Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Apologising for the way I am.

I was a little hesitant about making this post. I get the feeling that I'm going to get a lot of backlash for it, and it's really difficult to convey my intended message here and not have it interpreted in the wrong manner. I'll do my best.
Real women have real bodies with real curves. And Dove wants to celebrate those curves.

...you'll be happy to hear that some teen magazines (like Seventeen and Teen Vogue) are finally getting a clue, featuring more 'real' girls with curves and all.

All of the above are positive comments. It's fabulous that fashion magazines and multinational cosmetic companies are recognising that you can have big thighs, a big bum and cellulite (well maybe not; then Dove would loose money on their firming creams) and still look absolutely gorgeous. In short, it's possible to be both big and beautiful, you needn't loose 3 stone to look fantastic. But look closer at those quotes. Each and every one of them does something that's just as damaging as the taboos they are fighting; they make a sweeping generalisation of what a 'real woman' is. They do not intend to be offensive, but each time I read comments like this it really hits home - because, according to them, I am not a 'real woman'.
I am around 5'8", and weigh 8 stone. My BMI* of around 17 classifies me as underweight. I have visible ribs and slightly protruding hipbones, and a spine that makes leaning against walls uncomfortable due to its lack of padding. My wrists are a bit angular, and I can fit my fingers around them with a bit of room to spare.
I am not this way through dieting or obsessing about my appearance. I eat as much if not more than my sister, who is almost the same height and about a stone and a half heavier - a 'healthy' figure if ever there was one. I have never opened a teen or fashion magazine in my life, and have always dressed how I like in comfy, loose clothing. My figure is not a product of an eating disorder, a strict exercise regime, or surgery. It is my natural shape. And in the quest to reverse the stereotype of thin=beautiful*, all those well meaning commentators and concerned critics have started to demonise all women who are a bit skinny. Not just the women with eating disorders - and they need our help, not our scorn - but women who are also actually healthy but not within a certain weight range. I've seen pictures on forums that members crowd round and mock, and I think, 'That girl looks just like me...'.

As I mentioned earlier, full-figured women are beautiful too. But does that mean I can't be? When I looked, I was a 'real' woman too - after all, I was brought up as one, I have the same anatomy, the XX chromosomes, I'm the same species and I most certainly FEEL like I'm female. But now it's me getting the scornful comments, just like the larger women were before. Is this progress? People proclaiming to love women 'of all shapes and sizes' provided that they are curvaceous? I'm a size 8 17-year-old female with a flat chest. Does that mean I'm less of a woman, less of a human, than the size 16 diva with all her curves? No. I'm as much a woman as she, and vice versa. I shouldn't be made to feel insecure about my body any more than she. Anorexia is a serious health problem, but so is obesity. Do we want to see the skinny women of today dying of clogged arteries next year because they forever saw themselves as 'too thin' and ate too many high-fat foods? No. We are ALL women. We all have different bodies, which function in different ways, with different structures and metabolisms, each of which is suited to each individual. None of us should be seen as anything less simply because we are the 'wrong shape'.

*Yes, I'm fully aware that this is a flawed measurement. But ignoring that, I LOOK underweight too.

*Yes, I'll get round to the demonisation of the larger figure as well. But this is a personal thing I had to get off my chest.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. You're right, the more our culture seems to celebrate the naturally curvaceous figure, there's a danger that equally natural skinnier women will be frowned upon and face pressure to conform to an image that isn't right for them.

    Why can't we just get to the day when women can be just as they are, slim or large, short or tall, big breasts or small breasts, leg hair or no leg hair and no-one would really care that much, because they're placing more importance on what we're saying instead?

    PS: I've added you to my blogroll, BTW.