How Millennial Men Can Help Change Unrealistic Body Standards For Women
I have been rejected by, dated, slept with, fallen in love with and walked down the street holding hands with women society looks down on and calls “fat.”
And I’m proud of it.
I am also friends with several full-figured women who have told me how people, especially the members of my gender, tend to treat them.
These are the main reasons I care about the issue, but it was an award-winning episode of “Louie” that inspired me to write this letter.
In this episode, Louie is reluctant to go out with a plus-size woman.
She wears him down though and confronts him on the issue during their date.
Whether you agree with all the statements she made or not, there is one part that stood out to me.
She makes Louie the representative for all men and herself the representative for all “fat girls,” asking this:
Why do you hate us so much?
Louie’s character wasn’t able to step up to the plate and answer this question, so I’m going to give it a shot and address the issues the episode raised.
As a guy who has chosen to date full-figured women, I think I’m better equipped.
To answer the question, I think it’s because society has many illnesses, and most men are not immune to all of them.
Both men and women can have a backwards attitude about body types without realizing how hurtful it is.
I didn’t become a man who hates bigger women.
I attended a performing arts high school in San Diego, where being talented and charismatic was far more attractive than society’s narrow-minded perception of female beauty.
One of the most popular girls in my grade was short and plump, yet the guys lined up to ask her out because she worked hard on her musical skills and was charming.
This environment conditioned me to put personality first and consider women of all body types.
I still pursued skinny women, but not because they were skinny.
This was common among the guys in my school.
Then I attended college and met hundreds of guys with the more typical perception of which women are attractive.
It was more than refusing to try dating women with body types other than the skinny model or bombshell.
They viewed “fat” women as inferior and disgusting.
When they overheard me commenting on how attractive I thought a plus-size girl was, they’d give me this look like I was from a different species.
These are the same guys who would say things such as, “I’d f*ck a fat bitch, but I’d never date her.”
It was shocking to see this attitude, and it was disappointing to know it was standard.
I wondered how my heavier female friends would feel if they heard this, or if perhaps they had heard it already.
After only a few months, the rhetoric was clear: I was skinny, so I deserved to date a skinny or fit person, and I should not settle for an "inferior" "fat" person.
Fat women were acceptable as platonic friends and drunken one-night stands if and only if a skinnier girl was not around and willing to put out.
The social conditioning was now working in reverse.
I didn’t subscribe to this logic and still found plus-size women attractive, but I subconsciously started pursuing skinnier girls more often because I recognized the social value of doing so.
I snapped out of this around my junior year of college because I started seeing a therapist, discussing my dating life every other session.
This put me back in touch with what was most important: pursuing the women I thought were attractive and who would make me happier, regardless of body type.
When I left college, I went on several amazing dates with plus-size women, all of whom had the same question for me at some point: “Why are you interested in me?”
They asked it with such bewilderment, believing a decent guy being interested in them — not settling for them — was too good to be true.
They didn't understand how I could choose them over slim women.
When I told them I was attracted to them and did not have a preference for body types, they still had trouble believing me.
Was I the first man to proudly show an interest in them?
Had they waited their entire romantic lives for this?
I imagined the rejection and cruelty they must’ve suffered.
Society needs a better understanding of the issues these women face.
This was heartbreaking, but it’s only a fraction of the pain plus-size women endure.
To better understand the issue, I reached out to the network of therapists in my company (I work for Talkspace, a message-based online therapy platform) and asked them about the weight-related issues female clients raise.
Talkspace therapist Kendra Simpson told me most female clients discuss their weight at some point.
Some of them consider extreme weight loss methods before seeing a therapist and realizing how negative thinking drove them to that point.
Others women do not wish to dramatically reduce their weight but worry related issues will affect their relationships.
Talkspace therapist Adriana Rogachefsky said:
I have a few younger clients who experienced trauma [bullying] for their weight and appearance, and as a result, they are fearful to be intimate in relationships let alone date. I see it present in many presenting problems like eating disorders, body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression, especially trauma.
On behalf of the men, magazines and media that made them feel this way, I apologize.
No one should feel inferior because of how he or she looks.
My sympathies go out to the women whose family members tell them they need to lose weight, whose former classmates or peers bullied them, whose crushes rejected them because they thought they were too good for heavier girls and whose potential online dates sent horrific messages.
Women can, however, push past this pain to reach attitudes and people who will help them realize how beautiful their bodies are.
It starts with understanding what determines people’s perceptions of beauty and attractiveness.
Society once considered you more beautiful than skinny women.
Modern society makes slim seem fundamentally superior to curvy, as if the former was gold and and the latter lead.
What we view as attractive, however, is actually a combination of societal and cultural pressures and preference.
Today, we live in a world that constantly shoves the skinny image in our faces.
Whether it’s through billboards, magazines, television or film, skinny is in.
It represents the wealth for a gym membership and the drive to keep weight down, despite metabolism and genetics being an enormous factor.
If history is any indication, this could change within the century.
The ancient Greeks preferred plump, full-bodied women.
The Italian Renaissance romanticized women with rounded stomachs and wider hips.
In many European societies around this era, excess fat was a sign of wealth because it meant you had enough money to eat more than you needed.
And we know how attractive money is.
Martyne Lo Russo from Lake Worth, Florida, is one of the women I spoke to about the issue via email.
She told me she used the above information to protect herself from feeling worth any less than a skinny woman:
I loved [looking back on] those periods when bigger women were hot. Seeing those paintings — even watching a movie featuring heavy-legged dancers — meant a lot to me. I took strength from those periods of time.
Perhaps a good way to think about it is this: Every time you look at someone with a body type that perfectly fits modern standards, ask yourself, “Is someone a better person than me if she has more luck in life?”
They were lucky enough to be born into this era the same way plus-size women were fortunate during the Victorian Era.
Skinny people didn’t earn their metabolism, and women in the Victorian Era did not make their wealth.
What defines your value is how hard you work and how kind you are to others, both things luck has nothing to do with.
People who are worth connecting with or dating will value these qualities above all else.
There are people out there who love your body the way it is.
The next step is realizing there are millions of people out there who only go for women with fuller figures or don’t have a body type preference.
These people come in all shapes and sizes.
During my research for this article, I emailed with a woman named Lisa who said she is “considered plus-size by society.”
Lisa met her husband at a gym many years ago, where he was her trainer and she was a new member.
Robert told her she was beautiful and was immediately interested in dating her.
Because he was “very fit, healthy and good-looking,” Lisa had trouble believing he would choose a plus-size woman.
This was a shocker to me, and when we were dating I honestly didn't believe him. Fifteen years later and happily married and he can't keep his hands off me, I realize he meant it.
His love and commitment helped her accept her body, Lisa said.
I also emailed with Robert, who told me Lisa fit his physical preferences for women.
A full figure such as a stomach with a little belly fat can be attractive and call to men on an evolutionary level, Robert said, because it signifies the ability to carry a child.
On the other hand, he is not attracted to the body types the media typically highlights.
There are millions of men and women who will accept your body the way Robert did.
Finding them is a matter of time, luck and effort.
Change how you see yourself.
You don’t have much control over how society views you, but you can start by changing how you view yourself.
The first step is self-acceptance, according to therapist Lourdes Viado, who specializes in relationships.
This will lead to a reduction in negative social comparisons and the chance of making a bad choice or ending up with a harmful person because of low-self esteem.
A therapist can help you with this if you are willing to make the investment.
Any form of therapy should improve self-esteem and lead to acceptance.
Women seeking help for weight issues however, have often found text-based therapy especially effective because it removes the in-person component, where there can be a fear of judgment.
Online therapy programs with messaging included in a set of therapy tools have also reduced risk factors for developing eating disorders, according to a study by Arch Gen Psychiatry.
The next step is only interacting with people who accept your body.
This will make the first step easier.
It can be difficult if you have family members — people you can’t or won’t want to easily cut ties with — who insist you should exercise more and lose weight.
They most likely do not understand how hurtful those suggestions can be.
Try to make them understand.
If that doesn’t work, limit your interaction with them.
Becoming more conscious about which factors hurt your self-image is important as well.
Therapist Perpetua Neo offered social media as an example, specifically how Facebook’s algorithm presents people with more content based on what they like and click.
This can either create a virtuous or vicious cycle where we are only exposed to one side of the story.
If you click on stories with positive messages about heavier body types, you’ll see more of them.
On the other hand, clicking on articles and videos with subliminal negative implications about bigger women will continue the cycle.
What I want men to do after they read this letter:
This is a letter to women, but I want them to share this with men so both genders can address this issue and change their thinking.
I want men and women to instill in their children a value for people of all body types.
I want the men I mentioned in this letter to take a hard look at themselves and ask whether they actually prefer skinnier women rather than being too afraid to date plus-size women because of society’s foolish standards.
I want them to apologize to any women they might have hurt because of this attitude.
It’s difficult to resist the power of what society and culture deem attractive and unattractive, but I think we can overcome it by thinking differently and considering those it hurts.
Women of all body types deserve to be loved and wanted.
Let’s make that a right rather than a rarity.