I’m not sure when I first heard the phrase, “Real women have curves,” but I do know that it’s always struck me as odd.
I understand it, of course. Both as a physiological point of true femininity and a feminist statement about body image, I get why the message is out there. Our culture definitely puts a heavy emphasis on the appearance of women and little girls are raised up often being pressured to pursue a difficult (if not flat-out impossible) standard of beauty.
The common refrain is that “these days” we expect women to be stick figures with barely any curves, whereas in the past (ah, the nostalgia) we used to think women with a little meat on them were beautiful. Remember Marilyn Monroe?
That icon of beauty would be considered a heffer by today’s standards, or at least that’s the common wisdom.
But this “fact” ignores a couple of things. One, while Monroe for a few years was THE torchbearer for Hollywood beauty, she wasn’t the only one. And two, she really wasn’t that big. People talk about her like she was Roseanne Barr. Hardly. She had some thickness to her, but she was still rather svelte, even by “today’s standards” (whatever those are).
You know who else was a Hollywood superstar in the same years that Marilyn was going around being all Ms. Fatty McFatcheeks? Audrey Hepburn.
Marilyn might have been the bigger star for her looks alone, but no one was going around calling Aubrey Hepburn an ug-o.
Here is my admission: While I think Marilyn was a gorgeous woman, I personally feel Audrey was one of the most beautiful women to ever grace a negative. The wonderful thing about this world is that both beautiful women can exist and they don’t undermine the other.
Let’s fast forward to our modern day, where the only women we’re forced to be attracted to are anorexic sticks. At least, that’s what I keep hearing. The fashion industry only uses models with bodies like teenage boys who puke up every meal while their ribs stick out from behind their -A cup breasts.
But wait, men are berated for being obsessed with bimbos with big, fake boobs. So, what is it? Are men into big-titted whores or translucent Skeletors?
Is it possible that men aren’t actually one size fits all and some of us like women with curves and some of us like skinny women and even more of us like both, depending on a multitude of factors? No, that can’t be it, men aren’t that complex.
The problem I’ve always had with the phrase “real women have curves” is that it’s insanely sexist, both to men and women. First, it implies that women need a counterattack against all the mindless cavemen who only drool over runway models (pro tip: It’s mostly gay men picking those models, not straight dudes). The truth is, males, the multifaceted gender that can’t be summed up in sitcom tropes, actually like women of all sizes.
The above women probably draw about equal shares of salacious attention from male internet commentators, though, admittedly, I haven’t done the research. Jennifer Lawrence, Aubrey Plaza and Christina Hendricks couldn’t be any more different in body types (other than, of course, all being white), yet they all play into male sexual fantasies.*
Men don’t need to be told that women can have curves, we are all very aware of it.
But the truly sexist aspect of the “real women” phrase is aimed at women. What an odd notion this is: a woman is only ‘real’ if she has curves. So all those naturally thin women who have small breasts and/or straight hips are clearly not “real women.” What a gross and utterly hateful way to supposedly assert feminist strength.
It always bothers me when, in an attempt to battle one societal ill, a group swings in the complete opposite direction and creates an equally vile counterattack. The worst part is that this disenfranchisement of ‘skinny women’ (and I’m not talking about thin, Victoria’s Secret Supermodels, I’m talking about true skinny women) has spread to men. Those ‘Gender Study’-taking, enlightened males who would never insult a heavyset woman feel no compunction when mocking a naturally skinny woman as being a ‘skeleton’ or ‘gross.’
Is this really better? Is this actually helping?
I get it. When a person is made to feel bad about themselves, the first reaction is to lash out against someone else. But this natural instinct has solidified into a movement where skinny women, women who can no more naturally change their bodies than ‘fat’ women can, have suddenly become open target for our societal mockery.
Progress? I think not.
If you want to celebrate the women with curves, celebrate the women without them, too.
As for me, big or small breasts, hips or not, I am forever a leg man.
*A conversation like this almost necessarily must reduce any female examples to their purely physical appeal. All of these women are very talented in their art, but for the purpose of the conversation at hand I’m merely focusing on the physical.