Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

“real”


REAL?

So I have no doubt this will stir up some angry controversy.  But here goes, anyway.

I’ve noticed this trend of using the word “real” with the word “woman/en” in some way.  There’s an organization called Revolution of Real Women.  There are groups called “real women have curves.”  And these two things bother me.

Yes, real women DO have curves. Real women are also straight, thin, pear shaped, apple shaped, hourglass shaped, athletic, and overweight.

REAL as in unimaginary.  Living breathing and actual.  I think (I hope) we can all agree that ALL women are real in this sense.

REAL as in what I grew up hearing “the god’s honest truth” or “honest to goodness” or “actual”. This calls into question “what is an honest to goodness woman?”  I ain’t touching THAT issue with a 23 foot pole.  I’ve known women who are tomboys, flirtatious, girly-girls, fashion centric, jeans/plain t-shirt all time centric, makeup loving, make up hating, boy crazy, girl crazy, asexual, and then there’s the whole gender question of what makes a woman a woman and a man a man?  Is an individual that was born a biological male and identifies as a female any less of a woman that one who was born biologically a woman (or vice versa)?  I’m certainly not going to say no.  So the idea that someone is a “real” woman based on “honest” leaves a bit to be desired.

And now there’s this “real women have curves” lingo being flung about.  And Revolution of REAL women organization.  Which originally I thought was an awesome idea.  But I flipped through all their photo albums and their fan photos today and their comments.  I wouldn’t be a “real woman” in that group.  I wouldn’t “fit” the picture.  I can not claim the word “curvy” in my description.  Never could.  I mean, my body is not made up of straight lines, but I could hardly enter, let alone win a wet tee shirt contest since it’s usually the curvy women who win.  (Should this be on my bucket list: enter a wet tee shirt contest?)

Sure, at my all time lowest weight, I had very very little curvature.  But the vast majority of my anorexic years were not spent at that weight.  I was underweight and unhealthy, but not emaciated and boney.  As i gained weight, i gained it in an even way across my entire body.  Meaning that my cup size has barely changed.  I’m what they call an “almost B.”  I was and “almost B” when I was underweight.  I’m still an “almost B” even though I’m 20 pounds above my ideal weight.  The number in front of the “almost B” has changed, but the ratio hasn’t.  Nor has my waist to hip ratio.  The numbers of both have gone up, but in the same proportion.

I learned a lot of things while doing my body tracings at Sheppard Pratt.  A) You cannot draw a strait line from my armpit to my ankles.  I do have a natural curvy line that is my torso and hips, but it’s not all that curvy.  Armpits and hips are actually close to the same width.  And my “hourglass shaped waist” doesn’t “hourglass” in much.  B) I am a lot LESS curvier than I thought, which I learned through doing a profile tracing.   I had always feared having curves because of all the abuse issues.  Then I did my first profile tracing and those annoying breasts and ass that I thought were obnoxiously present and needed to be whittled away in the name of disappearance?  Yeah, they hardly existed at all.  And now, at a healthy weight, slightly overweight weight, that profile hasn’t changed, it’s just a little wider than before.  I still have no ass.  My breasts, not going to win that wet teeshirt contest I mentioned earlier.

I am naturally NOT a curvy person.  Yet all the photos celebrating “real” women in “revolution of real women”‘s albums/fan photos are photos of very curvy women.  I know people who have a straighter figure than I do–and they come by it naturally.

We should be celebrating the television shows that are promoting the fact that women of all sizes are human beings, but at the same time, by the language that is now being used, people are getting the idea that non-curvy women are somehow not real women.

I think we can agree that someone who is extremely underweight or overweight is in pain caused by an eating disorder or medical condition that causes metabolic malfunctioning.   And that their body shapes aren’t “real” as in they aren’t “natural”.  Steps are being taken that change the individuals shape and size.  But are you going tell someone who is in treatment for anorexia that she’s not a real woman because of her shape?  or a morbidly obese woman with binge eating disorder that she’s not a real woman because of her shape?

The state of being a woman should have nothing to do with one’s shape.  I am all for body positive groups (see my body positive contest) and fostering healthy self-image and doing away with negative body talk, regardless of your shape or size.  I really do think this trend of using the word “real” is going to have negative effects, especially since they are celebrating so-called “real” women and openly downplaying shapes and sizes that they deem aren’t “real”.

The focus should be on health–both physically and mentally–and creating a positive lifestyle.  It should not be about declaring one set of people “real” and the others–what? imaginary? not honest?  not true?

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July 27, 2010 - Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. YES. I wrote something along these lines on my profile when I first joined RRW in saying that I was hesitant to join the group because of the name–given that I believe that all women are Real/”real” women–and more so because connotations of women/womanhood will always be subjective and thus “real,” never REAL (as in absolute truth).

    I too have also long hated the statement that “real women have curves”–or any sentiment along those lines. To define women based upon their body shape is just as oppressive as measuring women by their lack there of.

    Comment by emily | July 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. i absolutely see what you’re saying, but i also don’t think the majority of people mean any harm by using the word “real”. to me, “real” in that context means “not deliberately starved, not surgically altered for strictly cosmetic reasons, and maybe not the ‘norm’ – but okay with all that.” i think the use of the term “curves” was originally just a way to make it okay that there are many, many more women in the world who don’t embody the heroin chic ideal of the 90s than women who do. maybe not perfectly thought out, but all in all i think the phrase works fairly well.
    as do your thoughts.

    Comment by michelle | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. OK, but where do you draw the line–what about women who remove body hair, who dye their hair, who wear a padded bra (or bra at all)—-all of these are altering the “realness” of our bodies, no? Yet, I would say that doing any of these would not make a woman un/real. Or at least for me, my “realness” is not created or denied by a socially constructed body in any sense.

    Comment by emily | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  4. I agree this has become very problematic. I’m a very curvy woman and I enjoy my curves. But they don’t make me any “more” of a woman who was genetically orogrammed to be flat-chested and hipless. Many women do look that way without having been through an ED, but feel pressured to get implants to be seen as sexy.

    Comment by Millie | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  5. Wet Tshirt contest, I’m there! lol oh wait, i don’t like water… and i’m kinda flat chested too… but it’d be silly fun!

    i’m a real woman, even though i’m scared to have curves, yet i really want breast implants to have curves… if i did get implants, i’d still be real.
    i shave my legs. but if i had the money, i’d get all the hair on my body removed. and i’d still be a real woman. plus, shaving is pretty dangerous for me (not just cuz i’m a klutz, and not just cuz i forget to wear my contacts when i shave and end up butchering myself) because i am highly prone to staph infections, basically from just the natural staph on my body. even if i didn’t shave, the rubbing of my clothing on my hairs will give me staph…
    just because ED tells me i need to be perfect by losing weight, doesn’t mean that when i listen to it, i’m not a real woman.

    ugh.
    i’m tired of people judging me when i’m thin. and telling me i look healthy and “natural” when i’m not.
    who are they to judge whether i’m healthy or not.
    and i’m not a fucking android when i’m not healthy (which can mean: underweight, normal weight, or overweight)

    Comment by wednesday v | July 28, 2010 | Reply

    • I think we should enter a wet shirt contest forever. maybe if we do tricky yoga poses we could win?

      And I would find it highly funny in a non-funny sense if you could get insurance to pay for hair removal as a health precaution when you’ve had to fight for other coverage. It would make sense in insurance World.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  6. You make a good point, and while I agree with what you’ve said, I’ve personally had a different view. When I think of “real” women, I think of natural and not afraid to be who they are – whether it be curvy or straight. I’ve always hated my hips and when I see a “real” woman with wider hips, it makes it more ok. I don’t have much of a chest either, which I like, but I’ve never thought I was less of a “real” woman because of it.

    Interestingly, I read that the “real” woman hourglass shape is actually the least common among females. I wonder how it became so popular anyway.

    Comment by Jen | July 28, 2010 | Reply

    • I think I also think of “real” women as women who aren’t afraid to be who they are. If *I* were to suddenly become this fashion conscious make up loving scenester, i wouldn’t be true to who I am. I am my “best me” in jeans and a comfy tee shirt and while I sometimes wear make up, it’s the basic stuff and not a covered look (if that makes sense). I am most natural in a comfortable environment, a relaxed one with my close friends and coffee and good conersation than I am at a club, where I feel I have to act someone else’s part.

      As for the hourglass figure, I find few women with one. I can’t really say I have a true hourglass shape. I think I’m just a straight shape, with a slight curvature in at the waist. I think we can thank the media for making that shape popular. All it would take would be one famous actress with that shape and that’s enough to make it desireable.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 28, 2010 | Reply

  7. ?real?…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Trackback by Mental Disorders 101 | July 28, 2010 | Reply


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