Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Quote of the day UPDATED

"I'm not as thin privileged as I used to be." - a Savage Love commenter.

Found this via an unrelated search, but it does remind me that the Reddit thread inspired by/ranting against/providing copious traffic to (thanks guys! I should rile people about undergarments more often - maybe then the blog-ads I forget are even there would amount to something) my earlier post on bra-fit includes a debate about whether or not I have "thin privilege." The only information I'd provided in that post was that I lack gamine-privilege - what, you hadn't heard of gamine-privilege? Let me educate you: It's the privilege to go out in a camisole. To be menswear-chic. My point being that my skepticism about the bra-fit industry did not come from being a woman to whom none of this marketing was directed in the first place. And I left it at that - no details, no... dimensions - because that's the WWPD way.

Anyway, one participant says that I said that I'm not thin (but that I could very well be fat and privilege-oblivious - good to know!), but another is like, no way, she never said that, she is thin. 

But alas, I failed to do the thing one must in such conversations - provide accurate, up-to-date full-body photos, and the complete roster of measurements (weight, BMI, waist size, cup size, etc.). One must situate one's self. But one neglected to do so. So it must remain speculation.

The Reddit-users were forced to Google-image-search, from which they have determined - bizarrely - that they know what I currently look like. The photos that produces are not terribly revealing, but even if they were full-on bikini-and-calipers - and if one makes any reference to one's build, one owes the internet bikini-and-calipers - they're from a good long while ago, back when I lived in cities and, like, went out places. Who knows what I look like now.

(OK, of my three readers, at least two are probably people I know and am actively in touch with in real life. They may have some idea. And Obama - surely he knows all. Meanwhile there isn't much, mirror-wise, in this apartment, so I myself am not entirely sure.)

Which is really the problem with looks-privilege-talk on the internet. Well, one of them. Another is that using "privilege" in reference to looks suggests a dichotomy like the (ever-increasing!) one that exists wrt class/income. People who say they're 'middle-class' are often in denial in one way or the other. But most of us are within normal limits when it comes to looks. 'Middle', as it were. And looks are subjective in a way that wealth is not. (Yes, relative wealth is important, but either you can afford housing/healthcare/kids' education/some fun stuff or you cannot.) Exceedingly few of us either benefit from the advantages of being gorgeous or suffer from the effects of being unusually plain. 

With socioeconomic privilege (also known as "privilege"), people can be evasive, but there's generally an answer. With looks... there's self-reporting subjectivity. As in, I could tell you that I'm basically Gisele, but that would not make it true. Self-esteem as vs. what others see. (The proverbial model-who-still-thinks-she's-a-gawky-loser.)

Also important: whether someone is or is not photogenic. Whether a photo has been doctored. Whether - if no photo - what sounds on paper like conventional beauty amounts to the same in person. A 'leggy blonde' might or might not be Claudia-Schiffer-esque.

Of course, if beauty privilege exists within the online world, not just in reference to off-line, then one really could just have a blog, no photos, claiming to be a beautiful woman, and somehow benefit from this entirely constructed identity. Stranger things have happened. 

Oh, and in anticipation of the inevitable response: thin privilege is real, as in the advantages of being not-fat are real, and especially key for women. Thin privilege plus white privilege means when there's an empty seat next to you on public transportation, someone takes it immediately

But thin privilege isn't identical to beauty privilege, so even if a thin woman goes through life not knowing what heavier women deal with (that is, if she's never been fat - something people on these internets seem quite ready to assume), she may still know perfectly well what it's like to be bullied for one's physical appearance, to be rejected romantically time and again (and remember, the default assumption in our society is that girls and young women receive a constant barrage of offers). 

Finally, it's come up here before whether privilege is something that can be acquired - i.e. the working-class Harvard grad. (Some say yes - I prefer to call earned privilege 'advantage,' so as to distinguish it from unearned.) But there's a related question, which is whether what matters more is what one has now, or what one had at some formative time. This could apply re: looks or wealth/status, but the whole earned/unearned issue never quite applies with the former. I remember some study a while back, showing that men's income correlated with their height, but not their current height, their height at 16. Something like that might well be true for women and weight, or just women and looks.

On an unrelated note, somewhere on Facebook is a picture of me at 12 or 13. My name isn't anywhere on it, and I'm not tagged. And I'm fine with that.


As usual, Autumn had the answer all along.


Petey said...

"The only information I'd provided in that post was that I lack gamine-privilege - what, you hadn't heard of gamine-privilege? Let me educate you: It's the privilege to go out in a camisole."

I think you miss the central advantage of gamine-privilege: the ability to be cast in Leslie Caron / Audrey Tautou roles in feature films.

This privilege is not to be underestimated. It provides a lucrative career path after completing one's dissertation that doesn't involve years of non-paying internships.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Not sure how you missed this - it's all over the internet - but the post-dissertation fate one is meant to decry (and one should) is perma-adjuncting. I see what you've tried to do here - to make it personal, but my interest in the turn of our economy to unpaid internships a) predates my even being in grad school, although it's admittedly become a worse problem in this country since 2006 and b) really isn't on behalf of those who have PhDs, even in Basketweaving. I do find it particularly egregious when unpaid internships seek out those who are 30-plus and generally have work experience above and beyond whatever their grad school might be paying them, but I know lots of grad students, and I don't think it's that dire just yet.

Give it time, though. No career path, age, or level of education is immune.

Petey said...

"The Reddit-users were forced to Google-image-search, from which they have determined - bizarrely - that they know what I currently look like. The photos that produces are not terribly revealing, but even if they were full-on bikini-and-calipers..."

I'm always amazed at how behind the times Reddit-users are in terms of tech.

Given your travels overseas, your associations with foreign nationals, and your phone calls overseas, you've been marked as more than 51% foreign. This means your NSA file is publicly accessible at their website to help crowd-source terrorist detection, with plenty of pictures, among all the other info.

(And your public file does indeed include full-on bikini-and-calipers pics. The NSA has important work to do keeping us all safe while you sleep, y'know. Body fat levels are a crucial terrorist marker.)

Britta said...

I have a bra fitting question (caveats of every brand being sized slightly differently aside). I learned it, and the consensus reading other things and having been professionally fitted twice in my life (same size both times), seemed to be that you get your bra size by measuring your rib cage, adding four inches, and then subtracting your bust measurement from that number. So, a chest of, say, 30 inches with a bust of 36 inches would be a 34B, since 30 + 4 = 34, and 36 - 34 = B cup. Recently though, be people online seem to be saying that the exact measurement of your ribcage is the band number, and the difference is the cup number. Maybe this is true for some brands but: 1) many women have ribcages smaller than 28 inches, but no bras are made smaller than that size, and 2) this would mean even the flattest women would be at least a B cup, if you account for pectoral muscles and nipples. I am willing to buy that standard sizes don't fit many or even most women, and that many women are wearing the wrong size, and that many large companies have a vested interest (VS, GAP) in selling women the wrong size, but I don't buy that we're all supposed to be 26K, or 24L, or 30NN, or some other size that simply isn't made. Also, I feel like using the first method I am able to get a baseline measurement which generally works, tweaking cup or bandsize here or there depending on brand or time of the month. Is there a fundamental shift in how bras are being designed? Is this how the vanity sizing angle fits in? As in, the same size bra that would have been sold as a 34B is now going to be sold as a 30E?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


I'm sure the folks on the Reddit thread would know more about this than I do.

But my own sense, as world's leading non-expert in these matters, is that just because a band can be stretched around a ribcage doesn't mean this would be comfortable. Indeed, even the bra-expert at Journelle (fab but pricey NYC shop) had to admit this.

As for vanity-sizing, the furious Reddit users did have a point, at least re: cup size - women don't necessarily want to hear they're a Z cup or even a C cup, what with all that gamine privilege to contend with.

But re: band size, that might well be vanity-related, I think, considering a smaller band size suggests a narrower, i.e. thinner woman.

And... I'm not entirely sure there isn't vanity sizing going on with cups either, the caveat being that what it's imagined women want to hear is not what all/most women actually do. It does sound more flattering - more hourglassish - to be a larger cup size and smaller band size. To a point. And then of course if the thing isn't even available, the frustration of that might outweigh whichever vanity effect.

What you write - "As in, the same size bra that would have been sold as a 34B is now going to be sold as a 30E?" - is, I say anecdotally, quite true. Two bras, same company, different years, and precisely the trajectory you describe. So, not a huge data set, but it's possible.

And finally, it seems odd that there would be a corporate conspiracy to make sure that mass-produced bras don't come in the sizes that fit most women. It makes sense that they'd all be ill-fitting, what with mass-production. And that those on extreme ends band-wise and cup-wise would have to look elsewhere. But what's in it for companies to make a bunch of 34Bs if women are really 30F?

Britta said...

Actually, the Reddit thread was the place where I saw people insisting that the band size = ribcage circumference. In some instances, they were even telling people to size down, so a 29" ribcage should wear a 28" band. I was also browsing another bra fitting website a few days ago which made the same claim, which was the first time I'd seen it. My feeling is that unless bras are starting to be made very differently, a 28" band wouldn't even physically fit around a 29" ribcage, because it would be designed for someone with a 24" ribcage. I think it absolutely can be true that many women are wearing the wrong size and that A-D 32-40 doesn't fit many women, but at the same time it fits enough women that there's a reason these are the most common sizes. Women who have ribcages smaller than 28" or larger than 36" are not uncommon, however they are probably not the majority of women. (This could be wrong, but that would be my guess looking at women around me.)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Yeah, I never gave any of this much thought, and had never considered what these numbers meant - I had only tracked one the range of what might possibly fit. But if the band is just the measurement - or whatever it is, if the material stretches - then anything's possible.

Also possible, as you suggest: sizing has changed, and that's how lo and behold the typical problem with bra-fit is women wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small. If the old bras still fit, but the new ones in the old size don't (my experience), that sure does seem like a possibility.

Sigivald said...

Thin privilege plus white privilege means when there's an empty seat next to you on public transportation, someone takes it immediately.

Sounds more like penalty than privilege to me.

Seriously, scrap the entire "privilege" language, if this is where it leads us.

Watching the language get explored here and elsewhere, I increasingly think it's not helping anyone with anything; it's a rabbit-hole.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano said...

WOW people sure get riled up about bras. I mean, it's Reddit, but still!

I'm glad to see you link the idea of "beauty privilege" to class privilege--just as most people will describe themselves as "middle class," most people will self-report as "attractive." Hell, even in that post you linked to of mine about beauty privilege (thank you!) that was the only "safe" word I used, you know? And in interviewing women over and over about beauty that's the word I continually hear, and that's also the most common word women (and men) use to describe themselves in personal ads. Point being: "attractive" is the "middle class" of beauty.

GAMINE PRIVILEGE is also the best and I feel like it should be a lefty comic strip or something.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


That's interesting that most people think they're attractive - I think I'm within normal limits, which must mean I have lower self-esteem than I thought! But at the same time, most people *are* attractive, as in most people have a history of attracting.

Anyway, I'm really fascinated/perplexed by the question of how one can go about criticizing the ever-escalating beautification requirements on women without this basically coming across as, 'I'm so naturally stunning that if I'm a bit disheveled, it only adds to my charm.' Because that's definitely not always it. But it can be tough to convey, esp. on the internet, where everyone could, in theory, be a supermodel who's just not self-aware enough to admit it.

And boy oh boy do I wish I had any artistic talent whatsoever. A "Gamine Privilege" comic strip would be great. Gamine privilege is: Garancé Doré cares what moisturizer you use. Etc.

caryatis said...

A friend once told me that beauty is what you're born with, while being "attractive" means "taking care of yourself" (yes, he used that phrase) i.e., grooming, regular haircuts, flattering clothes, and a body sculpted by exercise. Therefore, he said, although not everyone can be beautiful, everyone can be attractive.

I find this a comforting thought.