• Thu, Jun 27 2013

If Models Are Not ‘Real Women,’ What Are They?

Real women have curves -- So what are models made of? Gisele Bundchen

Real women have curves. Real women have some meat on their bones. Real women should be shown in ad campaigns, not those bony size twos — nobody likes cuddling with a bag of bones!

If you have heard any of the statements above you have heard a different kind of body snarking that is fairly socially acceptable, even among people who consider themselves feminists and generally body-positive. Many women feel justifiably frustrated with the uncommonly precise standards set by the fashion and television industry, so rather than taking out those feelings on the establishments and societal norms perpetuating them, they opt instead to criticize models and thin women.

Calling a woman fat is typically considered as awful (well, by everyone except the Daily Mail and Karl Lagerfeld), whereas telling a woman to “eat a cheeseburger” or insinuating she has an eating disorder or critiquing an actress’ performance based on her slim figure is somehow permitted.

Campaigns like Dove‘s sneaky “Real Woman” marketing scheme are just as obnoxious and as most — they’re simply more subtle about it. For example, in their recent “look how conventionally pretty you are to other people” viral video, they were still (A) selling products to increase this supposed “real beauty” and (B) implying that certain facial features and effects of the aging process are inherently less pretty. They’re not selling “real women”; they’re marketing products just like everyone else, except they do it by tugging at people’s heartstrings to make them feel like Dove cares about “real women” more than profits.

So, let’s figure out what exactly other models are if they are not “real women.” They must be something, right? They may be robots, they may be aliens, they may be imaginary creatures from long ago. It’s up to you to decide.

Photo: Getty Images

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  • Tania

    I am a size 2, but “bony” would not be an accurate description.

    • Amanda

      Same here. I’m a 2, but I’ve got quite the ‘hourglass’ figure.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      That’s my point: it’s a dick move to generalize people’s figures, to criticize sizes and to snark on specific body types.

      I’ve been curvy both at a size 4 or 12, but when I was smaller people tended to just say “bony” or other descriptors with negative connotations whereas when I was larger, there were other subtle terms used for criticism. Either way, it’s not a pleasant thing (thus why I was criticizing it. here. in this piece).

    • Tania

      Oh, I know. I was definitely agreeing! The number of times I get told to “eat a sandwich” honestly takes me aback. I would never even dream of asking any of my bigger friends whether they “think they should be eating that.” I cringe even at the idea of it.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Ohhh okay, I was so embarrassed if it came off like I was trying to snark!

      (And seriously, it is ridiculous that that is something people do.)

    • KathleenCat

      Oh, when I was really thin, the first time I got naked with one boyfriend, he said, “Oh good I thought you’d be all angular or something.”

      I would have been smaller than a zero in current sizes, and often wore kids’ clothes, yet I had boobs and butt. Ribs showing, yeah. But I had curves, too.

    • LynnKell

      hahahahaha i’m a size 3-5 and sometimes buy pants at Zara kids…
      Men think I have a big butt and sales clerks have asked me if i’m a size 0 because I look “so skinny”. I have skinny wrists, but the rest of my body is average weight ¬¬

    • Tusconian

      Definitely. People make sweeping generalizations, in the name of “body acceptance,” that tend to be the exact opposite. It seems to mean “be completely nasty to anyone who deviates from the mythical Average American Woman (TM) stats, and then cover it up with platitudes.”

      It was weird one day, when I was a teenager and probably a size 1 or 2, when I had had a long, frustrating day of trying and failing to buy pants, and my mom just said “you’re just curvy, like everyone on both sides of the family. They don’t really make pants for you or me or your friends, just straight up-and-down women.” My mom never really had mentioned anything about my body before, aside from “yes you are skinny” and “don’t get fat when you’re my age,” and everyone else had some comment to make about how I was “bony” despite my (as I realize now) big fleshy butt and thighs, or “sickly” despite my extremely healthy diet (and at the time, decent amount of exercise), or “anorexic” because people would rather use a word they don’t know and offend anyone who might actually be sick than just say “thin” or “skinny” or “I’m not going to comment on your appearance at all without any reason because I am polite.” And then if I didn’t take it as a compliment, go “but but but it’s a GOOD THING!”

  • Tusconian

    Aside from my comments agreeing with Tania, I also have serious issues with the attack of models specifically (not just people who fail to reach the predetermined minimum pant size). Aside from the handful of household name models, people, especially those who align themselves with “body positivity” movements, seem to forget not only that thin models are human beings with feelings, but also that an absurd number of them are not adults and are not compensated properly. People who do acknowledge that the girl sulking down the runway is probably 14 use this as an attack on the fashion industry….for making the privileged consumers feel bad. But a lot of these models are seriously underage (many as young as 12 or 13); not American, mostly from very poor parts of already poor countries; not unionized, so unlike Kate Moss and Tyra Banks, they’re not making millions of dollars, they’re being paid in torn clothes and empty promises; and they aren’t choosing of their own free will to eat poorly or do drugs, they’re often encouraged to not eat (or not allowed to eat) and do drugs to keep them skinny at an age when they’d normally be gaining weight fairly quickly. And then the wealthy adult women with paying jobs, instead of wanting to fix this atrocity (which will by definition partially fix the problem of unrealistic model bodies), they say nasty things about the body of an unhealthy, unpaid teenager who’s miles away from home

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I think the age thing as well as the pay issue is strikingly disturbing, too. Many of these girls (girls, because they’re under 18) live in tiny apartments with 5 other underage models, often away from home, and make money “in trade.” Snarking on literal kids is fucked up; even more so when you remember that they’re often under awful contracts that don’t give them most of the money they’ve earned. They’re paid to look a certain way, so they do because that is how they make money, and that’s not their fault — it’s the industries in so many ways. Guh.

      Basically, I agree with you in every way, and I’m really glad you brought up the age issue.

    • Tusconian

      I didn’t even know about the apartment thing!

      But yeah, I see the snark at models specifically justified by women who are heavier (or more often, women who are average sized or smaller, but are simply “not model thin”) because “I don’t care about the self esteem problems of rich, conventionally beautiful girls/women.” I feel like people think nameless runway models have the same experiences as hyper-famous actresses and singers, even though the modeling industry is way different than Hollywood or the music industry. They also don’t seem to realize that most runway and high-fashion print models are not supposed to be conventionally beautiful. Scarlett Johansson is conventionally beautiful. Natalie Portman is conventionally beautiful. Angelina Jolie is conventionally beautiful. And maybe Naomi Campbell and Kate Upton are conventionally beautiful, but you’re not going to see them walking the runway for any of these high-fashion houses any time soon. 15 year old no-name girl from Estonia is not the girl your boyfriend is secretly jacking off to.

      Also, worth mentioning I think is that every time I hear about runway models dropping dead of malnutrition, it’s a girl under age 19 that I haven’t heard of. And since many of these girls are scouted from eating disorder clinics, and those that are just naturally skinny are encouraged to pick up disordered eating when they wouldn’t normally have…..yeah. They’re more or less abused children, not the skinny bitch in the office who keeps trying to get you to go vegan and asks why you don’t jog!

    • Evo

      Please watch the documentary “Girl Model”. It’s a surprising glimpse into the model factory.

    • Rita Longiva

      You’re coming off a bit as if you’ve had dealing with the skinny bitch in the office who wanted you to go vegan. If you have, LOL!!!

  • Carolina Cornejo

    i feel like skinny shamming is jealousy in disguise

    • KathleenCat

      I’d say it’s not that simple, but my experience indicates this is an aspect of it.
      I’ve weighed, as an adult, everywhere from 93 to 180 and back down to 140- and the people who most often treated me differently based on my weight have been heavy white women.

    • Carolina Cornejo

      give me another reason that fat woman whould attack the body of a skinny girl if not jealousy

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Preference — some people prefer to look one way, others prefer to look another way. As soon as you decide other people should look how you wish, then it becomes a problem. I mean, men criticize models and thin women, too, and that may or may not be out of jealousy, but I’m sure there are other reasons, as well. Regardless, thin- or fat-shaming are all fucked up and 0% excusable.

    • Carolina Cornejo

      i am pretty sure men say that to please women and come on the multi billionare industry that is weight lost proves that i don’t think anyone wants to be fat

    • Evo

      I feel like you REALLY want to believe that it’s jealousy and that thin people never denounce overweight people. But thin people mock fat people all the time. Is that jealousy?
      No. It’s not jealousy. It’s human nature. And men do not say that ‘to please women’ it sounds like you have issues with your own image and are trying to validate yourself. I am a size 4 in typical mall store clothes (size 8 in vintage, btw, which shows you that clothing sizes are a complete fabrication) but my husband always says he liked my ass and hips better when I was a size 6. *shrug* It’s not size, it’s proportion. A bigger girl with great proportions is sexier to men, evolutionarily, than a thinner one with no hip-to-waist ratio. And the men in my family (Italian and Spanish) literally cringe when they see very thin women.

    • Carolina Cornejo

      men in your family want you to feel better about yourself

    • Evo

      Carolina. I just read a comment you made on another post calling women who are a size 10 a ‘bag of lard”. As a matter of fact, ALL of your comments are negative and hateful and MOST are directed at people who are overweight. I guess someone is jealous of size 10 girls. Or really wants to give the impression that she is comfortable with herself. Girl, if you were comfortable with yourself, you wouldn’t have to call other people names.
      BTW my best friend is 5’11 and a size 12 and she is gorgeous, fit and shapely. She turns heads of every man in the room when she enters.
      You, dear, are just … frankly, a bitch.

    • Carolina Cornejo

      first of all so bag of bones is ok but not bag of lard? i am franky tierd of being skinny shamed and since socitey thinks that is ok why not tell the overweight girl it is really not okay to do be that unhealty? you my dear are frankly an hipocrital bitch

    • Evo

      If you can show me where I said either was OK, I will give you a million bucks. Also? you spelled ‘hypocritical’ wrong. And since I never said it was acceptable to call ANYONE names, you also *used* hypocritical wrong.

    • Carolina Cornejo

      well when i said bag of lard it was in response of a woman claming skinny girls a disgusting bag of bones so maybe ignorant and uninformed was a better word for you

    • KathleenCat

      It figures I’d get a downvote just for telling the truth of my experiences. I can’t help it if the truth is the truth.
      I don’t necessarily lay all blame on the people who diss me when thin but not when heavy. It’s society creating that toxic environment.

    • Skinny and Loving it

      i appreciate your truthfulness but cannot empathize as living in the Caribbean does not place me in regular contact with heavy white women, though I realize that usually older, heavy women or women who are about my age but massively overweight are usually my enemies. But my trick to deal with them is to tell them this one line which always keeps them speechless: “Don’t hate me cos I’m beautiful.” Then I walk away.
      Skinny me- 1
      (skinny or heavy) Judgmental bitch- nada

  • March

    To even think that a clothes-size number is remotely RELATED to the way a human being looks, let alone make it a standard to hold EVERY female up to, is the height of idiocy. The end.

    • god made me the way I am

      Beautiful. Beautiful. That sums it up quite nicely.

  • lechat

    I am a size 2 sometimes 0. It’s just the way i’m built….and I find that women love to judge. Like, “O shut up you’re skinny” type stuff. Ooo I’m sorry I can’t have an opinion on eating healthy, cause I’m not a size 14? Body shaming is a two way street here ladies. How about we just accept that we come in all shapes and sizes.

  • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

    Yeah I hate that statement too. I am not curvacious but I am not skinny, but I sure as hell am a real woman!!

  • Ruth Straps

    most models in magazines and photos are airbrushed or photoshopped — not real yes they are very thin to begin with but they make them look too perfect which is unrealistic expectations for everyday women

    • KathleenCat

      People snark just as much on candid and paparazzi shots of models, though.

    • Ruth Straps

      people are just too judgmental and critical of others because they are insecure with themselves but I just don’t understand the obsession to be anorexic looking skinny It doesn’t phase me to see thin women but when you are so thin you see your bones that’s going a bit too far imo looking so thin that you are literally skin and bones it just isn’t healthy tipping the scales too far in extremes either direction over weight or under is not a good thing we need a healthy medium and showing these extremely small people as what everyone should look like is imo wrong — the media puts way too much stress on being skinny instead of healthy

    • Skinny and Loving it

      I hope you also remember the other side of being healthy, where you are not so fat that you get winded running up the stairs, unable to see your toes or even worse, can’t do a proper body bend. Being healthy goes both ways, Ruth, both ways.

    • Skinny and Loving it

      I am an everyday women who looks like a model and that was just by mere design. My mother was too and so is everyone else in my family. When people see me on the road, they call me bag of bones, twig, etc and did i mention I am an everyday woman. Women are women everywhere, whether on the cover of Vogue or at the checkout counter of your local supermarket. They should be respected regardless whether they are rich and famous or not because women everywhere are just that women everywhere, women everyday.

  • Jessica Miller

    I hate those Dove ads.

    • Skinny and Loving it

      May I ask why?

    • Jessica Miller

      The same reason I hate: mushrooms, Lena Dunham and anything she’s in, the Cleveland Browns, white hipsters in Native American feather bonnets, grapefruit, and lip liner darker than the lipstick.

      Tl; dr: because I do. May I ask why you ask?