Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will The Real Real Woman Please Stand Up?

Real woman? Sure. Classy Lady? Definitely.
What does a real woman look like? Is she tall and thin, like a supermodel, with small perky breasts and a small waist? Is she short and curvy with plenty of flesh, including ample breasts and hips? Is she in between? Maybe she is about 5'4" with some muscle, some fluff, a little boobage and enough butt to fill out her jeans. Maybe she is all of those. Or none of those. Or some of those.

Our society and media values a woman who is a bit on the tall side, quite a bit on the slender side and big-boobed. You can't throw a  Weight Watchers point without it landing on some article, blog or show dedicated to the problem of women working too hard to become too perfect.

The Golden Globe Awards were held a few nights ago. I missed them this time, but I tried to keep up with them online. I haven't seen a real move in the theaters in quite some time and I haven't a clue about most people, movies or shows nominated, but I sure do love me some super fancy dresses. I just love the glitz and glamor. Of course the internetz were abuzz with news of who won, who lost, who wore what and all of that juicy Hollywood bullcrap. I perused online to see pictures of all of the lovely ladies in their gorgeous (J-Lo!) and what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking (Helena) gowns and the dowdy pantsuit (Amy - wtf?). Twitter, Facebook, blogs, fashion sites were full of comments from us little people judging and praising all of the fashion. One thing stood out the most because it seemed to be mentioned the most at the time was the comparison of two new moms - Claire Danes and Adele. Both have recently had babies. Both have different bodies.

Claire Danes, who I will never forgive for quitting "My So-Called Life" and taking away my favorite show (and Jordan Catalano), looks very slender and trim. She looks pretty much as she always does, though her dress had this geometric panel on the front that can hide her figure a bit. My first thought was, "oooooh, that's a glamorous nursing panel."

Adele, who I adore, looked like Adele. She's curvy and full as always. Personally, her dress wasn't my favorite, but she looked beautiful in it.

Many comments praised Claire Danes for losing all that baby weight so quickly. Many comments condemned Claire Danes for losing all that baby weight so quickly. We are a fickle society and the different comments showed that. The same went for Adele, though I saw more comments that "she still looks pregnant" as if that's a bad thing when you just had a baby quite recently. All of these comments were what I expected. We have a society and media who praise women for being perfectly thin and supposedly fit immediately after giving birth. We adore the celebrities who make an appearance a week after giving birth looking like they never had been pregnant. Bonus points if they didn't even get a stretch mark. We are inundated with these images day after day. So, is it a surprise that women rip each other apart based on body types? No, it shouldn't be. This is what the media wants. They want us to be constantly competing and constantly striving for perfection - it's what keeps us buying their magazines, their Spanx, their creams (made with baby foreskins - yum!), their make-up, their clothes, their diet foods, etc. Women yearning to look like today's it girl spend a lot of money and are a prime marketing target.

So, with that in mind, I was hardly surprised to see women scoring Adele vs Claire based on how they looked. I was mad, though. Pissed that we fall into this trap of competing all of the time. We're products of our environment - this being told that we're not good enough since we're girls so we must always work hard to prove ourselves - but there has to be a point when we wise up and stop this shit. What truly pissed me off was one comment I saw under Claire Danes' photo, "She's not a real woman." That comment was followed up with a lot of agreement that Claire is not a real woman because she is skinny and lacks curves. "Adele, now that is what a real woman looks like. She has curves. Real women have curves and breasts and hips." There was the obvious evolution of the discussion where it has been decided by many that Claire obviously crash dieted and worked out to near death in order to look the way she did at the awards. The talk was that "real women" never - the word never was used quite a few times - look like that a month after birth. Obviously, she is a bad mom because she didn't spend enough time with her baby because she was too busy working out and counting calories. For what it's worth, she discussed breastfeeding when being interviewed on the red carpet. Doesn't sound like she is neglecting him too much.

Women should not feel like they need to look a certain way after birth. They should not feel pressured to slim down immediately. I personally know women who begin to worry about their post baby figures as soon as the pee hits the stick. It's so sad that women feel this way about themselves. That being said, there are women - and not an insubstantial amount - who slim down immediately after birth naturally. I come from a long line of women who do this. Many of the women on my mom's side of the family are tall (like 6 feet) and thin. They barely require maternity clothes when pregnant and they all walk out of the hospital looking like they have never given birth. Are they not women? Where do I fit in? I'm slender, but I have curves. I still have a little belly pooch due to diastasis. Am I a real woman now? Will I lose my real woman status if I go back to having a flat tummy? What if my boobs shrink? I love every curve on my body and you know I love my stretch marks. Should I love myself less since I have curves and stretch marks? Or should I love myself less if any of those marks fade or those curves get a bit smaller. At what point will my Real Woman Card expire?

It's so tiring listening to women shame other women based on their bodies. It's like you're damned either way. Adele sucks because she didn't lose baby weight fast enough. Claire Danes sucks because she lost weight too quick. Skinny women aren't real women because they lack curves. Fluffy women aren't real women because they don't take care of their bodies. It's not "normal" to look like Claire Danes after you give birth. It's not "normal" to look like Adele after we give birth. Being a woman, in whatever shape you are in is apparently just not normal. We can't give birth correctly. We can't feed our children correctly. We can't lose or retain weight post partum correctly. Can we just shut the fuck up with this nonsense already? Why must we always pick one another apart? I get that skinny isn't always healthy and being overweight isn't always healthy, but do we truly think we are encouraging other women to better themselves by telling them how much they suck? I mean, I can't even post a brief body positive message on my page without someone piping up with," yeah, we should accept each other, just remember that fat people will die from all the twinkies." Come on!

I'm not pushing anyone to be unhealthy, but I realize that humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the sooner we accept that the healthier and happier we will be. If we are constantly telling women to be ashamed of their bodies, whatever form they take, they will not seek to take care of themselves. Even in 2013, it seems like women have so much to work against. When we fail to unite with one another it makes it easier for all of us to fail. We need to work on accepting one another in all of our various sizes. We need to encourage one another to be healthy, realizing that healthy is not one single size or shape.

What does a real woman look like? The answer isn't in chromosomes or body parts. It's not found in the amount of flesh around our hips or in our breasts. It's not found in our ability or lack of ability to produce children. It's not found in our housekeeping practices. It's not found in our clothes, our hairstyles or our cosmetics. It's not in our names or our societal roles. If you feel you are a woman, then you are a woman. No uniform required.


Anonymous said...

Well said! I've personally struggled with my weight since puberty and only in recent years when struggling to get pregnant did I finally have a doctor care enough to find and explain a medical reason for my infertility and related inability to lose weight, all previous doctors just assume its bad eating and lack of exercise. It's so hard to fight stereotypes when even the medical and professional sectors make the same assumptions as society do!

Anonymous said...

I saw your post about how you have battled with people being mean about your looks, as I have too. But I honestly would love to look like you. I'm dark as midnight and horrendously hideous in appearance. So bad that when I used to cry over how ugly I was my siblings said nothing. So bad that when I was 15 and sitting with a group of girls and they all complained about how they were not pretty other girls, be it 1, 2 or 6 chimed in saying 'don't be stupid of course you are'. I decided to join in for some silly reason and despite being best friends, once I said this it was met with a prolonged silence and awkward glances at the floor. Probably about 99.8% of the world's population is at least better looking than I am so it's really easy for people to say 'love yourself' and 'have confidence'. I guess life isn't fair and you just have to be strong, really.

Funky Little Earthchild said...

It's sad when we can't see our own beauty. :(

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