Real Women

I was very taken with this piece from Disrupting Dinner Parties:

Every boy I’ve ever dated had visible intercostals, because they were all athletes of a particular type. You can find it in the wild. They were all real men. Men with 4% body fat are real men. Men with a 35% body fat real men. Men with no chest hair are real men. Men whose back hair comes out of the collar of their shirt and merges with the hair on their head are real men. Men who have body hair, but choose to remove it, are also real men. (As usual, women who are small enough to have trouble finding adult clothes that fit are real women. And women who are big enough to have problems finding any clothes that fit area also real women.)

All people are in fact real people.

And this puts me in mind of my least favorite ‘body positivity’ phrase.

Real women have curves.

I mean, yes. Real women have curves mostly because it’s very hard to create fully angular people, and while they do stack better, and would probably be easier to pack into public transportation, body fat just doesn’t do that well, and people don’t do so well without body fat.

But that isn’t what this is saying. Real women have curves is just another way to preference one particularly body type (because really, what do you see in those ‘inspiring’ ads? Hourglass figure, curves only in certain places, curves that come in certain ways, and definitely don’t contain cellulite or stretch marks) over another especially restrictive one, whilst feeling like you’ve contributed to making everyone feel more included. Because now, you can try to cram yourself into Tiny Box A or Tiny Box B!

Oh, you’re not stick skinny? Real women have curves!

Just not the sort formed by fat rolls, or located in stomachs!

Real women have curves, but they’re well lit and highly made up curves!

Real women have curves, but they are young curves and definitely 70% boob curvature.


Body positivity should involve actual positivity! Not a slapdash paint job on the old body policing. Body positivity shouldn’t involve mocking old standards of beauty in favor of restrictive new ones. It shouldn’t mean pretending society doesn’t have harmful messages about acceptable sizes and shapes and attach moral responsibility to failure to conform, because hey, we said that curves were cute!

Real women have passions and hopes and hearts and brains. Real women have mass and occupy physical space. Real women identify as women are not imaginary. Real women are probably damn tired of trying to be the right kind of curvy or skinny and would like to keep living without exerting their existence as simultaneously women! and their body type! and also real! over and over again, thank you.


  1. says

    Couldn’t agree more. My girlfriend is a stunning woman. She is thin and healthy and strong, and if I were to go into the personality traits of hers I love, it would take days. But focusing on the physical, she is very much a real woman, even in her late 30s having had a kid. A while back, she went through a bout of depression and put on a handful of pounds. Nobody seemed to notice. Since then, she has lost the weight, and regularly gets told by well-meaning friends to eat a burger, and similar comments that impress upon her that she is unhealthy. She’s not unhealthy. She just has a different body than they do.

    Generalizations are always shortcuts to actually thinking. The “real women have curves” thing is as much a promotion of (a very particular selection of) curvaceous women as it is a snide comment on women who are thinner. Promoting better thinking about body issues by insulting people with different body issues? Great plan is great.

    • Brandon says

      Since then, she has lost the weight, and regularly gets told by well-meaning friends to eat a burger

      My girlfriend and I both get this crap with great regularity. We’re distance runners, and we’re both on the low end of normal on the BMI scale, so by any measure, we are skinny, but the idea that it’s unhealthy seems to be a result of people being unaccustomed to seeing slender bodies anywhere outside of modelling. No, really, we eat plenty – you can’t run a really long ways while malnourished, people!

      I don’t know if I really have a point, just agreeing that the, “eat something!” people are tiresome. There’s a wide range of healthy, attractive weights and no one’s obligated to fit into another person’s preference.

      • Kate Donovan says

        I want to push back against something I think I see here (but correct me if I’m wrong)

        I don’t actually think “healthy” should be a factor in body positivity. Sure, it’s great, but it’s a personal goal, and it’s much more rarely apparent from the outside. Plus, it’s simply not possible, because of time or expense or even pure *access* reasons for a significant section of people.

        • Brandon says

          Honestly, I don’t know very much about body positivity from any angle other than my own personal experiences. I’ve always been a relatively thin male, but I used to have some huge insecurities about my body, to the point where I wouldn’t go to any public spaces that involved taking a shirt off. I’ve only personally been able to overcome that by changing my body to fit what I think I “should” look like. I don’t know what other people’s experiences are on that front. In my case, an improvement in my self image definitively corresponded with an improvement in health, as I increased running, cycling, and lifting. I’m in a financial position to have a nice bike, plenty of healthy food resources, and so on though, so I don’t mean for that to be read as insistence on what other people should do.

          So, should health play into body positivity? I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it and I have limited experience to draw from.

      • Kjell Game says

        I get and agree with not criticizing or discriminating against people, but it’s unrealistic to deny that people have preferences. For example, I don’t smoke and don’t socialize with anyone who does, never mind dating smokers. Does that mean I’m being judgmental by saying “No thanks” to a smoker who wants to hang out with me? I say no, it’s not. And if someone doesn’t want to hang out with me because dancing isn’t how I want to stay fit, no problem.

        There’s also the issue of common interests. It’s not an insult to others for a person to look for a jogging partner or someone whose idea of fun is a 20km hike into the mountains, to seek out someone more interested in doing things than watching TV. I don’t see a problem with wanting to be with someone who has the same attitude towards health and fitness as I do. If one person doesn’t actively work on his/her own health, why would that person care about another person’s well being? It’s no different than one person preferring video games and one who likes TV, they don’t want to do things together – it’s not about looks or size.

  2. sugarfrosted says

    I’ve noticed something similar to this recently in the backlash against the thigh gap phenomenon. People are criticizing it by shaming people who have it by comparing them to R2D2. Is it just me or do responses to people being shamed into having a particular body type often devolve into criticism of people with the desired body type? I was wondering if you noticed this and could explain why this often happens.

    One such comment was: “This thigh-gap thing is so fucking ridiculous. Do girls really want to look more like R2-D2 than C-3PO? What the fuck!”

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