equality · Uncategorized

Biology Is Destiny: A Couple of Men Explain Why Women Have Curvier Hips and Fatter Butts

pregnancy-oil-painting-in-the-belly-original-by-gioia-albano-gioia-albanoIn Women’s Studies we call it biological gender essentialism and it’s not thought to be a good thing. According to this article, recent studies have found, apparently, that women with bigger thighs and bottoms have more intelligent children. Professor Lassek of the University of Pittsburgh and author of Why Women Need Fat says:

You need lots of fat to make a nervous system and the fats in these areas are also enriched in DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] which is a particularly important component in the human brain.

It looks as if women have evolved to accumulate these fats and hold on to them — until a baby arrives.

Another researcher makes a similar claim:

David Bainbridge, a professor at Cambridge University, has backed up these findings in his new book Curvology: The Origins and Power of Female Body Shape.

He says that this phenomena has also affected the type of women that men have evolved to be attracted to – those with curvier hips are likely to give birth to healthier and more intelligent babies – although he does also admit other factors come into it.

So what’s wrong with biological essentialism?  People use it not just to explain women’s bodies but then, by implication, to make normative arguments about what women are best suited for. One day they’re telling us that women’s bodies are the way they are to make babies. The next thing you know, making babies is what women are meant to do.

That means they’re not all that well-suited for careers, public life, pursuits outside of the domestic realm.  These are dangerous arguments for equality and they lurk fairly close the surface of prevalent attitudes about who, ideally, should be doing what. If you don’t believe me, take a look at stats about who does the majority of child care and domestic labor as opposed to who occupies the highest offices of government, and who comprises the majority of CEOs.

It’s also a bit odd, given how pervasively an ultra-thin female body-type is marketed as the feminine ideal, to read that men have evolved to be attracted to women with curves.  If that’s the case, then lots of men didn’t get the memo.

Of course, I haven’t read the studies. I’ve only read a brief report about the studies. News reports about studies are of interest to me because, even if they are not accurate, it’s the reports and not the detailed science that goes out to the public and shapes people’s attitudes. As the last quote says, Bainbridge “does admit other factors come into it.” But the report says nothing about what these “other factors” might be.

I’m intrigued by the idea that these men have devoted their careers to providing evolutionary/biological arguments to explain that women are fatter so they can make healthier, smarter babies. This may sound like a neutral attempt to explain a biological fact. But I can’t help feeling wary about the broader impact of scientific research that suggests that the primary purpose of the female body is to have children.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having kids, or even that women’s bodies aren’t designed to play a certain role in reproduction.

But there are lots of other things we can do with our bodies, too. And they’re also kind of amazing.


8 thoughts on “Biology Is Destiny: A Couple of Men Explain Why Women Have Curvier Hips and Fatter Butts

  1. The whole “women have evolved to do this or that” argument really annoys me. No one ever understands WHY it annoys me, not even me, usually, but I think one of the reasons it annoys me is because, yes, men are, mainly, faster than women. Yes, they’re mainly stronger. But it doesn’t really mean anything? It doesn’t mean that women can’t be fast, or strong. It doesn’t mean that women can’t fight, even though men are “biologically and emotionally more suited” to war. It doesn’t mean that men can’t cook or clean or raise children.

    My mom’s just started going to work, and everyone still expects her to cook and clean and look after the littlest brother when she gets home, and Dad has spent his entire life not doing chores because “he spends all day putting food on the table.” Now, my mom has decided to pay the kids to do the housework/babysitting, but it still seems unfair.



  2. I agree completely about the evolutionary biology and essentialism. What I like is that women may feel less pressure to reach incredibly low body fat percent goals understanding the difference between men’s and women’s bodies. We should aim to appreciate our own bodies rather than envying men their leaner frames. The higher body fat percentage is part of what makes women better ultra runners! Phenomenologically, pregnancy and childbirth was the first time my body made sense to me. Loved my size and shape. Again, I know lots of women who hated their pregnant bodies. So experiences varies…

  3. Of course this study makes me happy because of my thick thighs and hips as I was often ashamed of these traits. Once I had children I chose to see these traits as being helpful: I was very fertile and made lots of breast milk (and yes I have smart kids as well). The only thing that upsets me is the idea that we are *limited* by our biology. Anyone who tries to tell me I have limits sees my not-often-revealed ferocious side. Plus, as you said, lots of men are attracted to thin women and most women do just fine with pregnancy and having smart kids despite whether they are curvy or not.

  4. I like the idea that the female form has evolved and that men should take care of it as much as the women who own it… their offspring will benefit from it. I have to admit that I have noticed an increase in men liking “the booty” in the last few years and the skinny phenomenon has declined somewhat. But, I could just be living in a bubble, so this is all that I see.

  5. I wonder where these folks find the cutoff between “curvy” and “unacceptably fat” is?

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