Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What does the term "Real Women" mean?

On a bored Monday evening, I sat at my table sipping a cup of tea and read an old article about Karl Lagerfeld and his rather honest words to Adele. The tabloids twisted what the Chanel mastermind had originally said about Adele's body shape. Lagerfeld (by mistake) said Adele was a "little too fat" but followed it up by how "she owns this body image and looks divine no matter what she wears." Adele followed up the fat jibes with a very stern comment saying she represents "real women" and "refuses to settle being unnaturally skinny like the models that walk down his runway everyday. "

Adele's comment made me think. Why is it that being un-slender (basically relatively unfit) women are considered real? And girls with lean bodies are considered un-real? The majority of this grade is full of girls with beautiful, toned bodies- are they considered un-real?

I searched up "real women" on google images. It bothered my beyond words how only pictures of chubby women showed up in the results. This type of generalization is usually associated with fashion and models. The reason models are required to be relatively skinny on a catwalk isn't because thats what fashion is all about, its so that the designers can make one size of the showcased dress and the model can fit into it. Also, so that the model's curves and body aren't in the spotlight, but instead, the garment is. And its not like models never eat. Not eating actually makes people gain weight (not to mention get a lot hairier so that the body can store heat) Models eat strictly healthy food and exercise a lot, which I think just about everyone can do.

I don't mean to sound superficial or shallow. And I'm definitely not saying everybody should be skinny. I just don't find it necessary women with a curvier shape are labeled "real" and women with a skinner body type are not. A body is a body. It is an individual's decision as to what she wants to do with it. I don't think people should be calling a skinny girl anorexic and automatically presume she never eats or a chubbier girl fat and assume she always eats. And I definitely don't think being a certain body shape makes you either real, or fake.


  1. Antara I couldn't have said this any better. I was recently reading an article about the oscars and someone was talking about how they were representing 'real women' and I started to think about this as well. In so many cases, people don't choose what their body looks like, it's just genetics. I honestly don't understand why people generalize like that and just assume things about people. I love your point about how the people in our grade and whether being slender makes them un-real. I haven't thought about it in that context before but that's definitely a interesting way to look at it. Many people see skinny people on the cover of a magazine and talk about how they don't ever see any 'real' people with 'normal' body shapes but isn't it the same kind of thing? If you are, then aren't this people basically calling you fake?

    1. I agree. There are no normal or abnormal body shapes. About your point on genetics, I researched Twiggy (one of my favorite sixties models) and she said that she "never went on extreme diets. She ate healthy, binged occasionally and played a lot of Lacrosse" She was also born with an extremely high metabolism. She wanted to give girls with no curves whatsoever a chance to model, but the public took it the wrong way. It honestly such a pity, that you are called such horrid things such as "anorexic" or "bulimic" just because you are slender.

    2. Part of this stems from the Western way of defining concepts. We typically operate in a binary way, meaning that there are only 2 possible answers. Think black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. So, this complex idea of all different shapes and sizes being the "right" shape and size doesn't sit well with that particular worldview.

      I was actually just thinking about this in class yesterday. A student was looking at some fashion photography (I teach photography) and some people were commenting on how skinny and unhealthy the models looked. I found myself joining in the comments, only to realize as I was doing it how uncomfortable the poor girl who was looking at the images was becoming. See, she is very petite and skinny. I imagine she probably gets chastised by people and taunted with words like "anorexic." I realized that I needed to redirect the conversation.

      Ultimately, I believe it all comes from a struggle for people to feel good about themselves. The reason there is such backlash against the "anorexic" model image is that the majority of girls in the world are NOT of that body type, particularly once they have achieved maturity. And the image is not just limited to the runway where you pointed out logistical reasons for them being a certain size, but it is carried into magazines and celebrity images that are routinely digitally altered to make them thinner and taller. Did you know that it is common for digital artists to make women's legs longer in magazine photos? Unfortunately, we as a society look to these celebrities for our cues about image, fashion and even aspirations. This can set up a dangerous and unhealthy desire to be something that we are not.

      Anyway, I cam getting too long winded. This boils down to always thinking of those outside of ourselves as the "other." Something to be compared to, something to be better than, something to conquer. When we learn genuine empathy for one another, most of these issues we face will melt away.

    3. I believe, as you mentioned earlier, that photoshop and photo enhancing is the reason for so much insecurity between teenagers and adult women. I too think that the majority of the people in this world lack empathy, although this has developed over time. But it is in a human's common nature to judge, even when they don't mean to. Personally, I think that links back to people generally being compared to the models in fashion magazines.

  2. This post has had me thinking for days. I love how you flipped the typical conversation on body image around. I guess it all boil down to people feeling conformable with their body image no matter what it is. I love how you made me think about how it must be difficulty for young women to be thin and told that they are not real women.

    The tricky part is that so much of the media focuses on a certain look for girls-- and men for that matter (It is not easy being a thing man (without a six-pac etc..>) to the point that many young people are confused on what they are "supposed" to look like to be considered loved and wanted. This is a great resource that shows how artificial it has all become. Thin or not, we are creating a false image of what girls should be. As a dad to two girls I just want them to be confident and happy with what they look like.

    Check this out:


    We need to find ways to allow young people find their own comfort with their bodies and lead healthy loves. Lots to think about, thanks for always pushing the envelope and flexing your critical thinking muscles.

    1. Thank you Mr. Raisdana. I agree with the concept of media focusing on a certain image. However, and thankfully- the fashion industry (which in my opinion basically dictates what beauty is these days) has slowly started progressing and blooming into a much more accepting community. "Plus size" models like Robyn Lawley, Whitney Thompson and Barbara Brickner have recently found extreme success in the industry.