Should women, for example, have curves?
Are women only allowed to have curves if they are the right curves, in the right places (breasts and hips, yes, thighs and shoulders, no, and breasts and hips only if they are carefully contained, because huge pendulous breasts are just gross, and too-wide hips will cause heart disease)?
Are curves acceptable only if there is a tiny little waist between them?
What qualifies women as heavy? Fat? Skinny? Fit? "Regular"?
Seems like people accept the idea that women can be skinny and unfit ("if all she does is sit around eating potato chips all day"). But the idea that a woman can be both fit and fat is a bit more problematic. Either way, it is definitely accepted that women should be fit.
Very few people seem to wonder whether it's anyone's goddamn business.
Whether it's appropriate to wonder at all what women should look like. Or if perhaps the only person qualified to judge a body is the person living in it.
There's an interesting backlash occurring now, against the idea that skinny is the beautiful ideal for women. Never mind what is meant by "skinny." Does skinny mean bony, for example? Or does it mean muscularly lean? It's not defined. Just skinny. That's been the ideal for at least as long as I've been alive.
I have never been and will never be skinny. So yes, I've felt marginalized. I've hated my body because it didn't fit the magazine ideal. I've worried. I've dieted. I've obsessed. Like most women, apparently.
Mostly, I'm over that. I like to be healthy, and I understand that my weight has very little to do with that. Except that it's psychologically UNhealthy to worry and obsess and, especially, diet.
So I'm in the process of letting go of the ideal. I never read or even glance at women's magazines. I try not to compare myself to other women. I find something beautiful in everyone. I remind myself daily, "There is no ideal body. There is only your body."
I see that so many women are undergoing this process. Sadly, we sometimes lack the emotional maturity to avoid making others feel like shit as we have, for so long, felt like shit. And so we say things like, skinny isn't healthy. Skinny isn't strong. Skinny isn't... biologically appropriate?
Real women have curves! How many times have you heard this lately? I used to say it myself. I'd liken this to a person attempting to elevate women by demeaning men. Men are stupid. Men are weak. Men are the problem.
Flipping oppression just spreads the shit around.
If only curvy women are real women, what is a skinny woman? A cardboard cutout? A hologram?
What she is, is degraded. And I don't need to denigrate thin women to feel better about my curves. What helps me to feel better about my body is to realize that all bodies have inherent worth. I appreciate all bodies and that helps me to appreciate my own body.
Recently, in the real food community, there has been a certain amount of "skinny-bashing" occurring. The argument goes like this:
"Traditionally" (whatever that means), women were not skinny. Skinniness itself is a new phenomenon, and is as much a product of industrialized eating habits as extreme obesity. Men who are attracted to thin women are indoctrinated by societal expectation, because "real men" like women with a little "junk in the trunk." Besides, women need a certain amount of fat to be fertile, and only real women are able to reproduce. Skinny women (who must get that way by deprivation dieting, specifically avoiding fat) therefore are infertile, unattractive, and indoctrinated, and therefore not "real." To whit:
"...a real woman’s body is just soooo much more beautiful and sexy than a bony one! Any guy will tell you that."So a "real" woman's body is not "bony" (any guy would tell me that, apparently). It's OK to be OK with a pear shape as long as I don't have "enormous hanging boobs" which are "anything but sexy." I can be labeled exclusively by comparison to an inanimate object (hourglass or muffin) and I'm "supposed to" have curves even if I am VERY FIT. And if I'm outside of the magical golden ratio I guess I'm just fucked... or not, as the case may be.
"I’m always going to be a pear shape, and I’m ok with that. I see so many big women with enormous hanging boobs that are anything but sexy, and I’m so glad I’ll never have to wear one of those industrial-strength bras to lug mine around."
"28-year-old male here and there is nothing wrong with a woman looking like a woman... I’ll take a butter-eating hourglass over a Diet Coke-drinking muffin top any day."
"I love my wife’s curves! Now she is VERY FIT… but still has curves like a woman is supposed to."
"A too-large middle in relation to top and bottom, or a too-small top and bottom in relation to middle, is not sexually attractive."
Don't I feel liberated!
The thing is, if you write an article entitled "Real Women Have Curves," you'll get at least a hundred positive comments even if you spend the entire article promoting a universal beauty ideal that is no less restrictive than heroin chic. (The "hourglass" shape is also the rarest -- less than 8% of women.) Maybe this is because "curvy" women are so accustomed to being shat upon that any congratulations feels like a balm on a bleeding burn. But this kind of accolade is a trap. We don't need equal-opportunity belittlement.
To hear a woman say "I love my body" is a beautiful thing. But what if she follows that by saying, "...because I'm not one of those bony skinny bitches. MY body is womanly. Women are SUPPOSED TO have curves"? Or, "...because I'm curvy but not FAT. Those gigantic breasts are so ugly"? I don't think that is a beautiful thing, a comradely thing, a feminist thing. It's just another type of misogyny.
Women cannot win, no matter what we do. When I was a teenager I was supposed to have bones sticking out to be considered attractive. Now it's verboten to appreciate a thin body. Thin women want curves. Fat women want to be thin. Curvy women can dump on skinny women and be congratulated for their positive self-image. Nothing is any better than it's ever been.
How can we provide space for all women to find peace with their bodies?
This is me. I am a real woman. I would be a real woman if I had never given birth. I would be a real woman if I were a lesbian or had a hysterectomy or lost my hair or became a nun. I would be a real woman if I were born with ambiguous sex organs but identified as female for all of my life. I would be a real woman if I lost 100 pounds. Or gained 100 pounds. I am a real woman regardless of whether I wear dresses or combat boots (and just for the record, I am vastly more inclined to the latter). I'm a real woman because I say so. Nobody else gets to decide.