Feminism, Body Image and ‘The Marilyn Meme’

Marilyn Monroe was celebrated for her ‘hourglass figure’ and was defiantly curvy in an era when most women didn’t consider gym membership a necessity.

While I’m glad that women feel empowered by Marilyn’s body confidence, there is a danger in turning her into something she wasn’t. Monroe watched what she ate and exercised, like actresses today.

This is one reason why I don’t much care for the internet memes which proclaim Marilyn’s body type as ‘hotter’ than other slimmer women, often contrasting her healthy shape with unflattering paparazzi shots of modern celebrities, some of whom may suffer from eating disorders.

I find it cruel to champion one woman’s body while mocking another. It is true that many women feel pressure to be thin, but this does not justify picking on slimmer women as unattractive.

‘The Marilyn Meme’ is now the subject of an article by Heather Cromarty, published at Shameless, a feminist magazine aimed at young women.

For the most part, I agreed with Cromarty’s argument, but she let herself down in the last paragraph with her one-sided, ill-informed view of Marilyn:

“The Monroe Meme seems about the furthest thing from healthy. This is a woman who abused alcohol and sleeping pills later in her life, this is a woman who (probably) died due to depression. But, hey, as long as someone thinks she looks good, I guess that’s what matters.”

I’m not saying that Marilyn didn’t have her issues with addiction and depression, but she also had many positive qualities and achieved a great deal in her life.

By condemning her because of the personal problems she faced, Cromarty under-estimates Monroe and the many women who admire her – not just for how she looked, but for all that she was.