Sunday, August 14, 2011

What does a "Real Woman" look like?

Where do these freakin' weekends go?  Out the window apparently.  This morning I went on a bike ride with my crew at Surf City Cyclery. And for the first time in 4 bike rides, I didn't crash, get lost, or get a flat!  Yes yes...big prize for me.
What's amazing about biking is that I can go for 2 hours and feel great afterwards.  Run for 2 hours and I feel like I just got beat up by a bear.  Many of you bloggers (and lurkers?  I love that I have no idea who reads this thing) run LONG distances regularly.  So if you run 10+ miles on a weekly or more basis, please let me know how you escape feeling...un-mauled.

I also killed some time watching Good Morning America yesterday morning.  They did a segment on a website that is becoming very popular:  My Body  The concept is that you can can see pictures that "real women" posted of themselves and and view by body type, height and weight, etc.  It's meant to show "real women" instead of fashion models.

What is a "real woman"?

Our perception of beauty has changed over time:

Sure, both women are thin and gorgeous, but I'd say one looks pretty attainable and one not so much (ahem, Miranda...stop makin' me look bad).  

So then sites like My Body Gallery pop up to combat this emphasis on ulta-thinness.  Or the Dove campaign. Remember that?  
Apparently the Dove campaign was ultra successful, and I'm glad it was.  While I'm pretty sure these women were still airbrushed, it's nice that really pretty, normal looking women were featured.  

So why haven't we see more of this?  Why is there the trend to feature skinny models with big boobs and with major airbrushing in their features?  

Since I can't believe that the entire fashion and fitness industry WANTS women to feel bad about their bodies, I think the answer is that skinny sells.  The industry serves us these pictures because we women see them, and want to look like models, and purchase accordingly.  Hard to know what came first, the Chicken or the Egg, but we're in a vicious cycle now.  

So we're doomed to an eternity of 13 year olds with crappy self esteem huh?  

Kinda...but I think there's something we CAN do.  I'm not a mom, but I know that if I have a daughter, I plan on de-emphasizing appearance as much as possible.  Sure, it's hard in a world of Disney Princesses and fashion magazines, but I hope by emphasizing her worth in intelligence, sports, music, and eventual career prospects, I can help her to aspire to be so much more than being like that Miranda Kerr picture.   
Way easier said than done? I'm sure.  

But I'm hoping if I do my job right, she'll prioritize her achievements over wanting to be skinny.   And hopefully Disney will come out with a Princess who is not all that cute and works as a lawyer or scientist or something in the meantime.   Although unfortunately, that movie probably wouldn't sell.  


  1. As a not-cute person who could never be a model and is now OLD, I love this. I have two daughters. One is built like a brick shithouse. Solid as a freakin rock. She will never be a size 2. But she is gorgeous and smart and super NICE. We'll see how things go.

    It would be great if the media did show not only women of varying body types but also of different ages. We are not only emphasizing 'skinny' in our culture (not just the US) but 'young'. Hopefully, many of us will spend a lot more time being old (chronologically) than we did being young! I know I hope I do! I would love to see all types represented. But the fact is, as you said, skinny sells as does youth. We live in a harshly commercial world. Great post.

  2. this is such a great post! and so true. i definitely go through periods of time where i struggle with body image, etc but I have always been extremely athletic and I think my parents did a great job of making sports and a muscular body type important. I am so grateful for that.

    oh...and LRs...I DEFINITELY struggle after. I usually just have to relax, eat and sleep the rest of the day.

  3. Love your post! I have a little boy and want him to value brains over beauty - hoping that having a mom who is a "scientist" and is an athlete shows him that women do more than cook, make the bed, and look pretty.

  4. Thank you for your supportive encouraging words. I really really appreciate your kindness. :)

    This post is thought provoking. I find myself looking at the mirror thinking I'm fat. Sheesh! I know I'm far from it, but psychologically, if I'm not with a washboard abs like the models, I feel fat and squishy. In my life I've been about 15 lbs heavier than I am now, and over 20 lbs lighter. (the school nurse thought I had an eating disorder, but I ran cross country and could eat more than the football players) I look at photos from when I was bone thin and think I look better now- and also know I'm more healthy. I agree about deemphasizing looks. It will be hard with a future kid, but seriously important. Healthy lifestyle should be taught and athletics encouraged.

    For the LR, perhaps you aren't getting enough salt. I used to have headaches and feel like crap after long runs, but now I make sure to hydrate well (Nuun usually) and take a salt tab (salt stick brand) every 30-40 minutes during a run. Along with the Gu, chomps etc. Next time you do a long run, take 1/2 -1 teaspoon of salt when you get home. I bet you will feel like new.

  5. Great post!!! I think it'd be awesome if Disney came out with a princess who was like a real woman!

  6. I love this post. As the mom of a daughter and a son, I can tell you what's working for me so far (they are only 4.5, so I haven't really had to contend w/ peer pressure yet, and I fear the "tween" and teen years, but here it is for what it's worth...I really like the little people they've turned into....)

    1. No TV! No video games! Yes, not having media to rely on as a crutch when they were 18 month old monkeys was sometimes tough, but since I never gave in and turned on the screen then, they (and I) don't even see it as an entertainment option now. What this means is, though they hear about princesses and superheroes and Star Wars from their little preschool friends, they are much less obsessed than other kids their age I've observed...and I love that their pure little minds are unsullied by commercials that are much too old for them and snarky Hollywood kids who talk like little versions of Conan O'Brien. I've never heard my daughter say anything negative about her body. Far from it. She told me the other day that she's strong enough to lift a house. I'm sort of scared of her confidence, and I'd give up all prospect of running PRs if she could stay that way forever.

    2. Take them outside. Let them get wet and dirty. Go hiking, go camping. Make these activities normal.

    3. Don't shoehorn your daughter into tights and dresses--it's hard to ride a bike that way. And she's cute wearing anything, so who cares? Oh, and if your son wants to try on a dress, let him. He won't want to when he's eight, and if he does, well, that's the way he is.

    4. No princess parties or pedicures. Do I like a good pedicure? Do I want to look pretty sometimes? Sure! And I'm sure my daughter will too. But she doesn't need an entree into that world right now. Right now--she needs to be doing the things in number 2.

    5. Read to your kids. Talk to your kids about books. Shower them with books. Be stingy with toys. But hit the library, the Borders fire sale, whatever, starting when they are infants and all they do is chew on them.

    That's my long comment! Woo hoo for "real" girls and the boys who love them.

  7. Great post! Body image is so controversial and so critical to young girls and especially teenagers. I suffered from anorexia for several years and I really hope I can raise my children to be proud of their bodies and not have to go through what I did.

    I think it would be beneficial for parents to focus more on good health rather than body image. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Ahhhh love this post. I am a mom of 2; a boy (4) and a girl (2.5).

    My daughter already says things like "Look at my pretty long hair." "Mommy is pretty" "Daddy is handsome" HOLY SMOKES ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This comes solely from her love of "pretty princesses and handsome princes" SCARES THE DAY LIGHTS OUT OF ME.

    We focus on books, cooking, crafts, outdoor activities, health, etc but it is impossible to keep the kids completely sheltered. They are both smart as can be and as parents my hubs and I strive to be excellent role models and teach our children to make the right decisions.

    I only wish I could keep them little!!

  9. ::hands Faster Bunny a Pulitzer prize for this blog post::

    This was a great post. I checked out that website, too, and it's interesting to see so many different shapes and sizes there, even when looking at those who share your similar stats. Reminds me that everyone truly is unique and that very few people actually look like Gwyneth or Gisele.

  10. This was a really great post. I kind of like that website. It is interesting to see how different everyone is even when I type in my same height, weight, and body type. We're all unique!
    I hope when I have children that we are able to focus on staying healthy over being thin. I feel better about myself when I choose to live a healthy lifestyle.

  11. Love this! I actually wasn't allowed to have Barbies as a child because they give an unrealistic sense of what women should look like. Even when I get to a healthier weight, I will still have hips and I'm finally learning to accept that after 15 years.

  12. this is a kick@$$ post, as everyone else has established! i think, like u said, that even though there have been campaigns like Dove, the majority of the media is still shoving the skinny thing down our throats, so it's up to parents to do the best they can to 'save' their daughters' self-esteem. sadly though, i think even then it's kind of like putting bandaids on a potentially gushing wound. not to sound like a defeatest AT ALL, but just that even if parents try to do the best they can that can only go so far, you can't keep your kid in a bubble.

    BUT i think if, moms especially, start surrounding their kids right away with what living healthy is like, 'real' images, and being a great role model you stack the odds tremendously. at least personally, i HATE moms who are constantly talking about diets in front of their kids. i had an aunt who wouldn't allow my cousin to eat what she wanted even when the girl was as young as 7 or 8. being active and playing sports was done around my house all the time and the emphasis was on being fit for health, not to just lose weight.

    though, even then, i've had my own issues and had really low self-esteem/bad body image in the past. so hopefully we can roll out those updated disney princesses...ummm, should i get out the pens again, i think u made a pretty kick@$$ character in my fantasy story! ;) haha

  13. I saw that you left a sweet comment on my blog! Thanks! I'm so glad, because it led me to yours. I'm a new follower, and excited to be here!