Friday, September 7, 2012

"Real Women"

"Real Women Have Curves" came out in 2002. It's a compelling coming of age story, but also the story of growing up Latina in a racist white culture, and growing up fat and being told to hate your body. Anna, her sister, and her mother work in a factory (with other women) sewing couture dresses for less than minimum wage, beautiful dresses that are never larger than a size seven. Because that's what a woman is, right? Wealthy, white, and slender. That's what we're all told being a real woman is: airbrushed, slender, white perfection. It's on the tv, in movies, in just about every ad ever. And this movie entered the world and the phrase "real women have curves" entered the conversation.

And that's insulting. It's an insulting thing to say.

Real women come in different sizes and shapes They are tall and they are short; they are slender and they are  fat; they are  large breasted and small breasted and lacking breasts entirely; they are wide hipped and narrow hipped. They have plump arms and skinny arms, bow legs or straight, long hair or short hair. They wear make up and they don't; they shave their legs and underarms and they don't; they wear high heels and boots and sneakers and flip flops and go barefoot; they wear skirts and pants and cover their hair and are nudists.

Women are human beings with all the range and glory that human beings come in.

Saying "real women have curves" is policing. It polices womens' bodies and tells women what is and isn't acceptable female-ness. And that sucks.

 There is, rightly, a backlash against the phrase now. Saying simply "real women have curves" without qualifying statements like "and real women don't have curves, too" is problematic. Deeply problematic.

But apparently people need reminding that the phrase came into existence for a reason. There is still huge pressure on women to be small, to be slender, to have eternally perky breasts that aren't too big (like a slutty slut) and pert firm but not too big butts and no hips and upper arms you can bounce a quarter off of. There is huge pressure on women to take up as little space as possible, to be child sized, to be pocket sized.

The phrase "realm women have curves" is problematic. Saying "this large woman is attractive and this skinny woman is gross" is wrong. Comparing women's bodies, pitting body type against body type, is divisive and harmful. But, and apparently this needs saying, simply posting a photo of a fat woman is not an attack on slender women. Saying that fat women are sexy or beautiful or desirable is not an attack on slender women, Acknowledging that fat women exist is not an attack on slender women.

Let me say that again.

Acknowledging that fat women exist, have a right to exist, have a right to be recognized as human beings, is not an attack on women who aren't fat.

So can women who identify as feminist please stop complaining about size-positive posts, images, quotes, etc? If it's something that honestly and legitimately tears a group down, by all means, criticize it. But if it's something that does nothing more than elevate someone different from you? Knock it the hell off. That's just petty bullshit, and it's harmful. It's saying that bodies other than your own do not deserve respect or to be treated as human.

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