Column: No fat chicks?

By Eric Naing

So-called “plus-sized” women are presented standing around in plain white underwear showing off their hips, stomachs and thighs to the world. This is Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” which has elicited both high praise and bitter scorn since its debut.

In his column, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lucio Guerrero quipped, “The only time I want to see a thigh that big is in a bucket with bread crumbs on it.” Fellow Sun-Times columnist and Roger Ebert sidekick Richard Roeper echoed Guerrero, lamenting, “Chunky women in their underwear have surrounded my house.”

Roeper and Guerrero are not alone in their disgust. Many people, though mostly men, have expressed complaints about the Dove advertisements. Billboards for the ad campaign have been defaced with graffiti stating things such as “Fat isn’t glamorous” and “Who ate all the pies?” The general sentiments being that not only are these women unattractive, but that their very presence is somehow offensive.

Unfortunately, this Dove controversy is just one of the many examples of the double standard of beauty imposed on women. Now, before you roll your eyes dreading some male-bashing rant, think about the images that have been presented to you. How many boorish, ugly men sitting in recliners drinking beer have you seen in advertisements? And how many of those men have unrealistically hot, super-model wives?

Just look at television shows like CBS’s “King of Queens” or any generic commercial where the hot wife buys some product or service while her bumbling husband sits on the couch and watches football. It has been said a million times before, but it bears repeating – women are held up to an unrealistic standard of beauty. And the flip side of this is that men are constantly made out to be unsexy buffoons.

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    Another example of this double standard is a recent set of television commercials produced by Hardees to promote their new Monster Thickburger. One commercial shows an average-looking twenty-something male shoving hundreds of straws into his mouth while loud rock music plays in the background. The companion commercial features an attractive blonde female doing the same thing, but much slower and more seductively. In the background, a slower paced song plays that would not be out of place in your average porno.

    Women are expected to be attractive. Those perceived to be unattractive become offensive and not worthy of being seen in public. Men, on the other hand, are free to be as crude and ugly as they wish, and in many cases are expected to be. And those men in the media who are presented as attractive and sexy are usually done so in a homoerotic manner or as parody.

    Ironically, even Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” is guilty of imposing standards of beauty on women. The ads, while seemingly high-minded, are promoting Dove’s firming cream that is meant to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Still, the ads are not meant for the Guerreros and Roepers of the world. They are meant to target the very women displayed in the ads, which is a refreshing change of pace.

    Critics of the Dove advertisements are entitled to their opinions and their own standards of beauty, but that does not mean everyone else has to follow them. Beautiful women are not a god-given right, and beauty itself is relative. Nobody is being forced to look at the women in these ads. If they are so offensive, just look away for a second and go get your unrealistic fantasy women fix from Playboy, Victoria’s Secret catalogues, Britney Spears CD covers, Maxim Magazine, Tomb Raider, any porn ever made, car magazine covers, beer posters, The Dukes of Hazard movie, The Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, etc.

    Similarly, Richard Roeper can choose to ignore the billboards surrounding his house because he may think those women are unattractive just as I can choose not to watch his show Ebert & Roeper and the Movies because I may think he is unattractive. Roger Ebert, on the other hand…

    Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Monday. He can be reached at [email protected].