Real women come in ALL shapes and sizes!


Instead of learning from past mistakes and embracing ALL women, the skinny/not-skinny binary opposition is still in full force; the only difference is that it has been inverted. Can that really be seen as progress towards positive body image for all? I don't think so. We need to stop segregating the female gender and start empowering ALL women to feel good about their bodies - svelte or voluptuous, anything either side and anything in between.

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wellbehavedwomendomakehistory said: pleeease post more! also, can you post a link to your Facebook page?

Eek it has been a really long time, hasn’t it? I’m sorry, I’m just in my final year of uni and have switched jobs so life kind of took me away for a bit.

But since you ask, I actually have a post in mind which I will try to get up next weekend when I take a mini break.

In the meantime, the link for my (equally neglected) Facebook page is

https://m.facebook.com/pages/Real-women-come-in-ALL-shapes-and-sizes/110300815652525?id=110300815652525&_rdr

Keep an eye out, I’ll try to get back to posting more often!

ittybittyblousebunnies said: Thank you so much for your reply! It means heaps. I only just started this tumblr about two hours ago so I know I have a huge amount to learn about moderating a page that's not personal! What is the link to your private tumblr? I'd love to follow you (:

I’m sorry, I didn’t receive a notification that I’d received this! I’ve been very slack lately with this page!

But I actually don’t have a personal tumblr :)

Body positive campaigns sanction unhealthy lifestyles and promote obesity.

The first time I read that statement I was baffled. I consider myself an advocate for positive body image and never once have I found myself thinking, “Ah-HAH! Let us all destroy our bodies with bad food and habits and be merry!” (Note: I’m not suggesting that all people classified as suffering obesity do so due to unhealthy lifestyles, I’m merely making reference to what people seem to think positive body image campaigns are encouraging).

That certainly wasn’t on my agenda when I started this page 2 years ago and certainly isn’t on my agenda now. I take issue with that statement for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, last time I checked, all (good) body image campaigns were aimed at ALL women: big, small, in between and all backgrounds. There are a few “exclusive” campaigns, e.g. Real women have curves, and I don’t consider them to be positive body image campaigns at all, by virtue of the fact that they often intentionally cause negative body image in women who don’t fit their definition of “curves”.

Saying positive body image campaigns sanction unhealthy lifestyles and promote obesity seems to assume that the only people to whom positive body image campaigns appeal are overweight or unhealthy women. This, by logical deduction, suggests that only women who are overweight feel negatively about their bodies. While certainly many do, let’s not pretend that the problem is that simple.

Well, as someone who is “underweight” by BMI standards, let’s think about some of the things I’ve been self-conscious of when it comes to my body:

-       Small breasts

-       Pointy elbows

-       Skinny wrists

-       Chicken legs

-       Small bum

Positive body image campaigns teach me that those things, the things that nature has given me, are nothing to be ashamed of. The media would have me think that in order to be considered valuable in society I need to be well-endowed in the chest region, have a Kim Kardashian rear-end and I would probably also need a nose job. It also tells me to “eat a burger”…because yes, it’s better for me to be unhealthy in order to gain weight than it is to be healthy at my natural weight.

Secondly, those things are not questions of weight, they’re questions of genetics. Breast size varies hugely between individuals. People can be heavier and have small wrists, thinner with thick wrists. Pointy elbows can be found on people of many sizes. Some people store fat around their mid-section and hips, but it doesn’t spread to their legs or round out their buttocks. So, all of the things I saw as ‘flaws’ at my weight are viewed as ‘flaws’ by women of other weights.

Positive body image campaigns teach women who look like me that it’s okay to look the way we do; it’s okay to have small breasts, pointy elbows, skinny wrists, chicken legs and a small bum.

Positive body image campaigns teach women who are different to me that it is equally okay NOT to look like I do. That’s the beauty of it. As long as you are happy and healthy, that’s all that matters.

How many so-called “healthy” sized women do you know who eat healthily, exercise, but say things like, “Ugh, I hate my thighs, no matter what I do they’re still so big/small” or, “I hate the way my nose looks”?

There is so much more to body image than weight alone.

For many women, weight is something they are very conscious of. I am not going to pretend that there aren’t women out there who wish they were smaller or bigger. However, positive body image campaigns are about more than that. They are about DECOMMODIFYING the female body. We are more than the sum of our parts and, as the Kite sisters from Beauty Redefined so eloquently put it, “There is more to be than eye candy”.

I am MORE than my petite breasts; I am MORE than my skinny wrists; I am MORE than my pointy elbows; I am MORE than my chicken legs and I am MORE than my small bum.

So when a positive body image campaign says, “You don’t need breast implants to be beautiful”, “You don’t need a nose job to be beautiful”, “Love your legs”, “Embrace your bum”, “Don’t fall for photoshop”…are we really trying to say that saying that is akin to saying, “Enjoy an unhealthy lifestyle”?

I. Call. Bullshit.

Every single woman can benefit from those messages.

As for unhealthy lifestyles generally…if I may mention once again the fabulous Kite sisters, they have correctly noted in their campaign that when women feel better about themselves, they are more likely to make healthy choices for their bodies. The flow-on effect is that they feel comfortable with the things they cannot change and by being more confident will make healthier choices, which will lead to changing the things that are influenced by poor diet and exercise regimes. With health education aimed not simply at changing weight but changing health (a novel idea, I know), slowly but surely women will reach their natural equilibrium; that’s where we will be the happiest in ourselves.

Over-eating vs. Under-eating and the beauty of young minds

"No one has such a high metabolism that it cannot be out eaten". In reference to naturally slim women who claim they have a high metabolism.

A bit like saying, “No-one has a natural tendency to be larger that cannot be solved through starvation”.

Why should anyone need to have abnormal eating habits to satisfy other people’s expectations? Shouldn’t we be able to eat our fill and be content? Why should I (and others like me) have to make myself sick overeating and others have to deny themselves food to attain someone else’s idea of what looks “healthy”?

Discuss =)

I also noticed on one FB page, a 16yo girl said the following:

Sarah: no! all women are real women no matter what shape or size they are! we are all real women :) only insecure women make fun of others just to make themselves feel better! 
(a little later…)
healthy skinny is women who are naturally thin like me no matter how much we eat we never put on weight! 
Michael: Sarah, you are only 16 years old - sorry but I do not feel comfortable with you referring to yourself as a woman. And the reason why you are so naturally thin is because of your age like many girls your age.

Yes some women naturally have a high metabolism but you have to remember that you are still growing/developing and all that can change as you get older.


This raised a very important issue for me - this girl is a young woman, like me.

Yes, I’m 4 perhaps 5 years her senior, but my body is still growing and changing. But this brings up SUCH an important issue.

A lot of the people who are offended/made to feel bad about themselves by pages like this are young women. 

Many older women have lived enough to be able to stick up for themselves, and have developed far thicker skins than adolescents. 

How can we totally discount the argument of a young woman? Particularly when young women are so sexualised these days (Myley Cyrus et al). I think they have a valid voice - and I commend this young woman for voicing her opinion - which is a very valid opinion!

Our confidence is so fragile during adolescence - our bodies are changing, we’re becoming adults, we’re becoming sexually aware…and these young girls are seeing crap like “Guys want chicks with big boobs” and “no-one likes a fatty” and “no-one likes a box-shaped girl”…we need to listen when these young people speak up!

Quite often, when confidence is crushed during adolescence it’s very difficult to gain it back in early adulthood (and thereafter). Young people play such a valuable role in our society - and if we can change the way they think about themselves (instead of simply saying “come back when you’ve grown up”) they will take those perceptions into adulthood and pass them on to their sons and daughters…it’s much harder to change perceptions when we’re older!

If a young girl is worried about the size of her breasts, we shouldn’t simply say “Oh, you’re still young, don’t worry they’ll grow.”

They didn’t for my mother, and my sister and I are still members of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee.

We should be reinforcing the fact that it’s okay not to have big breasts, or medium breasts, or small breasts.

If a young girl is worried about being larger than a friend of the same height, we shouldn’t be saying, “Oh, you’re still young, you’ll grow taller and it will even out.”

…I’m sure you get my point by now.

Only 14% of the members of this page are aged between 13-18. The majority are 18-50.

Which means while we don’t have lots of young people here, we have lots of people who are raising young people or will some time soon be raising young people. 

Which means that you have the power to influence the perceptions of the young people around you - and I sincerely hope we will be influencing them in a positive way and listening to them when they call for positive change, like Sarah did =)

What she said there was more accepting and informed than many of the opinions I see expressed by older women. The world is changing.

Discuss. =)

I’m not a hardcore feminist but…

I say “but” because I think a lot of my beliefs are consistent with feminism, but others not.

I actually did an introductory political science course at uni as an elective, so if I’d actually showed up to those lectures I’d probably have a more definitive answer to the question, “Shannon, are you a feminist?”

The problem I had with feminism was that some feminist writers assumed all men were jerks. I read one piece which said that women should resent men opening doors, giving up seats for them etc. because they were useless services. The argument against this action was two-fold. 

1. Men do these things because it makes it look like they are kind and helping out, but when women actually need real help (eg. raising the children) men are no-where to be seen.
2. Underlying this action is the assumption on man’s part that women are incapable of doing things for themselves.

After reading that, I turned to my partner who had no idea what I was reading (he probably assumed I was on Facebook, as usual) and I asked him, “Seth, when we came in from the supermarket, why did you open the front door for me and let me walk in first?”
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you do it? What were you thinking? What prompted you to go, ‘Hm, I should open the door and let her walk in first.’"
"I don’t know…my parents brought me up to think that was the polite thing to do, I don’t really think about it."

I care about people’s conscious actions. It seems that he was consciously believing that what he did was polite, he wasn’t consciously believing that I was, in fact, incapable. Not just incapable of opening the door, but incapable in the wider context.

Anyway, needless to say I have trouble identifying with many modern feminists. It seems my values make me a fence-sitter between egalitarian feminism and difference feminism…according to my textbook that is. 

Where am I going with this? That’s a good question. I was really babbling while trying to work out exactly what I wanted to say here. Which is the following.

Why do people seem to think we need to define ourselves by what men find desirable?

"Men like big boobs"
"Men like curvy women"
"Men like women who look after their bodies"
"Men like ——
"Men like ———-

WHO CARES?

I support the feminist movement enough to know that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought for us NOT to be defined by what other people expect of us. 

This is ignoring the fact that men like different things anyway, so each of those statements are pointless anyway.

But why should I always have to strive to be sexy for men? 

Ladies, do you always expect you boyfriend/husband to strive to be sexy for you? 

I don’t know about you, but I’m actually just pretty chuffed to have a companion who stimulates me intellectually as well as (situation being appropriate) sexually. But I don’t expect him to grow a porno mustache, work out at the gym 6 days a week to get (and then keep) a set of rock-hard abs…I like him how he is. If he wanted to be different, that’s fine too. But I’d never want him to change something about himself because that’s what *I* want.

And I think the same should go for women.

Particularly when it comes to strangers. Apparently, we all need to be sexy for every single man - even if we’ve never met them. We just need to be sexy for men in general. 

Ahem.

No.

Why can’t we just be sexy for ourselves? With our *own* idea of what is sexy? Or not be sexy at all, if we don’t want to be?

Anyway, my point at the end of all this is that seeing things like “Real men don’t want a tub of lard” and “Real men want women with curves, not the body of 12yo boy” I can’t help but laugh. 

I’m more than what men think I am. And if a man thinks that his subjective and superficial opinion of me has any substantial value to me, he’s kidding himself.

Let’s be who we are, for ourselves - not for anyone else. Not for men, not for other women. 

We need to stop defining ourselves by other people’s standards and defining ourselves by our own and being happy with where we’re at!

Why I don’t like “Real women _____” groups

I acknowledge that my own page has as the first words of its title, “Real women”.

I chose this intentionally to draw attention to how ridiculous many other “Real women” groups are.

What is a real woman? It seems like a simple question, doesn’t it?

But it’s not.

Some say “Real women bleed every month”. But what about those who cannot for medical reasons? Born without ovaries, born without a uterus, or perhaps one or both of these things were removed by surgery to save that person’s life. They no long bleed, but I cannot support the suggestion that because of that they are no longer a real woman.

Others say “Real women have a vagina”. That one seems the most simple, doesn’t it? But what about those women who have been born transgendered, with the body of a male but the mind of a female? They feel the same sorts of things other women feel, but by some twist of fate their exterior contradicts the interior. If that person identifies themselves as female, who am I to deny it? I got my vagina by luck, but I was lucky in that my anatomy was consistent with the way I felt inside. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult a life for that person would be.

Anyway, I know in particular that may divide the members of this group, as to what they consider “real” or not. For me, though, a transgendered woman is a woman all the same. 

So for starters, groups get off to a bad start if they legitimately seek to project a notion of a particular class of women being superior to another.

"The names aren’t meant to be taken literally" 

"All we mean is that the average woman isn’t like that."

Okay, gotcha. In which case, I’m going to make the following groups:

Real women are Caucasian. (In my town, the majority of people are Caucasian.)
Real women are heterosexual.
Real women are or will be mothers.

Hm, but we’ve got a little problem there, don’t we? Because the first one is racist, the second one marginalises people based on sexual orientation and the third one tells women what they should be doing with their bodies.

I would imagine that quite a few people would find the above groups offensive.

Each one, however, could be qualified with a simple, “Oh, but I didn’tmean like that, it simply means that the average woman here fits that description”.

The same goes with “Real women have curves” groups. The first hurdle here is answering the question “What are curves?”. For some, it simply means >size x. For others, it means size y< curvy < size x. For others again, it means a perfect hourglass figure in any size. Or maybe a perfect hourglass figure but within the aforementioned size restrictions.

Other people have said “All women have curves”. Which would essentially makes the phrase “Real women have curves” to mean “Real women are real women.”

Makes it a tricky word to deal with, doesn’t it? It sure baffles me. 

Real women are not _____ 

You all probably know by now that this page was started in response to the page “Real woman AINT a size 0…real woman have CURVES”. 

This is not just because of the offensive things said about small women, but also offensive things said about larger women on that page. For present purposes, though, I am going to focus on the things said about size 0 women.

Here is a snippet of some of the comments on that page:

"real women dont look like half starved walkn corpses,but then again its not all down to them its the industry n the way we are hand fed the crap they throw at us constantly!!!!!"

(Wow there is a LOT of spam on this page!)

"size 0 women are far to thin, women with a bit of meat on them are more fun."
"I know if I was a man, banging bone wouldn’t be very fun, in fact it would be more meant for pain then pleasure =S."
"absolutely!!! Why would any woman want to stand and look in the mirror at a stick thin size 0 body, all boney and boy like!!"

In none of the above examples do the people posting seem to believe that the group title is not about being negative toward slim women. People have argued that it’s “just about women who starve themselves to be thin, not naturally thin people”. 

If that’s what you want to say, say it. “You do not need to starve yourself to be beautiful”. 

The other problem I have here is that you can’t tell an eating disorder by simply looking at someone. There are many, MANY women who aren’t slim who suffer from eating disorders - and the tragic thing is, people don’t know because they assume that their size indicates that aren’t harming their bodies. A larger woman can starve herself and purge and not actually lose lots and lots of weight. She will go unnoticed and unsupported because of assumptions.

Furthermore, how does having a mental disorder disqualify someone from being a “real woman”? A woman who suffers schizophrenia is still a real women, a woman who suffers chronic depression is still a real woman.

I agree that women who have starved themselves to be a particular size should not be idolised - no-one should feel they need to starve themselves to reach an unattainable ideal - but those women shouldn’t just be brushed under the rug. 

I have just one final point for tonight

"Real women have curves…not the body of a 12yo boy

This statement almost makes me want to pull my hair out with frustration. I responded on a page comment a while ago by saying the following:

I’ve always found it strange when people refer to small women as having the body of young boys.

People say their bodies are like a 12yo boys. Well actually, by that time the boys are hitting puberty and getting broader shoulders, more muscular etc…so I don’t think that is a really apt description of a petite woman.

Now you’ve said “like a 9yo boy”…now that’s before puberty, when boys and girls have a very similar frame. So you may as well say they have a body of a 9yo girl. At least that way these naturally petite women can still identify as the females they are, even though you’ve attempted to take away most of the self-esteem they have.

And most women have some form of breast tissue, even if not much. That’s not something 9yo boys tend to have very often.


Why should a woman be made to feel like a male, even worse a prepubescent male, because of the way nature made them? Again, this isn’t just about slim women - there are plenty of flat-chested larger women too!

Okay, it is now 10.45pm and I am very tired.

I’m not pointing out all of these things just to complain or anything - I am just pointing out different ways women are marginalised so that others (if they didn’t see them to begin with) will now and won’t fall into the same trap.

We’re ALL real women. No matter what some Facebook page says, or the members of that page say, or the media says

About me and why I started this blog

My name is Shannon. I’m a 20yo law student from Australia. I am also the dreaded size zero - naturally, mind you. Most of my friends are bigger than I am - which is hardly a surprise. This means that I have seen both sides of the body-image issue: from my own perspective, as well as having seen the crushing effect self-hate has had on my beautiful friends.

I frequently hear comments like, “What would you know? You’re skinny. It’s just not the same kind of victimisation you get when you’re fat.” To that I offer the following response. I spent all of my late primary school and all of my high-school years hating my body. I was so frequently told by the media and strangers that I was “too skinny”, “abnormal”, “anorexic”, “not feminine”. I would come home from school and stare at myself in the mirror for God knows how long, hoping that the more I looked maybe I’d somehow change. Maybe my breasts would get bigger. Maybe my hips would get more fat on them. My hate for my body would frequently bring me to tears - in private, never in public. 

Even now, I’m in two minds about my own body. I’ll have weeks where I feel on top of the world, nothing can stop me and I have nothing to be ashamed about. Other weeks, I’ll feel so disgusted that I’ll refuse to let my partner touch me or see me naked. (Don’t worry, we’ve skipped past high-school now!) Sometimes, my skin is thick. Others, it’s not. This is why usually you’ll see me laugh off comments like “real women have curves”, “size zeros look like prepubescent boys”. But I’m not perfect, sometimes I falter. Days like today, for example, where I went on a rant about the group “Real women have curves…not the body of a 12yo boy”. 

It’s not even so much that I’m offended for myself anymore. Now that I’m a little bit older, have wonderful friends and a wonderful partner (and he loves me the way I am, thank-you-very-much) I’ve grown to mostly accept my body the way it is. I usually get worked up because I think of the other girls, who are like 15yo me, on Facebook now and seeing those pages and feeling like they aren’t worth a piece of salt. Some of those girls will go on to become bullies themselves, so I feel sorry for their potential targets.

This isn’t just about small women, either, because groups like “Real women have curves” usually talk about how men love big boobs and butts. What about larger women who don’t have big boobs and butts? They are just as marginalised as small women who don’t have big boobs and butts. I’ll come back to this point in another note, because I’d really like to expand on it and it would make this even longer than it is.

I hope you can see from the above, though, that my experiences of self-hate are perhaps not so different from those experienced by larger girls and women. Experiences of self-hate are totally subjective - it affects all kinds of women. You cannot and should not discount someone’s pain by saying “Oh puh-leez, we have it worse”. You may have it differently, but it doesn’t necessarily make it WORSE. The individual dictates that.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that in my group, I tend to (in particular) fight against anti-skinny groups. This isn’t because I am an advocate of pro-skinny or anti-fat groups, because I most definitely am NOT. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made this group. I suppose it’s only natural for me to pick up on all those things because it touches me personally. For example, the Real women have curves…not the body of a 12yo boy group. One person said that they weren’t surprised my comment on that group got deleted, because I dissed their group just to promote my own.

Not the case. When I wrote that comment, I wrote it as me - my feelings were projected into it and it was a genuine call for understanding amongst women. My frustration at being silenced wasn’t because they deleted a post which promoted my group, it was because they deleted a heart-felt, rational and friendly opinion offered by a fellow woman. A skinny woman.

That said, if and whenever I see anything against larger women, I will stand up against that too. I have done it in the past, I do it now and I will continue doing it in the future.

Because we’re all in this together.

I may not have the same strong negative body-image that I had in the past, but my memories of that experience are exceptionally clear. My passion for this isn’t because of the experience I’ve had - I can’t change it. My childhood is gone I’m not getting it back. What I CAN do is try to stop others experiencing it. There will always be people who judge you unfairly, but I want to show that no matter what, if someone judges you on what you look like and think you should change, there is a problem with THEM, the way THEY think, nothing wrong with you. 

Regardless of whether or not negative self-images has personally affected you, I feel you should support positive self-image campaigns…if not for yourself, for your mothers, your sisters, your nieces, your daughters, your grand-daughters, your friends…because no doubt, someone close to you is going to need support at some time in their life. 

xo Shannon