Laurie Toby Edison

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Not-So-Beautiful People?

Lynne Murray says:

SJ at I, Asshole pointed out this link. It’s a news story about a dating service “for beautiful people only” that recently purged its site of 5,000 or more people who had posted pictures of themselves looking unacceptably fat. Presumably candid holiday shots. The Telegraph article quotes:

Robert Hintze, founder of BeautifulPeople.com, said: ”As a business, we mourn the loss of any member, but the fact remains that our members demand the high standard of beauty be upheld.

”Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.”

According to the site, managers have been kind in breaking the news to former members. Each is said to have received an email encouraging them to re-apply when they are back to looking their best. They have also been sent details of recommended boot camps.

Oh, goody, boot camps! Surely any pain is worth enduring just to be able to meet and who knows, maybe date, those wonderful people who have such full lives that they are able to spare the time to go on a fat witch hunt and prune the undesirables from their ranks.

All this self-righteous intolerance reminded me of the social underpinnings of Frannie Zellman’s Fatland, a novel in which fat people who do not meet mandatory legal guidelines are incarcerated in “Pro-Health Re-education Program” prisons. In, Fatland, irate fat people flee hatred and discrimination to establish a new country.

But what are these 5,000 excluded people really missing over at Beautiful People?

Here’s how the landing page describes their site:

Do looks matter to you, when it comes to selecting a partner? Do you want to guarantee your dates will always be beautiful? No more filtering through unattractive people on mainstream sites. Meet beautiful people locally and from around the world – now.
Attend exclusive events and private parties

Did I miss something, or does this sound like an escort service come on? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that these are all (or mostly) amateurs looking for love in a particular kind of package.

Lovable? Well, let’s see–vicious, judgmental, arrogant and self-centered, the kind of person guaranteed to make you miserable. These beautiful bozos are living proof of the “beauty is skin deep” theory

Coincidentally, I read this news story just after reading an essay that somehow seemed oddly appropriate, “Fat Women as “Easy Targets: Achieving Masculinity through Hogging” by Ariane Prohaska and Jeannine Gailey, in The Fat Studies Reader.

“Hogging” is a practice in which men prey on women they deem fat or unattractive to satisfy sexual desires or compete with their peers. Hoggers, a self-imposed label, are groups of men who hang out at bars or parties and try to pick up fat women for sex or make bets with their friends about who can pick up the fattest or most unattractive woman.

Am I the only person who sees the same hatred, just expressed in a slightly different way?

Excluding people while looking for online dating matches is not necessarily a bad thing. Fat people are routinely told, right in the profiles of many online daters, not to bother communicating. When I engaged in online dating years ago, I would always search for ‘BBW” or “fat” in hopes of finding a fat admirer. (This happened once or twice.) But mainly the profiles that would pop up after the search would be men specifying “NO BBWs or fat women” so that no one fitting those descriptions would send them a message. I was just as glad to know because some of these people seemed as if they might be worth emailing and I was glad to know in advance not to waste my time.

Somewhere out there I am sure there are “Aryan Match dot com” dating sites that purge would-be daters who post candid Christmas pictures showing them linking arms with people of color. And no, I did not look for such sites, I would bet money that they exist but I wouldn’t want to see them or give them even one mouse click of web traffic.

So what do I think about the people so ignominiously kicked off the “I’m Beautiful and You’re Not” dating site? It’s a little hard for me to understand why someone would join such a site to begin with, so it’s hard to speculate on what they’ve lost by getting kicked off.

I’ll take out my novelist’s crystal ball–i.e., I’ll extrapolate from real life what I think might be happening. My theory is that many of the people who got kicked off joined the site during a post-diet honeymoon phase, in the flush of weight-loss triumph. “Now I can sit at the cool kids’ table and date beautiful people, because I am one of them.”

I’ve always thought dieting should not have simple Before and After pictures. There should be a truth in advertising requirement to post: Before Diet, One Year After Diet, Two Years After Diet, and Five Years After Diet (same as “Before Diet” but older).

So in my imaginary Beautiful People reject scenario, the successful dieter begins to regain weight (as you probably recall, the odds are 98% in favor of this happening within five years). But our newly beautiful person hasn’t yet realized how fragile their Beautiful People status is and so does not “get” what disgust will be kicked up by posting a fun candid picture to share with all those beautiful new friends.

Let me say it directly to the person who experienced it, who will probably never read this, but it’s worth a try:

“Those are not really your friends, my dear. They are there to criticize you, maybe to compete with you, or maybe just out of sheer bitchery, they get you kicked out.”

The question is, what to do about it. Maybe you’ll reframe this as “a wake up call” and desperately diet in an effort to once again reach the heights of shallowness.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll see exactly the unattractive nastiness hiding under those so-called beautiful exteriors and look for some friends and possible mates who value other people by the content of their character rather than the number on a tape measure or scale.

If the people who got kicked off this site were really looking for love, I think they’d have about the same chance of finding it with the abusive louts in that hogging gang as with that other group of self-centered, proud-to-be-weight-bigots who describe themselves as “beautiful.”

Imagine the amount of pain such a person could inflict on you if you accidentally got married during the lower weight dips in the diet yo-yo cycle. How wonderful to have them right in your own living space where they could attack you in person for any pound gained thereafter!

Oh, and by the way, beautiful people–yeah, I mean you–you’re getting older every day. Age-phobia exists as well as fatphobia. Enjoy.

15 Responses to “Not-So-Beautiful People?”

  1. Patti says:

    I too rolled my eyes when I read the news story about BeautifulPeople.com. However, when I sat back and thought about it for a while, I managed to see it in a slightly different light.

    People have all sorts of preferences. If there was a dating site for redheads only, it wouldn’t be a horrible thing if someone who was blonde or brunette got kicked off? Dating sites for people with various fetishes exist, and while I haven’t heard of them throwing people out for not having those fetishes, I can easily imagine such a thing happening. You mentioned looking for BBW admirers. I know there are BBW-centric dating sites. How would you feel if the members of such a site voted someone off because she was rail thin? What would you think of a smart people dating site that required people to pass an IQ test in order to become a member?

    Conventionally-beautiful is not one of my dating preferences, but it’s not my place to criticize other people for their likes and dislikes. Plus, if you draw all of the people who only want conventionally-attractive people to one site, it keeps them out of your hair. And mine.

    Yes, I still think the site is sort of silly. Their tossing of 5000 members for not meeting their standards seems like a publicity stunt more than anything else.

    However, that’s not what motivated me to comment.

    In your article, you called the members of BeautifulPeople.com “beautiful bozos”. You described them as “vicious, judgmental, arrogant, and self-centered” and said that they were “guaranteed to make you miserable.”

    Some people are attracted to certain body types and certain styles. Some of them may well be bozos, but you can’t conclude that they all are. Your attack on the site’s members was far more vicious and judgmental than anything on that site.

    Why does a preference for a certain body type or set of looks mean that one is guaranteed to make one’s partner miserable? Wouldn’t that also apply to BBW admirers? I don’t see any real difference between the two groups, except that you (and I) happen to be a member of the target audience for one and not the other. I guarantee you that there are BBW admirers out there who reject potential mates because that mate is too thin for them.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a BBW dating site out there somewhere that votes on membership and keeps out people who are too thin for their tastes. If I dig one up, will you write an essay that is equally judgmental and derogatory?

  2. Lynne Murray says:

    Patti, I totally agree with you that people should date those whom they find attractive and not waste the time of others whom they do not find attractive.

    I’m old enough to have personally witnessed several lives damaged damaged when a person attracted to his or her own gender marries a person of the opposite gender to whom they are not physically attracted and then finally realizes that the heart wants what it wants.

    I do believe however that excluding a group from a dating site should be done with a certain basic courtesy and decency rather than insults and public put-downs.

    When you say–
    “I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a BBW dating site out there somewhere that votes on membership and keeps out people who are too thin for their tastes.”

    You may well be right, but I wonder if such a site would expose the people it kicked out to international public ridicule as the beautiful people dot com site did when it stated that they could not “let fatties roam the site.” This to me conjured up the kind of prejudice that views fat people as sub-human and worthy of insult and invites others to do so. I saw a genuine parallel with the “hogging” boys and the contempt they showed for the fat women they pretended to court.

    You say, “If I dig one up, will you write an essay that is equally judgmental and derogatory?” Okay, if you want to take the time to find a BBW/BHM dating site that is equally vicious and snarky about excluding thin people, I’d be happy to avail myself of the opportunity to be equally judgmental and derogatory.

    I don’t like to see any group sneering at any other group and I have no problem applying that standard to any group doing the sneering.

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  4. Marlene says:

    “Did I miss something, or does this sound like an escort service come on?”

    I think we could speak ill of this site without resorting to using sexwork as the standard metaphor for “distasteful”.

  5. Patti says:

    Lynne, while you may not like any group sneering at another group, it feels to me like you’re in a glass house on this one. Admittedly you’re an individual rather than a group, but calling the members of that site bozos, vicious, judgmental, and guaranteed to make you unhappy is no better than what that site is doing.

    I don’t think having a preference for conventional beauty makes one a bozo, and I certainly can’t conclude that people on that site are guaranteed to make each other unhappy. You’re also drawing conclusions about the members of the site based solely on the behavior of the site’s owner. He’s the one putting out press releases about throwing people off the site, and I’m willing to bet that he organized the “witch hunt” in the first place… perhaps as a publicity stunt.

    It’s an interesting story, and I wish you’d written about it without using the sneering, judgmental tone that you were railing against.

  6. Lynne Murray says:

    Hi Marlene,

    I meant no disrespect toward sex workers by referring to the b.p. site as sounding like an escort service come on. A dear friend and mentor from my early Buddhist days was a woman who did sex work from age 13 to her mid 20s (she didn’t call it that, if that term was in use during the time it was just beginning to be used–about the time the COYOTE organization started to be visible in San Francisco).

    One comment my friend made may explain my use of the escort service observation. A man I knew told me that he was now exclusively dating professionals rather than going out with non sex workers because the women were younger, more beautiful and more fun than women he didn’t pay. He then said, “I think there can be love between a prostitute and a client.” I asked my friend if this was the case and she said, “Only in his fantasies.”

    So to after taking the long way around to explain, I did not mean to use sexwork as a synonym for distasteful. The site’s marketing actually looked to me to be practically interchangeable with the way an escort service would market what I believe is now called “The Girlfriend Experience.” Except that they seem to be marketing to both sexes and it seems unlikely that the site actually is collecting cash for sex.

    It’s not even facilitating “you have means and needs, I have youth and beauty” in the way of sites that act to introduce beautiful youngsters to older, well-heeled people–off the top of my head I think a heterosexual one is called Sugar Daddies and a gay version The Millionaire’s Club.

    My primary reaction was being offended at the B.P. dot com site’s fatophobia. My other reactions are based on the fact that they are pressing a fantasy button I just don’t have. I don’t know their target audience . The closest I can imagine is that they are selling a fantasy of “love among the beautiful people” and the marketing of that looked very escort servicey to me.

    If you or some other reader understands what goes on their “beautiful” little brains, I would be glad to have it explained to me.

  7. Debbie says:

    Patti, I like Lynne’s answer about making fun, but also you and I keep coming back to the same point where we disagree. I believe that there’s a huge difference between going with the social norms and going against them. So while I completely support the idea that people should date as they please, I feel very differently about an entire site that blocks people who are not within the social norms than I would about an entire site that blocks people who are within the social norms (if such a site exists, which would surprise me).

    One way to think about this is to make it about race: I would have no patience with a site that blocked people of color, but I would support and defend a dating site that was only for people of color … that’s something that looks like an inequity, but I see such a thing as an attempt to balance out an existing inequity: as long as people of color can expect rudeness, insensitivity, and racism wherever there are white people, there are good reasons for them to want to be in spaces without white people. (I’m part of an organization that is working out these issues right now, just not around dating.)

    I know you and I don’t agree about this, but I do want to say that it would make me feel better if you acknowledged the point about inside and outside the social norms, whether or not you agree with it.

    Marlene, I edited Lynne’s post before it went up and I honestly don’t see the disparaging of escort services. All I see is the disparaging of a site that claims to be one thing and sounds like a different thing. Am I missing something? (It occurs to me that it could be related to the point I just made to Patti: because escort services and related activities are so often disparaged, it may be reasonable to see “mention” and react to “disparagement.”)

  8. Patti says:

    Debbie, I’ll acknowledge that some people see inside the norms and outside the norms as different classes of problems. I’ll even go so far as to say that “outside the norms” has a moderately high correlation with legal discrimination and social injustice, although it’s far from a perfect correlation.

    I don’t see dating sites as being in the same class of problems as, say, employment discrimination. If I choose to date only white people, that’s my personal taste in partners rather than social injustice. I understand that it feels like a social injustice to you and to many others, and my first instinct was to see it in the same way. When I stepped back and thought about it, though, I saw the problem from an entirely different angle.

    Is a blacks-only dating site OK? A Muslim-only dating site? A Jewish-only dating site? A Hispanics-only dating site? A BBW-only dating site? A Christian-only dating site?

    If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then it seems to me that a white-only dating site should be OK, and so should a conventionally-attractive-only dating site. I honestly don’t see how it’s wrong for people to be denied their dating site preferences simply because they’re aligned with the majority. If that were really the case, then a (US-centric) Muslim-only dating site would be OK, but a Christian-only dating site would not.

    I completely understand, though, why such sites would feel wrong to someone who is highly-sensitive to social injustices.

    (And I still don’t grok how it’s OK to call people nasty names simply because their dating preferences skew toward conventionally-attractive.)

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks!

      My answer to your dating sites question is that almost all of the ones you list are okay with me, though some are harder for me to accept than others. And a “conventionally attractive only” dating site is clearly also okay in the sense of “legal,” and in the sense of “this is something people want.” Part of my question is about how those sites police their limitations. One thing I wonder is how many people are sending in false pictures.

      On reflection, however, I do agree with you that the (to my mind repulsive and unacceptable) behavior and language of the site’s owner does not necessarily reflect the site’s members. Lynne writes her own posts; if I were writing that one, especially after this exchange, I’d have toned the comments about the membership way down.

      See also this post which is one of my favorites of everything I’ve written for Body Impolitic and talks about attraction patterns and the ways to approach changing them (if, of course, a person wants to change them).

  9. Marlene says:

    Deb,
    I was responding to the fact that when one likens something to an escort service (while also disparaging it otherwise) the assumed meaning is that this is not a flattering comparison. If the comparison is not flattering, then to be an escort is to be undesirable/disreputable/insert-negative-adjective-here.

  10. Lynne Murray says:

    Hi Debbie and Patti,

    Let me be crystal clear on this point. It’s NOT the dating exclusions that bother me, it’s using fat bashing as a tool to promote their site.
    \
    Patti, you are probably right that the “beautiful people: dot com site owner encouraged site members to go forth and find the fatties so they could prune the ranks of those who may have gained weight and been naive enough to post a candid photo that shows it. So he’s encouraging fat bashing and bragging about it. That has nothing to do with dating preferences and everything to do with bigotry that he knows will be accepted.

    I do apologize for calling the site members “beautiful bozos.” It was unfair of me to insult bozos by comparing them to intentionally hurtful people.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bozo
    Both the clown and the foolish people since described as Bozos are never mean-spirited.

    I feel very protective of fat people who are being bashed. Many of them internalize the insult and feel it is justified.

    I wish I could find a way to heal the wounds this kind of treatment causes. I wish I had a more effective weapon to break this idea that fat hatred is okay. But the only weapon I have is to say what I feel.

    If others wish to counter fat oppression with softer words, then those are the words they should use. We don’t have to agree about it.

  11. Patti says:

    Lynne, that’s the crux of my disagreement with you, I think. I don’t think bashing is *ever* OK. I certainly don’t think it’s either effective or ethical to counter bashing with bashing.

  12. Janet Lafler says:

    “Is a blacks-only dating site OK? A Muslim-only dating site? A Jewish-only dating site? A Hispanics-only dating site? A BBW-only dating site? A Christian-only dating site?”

    To me, these characteristics are not parallel. Religion is not an intrinsic characteristic; it has to do with beliefs and practices. I am much more sympathetic with someone who says “I only want to date someone with compatible beliefs and practices” than with someone who says “I only want to date someone who looks a certain way.” They seem like fundamentally different criteria.

  13. Janet, I think one of the differences between, say, a faith-based dating site and a looks-based dating site is that faith does not invariably decline as one grows older. Looks do. They may be a good spark for a relationship, but they won’t keep the fire burning all your life,

    Moreover, I suspect one root of my own visceral loathing of the Cult of Skinny is that even the slenderest woman bulges when she’s pregnant. A partner who recoils in horror at her breasts and belly (and I’ve known a few who do) may not be especially supportive when the wife isn’t looking her slimmest. Much less when she’s morning-sick all the time,

    This works both ways, but less obviously. If a woman wants a partner only when he (or she) is buff and beautiful, what happens if the partner gets a major disease — or even a minor but disfiguring one?

    If a site appeals to the desire for a long-term relationship and/or reproduction, there’s an underlying assumption that something more than looks is important. If t’s just for short-term relationships or sex, it does start sounding like a hookup service.

    • Debbie says:

      Lynn, I don’t agree that looks invariably “decline” as one grows older. That’s only true if you believe that young looks are the best looks. I don’t, and I don’t think you do either.

      Also (and again I think you agree), there’s nothing wrong with a hookup service, or an escort service. Not having spent time on beautifulpeople.com, I don’t know if they’re geared for the long haul or not. But my understanding is that most dating sites need at least to use the possibility of marriage as a hook or they don’t get the women they need.

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