We all know that certain things are “bad”: bad for self-esteem, bad for self-image, bad for one’s health. If you’d asked just about anyone in the past decade about the standards that Barbie, Vogue, and MGM Studios have set for womens’ bodies, they would jab a big red ink stamp reading “BAD” over all three. I grew up with this knowledge, and so did many others. We watched videos about anorexia and bulimia in 8th grade Health class, our pubescent friends chided us for complaining about the size of our bellies. Even then, the desire to be thin was a massive pull for many of us. For some of us, too much.
I know firsthand. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past, and I likely will again at some point in my life. I am not trying to dispute that these things are BAD.
What I am pretty perturbed by, however, is the form that some of the associated backlash has taken. (DISCLAIMER: I am perfectly willing to accept the notion that this is merely a fringe element of the fat acceptance movement rather than a core element of the movement itself. I don’t know everything about everything. However, it does happen to be an element that I’ve run into a lot more than I’d like.) Specifically, I’m talking about images plastered with slogans like “REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES!”
So, what you’re saying is that all I have to do is pack on a few more pounds in the correct places, and then I’ll have confirmation that I’m an acceptable female? Golly! Thanks, society! For a minute there, I almost thought I was only a martian disguised as a human. I’m so glad you cleared that up for me!
You know what? I don’t care which camp it comes from – the one telling me to cram a double cheeseburger in my face, or the one telling me to eat only celery – if you’re implying that I’m not a “real woman” because of my appearance, you just earned yourself a great big “fuck you” in my book.
And, hopefully, the book of any self-respecting woman.
I don’t get this need to design slogans just to feel that your body type is superior. You know what real women look like? They look however the fuck they happen to look. A severe anorexic is still a woman, even if she has to shop in the kids’ section of Gap to find clothing small enough. And a severely obese woman is still a woman, even if she needs an electric wheelchair to move more than a few feet. Are either of them healthy? No, of course not. Should they probably both seek the help of a therapist and a nutritionist? Yes, definitely. But that doesn’t give you the right to, even implicitly, strip them of their chosen gender identity.
In short, you are doing nobody a favor by claiming that whatever body type you consider more appealing is how “Real Women” should look. I am not telling you not to have preferences. I can understand if someone is not attracted to me because they prefer women with larger breasts, or smaller hips, or shorter stature, or whatever. But there is a big, big difference between having preferences and telling someone that she doesn’t deserve to identify as a woman.
And that is why I think this:
Is just as inappropriate and fucked up as this: