Friday, August 28, 2015

Real Women Have Curves

I *hate* this phrase! Or, rather, how it's being misappropriated by a certain younger portion of the population these days.

I think it's about time I address it. This particular saying that's been gaining traction in recent years, partly in reaction to the rail-thin and often anorexic-inducing trends in the fashion industry. Mostly the professional advertising segment of said industry, which includes modelling.

Now, see, I'm fully behind the idea that women should not feel pressured into looking a certain way. Reducing a person's self worth to how they look on the outside, and ignoring what they have going for themselves on the inside, is a dismissive attitude that can do a lot of harm. People should feel good for what they are, not how they look. This is true, of course, on a general level. Come on, we all know this!

But what is the saying "real women have curves" really about? Is it giving fatty Americans and women from other Western, industrialized nations free license to revel in their largeness? No. If you think that, then you are simply not getting it. The message. Which is, to wit: that it's okay to be naturally not-thin. That's it in a nutshell. And so if she has a bit more cushioning, what's it to you? If she's comfortable with herself, why are you trying to make her feel bad for not being a rail-thin Barbie doll? And I say women only because the phrase itself is being gender-specific. Yet we all know that this issue is not assigned to women alone. Men suffer with body image as well.

So, this is what the phrase should mean. But in actuality, this is not how it's being used by most people on social media and such. To them, the phrase is doing more than saying it is okay to not have a straight and rail-thin physique. And this additional content is what I wish to unpack today. I have a major bone to pick with the way people use this saying. Or, rather, with the way people ab-use it!

So lets start at the seemingly most innocuous portion of the phrase. The last part. The part about "curves." What are curves? I don't know about you, but as a man I think of curves as being natural to all women. All women have curves, especially when compared to a man's physique. Even the skinniest of women have more curves than the average male, simply because of the basic physiological differences between the genders. No deeper scientific study has to be conducted beyond what your own eyes can see! So in that sense "real women have curves" is a rather redundant observation. If all women are *real* people, and all women have curves ... then what the hell is this phrase trying to say? That all women are women? Uh, thanks, but I think we all know they're not alien beings from Venus.

So, okay. Saying that women have curves is not really what this phrase is getting at. Let's not be obtuse here. How the word "curves" is really being used is as a euphemism for size. It's a playful way of saying "fat," basically. Or, I guess the PC term these days is "full figured" or "plus-sized," right? So is that it? Is the phrase asserting that only bigger women are real women? Seems controversial if you ask me. Pretty insensitive, to tell the truth.

And it brings me to the other end of the phrase, the beginning part now. Yup, that's right. This issue of the word "real." What a strange conceit! Are non-curvy women--i.e., non "big" women, in this context--not real, then? Are super thin women not tangible? Are those suffering from eating disorders, even, simply ghosts flittering about the ethereal realm? For shame!

Of course, again, I'm playing Devil's Advocate here. We all know that this is not what's intended by the use of the term "real women." In the context of how the full phrase is most often used, "real women" in this sense is another way of saying the "average" woman; or the common woman, if you will.

So, in effect, if you modify the phrase for clarity--replacing the words "real" and "curves" with synonymous ones that are more specific--you might come up with something that goes like this:

"Most women are not thin."

Straight forward and to the point, if a bit stating the obvious. And utterly boring! What good is a jingoistic, baiting pop saying if it's merely stating the truth? The truth being that: yes, in today's modern society of processed foods, less mobility, and poor health education, people on average are not as thin as they used to be. Not just women, but all people!

So we can't use the more simplistic and matter-of-fact version of this saying, No, no, no. It just will not do, see? We have to sensationalize things, stir up trouble! So it's therefore "real women have curves." And it's my belief that this phrase, in fact, is not what it appears. It's not in fact helping larger-framed women feel good about themselves, but is actually designed to put down women who do not fit the paradigm such a phrase comprises. It's taking so-called "fat shaming" and now turning it around to, in essence, "skinny shame" small-framed women. Women who, through no fault or design of their own, are just naturally petite.

Oh, you didn't know this practice exists? I hate to break it to you, but skinny shaming is all the rage these days. It exists in the "eat a sandwich" campaign, by which naturally petite women are criticized for being too skinny and are therefore automatically assumed to be suffering from an eating disorder. So the hilarious thing to do is shout out: "you could stand to eat a hamburger or two!" to such women.

Seriously? Is that what we've come to, people? When women are being shamed for being too big, is the natural solution really to turn it around and attack skinny women instead? Like, for real? Are we seriously that fucking stupid, America?!

More and more I suspect that the more recent abuse of this phrase was spearheaded by men. It almost certainly was! Only men are that clueless as to take a movement originally designed to combat the disparaging of women's figures by spinning it around 360 degrees and ... disparaging more women's figures! Or maybe insidious is the better word here, not clueless. It's rather calculated, actually. And very misogynistic. For only a man would think to value a woman based solely on her physical appearance. Skinny, fat. They're both labels for a woman's size. Nowhere near as much fascination is placed on a man's size. If we're overweight, we're lovable and a "teddy bear." We're told we have "love handles," or that we're "husky." Big and Tall is a desired trait for a good husband. Conversely, if we're thin we're in great shape and have a fast metabolism, or we're "wiry" and disciplined with our diets. A skinny man is a man who takes care of himself. But a skinny woman, oh how dare she! She's breaking the cardinal sin of being a woman in a man's world: she's not living up to our juvenile, centerfold pin-up ideals of what a healthy woman of child-bearing physique should resemble. And for that she needs to be shamed! For that, we men feel we must reward the women who do live up to this ideal. For you see, in a man's world only curvaceous women are worthy of our attentions. Only real women have curves!

Here's a concept: how about we stop telling women how they should feel about their own bodies? How about we accept that real women come in various different body types -- the same exact way that men do! How about we recognize that, in fact, a lot more women are petite and small framed than we realize? They are not starving themselves, they are not living up to some unnatural standard. They are this way by genetics. They come from a long maternal line of petite people, perhaps. Or they're of East or South Asian descent, maybe. Or, hey, they were simply just born that way!

And, sure, I just took a major pot shot at men out there for this shaming behavior. But women are just as much to blame sometimes, especially in the fashion world. Yes, ironic enough, but there has been a trend in recent years to reject the "size zero" mentality of women's fashion. Which, fine, let's not ignore the fact that people are getting fatter on average than our counterparts two, three, four, or five decades ago. So, yes, clothing has to be able to accommodate this trend. But let's not also forget that there's still a sizable portion of our population that does in fact need to shop for petite frames. Should they be made to feel marginalized now? Is it time for a little reciprocity after so many decades of plus-sized women being unaccommodated in fashion?

So, just as with men, my suggestion stands the same: women, stop telling other women how to feel about their bodies. Or, okay, you know what? How about we ALL just mind our fucking business and accept that people come in various shapes, sizes, color, orientation, etc? How about you not glorify one body type over another? How about we represent ALL women?

Real women don't have curves. Real women see the value in all women! And all women should feel good about themselves. Positive self image is rad!

So, let's celebrate the full-figured woman, but let's not throw the petite girl under the bus in the process, m'kay? That's a divisive conceit, and as such this phrase "real women have curves" is suspicious, malicious, and ultimately harmful to other women who are being made to feel excluded from the party.

Real women are women. Period.


  1. This was a very insightful blog post and one I totally agree with. :) From my own experience as a totally healthy, size 0 petite woman --who has had two kids-- I've experienced thin shaming at every job I've had, all done by woman. It's not acceptable to tell a fat person to lay off the fries and it should not be acceptable to ask a thin woman if she eats! Some people can't imagine that a woman can be thin and not achieve it in a sinister way. This reminds me of how I was asked to keep a food diary for my oldest child when she was a baby because she was so thin and not on the "charts," and that worried the doctors. Hmm. . I finally had a conversation with the doctor about how East Asian/South Asian women are usually, not always, more petite than their white America counterparts and therefore will produce smaller babies! He said it changed the way he approached some of his patients who did not fit the norm! Small wins in a big battle! :)
    As for the curves thing, all women have curves and if you are a lucky guy, we use 'em! :) LOL!

  2. Yes! This is what I was trying to get at: that as much as it's not okay to shame bigger women over their food choices or other actions, it's also not okay to do the converse toward smaller women. The blanket assumption most people have that a size zero woman is *obviously* starving herself is just as hurtful and misplaced as assuming the size 20 woman is going home to gorge herself. Generalizations hurt and, in this case, only serve to reveal ignorance on the subject considering the very simple fact that there are a lot of women out there for whom a thin frame is something they were born into, and not something they purposefully and rigorously maintain for the sake of appeasing the male misogynist gaze.

  3. Hum...though provoking post.

    I think most people have a lot of insecurities and a lot of women worry about their weight. It's not a new phenomenon. When I was younger - I was 5'7" and 123 pounds and considered myself FAT. Now, I know how crazy that is but that was then. I think women see the models and think that's the way they should look when, in reality, bone thin is probably not healthy--and the ideas that girls should starve themselves is bad both mentally and physically.

    Today, I try to focus on health. Eating healthy (although I sorta suck at it--why does chocolate and butter and ice cream have to taste so wonderful?;) And exercising. I want to be fit so I can stay active. That's my goal...but that's just me

  4. Being fit is most important. There are a lot of skinny people out there who don't have to work out or eat super healthy to remain thin, and I feel this often leads to a sedentary lifestyle that is every much as unhealthy as the overweight person who doesn't work out. Not to the same level, of course ... but unhealthy is unhealthy nonetheless. I often wonder if it might not be disadvantageous to be naturally thin -- the type of skinny where no matter how much you eat you still cannot put on much weight. Because I feel that this leads to a lazy attitude on exercise. Normally, your body putting on too many pounds is a sign that you are not balancing diet and exercise properly in your life, and that you need to make changes. High-metabolic types don't benefit from such warnings, and as such they can often be at high risk for things like high cholesterol and heart disease without even realizing it.

    Still, this blog entry was not about women starving themselves to look skinny. It was about the skinny shaming of genetically petite women. Specifically with people assuming that a skinny girl is skinny only because she must be starving herself to look that way. And yet, often times that person has no such disorder and is just "blessed" by genes. A blessing which some people who are not so endowed feel jealous of, and whom then resort to malicious name-calling and ridicule. Ridicule which, today, is considered so taboo and off limits when directed at larger women.

    Imagine a woman whose genes allow for her to be naturally large-framed and for whom, try as she might, no amount of diet and exercise will ever get her to below even a size 16? Now also imagine that this same woman exercises moderately (nothing crazy), and is very conscious about her food choices. And yet, due to genetics, she is still what society considers "large" for a female. Would it be fair for someone to come along and shout out "fatty!" to her, or admonish her to "lay off the cheeseburgers, tubby!"? No. Not that this behavior would be acceptable even toward women who do not exercise or eat healthy, mind you. But regardless, we would all join together and chastise such debasing behavior.

    And yet ... it's perfectly okay, even in this PC culture of today, to label a skinny woman right off the bat as having an eating disorder or accuse her of starving herself to fit some non achievable standard of beauty set by the fashion industry or media at large. Is that right? No. And anytime someone does this, it in fact reveals the double standards we have for women and their self images. Just because a girl is naturally thin and doesn't have to work hard to maintain her weight, doesn't mean she's immune from insult. Her feelings can be hurt by an off-handed comment as much as the larger woman who's self-conscious about her size.

    It's important people realize this. I don't think anyone who's not naturally petite can empathize, actually. It sure doesn't seem so to me. And yet there are whole populations of people in the world who are genetically small-framed and whom are ostracized by the standards of our Western society for a physicality that is not a lifestyle choice for them, but simply a matter of genetics. And maligning someone based on something they were born into and have absolutely no control over is the lowest, most shameful form of intolerance there is.

    This is what I was trying to get at with this blog entry.

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