Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and comment threads criticizing the popular phrase “Real Women Have Curves,” and all of its derivatives.
There’s now a backlash, and thin women, from a place of great privilege, are feeling “skinny shamed.”
Look, there’s clearly been a big misunderstanding here.
“Real Women Have Curves” is a figure of speech and is not to be taken literally. So first, calm down, skinny women and anyone else who feels offended. This isn’t about you, I swear. No one is saying that someone who identifies as female isn’t “real” just because she is thin. Duh.
Everyone is real, regardless of their body type, period.
No words or beliefs can take away someone’s realness.
What’s not real, however, are airbrushed images that we see in the media. Beauty standards that are impossible for 99 percent of women to attain are also not real, and these harmful pictures and ideals are what “Real Women Have Curves” is trying to address.
So when we say “Real Women Have Curves” we’re saying that, hey, that ridiculous thigh gap that’s photoshopped into that absurd underwear ad? That’s not real! Neither are those teeny arms or that wisp of a waist in that movie poster. In real life, those people don’t actually look like that, therefore these images are not real representations of actual human bodies.
Some might argue, well what about that actress or this supermodel? Movie images can’t be edited like photos. Live TV can’t be Photoshopped. These women clearly look this way for “real.” This is true.
However, women whose livelihoods depend on being seen and achieving a certain standard of beauty put an enormous effort into how they look. They have personal chefs and personal trainers. They work out as many hours per day as an Olympic athlete, and many of them take drugs.
These conditions are by no means normal, attainable by average women, or even healthy. Cavewomen didn’t put forth that much physical exertion in order to survive, and if someone has to work that much and then on top of that take horse tranquilizers to be skinny “enough,” I have to argue that her thinness isn’t exactly “real” either, because her body is being forced into this state.
The conditions that make these women’s bodies possible are not realistic for the vast majority of women in the world.
Perpetuating unrealistic images of women’s bodies is dangerous and wrong. It teaches women and men both that for women to be deserving of love, admiration and success that they must be tiny even if that isn’t natural or normal for their bodies. “Real Women Have Curves” is an attempt at negating these myths and images about how women are supposed to look in order to help women accept themselves as they are so that they don’t feel they have to go to the extreme, painful, and sometimes deadly lengths in order to be considered beautiful and therefore lovable.
I say that “Real Women Have Curves” because they do. Even naturally thin women’s bodies, when not starved or forced out of their default states, have curves.
Weight fluctuations during different periods of a woman’s life are healthy and normal. Young women are thinner and gain weight during pregnancy and nursing. Most women are generally prone to gain a few pounds around menopause because of hormonal changes and it is a scientific fact that it is more difficult for women’s bodies to lose weight than men’s. According to thyroid.org, women are five to eight times more likely to become hypothyroid, a common condition that leads to extra pounds. Still, a very small percentage of women stay effortlessly thin their entire lives. They are far from the norm and yes, of course, they are still real and still beautiful and no, it is never okay to tell them to eat a sandwich.
“Real Women Have Curves” has nothing to do with shaming women who were lucky enough to have small frames and fast metabolisms and everything to do with helping women who were not born with those things to understand that their bodies are worthy, attractive, and healthy as is—thighs touching and all.
It’s saying to the majority of women that they are more real than media-driven, manipulated images and that no, they don’t have to starve, eat chemicals, take drugs, pay tons of money for supposed weight-loss miracle claims, have surgeons whittle them smaller or push themselves to their limits at the gym if they’d rather be doing something else.
Stating that “Real Women Have Curves” isn’t saying “Skinny Women Aren’t Real.”
It’s an empowering statement for all women regardless of size, and perhaps a better way to understand the phrase’s sentiment is to equate today’s beauty standards to those of ancient China. What many women do to themselves today in order to be thin is in the same vein as women who were once forced by another arbitrary beauty standard to bind their feet. Back then we could have said “Real Women Have Big Feet.”
“Real” refers to a woman’s body in her natural state and the artificial that is implied refers not to women without curves, but rather to the false ideals of what is beautiful that are so prevalent in our society today.
And guess what? We are all beautiful exactly as we are, right this second.