I came across the image above on the deepest, darkest depths of the internet recently and it finally jolted me into writing a post that has been floating around the corners of my mind for quite some time. I have somehow never managed to make the jumbled thoughts in my head on this one into a reasoned post as it’s a horribly emotive subject, so I hope I can manage it this time.
Let me make it clear before I start; I am sure the thought behind the original slogan; “Real Women Have Curves” is admirable, in that it is trying to get women to accept their bodies for what they are, not the stick-thing models they see in magazines. And yet, I will admit that every time I see it, it irks me terribly. You see, I have blogged before about how I am not a fan of labels if they can possibly be avoided, and it strikes me that there is a danger with this thought of simply replacing one unrealistic ideal (women have to be thin) with another one that may be shoehorning women into another defined box (women have to have “curves”).
I’ve thought long and hard about what it actually means for a woman to be curvy, and as with most things, if you trawl the internet for long enough you come across so many different definitions as to be pretty meaningless. One messageboard tells me that “when women describe themselves as "curvy", it's the new code word for "fat"” (charming, I think you’ll agree). The general consensus, however, appears to be that it means women have to be small waisted, large-bottomed, and most importantly, large chested.
Now, there is certainly absolutely nothing wrong with being a perfect hourglass shape. The fact of the matter is that not every woman is that shape, however. It may be true that women's chest and dress sizes have increased over the last 50 years, but that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone suddenly looks like Marilyn Monroe. Look at any high street and you will see a vast array of different shapes and sizes.
I suppose you will think I am lucky when I say that I have been naturally slim-ish all my life (yes, I might even have been called "skinny" at one point or another). That doesn't mean I haven't had plenty of hang-ups about my own body. Take the breast size debate, for example. It's not a huge secret to anyone that knows me that God missed adding some padding "up top" when he created me. Every time I get frustrated by lingerie companies that start sizing their sizing at a B-cup, I try and console myself with the fact I can still shop in the “my first bra” section of M&S if I really wanted to. (Hoorah for choice.) Technically I may have curves in that I am blessed with a small waist and large-ish hips, but I certainly don't recognise myself in the descriptions of curvy that I have seen. Id' like to think it doesn't make me any less real, however!
Photoshopping is commonplace in both fashion magazines and glamour shoots, and the rise of plastic surgery means nobody has to look as nature intended if they don't want to. As a mother to two girls, this saddens me greatly. I would like to think that growing up they will be accepted for how they look, whether that is like Twiggy or like Dawn French, and, most importantly, for them to be happy in their bodies. The last thing I would want is for them to feel the need to look like Katie Price because that is somehow what is now expected!
Saying that Real Women have curves is therefore meaningless and dangerous in my opinion– we might as well say real women are green. Can't we just agree that all women are real women, just like all men are real men, and that is all that matters?