powerful in attracting men.

    In that vein, I will quote my darling husband, here, with the sweetest words he could ever say to me: He doesn't want a girl, he wants a woman. If it doesn't jiggle, he doesn't want it.

  201. Your husband is a good, mature man! Mine always says, "I'm not gay, I'm not a pedophile. I don't get turned on by a 'woman' who looks like a 12 year old boy."

  202. way out of date. though i do remember early 1980s when the war cry in LaMaze classes was "refuse to let them shave you" during childbirth... news flash:
    1) women have been shaving waxing and trimming for nearly 15 years now. nothing new. and by the way so have men for at least 7 years if not longer (see Gilette, "manscaping".) some people just like it. it is definitely cleaner and has nothing to do with wanting a child or wanting to be a child.
    1A) and not just younger trenders. it's actually great for older women and men when things start getting grey and straggly and wiry. why not? doesn't everybody take care of that one big eyebrow hair that shows up around 50? (except for andy griffith LOL).
    2) people have been trying to stay in shape for a pretty long time also. that photo has unusual definition and Miss Davis is naturally long and thin but... again, nothing new. muscle tone to aspire to though not every physique will achieve it. justin bieber did.
    3) what was new? that the cover of a mainstream magazine got closer to full frontal than i've seen in a while. that was pushing the envelope a bit for newstands and general all-age consumption. but again, pretty tame, if you've ever perused what was going on in playboy centerfolds for the last decade or more.
    4) what else is new: we're still not sure what to do with it. well adjusted people say no big deal. people with boundary trouble, well that's another story, when things go wrong.

  203. Women have been removing varying amounts of body hair for centuries. Like any trend, it waxes (ha!) and wanes but what we are going through is nothing new. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians removed all their pubic hair. Europeans in the Middle Ages didn't. I say do what you want, it's your body.

  204. It's pretty clear: obscene cruds will do anything to try to pry money out of those who are either too stupid or too sadly and blindly oversensitive to realize they're being taken for a ride by some greedy jerk telling them there's something wrong with them when there's not.

  205. True, but the ones we have to worry about are the young ones, already with unrealistic expectations for their lives being held up, and this You Must Have A Perfect Body As We Define It bilge is what is obscene, as Ms Weiner accurately pointed out. A good backlash, from both women and men, to the effect of Health, Safety and Happiness* are important; this garbage of looking like an airbrushed, stylized (yes, I mean exactly that) representation of a woman's looks--that is NOT important.
    *as in life, liberty and the pursuit of.

  206. "unruly bit of body that women are expected to subdue through diet and exercise."

    This an individual choice, and not a universal standard. Subdue or not subdue, your move.

  207. Yes, modeling agents shouldn't be bigots.

  208. Oh, Ms. Weiner!

    This may be new news to you and Times readers, but it's old news mot places. Doctors and clinics have been making money from labiaplasty for some years now. The "natural" look is so far "out" right now that it may soon be "in" among the hip. I hope so, anyway. I'll be the first to give a big cheer.

    signed,

    Mr. Natural

  209. Girls! If you're going to build a million-dollar garage, make sure you're parking a Ferrari in it.

  210. Children don't have hair. Adults do. Isn't anyone bothered by the insistence that now adults must look like little kids to be sexy?

    I think the whole thing is creepy. If some guy wants you to reconstruct your vagina for him, seems to me time to find a different guy.

  211. There's much to be said for being comfortable in your own skin. Get on with it.

  212. Google "Japan manko arrest" for stories on a Japanese woman's efforts to take this "thing" out of the shadows.

  213. The author's "Gentleman Caller" edits the swimsuit issue coffee table book? My god, David Carr is missed at the Times. Who is in charge around here?

  214. The most disturbing thing about this is that an appealing sexual image is not an adult image. Does this have an effect on children?

  215. How cute that she thinks you need to pay for online porn.

  216. Why not equal opportunity for men? An SI cover of a hairless, perfectly sculpted guy in micro speedos.

  217. Have you opened a GQ magazine recently? Most of the male models are more effeminate, cosmetically enhanced and hairless than any woman I know.