Body Image

My Rage About “Real Women”

On Friday morning, a former high-school classmate and Facebook friend shared a photo from ABC 7 Chicago’s page. It was an H&M ad, that featured a size 12 model wearing a bikini.

“The average size of American women is 12-14. Now clothing retailer H&M is making waves with their recent swimsuit ads featuring a plus-sized model.”

Within 3 days, this photo had been “liked” 393,205 times, shared 16,420 times, and accrued over 26,000 comments.

Twenty six thousand comments. It was the comments section of this photograph that inspired this post, actually, because they were both utterly predictable and enraging:


Those hastily cropped images are just a taste of the colorful and judgemental commentary. Some weren’t totally atrocious. Some were so abhorrent that I decided to name-and-shame, however “low” that may be considered here on the blogosphere. Listen up, people: if you have the kajones to make disgusting comments like that, you better have the kajones to back it up. So in the case of those assholes: let whatever happens, happen.
I was already prepared when I perused the thousands of opinions attached to the image. In scenarios like this, you predictably get three things: faux-concern for the “fat” person’s health, “gross, you are promoting obesity!”, or some form of “skeletal stick-bugs”, “disgusting anorexic models”, “only dogs want bones!”, “real women have curves”. And there you have it, folks:
“Real women have curves.”
The phrase “Real women have curves” is up there on the list of Top 5 Things I Hate, along with black licorice, unsweetened coffee, religious bigots, and floral-printed denim. I could probably rattle off fifteen reasons why I despise it, first and foremost being that it is utterly offensive to my hordes of robotic female friends. Because, you know, those exist.

(…Do you see what I did there…?)

The word “real” is defined as adjective: actually existing as a thing or occurring as fact; not imagined or supposed. So, the very idea of a type of woman who is somehow less than real is not only ridiculous, it is physically impossible. If she is constructed of atoms, a woman is a woman, whether biologically by birth or otherwise. A fat woman is a real woman. A thin woman is a real woman. A woman with curves is real, as are women without. Athletic women are real women. Trans* women are real women. With these points outlined, I want you to say it with me: All women are real women.
I understand where the “real women” nonsense came from. Really, I do. It was developed years ago as a confidence booster for the larger market, where none existed before. After the word “curvy” became hideously misused as a euphemism for “plus sized”, the “Real Women Have Curves” agenda stepped up as a way to empower plus-sized girls. Except…all it managed to do was pit woman-against-woman. Suddenly, the big girls were hating on the slim girls, and vice versa. And quite frankly, I don’t see how bashing another group of people is up-lifting.
After “Real Women Have Curves” came other phrases that are outright ridiculous. “Men don’t want skin and bones!” is another one that makes me itchy, because not only is it hateful towards slimmer ladies, it is highly misogynistic. Because let me tell you something:I don’t give a flying fart in space what men want, and neither should any woman. My own lesbianism aside, I think it is vital that women realize that they need to please themselves first and foremost. And another heads up, girls: referring to slim ladies as “anorexic stick bugs” or insinuating that thinness is associated with drug addiction is just as bad as people assuming that all large people are large because of an inability to control themselves around a Big Mac.
The point is, ladies and germs, people need to stop being so fucking judgmental of one another. Slamming a group of people to make yourself feel better is childish. If you are truly comfortable in your own skin, it won’t matter whether someone else has something that you don’t. Stop making assumptions about one another based on appearances alone. Stop falling into that hateful woman-versus-woman trap.

Repeat it until you believe it: ALL WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN.

And I almost forgot: I have a special shout-out for that “cardiologist” up there in the comments section! If you’re the Andrew Rudin: Cardiologist that I did a quick Google Search on, you need to sit the fuck down and shut your mouth. Because your comment leads me to believe that you have NO IDEA about the Body Mass Index, body proportions, and weight distribution. Someone who is 160lbs, 6 feet tall, and a size twelve is going to have a totally different shape then someone who is 5′ feet tall and the same size. I would also recommend that you pay your child support on time, so that you don’t get your medical license suspended again. Fucker.


21 thoughts on “My Rage About “Real Women””

  1. Well put. That ‘real women have curves crap’ is on my top 5 things I hate list too. I totally agree with everything you except one little thing:

    “I don’t give a flying fart in space what men want, and neither should any woman”

    Although I think you have wonderful way with words here, I disagree. For me, that pits women against men in a way that isn’t helpful and is just as reactionary as the ‘real’ vs skinny women rhetoric. I care deeply what my husband, father, brother, friends and possibly-hypothetical-future-sons want. Everyone is important and men deserve to be listened to and have their needs met too.

    I don’t think that’s really what you meant though; in the context of what you’re saying I think it meant more like “Women shouldn’t alter their bodies or how they feel about their bodies in order to please men and women shouldn’t get so caught up in what men think that they loose their self-esteem” and probably some other stuff along those lines. I totally agree with you – “it is vital that women realize that they need to please themselves first and foremost.”

    So really I agree with you.

    I just feel strongly that there is an important place in this debate for listening to men and caring about how they feel, as long as it’s done in an intelligent and nuanced way. That doesn’t make us bad feminists, it enhances feminism.

    Love your blog xx

    1. Hi Mary!

      You are so right. It definitely wasn’t my intention to pit women against men, and your comments were more of what I was going for/would have said if I hadn’t gotten my feathers ruffled by this topic.

      I think that above everything, a woman needs to put herself first, and love herself before she can really love anyone else. The idea that a woman’s body should be changed for a man (the idea that “men want meat, not bones”) absolutely sickens me, not only because it isn’t sexuality inclusive (which is another recurring topic on my blog), but that it perpetuates this “pleasing others before oneself” ideal. I also hate the fact that it insinuates that a thin woman is unworthy of love, and that nobody could possibly want her simply because of her body. The objectification in that statement is another one I could go on about for DAYS.
      So, phew! Lengthy response, but the TL; DR version is: thanks for your comment! You’re right. Men are awesome, but we need to love ourselves first. Thank you for reading!

      1. Yes, I knew we agreed really.

        Absolutely agree about this kind of thing not being sexuality inclusive – and it’s a wider issue. It assumes that all women for the entire span of their adult lives should be trying to sexually please men – like some of us don’t sometimes have other concerns; not only if you’re gay but also if you have a demanding career or health issues or children to worry about or a life to live or, just maybe, you want to go to the beach, go swimming, enjoy yourself and not worry about how you look (cos that’s just plain unreasonable of us).

  2. THANK YOU. Every time I see “real women have curves!” and “Real men want meat, only dogs go for bones!” I am tempted to smash someone’s face. You addressed my feelings on these phrases perfectly. I even have seen internet memes that say things like ” a woman without curves is like jeans without pockets, you don’t know where to put your hands!” and “you wouldn’t want a steak that was all bone, why would you want a woman that is?” IT IS ALWAYS WOMEN THAT POST THESE THINGS. Do they not see how objectifying it is? Women are not objects. We are not cuts of meat. We do not solely exist to please men’s sexual desires. Our worth is not dependent on our looks. Women need to stop buying into this idea that our value comes from how attractive we appear to the straight male.

    I actually blogged about this the other day after an Internet stranger on facebook viewed my profile picture, and then told me to stop eating tissues and go eat a cheeseburger. I wasn’t offended but I was so dumbfounded that people think they have some kind of right to judge other people’s bodies. It needs to stop.

    1. First off, I can not BELIEVE someone would say that to you. I am sorry you had to deal with that.
      The whole idea of “curvy” is another topic that makes me rage. I’ve seen that meme that you’re talking about, and I hate the idea behind it. The word curvy has been battered and abused: taken over by society and used to mean “plus sized”. Which is RIDICULOUS. Curvy is a shape. NOT a size! Slim women can DEFINITELY be curvy, and there are some large women who are not. It’s all about body proportions, not weight!
      As an aside, I hope you did eat that cheeseburger. Not because you need it, but because cheeseburgers are effing delicious!

      ALSO! Feel free to link to your blog post, I’d love to read it!

      1. You are so right! I hate when people say “you can’t be skinny and curvy!” I am not really “curvy” myself but I do know women that are. I would consider Jennifer Lawrence to be curvy even though she is still fairly slim. And while I did not eat a cheeseburger after this incident, I did bake and eat some pretty awesome muffins. If you want to read my blog about it, here it is. It’s kind of long-winded so bear with me!

        Have a great day!

  3. “I promise – I’m a cardiologist” made me LOL.

    Also, thanks for this –> “Trans women are real women.” As you clearly know, it’s amazing how deeply enmeshed all these issues – body image, sexuality, feminism – really are at the core. They all have to get better *together*.

  4. I can never understand why some folks blur out the identities of people who leave ugly comments. They are the ones who chose to publish the comment. Thanks for not only leaving the identities of these people intact, but alerting the public to Dr. Rudin. Fucker. Indeed.

  5. I’m going to ruffle some more feathers with a philosophy I’ve lived by for close to three decades. Diets make you fat. Medical science has NO idea how to lose weight. They’ve been giving the same tired advice for, what . . . half a century, and we’re fatter than ever. Additionally, 80% – 98% of the people who lose weight gain it back, plus more. You’re going to tell me that that many people are lazy, no-willpower individuals incapable of following simple directions. If any other scientific community had a failure rate that high for any experiment or theorem, and kept insisting they were still correct, they’d be called out for the frauds that they are. So instead of blaming the overweight person, how about healthcare professionals open their eyes and try to come up with the solution. Do I wish I weighed less? Yes. Am I going to keep doing what doesn’t work and blame myself when it fails? No. Do I have a closet full of clothes that I might one day fit into? No. Everything I have fits, I can pull anything off a hanger on any given day without worrying if it will button or zip. And those clothes are bright, colorful, patterned, striped; they’re whatever I want them to be. Black will make me look five pounds thinner? Big hairy deal. So I’ll look like I weigh 205. Whoop.Dee.Doo. Certainly not worth looking like I’m dressed for a funeral

  6. The meme “real women have curves” is problematic for all the reasons you cite. But don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie Real Women Have Curves, starring a young America Ferrera – it’s wonderful, and it promotes the idea that “SOME real women have curves” rather than “women without curves are not real”.

  7. At the top of this run, featuring a size 12 bikini, seems to be calling it plus size. Since when s 12-14 a plus size?

    1. Size 14, at least in the US, is considered a pretty traditional “start” of the plus size range. Some companies don’t start until size 16 or 18, whereas others won’t carry above a size 8 because that’s what they consider plus size. Being a woman who has consistently been a size 12 for the last 15 years or so, I find myself largely able to shop at both straight size & plus size stores, since my size is kind of in the middle and therefore carried by both. It’s all very subjective, unfortunately.

  8. I am just sick about talking about anyone’s weight period. I want to read a magazine article that does not state a person’s weight or size. Who cares? I used to be one of those people who posted things about real men want curves, but I don’t anymore because I do not want to put other people down to build myself up. I realize one is not better than the other. There are men who prefer thin woman and some her prefer a bigger women. I have been put down about my weight all through high school and certainly do not want anyone to feel the way that made me feel.
    When I was in high school I was told that I was fat because I curvier then most of my counter parts and at that time being really thin was in. I weighed 135 lbs. and was 5’6″ which is right on target if you go BMI charts. I was a swimmer and walked at least 5 miles everyday so I was active I was not fat by any means. I hated my body and I hated myself. Now I am 40 and weigh 205 and I love myself and my body. I realized that until I liked who I am as a person I will never like my exterior.Yes, I could stand to lose a few pounds and I do not like my cellulite but you know what there are worse things to be than fat like cruel, selfish, and petty. Why is my weight anybody else’s business? Please explain to me how my weight effects anyone else? It doesn’t, so no one should worry about how much I or anyone else weighs, period.

  9. I think what they mean is not women versus women, but media versus women. Approximately 100% of images are photoshopped these days, even if it’s to photoshop out a skin fold or wrinkle. Even models have more curves then they’re allowed to have in the media. Those images aren’t “real” not because some women aren’t real but because they’re altered images.

  10. I like what you did . I warn my readers who seem to think my personal Facebook page their dumping ground when I share something important & I get hate messages or ugly comments . I always let them know that the moment they comment they are giving me permission to quote them & use them for examples . It’s funny how they delete comments but I always take a screen shot. Great piece !

  11. I know this post is a couple of years old now, but I had to comment because reading it made my day and I love it – and you! ❤

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