The Marilyn Myth

Marilyn Monroe. The name itself evokes feelings of desire, speculation, and even disdain. Some women love her, some hate her. She’s reviled for her provocative image and drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention the suspicious circumstances of her death. Frankly, none of these things really measure up to the real impact she had on American pop culture. Don’t deny it!

What IS she thinking about?

What IS she thinking about?

This is a topic that’s been explored by many bloggers, health magazines, gossip columns, and the like. I just figured I’d rehash it all again, seeing as I’m currently reading The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, and am having a marathon of all her movies Netflix will stream directly to my eyeballs (The Seven Year Itch is hysterical, just fyi – that’s the one with the famous dress blowing scene). Unfortunately, there are a million and a half misconceptions about Marilyn Monroe that are just plain false. And these misconceptions have given rise to this phenomenon whereby women these days justify their own behavior. And by behavior I mean justifying their lack of healthy lifestyle by telling themselves that Marilyn Monroe was their size.

You hear it all the time:

“Marilyn Monroe was a size 16!” Er… by what standards? U.S.? U.K.? Or how about the most important standards, those of the 1950s.

Based on measurements of dresses, and dressmaker records, you have to realize, numbers don’t lie. The following are average for her, as she definitely had some weight fluctuations (as we all do during our lifetimes), especially during times of depression.

  • Height: 5’5.5″
  • Weight: 118 lbs
  • Bust: 35″
  • Waist: 22″
  • Hips: 35″

Marilyn Monroe was a really beautiful, shapely, womanly woman (being called “womanly” is one of my favorite compliments to receive). She had an exaggerated hourglass shape, which was – and still is – quite rare. Look at her waist, 22″, which is a full 12 inches smaller than the average waist size today. She was even smaller than the average waist size of the 1950s. This woman was not plus-sized.

This quote is often used to perpetuate the “Marilyn Myth”:

I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat…I went to see her clothes in the exhibition, and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. She was very big – Elizabeth Hurley

Black Versace dress of Elizabeth Hurley

Black Versace dress of Elizabeth Hurley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok… So what does this really tell us? Marilyn Monroe was a larger than Elizabeth Hurley. Have you seen pictures of Elizabeth Hurley? Let me help you out.

She’s thin. Beautiful, also womanly, and a completely different body type than Marilyn. Elizabeth Hurley is also a full three inches taller. Different body, different weight, different everything.

Honestly – and we all know this – it’s a matter of perspective. But it doesn’t actually matter what size Marilyn Monroe was, because she was healthy. Check this shit. Goddamn she was beautiful. She also took care of her body, she tried to stay fit, even though she was suffering from mental disturbances, crippling stage fright, and a number of other problems. No, she wasn’t the epitome of health, but she was not a “natural beauty.” She worked hard to keep her image, such as it was, and was even somewhat ahead of her time in terms of trying to keep a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol and drugs aside.

Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol of America, still is in fact. Hugh Hefner credits her with a great deal of the success of his magazine in its early days. You know what? She was happy with her body. She worked to keep it the way she wanted it, worked to be fit,

Yes, Marilyn Monroe’s thighs touched. So do mine, I bet yours do too. There are models whose thighs touch too, just fyi. See a previous post regarding ladies and their jiggly bits. 😉

But you know what actually matters? You feeling good about yourself. There are women out there, too many women, who aren’t happy with themselves and their bodies, and try to use their faulty knowledge of an idol to justify laziness? unhappiness? lack of motivation? I don’t know. But let’s stop lying to ourselves. Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, and by many accounts, content with her body. I’m not saying women should emulate her, as she certainly had a ton of problems we don’t even have a full understanding of. But we do insult to her memory by pretending that her “curvy” is the same as our “unhealthy.”

Remember! This isn’t about being thin. This is about being fit, healthy, and happy. Thoughts?

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  1. I have to say I really agree. Being almost the same measurements at five inches shorter, I’m not what you would call big. Traditional seamstress patterns place me at a ten, in store I’m more like a four. I dislike how curvy means fat now, I love my curves and my flat stomach. But sizes and inches aside, healthy takes many forms. I think this myth started from toothpick is beauty myth. Faced with models that are nothing but bones, and then Photoshopped to look even smaller how do normal healthy girls fight back? If you are as tall as they want models to be chances are you’ll never fit in a size four. That doesn’t make you fat, it makes you woman. So we start declaring how Marilyn jiggled, how she was more than bones and was gorgeous. Somewhere along the way not being anorexic became being fat. What’s happening here is that most of America doesn’t know what female healthy really looks like anymore.

    • Absolutely! My silhouette is curvy, or at least my definition of curvy, not society’s. I’m neither anorexic nor overweight. I try my best to take care of myself and somehow that’s just not good enough for the American marketing world these days. I worry about children and what they will be taught through advertising in the future.


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