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Poll: Are Women More Critical of Other Women's Bodies than Men?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/18/2009 6:18 AM   :  205 comments   :  15,325 Views

My boyfriend thinks I have the perfect body. He even loves the parts that I consider my "problem areas." He tries to tell me that my own insecurities are meritless and that I have no reason to feel bad about the way I look. Not only that, but he says he has never noticed my cellulite (but trust me, it does exist).

Sometimes I think that men are more likely to see the bigger picture when it comes to a woman's body. In my experience, they're less likely to notice the "details" (like a few dimples or stretch marks) and more likely to appreciate a woman's body for its overall shape or size—how it looks as a total package, not piece by piece (the way we often scrutinize ourselves).

But women? We notice. We zero-in on the imperfections. We notice the extra layer of fat on the stomach or that lower belly pooch. We compare our bodies to other women's, whether we think theirs are better, worse or the same as ours.

Lately, I've been thinking that some of my own body-image insecurities come not from what other men might think of me—but from what women think. All those details that we see. All the mental comparisons we make, sizing each other up. This led me to wonder: Do you think women are more critical of other women's bodies than men are?

Personally, I do think women can be more judgmental and harsh about how other women look. We might not always come out and say what we think, but the fact remains that we probably still think it. To be honest, it bothers me that my brain takes notice of such trivial things. I wouldn't say that I judge other women based on their body imperfections (or perfections), but honestly, I do notice them a lot of the time. The parts that I feel most self-conscious about, like my belly or thighs, are what I tend to notice about other women. Raise your hand if you often compare your body to the bodies of other women you see at the pool, in the locker room, at the mall—anywhere really—sizing them up, wondering Is she bigger than me? Is that what my thighs look like? I do it sometimes, too, but it's something I have been trying to do less often. I've discovered that the more I compare my shape, size or weight to others, the worse I feel about myself.

Could it be that many women's insecurities or body-image issues stem more from what other women think of us than what men think? I think so. Why else would so many of us feel uncomfortable changing in the locker room where men aren't even present?

What do you think? Ladies, do you think women are more critical of other women's bodies than men are? Why or why not? Men, are you more critical of other men's bodies than you are of women's or does it not matter to you?


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Comments

  • 205
    Yes, women are more critical about their body than men. Whenever I look in the mirror, no matter what I am wearing, I see this fat monster looking back at me. I try avoiding mirrors or anything that project my image or silhouette. I always think of what I used to be or what I want to be. I never see the good in my body now. My hubby doesn't have a problem and tells me I'm beautiful just the way I am. I know he only does that to make me feel better and not worry about an image so much. - 3/3/2010   3:03:05 PM
  • 204
    Yep, definitely. Sometimes while I'm walking on campus, I pick out other women who look to be about the same size as I (think) I am.

    Mostly what I notice, though, are either the really small women or really big women. I get a little jealous sometimes of the really petite ones (usually because I figure most of them never had to work for it), but I feel for the big women. I feel especially heartbroken when I see one walk out of Starbucks with a salad and a venti frappucino with whipped cream, and I wish I could hand her a card for Sparkpeople and ask her if she really realizes what she's about to put in her body (those salads set me back the equivalent of two meals, and I can't even imagine the frappucino). I feel like I can't do that, though, because how would I have felt if someone walked up to me, told me I was eating the wrong food, and then handed me a diet website? - 2/13/2010   1:44:38 PM
  • 203
    We can be critical, yes. I am ususally more self-conscious around other girls than guys. I can be hanging out with guys and feel completely comfortable- then another girl comes and I'm suddenly a little self conscious.

    I played a game the other day- looking through a magazine and I asked myself to find a picture of a girl that I would honestly want to look like. Honestly, I really didn't see one. I love the way I look. I want to lose weight- because I have a little too much in the tummy and hips- but you know what? I really do like the way I look. I just want to find the thinner me. - 2/10/2010   2:15:13 PM
  • SITIHASMAH
    202
    Yes women are more critical..women sometimes giving too much attention on every little thing & that's pathetic to feel insecure about ourselves when the rest don't - 2/2/2010   5:10:31 AM
  • 201
    My husband is so observant that every time he see's me looking at a women, he asks me if I am comparing myself to her. I really think that women have a distorted view of what we THINK men want. At least the men worth having. - 1/28/2010   12:50:05 PM
  • SUSIELYNN71
    200
    Honestly. men don't expect us to look like supermodels. But for whatever stupid reason, WE think we should. - 1/27/2010   3:25:22 PM
  • 199
    Women are definately more judgemental of other women than men are. I think the media has a lot to do with how we think we should look. We are always comparing ourselves to our friends, co-workers, and yes, women in magazines. - 1/27/2010   12:18:22 PM
  • TEENYTINYPIP
    198
    If you look in a trashy celeb magazine, there will somewhere be some sort of 'ring of shame'. With that example out there, of course we are-we're being groomed to be! - 1/27/2010   3:38:42 AM
  • 197
    I do agree that most of women's insecurities or body-image issues stem more from what other women think of us than what men think. I figure that if thy're all thinking what I would be thinking of me, then they must have a pretty low opinion. I'm working to try and not worry about it so much. - 1/26/2010   8:58:59 PM
  • SHELLY8AND8
    196
    I have to agree totally!! Women are horrible toward each others physical flaws..I am included in this comparing myself to other women. It is also tru that I complement other women honestly when I admire something about her. I am also sometimes quietly envious. I am going to try to seek out the best in other females from this point onward. - 1/26/2010   6:38:49 PM
  • 195
    I believe that women are more critical of other women's bodies than me. Yes, I am guilty of looking at other women and comparing my body to theirs. Yes, it is a shame that this is the mentality for quite a few women. I, too, have noticed this and I am trying to be conscious of doing so and stop it when it happens. I am working on learning to love myself...imperfections and all. I know that this will help in my overall body image and my need to compare. - 12/13/2009   4:56:34 PM
  • 194
    according to a few books i've come across, men, on average, see the bigger picture and women, on the other hand, are all about details. that's just how the two genders evolved.
    so that's one.
    and another thing is that women are more socially effected than men. so they tend to compare and judge more. - 12/4/2009   6:50:53 AM
  • 193
    I think that women are far more judgmental about other women's appearance than men.Admittedly,I get judgmental about women that are overly exposed in public ,i.e. wearing clothing that's way too small so they 're constantly tugging had a shirt that's way too short and small or exposed thongs ,but most times I'm looking at make-up,hair,jewelry,clothing items that I may like.
    Unfortunately,I do have a friend who can tear down a woman's clothing and looks faster than a wrecking ball can demolish a chicken coop and she does this almost constantly.I don't get it but i guess that's one of the reasons I stopped hanging with her after many years I just can't stand the negativity. - 12/2/2009   12:26:46 PM
  • 192
    I think we are more critical because it's been assumed that we have to look 'good' and that comparing ourselves to others is the only method of doing that. - 11/24/2009   5:00:39 PM
  • 191
    Oh HECK yes. My husband and I have been married 18 years, and I've borne seven children. We have a group of friends we meet with monthly to play games and socialize. I notice all kinds of things about the women—who is gaining, who is losing, who knows how to dress flatteringly for their shape—and virtually nothing about the men. I'm way more critical of other women. - 11/24/2009   2:44:16 PM
  • 190
    I think men, in general, are a lot less critical than women are. Unless they are purposely looking for a model. Generally speaking, from my experience, the average man tries to appreciate women, and even more so, women who take care of themselves. These guys are sweeties! But unfortunately, when I have been overweight, I can tell people, men included, are more critical and less accepting. I think they just want to see healthy women, not necessarily thin or scrawny women. - 10/20/2009   11:22:03 PM
  • 189
    Also, I think men are critical of different things from what women are critical of. Most women think it's dreadful to have a fat bum. Most men (my dad excluded for some reason) like a curvy woman. My youngest sister is extremely pretty but when she was younger and went to bars with my other sister, the men would always go for my other sister (who is pretty, but not half as pretty as my youngest sister). One day my youngest sister asked some men why men always went for the other sister over her, and the men said it was because the other sister had a big bum. Interestingly, my other sister was extremely self-conscious and critical of her fat bum, not realising it was why the men fancied her. But I think men have a subconscious animal desire for childbearing hips. - 9/26/2009   10:55:58 AM
  • 188
    It totally depends on the person. I am female. I observe people's bodies as shapes, and I have no interest in being critical of them. My dad (obviously male!) loves to make bitchy comments about people's bodies. Mostly women's bodies. He likes to laugh if they have a big bum - whereas I don't even notice half the time.

    I'm also totally happy with my own body shape though - I am not critical of my body, and it doesn't faze me when my dad says my bum has got fatter. Perhaps if I were critical of my own body, I'd also be critical of other people's. But I only care from a health point of view. I don't care what men or women think of my body. It's irrelevant to me. Most women I know are critical of their bodies though, even when their bodies look great. - 9/26/2009   10:51:30 AM
  • 187
    Most definetly! I have fun asking my husband if he thinks this actress or this person is attractive and I'm always surprised by his answer. He does NOT like the super skinny women, he finds they look fake. Ditto for women with lots of make-up. And he has a tendency to find me particularly beautiful when I'm lying around in pajamas with my hair all disheveled then when I'm all done up and ready to go out to town! How funny he is I tell ya :-) - 9/26/2009   10:02:21 AM
  • 186
    I so very much agree with that! I hear the women I am around say such terrible things about others and I also hear them talking about how much they want to look differently themselves. Among those around me, I am always the one that notices when one of them gets their hair cut or has new clothes. I also, for whatever reason, seem to be the one that get asked opinions about looks and I am always honest in my remarks but gentle if needed. That said I, like most men I know, are not very judgmental at all. I can see the beauty in almost everyone. Yes, like every one else I will turn a head to look at a particularly attractive woman but like has been said before, I look a the total package and am far more attracted by personality than looks and I don't think I am that unusual. Unfortunately, I do however see that in most cases when a man is critical of a woman's looks it is usually his wife. I have a friend that is that way and I often just want to say "Fred, the last 10 years were far harder on you that her, look in mirror or step on a scale and see how much you have changed too". LOL - 9/25/2009   10:17:19 PM
  • 185
    I always say, it is a good thing, men aren't as critical as women are. If they were, not many women would have a man. - 9/25/2009   2:01:53 PM
  • 184
    I would have to say so. As a man, I can honestly say that I've been stunned by some of the comments women direct ar each other regarding their appearance. Not to claim that we're entirely innocent because we're not. It's just that it's amazing how many little things SOME women critique when assessing another. - 9/25/2009   7:39:55 AM
  • 183
    I definitely mentally compare myself to other women all the time, constantly. I feel good if I'm thinner than the next woman, and bad if I'm bigger. I know it's negative and ridiculous to do this, but it's like it's programmed in.

    I don't know if women are more critical, or just differently critical. We've probably all overheard straight men claiming that some model or actress is "ugly," even though she's gorgeous and you know they would go out with her in a minute. They don't seem to connect that to the actual women in their lives, though -- even though those women don't fit the beauty ideal nearly as well as the actress they just called ugly. It's a strange thing. - 9/24/2009   2:41:00 PM
  • 182
    Most definately we are harder on ourselves and each other than men are on us. It's too bad too. - 9/24/2009   10:58:08 AM
  • 181
    This topic instantly reminded me of a famous picture of Sophia Loren "checking out" Jayne Mansfield. The black and white photo catches Loren sizing up Jayne while at a dressy dinner. At the time the photo was taken, Sophia Loren was one of the largest sex symbols in Hollywood. I guess the grass is always greener. - 9/24/2009   10:55:54 AM
  • 180
    Absolutely!! I saw a show once where they asked a men and women to evaluate a woman's body. From a distance the women noticed that her nail polish was chipping! How pathetic that we would be so trivial and judgemental. The men did look at the overall package. - 9/24/2009   10:40:12 AM
  • LATSYRC728
    179
    Women are definitely harsher than men when it comes to criticizing bodies! I think a lot of it stems from our own insecurities. Since I have gained weight I have noticed I am more critical of overweight people. It doesn't make any sense, but It seems to make me feel better about myself to criticize another. Then I realize what I did and feel awful! - 9/24/2009   8:04:09 AM
  • 178
    I do think women notice these things a lot more than men but mostly it is our significant others that seem so blind to our "imperfections." I really think most men are half brain washed to think that we are suppose to look like Jessica Alba, Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry because of T.V. and Magazines. It seems so out of control how sitcoms, movies ect. are all about hot girls. What really makes me mad is how it always seems that the guy can be completely unattractive, overweight and dumb but they have the hot smart fit girl for their girlfriend or wife. It's like T.V. lowers the standards for men and raises the bar for women as if it wasn't high enough already! GRRRR LOL I think it really depends on the type of man but yes us girls definitely go overboard when it comes to our self appearance. - 9/23/2009   7:51:46 PM
  • 177
    I think this is so true......most of my guys friends like my body but I am like no no...just wait until I lose weight or get toned then u'll really love it....women are WAY more critical..that is for sure...I myself always check out other girls bodies...sometimes I am like wow she has such nice legs or toned arms....& sometimes I am like oh no she should not be wearing that...it is kinda mean but so true....that is just how women are! - 9/23/2009   3:42:00 PM
  • 176
    DEFINETLY! and I must say unfortunately, as it means women have more unnecessary preoccupations about their bodies often in relation to men's perceptions... it does also have a corrolary, and that is that women are often more critical of other women's bodies it seems - this is of course what a guy thinks .... In any case, we need to love ourselves, and our bodies, a whole lot more and be more accepting of ourselves and others :) Good luck to all :) - 9/23/2009   3:31:38 PM
  • 175
    2 of my male friends say that I have a hot body. But I see a different side of my body. I see the tummy I have, the twins that are too small for me and no junk in my trunk. - 9/23/2009   2:09:08 PM
  • 174
    I just talked to my friend about this the other day and its totally true. I size women up all day everyday all the time. - 9/23/2009   11:27:34 AM
  • 173
    I absolutely agree!!! We should be proud of who we are and realize that it is not the "cover of the book", but what is inside! - 9/23/2009   9:57:54 AM
  • 172
    I agree, it's a problem. - 9/22/2009   8:46:47 PM
  • 171
    I agree that women are more critical. I know that I have been and am fighting this. Instead of criticizing, I've started telling myself that other women (and myself) are beautiful. Judging each other is not worth it. Accepting others helps me to accept myself and my self image has improved.

    Plus, the only reason that we have this stupid "ideal" in our heads is from the media. And I'm sick of buying into it. It means NOTHING. - 9/22/2009   7:20:05 PM
  • 170
    Women are always comparing and sizing up other women. - 9/22/2009   6:57:30 PM
  • 169
    I definitely think women are more critical of other women's bodies and I also think it is a worse problem among young girls and paricularly young girls of this generation--they can be so cruel to each other and it clearly is getting worse than when I was in junior high and high school. I overhear young girls saying crude comments to each other that we seniors wouldn't have considered letting out of our mouths--now or back in the day. I can't believe some of the nasty things that have been said to a friend's daughter who is starting to curve up earlier than her peers--no wonder so many girls are becoming anorexic and bulemic. - 9/22/2009   5:21:16 PM
  • 168
    Oh my gosh, Coach Nicole! Thanks for sharing this. I have sometimes thought I was the only woman who compared herself to darn near every single woman I pass throughout the day. But for my part, I am being critical of myself, not as much the other women. Still, I'm ashamed of it and glad to know I am not alone. Also, thankfully, my boyfriend too only ever says that I am beautiful and I cast him the "are you blind?" sideways glance. We are way too narrow-minded for our own good sometimes! - 9/22/2009   4:12:09 PM
  • KIKI8508
    167
    Of course we ladies are more critical to our bodies. My boyfriend loves the way I look and let's just say i am not even the 100th fan of my body :) - 9/22/2009   3:10:18 PM
  • 166
    I agree 110%!! I find myself doing it from time to time but have gotten a lot better and try to focus on the beautiful things about our bodies (inside and out). I also find women that critize other womens bodies the most are very insecure and are actually really unhappy with their own bodies. Not only women but young girls!! I coached a high school girls volleyball team and the hurtful things that are said at such a young age it is no wonder people are so self cautious:( - 9/22/2009   2:00:03 PM
  • 165
    I totally have to agree on this. I will notice myself looking at a woman's nicely fit details I wish I had. I know I shouldn't but I've always been like, "Gosh, I wish I had her body." Hopefully it stops but even when I was skinnier I still did it. So who knows? - 9/22/2009   12:11:55 PM
  • 164
    I am glad, lady, that you asked that question!

    Yes, count on it, women, and especially girls growing up, are more critical of each other.

    In those early years, the girls whose bodies are early to develop are teased about it. Girls whose bodies develop later may be jealous or insecure because they're afraid their breasts won't be as generous as they hope. Some girls will be well-behaved, but it will only take one or two in a catty little clique to leave hurtful darts even in the hearts of bystanders. The remarks may confuse early development with too much weight or with bad judgment.

    Cruel remarks coming out of adolescent insecurity may even be statements that the some girl has bad morals. Sometimes that will be based on what she is wearing. The judgments may be related to the particular religious beliefs of the unkind and insecure girl. The remarks may or may not have anything to do with actual good or bad judgment about sexual or other behavior that could be related to morality.

    Think back to fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades. One catty mother's remark repeated by a daughter can hurt a lot of girls if nobody is providing a balanced view of life that says not to worry about how quickly or slowly your body is changing.

    Life where sex education and health came from gym and fashion magazines was seriously bad news. I hope that today's girls are getting a better view. - 9/22/2009   10:07:38 AM
  • 163
    I think it's two things going on - basic evolutionary biology says that women compete among each other to be attractive to men, and our media feeds that preoccupation with weight, youth, and attractiveness. So of course we notice it among each other!
    I do this with strangers but among people I know, I see the person within first and their physcial being becomes less important to me. I have even had friends tell me they were hurt that I didn't notice their weight loss - but honestly, I didn't. - 9/22/2009   7:38:39 AM
  • 162
    Strangely enough, unless another woman is scary thin or morbidly obese, I really don't notice other women's bodies that much. I tend to look people in the eye when I talk to them. I once didn't even notice that a woman I had sat in 3 meetings with was 8 months pregnant! I have also never been self conscious about changing in the locker room at the gym. In general, I have found other women to be very supportive and often when I mention going to work out or watching what I eat, the response other women give me is, "You don't look like you need to watch your figure. You look great!"

    On the other hand, my hubby is very shallow and judgmental. He gives lots of reminders that I need to lose weight and when we're out dining, he will notice other women and point out "See, she's about your height. You should be built like her. And I know you can, honey! You just need to work out more!" To say his attitude is irritating is putting it mildly. :-( - 9/22/2009   5:47:11 AM
  • POSITIVECYNIC86
    161
    I think both genders are judgmental women are just more vocal about things and frankly less polite sometimes. I think polite men don't come out and say what they see wrong with a woman's body, but they see it. It seems to me that I know a lot of attractive women who are with average looking men, but I can't think of one example out of all of the people that I know of attractive men being with average looking women. Maybe I am just surrounded by shallow people.

    I think my husband is pretty shallow actually. I have never been overweight, but before I joined sparkpeople I was at the tip top of my healthy weight range and very out of shape. My husband kept trying to politely encourage me to lose weight. I think being healthy is important, but he has been overweight as long as I've known him even hovering the line to obese. He hates to workout with me, and I was already cooking him healthy meals, so it isn't like my losing weight would benefit him in either of those ways. He is just shallow! I can't really blame him though as all of his friends have thin wives/girlfriends and are just as shallow as him. Hopefully, it is just an stage that all of these young men will grow out of, and I will happily be proven wrong :) - 9/22/2009   3:19:50 AM
  • 160
    Unfortunately I'm as bad as the next about judging myself by looking at other women's bodies. I grew up skinny and being told how unattractive I was by my parents so trying to determine what was 'pretty' or even popular at that point in time was a challenge. I didn't really get comfortable with my body until my 40's and watching other women, how they dealt with society's trend to become even more thin. Moving into my 50's presented me with the weight issue and I found myself again looking at other women's bodies - but this time seeing how they aged. Who appeared to exercise and be taking the best care of themselves, who didn't. Most appear to be at least comfortable and I like seeing that. The ones (older women) who try to dress trendy or too young for their age are the ones I see as not comfortable with their bodies. Frankly most of the time I enjoy watching other women...I seldom feel the need to compare myself with them, unless I'm having a bad day. Now I'm in my 60's and find it's even more important to take better care of myself -- which again leads me to look at other women and compare myself if only to see if I'm doing it right... - 9/21/2009   6:47:59 PM
  • AKAFIT
    159
    I am definitely very guilty of comparing myself to other women. My main struggle is finding myself lacking. I can sometimes get an attitude towards women that I perceive as "perfect." I know that it sounds absolutely crazy since I often don't even know these women (and in truth they are probably wonderfully insecure women too), but it is something that I have to constantly battle in myself. We need to learn to love ourselves and love other women as well because we all struggle with wanting to be better than we are in some way. - 9/21/2009   6:10:44 PM
  • 158
    Yes that's correct. Women do criticize or observe women bodies more than men. Unfortunately,this is very common in our society. - 9/21/2009   4:39:37 PM
  • 157
    This article was definitely 100% true! I have the nasty habit of checking out areas on women & wondering if they are the same size as I am, terrible really but true! - 9/21/2009   4:26:34 PM
  • 156
    I totally agree with you, and like you said the worse thing is that I compare myself to those women and then I feel bad (sometimes) because, like you, I start asking Is that the way I look? Definitely think women are judgemental of others. - 9/21/2009   3:17:38 PM

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