Posted by Jane Janeczko on November 15, 2013
Whenever I read articles about plus-size models, I usually see comments like, “Curvy women are the best,” or “Real women have curves,” or “She’s not plus-size, she’s just a real woman.” These remarks make me absolutely cringe with horror. I think that there’s something inherently problematic with defining or categorizing women at all based on their body type.
There are no guidelines that a woman has to follow in order to be defined as a “real woman.” Real women can have curves, that is true, but real women can also be stick thin, real women can have long hair or pixie cuts, real women can burst out of DD bras or have barely-there A cups – there is no right or wrong way to be a woman.
Here’s a really simple test to see if a woman is a real woman: does the individual call themselves a woman? If, yes, then congratulations! They’re a real woman. It’s really that simple.
Real women have bodies. So as long as you’re not trying to call a wisp of smoke floating out of a chimney a woman, then you’re pretty much okay with calling any woman a real woman.
Now, I’m as much of a fan as anyone of fellow curvy girl America Ferrera’s 2002 film Real Women Have Curves, I thought it was well-acted and dealt a lot with multigenerational matriarchal dynamics, which are obviously kind of awesome! But, that title kills me. If you are saying that real women have curves, then there is an inherent implication that women who do not have the Marilyn Monroe hourglass are somehow less of a woman than their more well-endowed sisters.
In a great Jezebel article from 2011 that I bookmarked, writer Hugo Schwyzer talks about the awful dichotomy that this statement creates. “A new double-bind for women was born: those who met the skinny ideal could now be labeled ‘unreal,’ and those who were still shamed for being heavy were now encouraged to take some sort of comfort in being more ‘legitimate’ than their slender sisters,” Schwyzer writes.
Plus-size women are consistently discriminated against – by clothing manufacturers, designers, doctors, and even employers – but that does not mean that thin women are completely free from prejudice. I’m going to make a blanket statement here and say that it is still probably easier to be a size 2 than a size 22, but women who are incredibly thin do often have to deal with whispers of anorexia and criticism of their eating habits, as well. Just because someone is thin, that does not mean that they are happy or confident with how they look.
What people don’t seem to recognize, on either side of the aisle, is that whether you’re overweight or underweight, so much of your body type comes down to genetics. So much of this skinny versus fat debate also comes down to the idea that “healthy is best.” However, healthy can look so different. Just because someone is overweight it does not mean that they are diabetic ,and just because someone is thin it does not mean that they are anorexic or malnourished. We need to stop judging people based on their bodies. End of story.
I would recommend checking out the blog “The Skinny Girl Problems” for perspective on some of the struggles that women with different body types face. Personally, this line from a post about the issues with the statement “Real Women Have Curves” really spoke to me: “Do not claim to be anti-bullying and body positive and at the next turn, be hypocritical. Don’t claim ’all bodies are beautiful’ and then the next day say ‘only dogs like bones’ or ‘skinny women are evil.’ That is not body positive. Skinny girls face insecurities too, and your hypocrisy is a part of that.”
What do you feel about the phrase “Real Women Have Curves?” Tell me in the comments.