“Real women have curves.” Somehow this new “positive” self-esteem message is supposed to make up for years of the media portraying images of rail-thin models. However, in actuality, this shift is a giant step backward.
Lately in popular media there has been an increase in messages urging women to embrace their own body and be confident in their own skin. However, somewhere along the line the message has morphed into one of “Real women have curves.” How is this better than the ridiculous media that used to promote stick-thin bodies? The praise of curvy figures is no better than the photographs of waif-like Kate Moss with her infamous quote — “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” — attached to her magazine spreads.
Retouched photos and ads of models and celebrities to make the women appear smaller have received much ridicule. In recent years, though, the opposite has been occurring. Photos of models and celebrities have been retouched, in fact, to make them appear larger; visible bones are being smoothed over, inches added to thin waists and faces rounded. Leah Hardy, a former editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, spoke out about a magazine editing a cover photo of Cameron Diaz. The photograph was morphed to fill out her cheeks, widen her thighs and smooth over her defined hip bone. Similarly, a photograph of supermodel Karlie Kloss was retouched to smooth over her rib and collarbone definition.
Altering these women to appear larger in no way promotes a healthy body image. The message remains that your body is not good as it is and must be changed. Instead, the models should be left as they are, proving that they are beautiful as they are photographed, without the editing.
Dove and Victoria’s Secret recently launched the campaigns “Real Beauty” and “Love My Body,” respectively. In Facebook and Tumblr posts, the two campaigns were shown side by side; the Victoria’s Secret campaign was criticized in the comments section for the models being too thin, while Dove’s was praised for portraying “real” women. Criticism included that the Victoria’s Secret models were gross, and some even implied that the models were anorexic or bulimic. Although I agree that the Victoria’s Secret campaign should have included a more diverse range of body types, it is appalling to see how readily people are willing to call the models “gross,” or even imply they have a mental illness based on their appearance. What is even more disturbing is that this act is somehow socially acceptable, just because these women are typically deemed beautiful and fit.
In fact, both brands missed the “Love your body” message in their campaigns. Each portrayed a group of women who all seemed to have relatively similar body types. The Victoria’s Secret campaign contained a group of women who all were tall, thin and toned; the Dove campaign only portrayed a curvy female body shape.
One woman should not be deemed more “real” based on her body type. Instead of focusing on trying to get women to stop obsessing over being too thin or too curvy, media should instead push the message that body type does not determine a woman’s, or a man’s, value as a person. A real woman doesn’t have curves, she has a mind.