‘Real women’ vs ‘All women’
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
Recently, the Other Press’ lovely Editor-in-Chief wrote a Lettitor discussing the unrealistic beauty standards of the fashion industry and how plus-size models are changing that. Though I agree with the sentiment, I find myself displeased by the lack of discussion surrounding skinny-shaming.
I will admit, I will probably never understand the plight of plus-sized women, and I in no way want to detract from the issue of fat-shaming. But when movements such as “real women,” which are promoted by the same media responsible for those unrealistic beauty standards that have fed the fashion industry for so long, turn around and apply the same logic to discrediting thin women, that’s when I have an issue.
How this system works is very simple: by preying on the self-esteem of all women, and then turning them on one another, those in the industry ensure that they can sell something to all kinds of women. Plus-sized or slender, nobody is perfect, and the media is more than happy to prey on those insecurities.
What makes it even worse is that this formula of marketing relies on women degrading each other. Larger women will vilify skinny women, and vice versa. Think you’re innocent of this? Think back to the last time you saw a curvy woman in line at McDonald’s, and thought to yourself how she really shouldn’t be there; or when you last saw a skinny girl order a salad, thought “of course,” and rolled your eyes.
The mentality I encounter most often is one I like to call the “Eat a sandwich” mentality. Somehow in the grand scheme of girl logic, we became socialized to believe that the greatest way of making ourselves feel better is to discredit other people, especially other women. After the “real women have curves” movement of the early 2000s, which was basically created in response to the “thin is in” craze of the ‘90s, I found that the number of women willing to tell me exactly what was wrong with me increased.
I became that skinny bitch, the one who other women pointed at and told to eat a sandwich—saying that I was unhealthy.
When I was in high school I entered my school counsellor’s office to change my courses, and ended up with a man assuming I was there to get help with an eating disorder. After a one-hour lecture I left with several pamphlets on how I was perfect just the way I was and a deep sense of shame because I wasn’t what society thought was right.
For years I have been told that I’m not right. That because of my size I will never find a man, and that I have to change my diet to better fit what society views as “feminine.”
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the exact same tripe that has been used to fat-shame women for years—it’s just been repurposed.
By creating movements that promote a positive body image by degrading others, you aren’t really changing anything. And to be honest, though waif-thin, yet impossibly tall, models rule the runway, that doesn’t necessarily translate to consumer fashion. Consumer fashion is created for the “average” woman, one that I apparently don’t fit the mould of because I’m too tall, or not curvaceous enough. So what do I end up wearing? The same oversized shirts that look like tents, and leggings, every day.
I’m not saying any of this to demand that we go back to worshipping the sapling-like bodies of unhealthy, pre-pubescent girls, but rather to make people aware that it matters how you choose to accept yourself. If your doing so means that you reject any body image but your own, then you might want to go back to the drawing board. Terms like “real” or “average” are relative, and the sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be. As long as you feel healthy and good about yourself, then who cares what anyone else’s beauty standard thinks of you.
I think as a society dominated by strong women, we should stop trying to base our acceptance of our bodies on how they compare to anyone else’s—and we should definitely stop openly and silently criticizing the women around us. Be for all women, rather than a select few.