Marilyn Monroe is often held up as the antidote to the idea that only thin can be beautiful. “Marilyn was a size 10/12/14,” goes a common refrain (though sizing basically means nothing these days, so what does that even prove?). There have been a couple Marilyn Monroe memes floating around Facebook in the past couple months, and both are troubling. The focus is on Marilyn’s curves, and how her swimsuit clad body is different from what movie stars look like today (oh, the tyranny of the “Best Beach Bodies!” issue). What’s supposed to be an empowering message to women – you don’t have to be a Victoria’s Secret model to be beautiful – is completely undermined by two much older memes: divide and conquer and the male gaze.
In the first photo, Marilyn is compared to another woman in a bikini, who is much thinner. The text reads: “This [pointing to Monroe] is more attractive than this [pointing to the other woman].” While I can totally get behind the title “fuck society,” and add “and its stupid expectations” for good measure, there’s nothing anti-establishment about what’s being done here. (more inside…)