What real women look like

 

By Nancy Wylde

The ongoing debate continues over body image – especially women’s body image and what real women look like.

In February’s issue of Marie Claire magazine, Australian  Jennifer Hawkins ( Miss Universe 2004) posed naked to ‘bare all her flaws’  – (meaning no air brushing or retouching)  in the hope to show women as they really are.

Jennifer mentioned that posing naked for the cameras without any retouching or airbrushing gave her a sense of empowerment.  Courageous and bold as Miss Hawkins was, her body image still sent waves of controversy about what ‘real’ women look like.  In fact it was received as a statement of what ‘real supermodels’ look like.

In fact breakfast radio host and TV presenter Bianca Dye who had posed naked for Madison magazine in their November edition in 2009 ( curves and all) slammed the glossy fashion magazine Marie Claire for hailing Jennifer Hawkins as a ‘positive role model for body image’.

In another attack on Jennifer’s photos, former Australian Idol finalist and Young Diva Ricky Lee Coulter who is famous for being confident with her body posed for Woman’s Day to show  us  ‘how a real woman looks’.

Fact is that the average woman, the ‘real’ woman is anywhere between a 12-16.  Yet most of us ( women) who fit into this category are made to feel as if we are ‘overweight’.

So entrenched through television and magazines as well as conditioning since we were little girls that a size 10 is the ‘acceptable’ image for women that anything above a size 10 and we begin to look for fad diets to quickly lose the extra few kilos.

Such was the pressure of  ‘body image’  that a ten year old little girl whom I knew well from my teaching days began hiding her food under her bed and throwing away her school lunches as a result of her swimming coach suggesting she  losing weight to gain an extra few seconds on her time to maintain her title of champion.

Beauty pageants all over the world not only continue to seek out some of the world’s most beautiful women, but specifically women whose  ‘body image’  is  in keeping with that of a supermodel.

I for one would love to wake up in a world where a 40 year old woman, who has had 3 or 4 children, was eligible to enter such a contest, regardless of her shape or size and that the only criteria for entering the competition was that she was a woman.

If we are to have women represent ‘what real women look like’ we need to re-evaluate what the term ‘real woman’ means.

The average ‘real woman’ does not look like a supermodel.  Unless she has had cosmetic surgery she will no doubt have a little belly bulge, sagging breasts and lots of curves!

This does not make you ugly.  Glossy magazines and the media  make you feel ugly. 

How do we change this?

Support organisations and magazines that are attempting to change the ‘image of women’ and offer us a view of what ‘real women’ really do look like.

Nothing is more empowering for women than to begin to become pro-active in changing the way we are viewed.  There is no ‘perfect body image’.  That is a fact!

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Images of women

Flaunting sex appeal is a way of life in Italy.  But now there is a rebellion.  60% of the Italian TV audience is made up of women!  The Italian media is presenting vulgar images of women with silicone lips, breasts and thighs and call this beauty.

Italian women are now protesting the culture of sexism that is being promoted on Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s  three television stations ( for those who didn’t know he runs the media as well!!)

Barely clad sexy women who are known as the “veline” are a special feature of the entertainment empire that has made Berlusconi one of the world’s wealthiest men. 

Lorella Zanardo – a Milan businesswoman has dedicated a tremendous amount of time to raise awareness about how Italian television views women’s bodies.  Her documentary Il Corpo Delle Donne has received worldwide media coverage with nearly one million views.

When Lorella Zanardo takes her 25 minute video around to schools she asks girls what it is they want to be when they grow up.  For girls between the ages 16 to 17 the answer is often to be a “velina”.

In this short video Lorella asks the question to all women ” who are we?”, ” what do we want?” and ” why aren’t all Italian women in the streets protesting against the way they are being represented?”

Why indeed?

If we as women are to empower ourselves, if we want to change the way we are viewed then we have to accept taking some responsibility in making those changes.

Refuse to be part of the industry that promotes a distorted view on what women should look like.  This is not to say that we should not work towards looking  our absolute best.    But there is a vast difference between working on maintaining a healthy body both on the inside and  out and subjecting oneself to ridiculous amounts of plastic surgery to live up to an ‘image’ of beauty that has been determined by the media.

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