Thursday, 9 February 2012

Getting 'Real'

I'm going to have a little bit of a rant. The opinion I am going to air is not unique to me, but it's not something I have written about before on here. But here it is anyway. I have a massive problem with the term 'real women'.

It's a phrase that abounds on the *cough* Daily Mail showbiz pages (I only ever accidentally spend several minutes reading those articles, of course), and also used in association with a lot of vintage and pinup discussions or Facebook posts, et cetera. It seems to mean a particular type of woman - one with an undefined but nonetheless significant amount of flesh. Christina Hendricks is real, but Victoria Beckham is not, apparently.


Let me make one thing completely clear.

All women are 'real'. It's a very ridiculous thing to say that by virtue of anatomy, which is very often out of our control to some extent, one woman is somehow more womanly than another. The above picture is absolutely ridiculous. I prefer this one.



Why the media keep recycling the stupid phrase, which is then picked up and echoed by those thoughtless enough to use it to belittle thin ladies, is beyond me. I know, I know, the general idea is to encourage the media to show pictures of unairbrushed flesh, with its blotches, marks and all; rather than a photoshopped vision of unreality. But it's now extended to people deciding that those who are lacking in those important but painfully vague 'curves' are somehow less than those that do have them. But unless we're Kryton from Red Dwarf, we all have curves. Some have a greater degree of curvature. Some have 'too much', apparently. And even that is a bone of contention, as illustrated recently by Karl Lagerfeld declaring Adele to be 'too fat', and the justified outrage that ensued.You're only 'too fat' when you feel yourself to be so, or if it's preventing you from doing things, threatening your health, or making you miserable. Similarly Kate Moss I think once said, 'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'. Well if you're weak from hunger and can't function properly, that probably feels pretty rubbish. I often look at some of the painfully thin celebs out there (Angelia Jolie is one), and wonder how they manage. But it doesn't occur to me to judge her appearance and think she is less of a woman.

I read yesterday, and with some interest, ReeRee Rockette's fab post about thighs, and her desire that we should all love ourselves the way we are. We're all different, and we should be fostering a positive body image, and I wholeheartedly agree. BUT. I don't really agree with the theory of working on loving yourself just the way you are, if there are parts of you that make you utterly miserable, and that are within your power to change.

Yep.. I'm about to evangelise about my new healthy lifestyle again... you have been warned!

There are parts of my body that I dislike. I think my calves are horrible, wide and stocky. I like my slender ankles, and I think they're ruined by my calves. Running has not made a difference to how I feel, as while they haven't changed got smaller or bigger, but they have become even more muscly. I know I'm not alone in this, world Ironman Champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington also hates her calves. But could she has broken so many records without their sheer power? Probably not. There are lots of bits of my body that I've never been a big fan of - always thought my legs too short, torso too long, thighs too wobbly, tummy too flabby, bum either too big or too flat depending on my weight (it's the first thing to disappear when I lose weight). You get the picture. Bits I have always quite liked include my collarbones, upper arms and waist to hip ratio. Overall, I always felt I was B minus, could try harder. Especially as I approached 30 last year, single, unfit and slightly depressed. I felt like my face looked haggard, lined and older than my years due to eating badly and weight loss (the heartbreak diet), my limbs were skinny yet flabby, the other dislikes listed above making themselves known and overriding the likes.

My first public Lycra photo! This was 8 months or so ago...
time to do a new one and show you what's changed!

And then I plunged myself into training for a half marathon and watched everything change before my eyes. Nearly one year on, I can wholeheartedly say I am really proud of my body. Nay, chuffed with it. Not just because of how it looks as ultimately it's not *that* different* - though it's leaner, toned and my skin is better - but because of what it can DO. It can run for 10 miles and still get stuff done (whether I can say the same next weekend after a half marathon followed by the Ric Rac Club, we shall see...). It can dance to swing all night, it can cycle, it can carry me everywhere. Exercise has had a positive effect on both my physical body and my mind. Exercise can make you smaller, or it can make you bigger and more powerful. It's flipped a switch so that I focus on the good bits and not the other bits. It therefore makes me feel a bit sad to hear that people 'loathe' bits of them, when it's absolutely in their power to do something about it. It takes only 21 days to form a habit, whether that's exercise or diet. 21 days is nothing when you've hated your body for years, or even a whole lifetime.

I'm all for learning to love yourself, but if it's in your power to change something that is making your life miserable, then do it. Just do it. Not tomorrow, or next week, or when work's calmed down, or you've finished that box of chocs. I'm not telling you all to take up running, but to make positive changes towards your own happiness in yourself. One step at a time.

Make this the year that you do everything in your power to make yourself the happiest you've ever been. And then treat yourself to something fabulous for being so gosh darned 'real'. And by real I mean awesome.

Fleur xx
DiaryofaVintageGirl.com

52 comments:

  1. I think you've astutely hit the mark here! Somehow, in the push to fight against the ultra slim beauty/body ideals foisted on us by mainstream media we've created a new set of ideals (curvy) that is no more realistically attained by all women than the former. I also like your call to women to take matters (and their lives, bodies, minds) into their own hands as it were. I'm a big fan of the prayer that says, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can." Very liberating.

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  2. I agree, I always say when I look at these things that both examples of women are fine. I can see where people are coming from, the skinnies are the avatar of desirability at present, so the curvies (who have held the position in the past) try and even it up. Naturally thin and naturally round all ok: unhealthily thin or round not so ok. I wish we would stop beating ourselves up. x

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  3. This is all so true, and I hate the "real women are x" way of thinking that seems to be everywhere these days. We're all real women. Real women are fat, thin, muscled, flabby, and everything in between. How happy we may be with ourselves is another matter, but no one deserves to have the label "not real" applied to them.

    On exercise - it's amazing what the body can do. I've spent my whole life feeling like I could never be anything other than unsporty, flabby and weak. Sports was for other people, and they would always be better at it than me. Well, at the end of last year I lost some weight and starting exercising, and the transformation is still amazing to me. I no longer look at myself in the mirror and feel trapped. Now, even if I think I don't look great, I can say to myself "Okay, could do with a bit more exercise, so I'll work on that" - and turn it all into positive action rather than passive self-loathing.

    I think I might have turned this into an essay, so I'll shut up now. :) Oh, but the one thing I forgot to mention - reading your thoughts about exercise really helped spur me on to mine. Thank you!

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  4. Brilliant post! I applaud you for speaking up about this; I can't stand the "real woman" phrase as well... for the naturally slender ladies, the supposedly healthier pin-up silhouette creates just another unattainable ideal to aspire to. As an art history student myself, it's so interesting to observe how really, just about any female form you can imagine has been declared the ideal at one point or another. When did all those gals become hotter than the Venus of Willdendorf, that's what I want to know!

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  5. Like all the comments above, I agree whole heartedly with your discussion. The media seems hell bent on crushing the morale of (in particular) young women. On one page we're being told we mustn't have wobbly bits and/or cellulite, and turn over the page and we're told "REAL women have curves". No. Stop it. Just close the magazine/web page and learn to love yourself.

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  6. We don't disagree! See my older post here http://www.rockalily.com/blog/that-final-half-stonedoes-it-really-matter.html
    I'm all for working to change what bothers us, but I'm also for not having unrealistic or silly aspirations.
    In my opinion wanting a gap inbetween thighs for example is just silly. Wanting to be more firm,or more healthy isn't.
    So we agree completely. I also hate those internet posters floating about,hence my post about all thighs being womanly, not just curvy ones. x

    #written in rush to leave house....sorry if not making sense!

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  7. Hit the nail on the head. :)
    Judging other women is such a depressingly common personality trait in society now a days. xx

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  8. The only exception to a 'real' woman I can think of are those fake digital models H&M used and the overly airbrushed, they are not 'real', although it may not be their fault they are airbrushed. Extreme photoshopping really annoys me. x

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  9. Oh hear bloody hear! As someone who has always been naturally slim I can also vouch that as you get older skinny ain't everything. It takes tone to keep a slim body in shape, and us 'skinnies' have a hard time too as we get older and we start to sag, but it's considered bad form to complain. I could never aspire to look like those fabulous models of yesteryear, so stop telling me that the first lot (who I resemble more - especially those who the media harangue for cellulite and bony knees!), are somehow not 'real'. Ahem. OK. Rant over.

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  10. I'm a great deal older than you and I want to encourage everyone who reads your blog to eat well (fruits, veggies, not garbage), get plenty of exercise and lift weights and here is why: 7 years ago, my mum had a heart attack and a stroke, developed dementia and I ended up taking care of her in her home. She also developed other issues which caused her to develop seizures and fainting spells. She was someone who, in her youth was 5'10" tall and I am only 5'2". She'd lost a good bit of height but she was still several inches taller than I am. It was only my physical regimen which enabled me to pull her up off the floor, support her and give her care. The more you work at putting health and strength into your bodies now, the better off you will be later when, perhaps, you might need to use it.

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  11. I most certainly agree that all women are real women, but ALL THE WOMEN in those photos are thin. While it may be annoying to hear that "real women have curves", thin women still fit the standards pushed by every facet of Western media. It really does not compare to fatphobia. Overall I really like this post and agree with you but I don't think that anyone should assume that someone bigger than them in size is miserable or unhealthy.

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  12. Agree 100%

    That picture of Marilyn being used like that annoys me too. She didn't actually like that photo, so by using it it's kind of saying 'we'll ignore the feelings of this 'real woman' because her body suits our purpose' aka objectifying her. Also, why should being 'hotter than' be the sole purpose of a woman's body?

    And as for so-called 'real' women. Having large breasts makes us real, does it? Hmm, last time I heard that it was off an 90s building site. I'd love some of these real women to go up against Dame Kelly Holmes and see who was the meagre and puny one then!

    I was told, as a teen, to 'love myself as I was'- low grades, yo yo weight, etc'. I was told to refuse to be that person was in some way over ambitious and 'fake' by an ill-trained school advisor- that I'd be happier working in Tesco that trying to get to uni. Now in schools, we tell young women to be the best version of themselves that they can be, and rightly so.

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  13. Great post - I've always had problems with holding up any body shape, small or 'curvy', as an ideal. A lot of the comment that goes on on sites like the Daily Mail seems to constantly shift its goalposts as to what's 'acceptable' and what's 'gross-out skinny!' by the day. I've put on weight over the past year but, you know what, I really don't care: I still fit into my favourite vintage dresses :)

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  14. This made my day!!! We are all different and beautiful in different ways, I don't care that its sounds like a cliché, its the way it is!


    Your blog is so inspiring as well!

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  15. Fleur,

    I've followed your blog for 2/3 years and now I finally post. I don't feel represented asthetically by Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe or Kiera Knightley. Though many of them are beautiful, I think we have a far too narrow concept of beauty. I find Dawn French and Adele beautiful too.

    I think beauty is a state of mind as well as physicality. I think confidence in oneself says a lot. This week, I walked down a street and a whole load of teenage boys, turned their heads and I wouldn't describe myself as 'pretty'! I was wearing a full length fake mink coat, I was confident and felt amazing and people noticed!

    On another note, if you don't like it, change it and don't whine about it! Sorry to be so mean. Be brave and face up to your fears. I know that's what I'm trying to do.

    Johanna x

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  16. My first response to this post was:

    Easy for HER to say. After all you're tall, thin (even before running), small framed, pretty enough to model and your one big complaint about your body is your calves are too bulky. In short, you're pretty much as close to the "ideal" figure as you can get.

    I know that the whole This is what a real woman looks like kind of suggests that thin women aren't real women but the point was really that even if you're not ideal and perfect like these thin women appear to be, you still matter, you can still be attractive.

    I completely understand your point, I just get frustrated when someone as perfect looking as you preaches to me, a princess fiona look alike who works out every day but can't change my short, stocky, naturally bulky figure.

    -Trixie

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  17. I understand why there has been a backlash against the size 0 trend and I am always happy to see realistically shaped women (i.e. all shapes and sizes) represented in the media. However, I find the term 'real women' so patronising. Despite our own personal prefences, I don't see how a size 6 model is any less of a woman than a size 18 mother of 3 struggling to juggle her work/life balance.

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  18. Wonderful post! I agree so much with all of this. I've read a few similar posts recently but I don't think I've ever read one that so perfectly expresses my own opinions on the matter.

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  19. I think the funny thing is that when you are skinny or slim you often, or well I do, look at the pictures of "real" women, women with boobs and bum, and think "oh I want that!" so no matter how you look you often want the things you can't have - and that's why women look at the skinny girls and wish they looked as they do. And men want the curvy chicks and not skinny boards.

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  20. Urgh totally hate women shitting on other women. We're all sodding real!

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  21. Great post! I think we can all aspire to be the best person we can be. Whether that be through working on attaining a more healthy self image or working at something about our body or life that makes us unhappy. I don't think we should be forced to 'love what you've got' if you can do something to change it that will make you feel more positive and happy within yourself. I also got into running in the last 18 months, and I must say, coping flack for it not fitting in with other's image of who I am has really hurt. You inspire me to keep loving vintage and keep loving the sense of achievement that being physically active gives me. Bravo xx

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  22. i really like this post!! agree, all women are real all shapes and sizes :D

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  23. You go girl!!
    Personally, I'm a swimmer and jogger and I know exactly what you mean. I wear 50s dresses along with my biceps and muscly legs and I'm proud of it!
    All women are beautiful when they feel beautiful!

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  24. A couple of critical comments which, while welcome, will be addressed. Firstly, I'm not sure if I was being accused of being 'fat phobic' or if you just meant generally, but I'm certainly not. I was very careful to say that I couldn't care less about size, as long as the person is happy & healthy. If they are, why should ANYONE care. If neither, change it.

    And to the 'princess Fiona lookalike', I'm sorry if you don't think my body hang ups are as valid as yours but they are. I'm tall yes, I'm not in any way small framed, I'm heavy and muscular with big hands, feel and bones. There's also a LOT more going on with my hangups that I'm not confessing to as yet. I know plenty of short, 'stocky' women who are beautiful, strong and sexy powerhouses as I'm sure you are too or will be with a bit more PMA ;)

    PMA is what it's all about and exercise brings it in spades. Fact.

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  25. I find this idea of "skinny" vs. "real" obnoxious, degrading, and irrelevant. All it does is create more woman on woman hate. Ladies, we have ENOUGH of that going on! We STILL make less than men and here in the US (and I don't think this is unique to the US) we have to contend with ultra-conservative lawmakers who want to make laws governing our bodies and our health. I ask you, when was the last time a law was proposed that would, in some way, tell a man what he can or cannot do to his body? Why, I ask you, do nearly all insurance companies cover Viagra, but not birth control?

    To me, the only issue that SHOULD be relevant and reported, is women's health. Healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Some of those healthy bodies are "skinny," some have "chunky thighs." Every single one of them should be celebrated.

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  26. I vented about this not too long ago.I know women that are naturally thin and no matter what they eat stay thin.I know women that have thyroid problems and are big even thought they eat well and exercise but society still chooses to judge them.Its truly silly.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is no such thing as universal beauty.What one finds attractive another might not.And you know,that's fine BUT it doesn't mean one is better than the other.More people need to realize that.You have a vagina?Congrats,you're a REAL woman.

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  27. I'm a personal trainer and I wanted to let you know that I showed your picture in your lycra to my friend who is also adopting a fit lifestyle and she has decided that you have the perfect body. She says you're fit, and have wonderful proportions. I'm working with her and using your physique a template for what she wants to achieve. You have inspired her to start jogging and eating well. You've inspired me on several many occasions and I just want to thank you for this blog and your rants! I agree with you 110%.

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  28. hear hear. Great sentiments throughout your post. We are the only ones that can do anything about things that we don't like about ourselves (whatever they may be). I *hate* the idea that women should all look the same, but despite being an adult and a relatively smart one to boot, I still get sucked into it sometimes. My personal pet peeve is when 'curvy' is applied in place of 'carrying extra warmth'. You know, like in those spreads of how to dress one's figure.... To me, curvy should mean a marked difference between bust/waist/hip, because just because someone is carrying a bit more weight doesn't guarantee that they are an hourglass. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Anyway, good on you for attempting to change the things you can, and embracing (or at least trying) the things you can't. Great mindset.

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  29. I'm so glad you posted this. My figure is thin like the ones on the first row of pictures. There's just nothing I can do about this. Being a fan of vintage I've always felt a bit uncomfortable about it, because I know back then a curvy figure was more into the ideal figure, than a skinny one.

    I don't diet. I've ever have! My body is just skinny no matter how much I eat.

    I try to feel good about myself and adapt my vintage style to my body type in a way that suits me best. And that's that.

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  30. I agree with most of your post. If people dislike things about their bodies and can change them, then that's a good thing for them. But I do also think people should not spend their whole lives trying to force their bodies to be something their bodies clearly aren't engineered to be. I was staggered recently when a workmate revealed she had been dieting for 18 years, and the only time she liked her body was when she had been going to the gym every day. 18 years is too long to hate anyone, especially onesself. Our bodies are capable of wonderful things, whether that's running 10 miles on strong, well-built legs for some, creating amazing embroidery with skilled fingers for another, birthing babies for someone else. We shouldn't get so hung on what we look like, we should find more joy in what our bodies do. In doing, we are real. In being looked at, we might as well be photos.

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  31. I often feel unhappy about my body. I often wish I was thinner, taller - anything other than me, to be honest. However, I've tried dieting in the past and it hasn't made much difference - this, apparently, is the shape I am supposed to be.

    I'm not overweight (just a bit more wobbly than I would like) and I don't eat unhealthily. But I refuse to become a slave to the gym or to counting calories. Everything in moderation. Food makes me happy - and as long as my relationship with it is healthy, if a bit naughty at times, that's fine by me!

    I cycle to work, occasionally go to lindy-hop classes and swim, but other than that I can't find a form of exercise that I enjoy enough to want to spend time doing it, when I could be doing other things that I love and make me happy. So I have to reconcile my desire to be thinner with the knowledge that, at the end of the day, I have better things to do with my time.

    As for the term "real women" I think it's a suitable one - and it's regardless of specific shapes, but more about being the person that you are meant to be, whether that's by doing the things you want, or looking the way you're supposed to. Christina Hendricks and Adele fit more into the "real" category as they seem to be happy enough with the way they look and don't take drastic steps to force their bodies to look a way they really aren't supposed to. Victoria Beckham's often skeletal appearance (there's being naturally slim and there's looking like your skin is too small for your bones) and the obsession to lose baby-weight as soon as she's given birth doesn't seem happy, natural, normal, or real in any way.

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  32. The phrase 'real woman' does grate on me somewhat too. As someone who spent their teenage years being very skinny, because that's just the way I was, I would have loved to be a bit curvier. I've filled out as I've got older but I do resent the implication that if you don't fit into the current 'look' that is popular, you are any less of a woman.

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  33. Very interesting post.
    Did the phrase 'real' not initially come as a reaction against airbrushed photos? We all know that the post-production photographs we see in magazines do not represent the actual women who have been photographed. In this contect 'real' women have a valid point. Even so called 'perfect' women are not perfect, and it is unrealistic to expect ourselves to be.
    However, this is simply not an excuse to not make the best of ourselves. If we really think it doesn't matter what we look like, we are going to be sorely disappointed byt the reaction of almost everyone we meet. I personally would rather be the best I can be. I feel better if I exercise, and I look better too. Ditto if I do my hair & put on a bit of slap.
    By all means lets be real women. But lets be real about what that means. Good post, Fleur.

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  34. I'm afraid I've always found the vast majority of exercise utterly humiliating, which often leads to lots of tears and self-loathing! For some people it never becomes fun or empowering - it remains a joyless battle.

    I think we have to be careful of making people believe that their self-esteem problems can all be solved by exercise - if they find that it isn't true for them they may feel even more like a failure than before!

    Anyway, I very much agree with you about how the media has hi-jacked the phrase 'real women'. They may have good intentions (highly unlikely I know!) but they are still holding all of our bodies up for scrutiny and declaring some acceptable and some unacceptable.

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  35. I agree with you - 'real women' has become a meaningless phrase trashed around the media, picked up by the same magazine that - within the same issue - feature a 'look at her celulite' celebrity feature, a story on anorexia and a 'quick and easy'diet.

    Sadly we are constantly scrutinised by our bodies, there isn't a body shape that I haven't seen declared as ugly or not quite right.

    But personally I don't think exercise is necessarily a positive experience. For me examining my own body issues and questioning the reasons behind them triggered a realisation that exercise (I used to kickbox three times a week for years) could not provide. Sometimes you don't need to change, you just need to realise you are totally ok the way you are.

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  36. Funny timing on this post, Miss Fleur! ;) Just yesterday I bought a new pair of skinny jeans that I initially loved (so did the husband) and felt totally sexy in. Until, I got home and started focusing on my short, wide legs (namely the thighs). Then I realized that this whole thing about "ideal" or "real" women was a bunch of rubbish. I work out, eat healthy and generally try to be a happy person. But somehow I let the negatively of other's standards creep into my life and start to dictate how I feel. I've struggled with anorexia over the years, and in some ways I feel like I still struggle with slipping back into that mindset of "must work out and starve myself in order to be 'beautiful'!". Which is a total load of you-know-what. Frankly, I find women who are naturally thin no less "real" than women who are heavier set or have curves to rival Marilyn. So why do I hold myself to some other standard?

    Thanks for the good, kick-in-the-pants reminder today. ;) I don't think society will ever preach a truly, healthy ideal (e.g. living a healthy lifestyle and being happy with yourself the way you are!), but at least a handful of us can try and change our own thinking and try and find that happy medium.

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  37. I am enjoying reading all the posts here, and other people's options. I fully accept that not everyone is going to be as gung ho as me about working out, but I'm not going to ever change my mind about feeling strongly that being ACTIVE in whatever way, and being healthy in your body has a huge positive effect on your mind and everything your mind influences. It's not the same as being a super-toned gym nut, but having a biological system that runs smoothly and all the benefits that brings.

    Not forgetting for a moment that this is a personal blog and my opinion is not exactly gospel, but I will defend it either way ;)

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  38. PS I am also not declaring 'being healthy' as the panacea for everything. I realise that's nonsense. But it can and very often does help.

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  39. One of your best posts ever Fleur. This is such a hot topic at the moment. Especially in the Pin Up world where, as soon as you think you've made some headway with people's mind sets, 20 new faces appear daily waving the whole "real women have curves" banner. What? I would argue that all it takes to be a real women is some flesh, blood, human genetics and a vagina, and even that is ambiguous as there are some exceptions!!!

    I am a slim, fit girl but absolutely love the look of all women, some much larger girls included. However, I'm coughed into my sleeve a few times having seen notably unhealthy women getting HUGE kudos in Pin Up competitions when clearly they are holding dangerous amounts of fat putting them at risk of serious health issues. While I imagine that the support stems from the fact they had the confidence to get their kit off, which is great, it worries me that women are being made to feel that being at such an unhealthy weight is no problem at all, and even perhaps a good thing. Its also most infuriating seeing slim, athletic girls in such competitions who are clearly far from underweight, and who have put masses of time and effort into exercising and eating well, called "skeletons/grossly skinny, no curves, told to eat a sandwich etc." Personally I think anyone who ever feels the need to post a negative comment about ANY girl of ANY body shape in an online Pin Up competition should immediately punch themselves in the crotch and think about that pain before inflicting it on anyone else!!

    I side with you Fleur about the whole exercise and eating well thing and hear what you are trying to say loud and clear. The bottom line is -and will be- health and taking care of yourself. Exercise was revolutionary in my life and I had no idea what it could do for the mind as well as the body. The endorphin rush, wow. Seeing your body change before your eyes and demonstrate the fitness and health nature intended for us, seeing flaws erase as we tone up and condition our human vehicle WOW! Ultimately, we can not change our skeletal structure and body type but instead of moaning and bitching at and about other girls or weeping into a king size carton of hagen Daaz/sitting there chain smoking and only eating a water biscuit per day we should take control and be the best WE can be! The BEST diet, the BEST execise, take the BEST care of ourselves and we will reap the benefits. Plus the all important mental boost which comes from exercise, that is not to be sniffed at! Positive lifestyle, positive thinking, the rest follows!

    Glass raised to Fleur!

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  40. I think your attitude is wonderful. I think perhaps a lot of your confidence is through knowing which clothes to wear and waht suits your figure.

    That's one thing that I struggle with, with vintage or otherwise. I'm quite happy with my size, but have certain parts I'm less happy with, and am still working out what styles actually suit me. Maybe one day I'll work that out. Did you work that out gradually or have you always known what suits you best?

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  41. I shall now eat humble pie. I have been one of those ladies that have considered "real" as women who didn't look like supermodels, who are closer to say my size :S. But I have to say that I don't consider those women luckily enough to actually look like supermodels, as not REAL women, I'm just very very jealous. I agree with your post a whole lot and its really been an eye-opener. I think loving yourself involves changing the bits you don't like, making yourself a better version of yourself. But I will say that I said it online some place else, isn't the whole karl lagerfeld and adele thing just a tad like a lot of fuss about nothing?? Thanks again, a devoted admirer.

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  42. I am happy with myself whatever my size, however, for reasons of health and my own safety I function better as a thinner version of my current self.

    I recently purchased Elle magazine as there was a freebie soap and glory mascara....I don't usually expose myself to such media, as I feel it fuels what is currently "en vogue" with body shape, desigers and how to live a perfect life, mostly by being, young, beautiful, skinny, having long legs and designer handbags.... I am none of these things, so am not going to torture myself by trying to live up to the medias distorted idea of what is beautiful.

    Beauty comes from within and, I don't want to be a clone - I love watching those Housewives programmes on the TV, I am gobsmacked at the way they live!! hehehehe!

    MM

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  43. Fleur, I've been reading your blog for ages, and while I have always enjoyed your posts, I've never dived into commenting for some reason.

    But with this post I HAD to comment to say "Brava!" Like the others who have commented, I agree that no one body type can be the ideal.

    But more than that, I applaud you saying that doesn't mean that we have to (or even that we should) work on accepting our bodies as they are. Many of us know we need to eat healthier, exercise more, and tackle the mental stresses that sap our energy. Unfortunately, so much of the "body image" talk focuses just on the image, rather than the healthy body.

    Thank you for not sugar-coating the truth, which is that most of us feel better about our bodies when we are taking care of it, and appreciating what it can do, rather than just how it looks!

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  44. Great post! I wanted to reply, but so as not to get muddled up, I’m going to use sub-headings. Yes, indeed, how organized….

    The “real women” graphic:
    It’s amazing that people are using posed, professional ‘studio’ shots of Bettie, Marilyn etc, calling them “real” over the kind of paparazzi shots of people minding their own business on the beach. What’s more real? Hmmm…. Also, is Keira Knightley considered “hot”? I actually don’t know who the other people are, but are they really held up as sexy ladies? I would hardly say Keira is a pin-up, exactly. Has she ever posed nude in FHM?!

    “Real women have curves”:
    When I was in The Guardian some years ago*, I made a comment about “real women” but I was talking about the average size of women and how the media doesn’t reflect different body types adequately. It’s very frustrating when even plus-size shops like Evans use models who don’t look like their customers! It’s sad though that people now attack ‘skinny’ girls, but I spose that comes of having that particular body shape thrust down people’s throats as ‘the ideal’ (but I would very much question if paparazzi beach photos are EVER held up as ideals!).
    *I’m not saying that as “oh yes, aren’t I important” – I’m bringing it up as it was quite a public statement from me!

    (cont.)

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  45. (cont.)

    Let’s get realistic:
    Anonymous, talking about pin-up contests, makes a very good point. It’s really not on for people to attack the slimmer girls in contests and demand they “eat a sandwich”. However, I do think it’s important we see a range of body shapes – the idea that these are “notably unhealthy” women did make me wince a tad as I once received a very nasty email from someone who said my pin-up photos should be instantly removed from the internet for “promoting obesity.” All I wanted to do was show my body as it was. I’ve left the photos of me at my biggest on line, even though at the time I had just joined a gym and was addressing my diet (a few months later I’d lost 3 stone! I was still overweight having lost 3 stone, but was happier than being, as I felt, gigantic) – it’s a record of myself (I’m kind of sliding off-topic here a bit!). I don’t think it’s promoting obesity, it’s not saying “obesity is ok”, it’s just saying “this is what an overweight woman looks like in her undies, in flattering photos” which is something you just don’t see very much. Or at least didn’t then.

    I can walk & I’m not in pain:
    As Fleur knows, as much as I tried to accept myself as a larger person, I had a gastric band ‘installed’ a couple of years ago. I’m now 6 stone lighter than I was in my “Helen at her largest” pin-up photos. I do think that the insistence that “real women have curves” can be dangerous as I got bigger and bigger thinking “hey, I’m meant to have curves!” But eventually I was so big I burst out of hourglass shape and became beanbag-shaped. I struggled to lean forward to fasten my shoes, I had constant pain in my knees and feet from carrying excess weight about and walking, which is something I’ve always enjoyed, became something I avoided because it simply hurt too much. I put back on 2 stone of the 3 stone I lost. I was happy being a size 20, but any bigger than that was just too much for me as I had all these extra health problems, which also included house-shaking volumes of snoring and a stomach ulcer. Stomach ulcers can kill and they’re far more likely in overweight people. I’ve even written a song about the process of having a gastric band (it’s catchier than you might think). “I can walk & I’m not in pain” is from the lyrics and for me it sums up the reasons why I turned my back on “real woman have curves/masses of wobbly lard”. I’m still not slim, but, as I also say in the song “I won’t die for a political statement” – women’s bodies are so frequently not treated as our own, someone else is always looking for political ownership, be it your reproductive system, your aging skin or your weight. I’ve had people bitch at me for having obesity surgery and it PISSES ME OFF! My body, my choice. Heck, I’m still not ‘skinny’ now, I’m still flabby a bit, but it’s manageable. I’m so glad I sorted it out. (and heck, I can walk 6 miles a day now without being in pain, and have bags more energy and can ACTUALLY DO STUFF!).

    So erm… yeah… that was all I wanted to say. “All”… erm… hello there, Helen’s essay!

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  46. Also!

    The "real women" thing is heteronormatively dodgy on a couple of grounds.

    1. "real women" have curves and also vaginas, apparently. Or not... this rhetoric ignores people who are trans*.

    2. "curves are sexy" - to straight men, it seems to be implied, so we're still in this trap of "the ideal female body is the one that men find most attractive."

    Regarding the thighs blog, I'm disturbed and quite angry about the inclusion of thighs covered in fresh self-harming marks. I see someone has already commented on there to point this out, and I agree with them - it's very well banging on about self-harm scars being on "real thighs" but there's a very real problem that real people with real mental health problems will stumble over that image without warning. Trigger warnings if you're going to show images that feature self-harming or GTFO. It's made me rather cross to see how someone's concerns about self-harm are swept under the carpet, steam-rollered into apparent insignificance by the REAL BODIES juggernaut of abject tedium.

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  47. A friend shared a great link recently on the "real women" topic: http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2011/12/in_defence_of_fake

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  48. Fleur, I agree with you completely and think that your logic should apply to all areas of one's life, not just one's appearance.

    I think a big part of your new-found body-confidence must also be related to the sense of achievement, knowing that the improvements you have made are purely the result of your own efforts. I go to one exercise class a week and it's mostly comprised of old ladies! I know I'm not going to be running marathons any time soon, but I always come home feeling better because I have done SOMETHING, no matter how small.

    I think the take-home message from all your motivation posts (which I really enjoy, by the way) should be that you will feel better about yourself if you take charge of yourself. Take responsiblity for yourself: for your health, your job, your relationships, your home, for everything! Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves, or crying over things over which we have no control (of course, we've all done plenty of that!) find something that you CAN fix, and bloddy well fix it!

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  49. I think this is a really interesting debate. But what it seems to keep coming back to is why are women constantly judged by the shape and size? I'd like to see one of the rows of women be people like Germain Geer, Condalisa Rice and Marie Curie. With the exception of Marie Curie, I can't stand the politics of those women, but they are smart and successful and pretty decent role models for young girls.

    And as far as amazing inspiring women goes...these WW2 vets are simply the best: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tw1m1

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  50. As a straight man I am equally sick and tired of being told what I prefer a woman to be like and what I should like! I must say that my overall preference is a curvy hour glass figure and always has been, but I can also see the beauty in a woman with a apple, pear, straight down figure or what ever the ‘Classifications’ are these days (the only use for theses classifications to me seems for choosing the best dress cuts). But to me, looks can all go hang if there isn’t a good personality.

    So what am I saying? Well… its not only women that are effected by these ‘real woman’ statements as assumes that all men are mindless drones who only like what the media puts before them. That looks are all that matters to a man, not all men are like that, granted there will always be a few who live up to stereo types, but they are by no way the majority.

    N.B. As an interesting extra to this discussion, there was a study performed a few years back which apparently stated that the preferred shape of women depends on the economic climate. The study stated that when times are good the preferred shape is the skinny Kate Moss / Keira Knightly body type, because the men want more ‘Fun’. When the economy turns bad Curvier figures are meant to be the pore popular as they are more comforting and, how’s this for a bit of Freudian imagery more matronly/motherly to calm the man fears. I must confess I have not been able to find who commissioned the study and I must stress I don’t really believe this to be totally true and am only placing this here to aid the debate.

    -James

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I welcome all comments, praise and constructive criticism alike! Please note, though, that I don't respond to anonymous comments. If you want to offer a criticism then have the conviction to do so publicly. I thank you!

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