The study I cited used hip to waist ratio as well as BMI. I’ll refresh your memory with what it said, but flappers and the willowy ideal of the early 1960s did not have that same waist to hip ratio as say, Victorian women. They were shaped more like teenaged boys.

William Lassek and Steven Gaulin, anthropologists from UC Santa Barbara, have reviewed the research on body shape, attractiveness, and fertility. As well as waist-to-hip ratio, they looked at the impact of body mass index (or BMI).

Men tend to prefer women with very low waist-to-hip ratios (whose waists are much narrower than their hips), but these women are actually less likely to conceive than women with a less pronounced hourglass figure. (emphasis mine) Younger women are more likely to have an hourglass figure, and age is related to fertility, but the most attractive waist-to-hip ratios are generally found in women in their late teens, whereas women’s fertility tends to peak in their mid to late twenties.

So, you are correct, that men currently and at certain times in the past have preferred the hourglass figure that is more likely to be found in women in their late teens, but as I’ve been saying this entire time, actual adult women find it hard to keep that same ratio without starving themselves — something that many men seem quite content to let them do. Not just the fashion industry, not just Hollywood, but regular men. You’ve stipulated to that by repeatedly mentioning that ratio as most desirable (even though it’s primarily naturally found in teens.)

I find it pretty disturbing that you see the clearly societal issue of girls in first grade beginning to obsess about their bodies as a problem for individual parents.

  • According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 42 percent of first- to third-grade girls want to lose weight, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
  • According to a study in Pediatrics, about two-thirds of girls in the 5th to 12th grades said that magazine images influence their vision of an ideal body, and about half of the girls said the images made them want to lose weight.
  • By adolescence, studies show that young people are receiving an estimated 5,260 “attractiveness messages” per year from network television commercials alone.
  • According to Teen magazine, 35 percent of girls ages 6 to 12 have been on at least one diet, and 50 to 70 percent of normal-weight girls think they are overweight.

The abstract below disagrees with your belief that WHR is constant throughout time and cultures.

We analyzed the WHR of women considered as ideally beautiful who were depicted in western artworks from 500 BCE to the present. These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were then compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15th century to the present. Then, based on Playboy models and Miss pageants winners, this decrease appears to slow down or even reverse during the second half of the 20th century. The universality of an ideal WHR is thus challenged, and historical changes in western societies could have caused these variations in men’s preferences.

So, I think I’m about ready to be done with this conversation. What do you say?

Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store