Four days ago, Robbie Tripp wrote a letter to his curvy wife on Instagram. It starts with, "I love this woman and her curvy body," and continues to talk about how he, as someone educated in feminism (or his version of it), rejects society's narrow view of what a woman should look like — namely, thin and without an ounce of cellulite.
His letter has been praised by multiple news outlets and has garnered headlines like "Husband’s Love Note To His ‘Curvy’ Wife Should Be Required Reading" and "People Are Applauding This Man For Celebrating His Wife's Curves On The Internet." These articles wax poetic about how sweet the letter is, and how wonderful it is to see a fit man stick up for his "curvy" wife. But here's the thing: While Tripp's sentiments may seem applaud-worthy from afar, they're actually problematic upon closer inspection.
Tripp's letter reeks of the worst type of "male feminism," the Matt McGorrys of the world who spout feminist dialogue mostly as a means to congratulate themselves for being feminists. That's not to say that men can't be feminists — but patting yourself on the back for being an ally, rather than lifting up the voices of women, is not feminism. According to Tripp's letter, his attraction to curvy women like his wife (whose name is Sarah, btw, but we'll get to that later), caused a lot of emotional turmoil in his teenage years.
"As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as 'chubby' or even 'fat,'" he wrote. "Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalizes women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie."
He's asking us to feel bad for him, yet ignoring the much more traumatic struggle his wife and women like her go through because of people who "buy into" the idea that only thin women are attractive. The struggle of women is what makes the body positivity movement so necessary in the first place. Are we supposed to give this guy golf claps for being so much more woke than other men and recognizing that a "chubby" body can be beautiful? Sorry, sir, but you don't get an award for being a decent human being.
In outlining his struggle as a man attracted to curvy women and mentioning that he's not like other men, Tripp also sets up a power dynamic in his relationship with his wife. Words like these imply that she should be grateful that someone as fit as Tripp — who does fit into conventional standards of attractive body size — is interested in her and her body.
That would be enough to make this letter problematic, but Tripp later dips into fetishization and objectification, as he continues to reduce his wife to her body.
"For me, there is nothing sexier than this woman right here: thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc. Her shape and size won't be the one featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan but it's the one featured in my life and in my heart," Tripp wrote. "There's nothing sexier to me than a woman who is both curvy and confident; this gorgeous girl I married fills out every inch of her jeans and is still the most beautiful one in the room."
"Still the most beautiful," implies that curvy women really shouldn't be pretty and that his wife is somehow an anomaly among plus size women. And calling her fat a "cute little side roll" on a public platform like Instagram is just demeaning (in fact, Tripp also posted an Instagram Live video in which he calls her side roll #TheMoneyMaker — likely because Sarah is a body positive blogger).
Thankfully, individuals on Twitter have also noticed the problems in Tripp's "sweet" and "heartfelt" letter, and have been speaking out:
Listen, we don't know anything about Tripp's life with Sarah or how she feels about his views on her body. Maybe having a husband who is so outspoken about her fat rolls and cellulite is empowering for Sarah. In the privacy of their homes, all couples do and say strange things (like calling a fat roll The Money Maker), but when it's taken into public, rhetoric like that serves only to further fetishization of plus size women's bodies.
There are a few other problems with the rest of Tripp's letter. In the interest of time, we've broken it down below:
"Guys, rethink what society has told you that you should desire [Ok, yes, great. Please do that]. A real woman is not a porn star or a bikini mannequin or a movie character [Um, yes, actually porn stars and actresses are real women, too. A mannequin, not so much]. She's real. She has beautiful stretch marks on her hips and cute little dimples on her booty [thin women who don't have stretch marks or booty dimples are still real women]. Girls, don't ever fool yourself by thinking you have to fit a certain mold to be loved and appreciated [Thanks, dude. All that girls needed was a guy to come along and tell us that we don't have to fit into society's narrow definition of beauty to deserve love]."
Tripp's last quote brings home the point that this letter is self-serving, and that, whatever his intentions, he's effectively using his wife and her body to prove to the internet that he's a really good guy, and a good feminist.
"There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my Sarah," he wrote.
Again, we're supposed to applaud him for loving Sarah, curvy body and all, and for sticking up for plus size women. Also noteworthy: This is the first time he's mentioned his wife's name and he chooses to do so in a way that makes her a possession. She's not his Sarah — she's Sarah, and she actually runs a body-positive fashion blog called Sassy Red Lipstick.
If Tripp truly wanted to celebrate his wife and lift up her voice, he would take a step back and use his feminism to point people to her work. Real male feminists don't make feminism about them; they listen to women and do whatever they can to let them be heard.
It's easy to get lost in the ever-growing optimism of the body-positive movement and just see Tripp's letter as another example of how far we've come since he was being teased as a teenager. But, at it's core, that's not really what this letter is about — it's about a fit, white man jumping on the back of a movement led mostly by women to give himself a little pat on the back.
It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.
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