Real Women Have… Bodies

My Thursday post at Healthy is the New Skinny is up: Are You In, Or Are You Out?


I loved the movie “Real Women Have Curves” that came out a few years ago. Starring America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty”, it was a terrific reminder that beauty and health are found across an entire spectrum, not just at one narrow size. But as much as I liked the movie, I hated the title. The implication was obvious: if “real women have curves”, then women who don’t have curves aren’t “real.” And that’s a very damaging message.

Curvy women are real women. Skinny women are real women. Women who have had boob jobs or lip enhancements or liposuction are still real women. Size 0 may make no sense mathematically, but a woman who wears that size is as real as the one who wears a size 16. What makes us “real” people is not the shape of our flesh but our basic humanity. And we lose our humanity when we judge – not when we lose weight, gain weight, or make the intensely personal decision to undergo cosmetic surgery….

Women who diet are still real women. Women who gain weight are still real women. Women who can barely fill an A cup are “real” women – and women who’ve had breast enlargements are still “real”. If we want to change the way girls feel about their bodies, we need to stop using the divisive language of “real” versus“fake.”

The girls and women you know in your life, whether you envy them or pity them, love them or hate them, are all real. The images in the magazines may be fake, but behind those images are women with real bodies, real hearts, real emotion. And even the most beautiful women can be hurt by cruel words.

For more on the infuriating habit of excluding countless women from the right to be real, see this Cathy Reif piece that ran in the Guardian last month.

7 thoughts on “Real Women Have… Bodies

  1. Excellent–there’s a bit in “The Beauty Myth” about how women who fall closer to the mainstream idea of beauty may actually wrestle more with the beauty myth, because A) the ideal may seem more achievable, “if only…”, and B) others don’t recognize their own complex relationship with their beauty. We’re aware of and adore the “beauty is a curse–a wretched CURSE!” idea because we don’t really believe it. And we shouldn’t–beauty is complex and individual.

    I’m no mainstream beauty, but when I lost a bunch of weight I found that suddenly my body was open for comment in a way it hadn’t been when I was heavier. I wrote about it here:

    It was shocking–I really hadn’t realized that people would feel free to just freely talk about my body, because previously I’d inhabited a zone in which It Wasn’t Polite to discuss.

  2. Thank you for this! I’ve been small my whole life and it has never ceased to amaze me that my body seems to be up for discussion. Even perfect strangers will tell me that I need to put on some weight. This led to a period of time that I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I went from doctor to doctor and they all told me the same thing. I was healthy and fine just the way I was. I did not need to put on weight.

    I think the pressure for ‘larger’ women to be smaller is well recognized but (at least in my experience) when ‘smaller’ women dare talk about the comments and rudeness directed at us, we’re dismissed as skinny-b*****.

    It’s encouraging to see that there are others who recognize that a woman is not defined by the shape or size of her body.

  3. I’m another naturally thin woman, Marianne, and I have also experienced a lot of weirdly invasive comments about my weight and body. I’ve gotten everything from a condescending “Oh, YOU wouldn’t know what it’s like, you can wear anything and it will look good on you,” to an almost-threatening “You better watch out, as soon as you turn 25 (or 30, or 40) it will all catch up with you!!!”

    I don’t think skinny women receive more comments on our weight than larger women — but it’s frustrating how often the speakers seem to think they’re offering a compliment, just because I’m thin. If I suggest that I find these comments rude, invasive, and unwelcome, the speaker is often genuinely shocked and hurt that I don’t feel flattered by the attention.

  4. I’ve had way more comments about “You should eat more” or gain weight, from virtually everyone I discussed with more than to order food or such, including co-workers.

    But only before my transition (I was 105 lbs for 5’6″). And I was naturally thin, a size 0.

    Since transition, nothing. And same weight for over 3 years, as before transition.

    Now I gained some weight, because it “caught up with me” sort of, and I’m a size 6 or so. Still no comment to gain or lose weight.

    “You better watch out, as soon as you turn 25 (or 30, or 40) it will all catch up with you!!!”

    This usually *is* a compliment. A sort of “You lucky bastard! Take advantage of it while it lasts.” kind of thing. It never came uninvited this comment (I’d referred to my size or weight in the same discussion for sure). And only from people close to me.

  5. Also re “being a real woman”.

    This accusation (of being fake, not real etc) is levied against trans women from all sides (left and right political spectrum, conservatives and feminists), though thankfully, some people (on those same sides) don’t do it and sometimes defeat these arguments.

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