Can We Retire the Phrase “Real Women,” Please?

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A “best of elephant journal” piece that serves to balance our recent hit: This is What a Real Yoga Body Looks Like and its response: I’m a Skinny Yogi & I’m a Real Woman & I’m not Anorexic.

 What does it mean to be a “real woman?”

(Photo: Twitpic)


This phrase gets thrown around all the time.

Do any of us meet the criteria? Apparently, skinny is out, unless you are skinny and awkward. Fat’s okay. If you’re overweight, you can be a real woman. Pretty? Well…you can be pretty, but not too pretty. Better if it’s an unconventional kind of pretty. You can have gorgeous eyes, but you’d better have a big nose. You can have a great ass, but only if you are flat chested.

I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a pair of 36C’s going for me, so I might not fit the real woman criteria. But, I’m also pretty nerdy, only 5’4″ and have enough freckles to spot a baby leopard, so maybe that puts me back in the real woman category. Plus, I’ve had two kids so things aren’t quite where they were ten years ago. I guess I qualify.

Why do we do this? Isn’t the point to embrace that we are all beautiful? The first time I read about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty a few years ago, I thought it was wonderful. I do think it’s wonderful that we make a point of looking at what people look like before Photoshop. But sometimes I feel like it’s become just another way we compete with each other.

You’ve probably seen the picture above making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. At face value, there’s a good point to be made. There are popular young actresses that embody a physical ideal that most women can’t maintain if they want to be healthy. I battled an eating disorder for many years. I don’t want my daughter looking at skeletal women as role models.

But some women have skinny bodies. Some are curvy. Some are fat. Some are tall. Some are…all kinds of things in between. And when I hear women tear other women down because they happen to meet some conventional standard of beauty, I have to wonder…how is this better? We’re always crying “oh poor us, society has this unrealistic standard that we just can’t meet!” Then, we turn around and do it to each other all over again.

How many women would complain about Kathryn Budig’s Toesox ads or Briohny Smyth’s Equinox video if they were less conventionally beautiful or had flabbier bodies? Women would be singing their praises as “real women” role models.

Let’s let it go. Call a moratorium on the whole “real women” thing. There are so many ways for women to be; all of them are real.

The problem isn’t any one kind of real beauty being better than the others.

The problem is the Photoshopping, the constant inundation of glossy, unreal images that make us forget. We forget that our beauty is a story; each one is different–and that’s what makes them wonderful.

Let me remind you:

She is beautiful


And she is beautiful


And she is beautiful



And you and I are beautiful, too.

We all have parts of us that are glossy and smooth. We have parts that we shine forth proud as peacocks.

And we all have parts that we want to hide away.

(Photo: wikimedia)


(Even she does)


Your beauty is a true story.

The parts that are unique are the parts that make it interesting.

The woman next to you has a different story; it isn’t better than yours, it isn’t worse.

Let’s remember the parts that we want to flaunt and be proud about, that shine forth, are no less “real.” We needn’t be embarrassed by our “ugly” or our “imperfect”…or, importantly, our “proud.”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

~ Marianne Williamson


Yoga, weight loss, racism, self-acceptance, humor:

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anonymous Jun 3, 2015 7:49pm

Thank you!!! I am so SICK of seeing phots like that, filling the news feed of Facebook. I am and have always been very thin. And I eat more then most people I know. I have been teased my whole life for it. Now im 33 still very thin. And am made to feel ashamed of it. Because im not “curvy” or apparently “real” im GLAD you used that particular photo, because it has been circulating far too much. You nailed this article. And its NOT a shocker you are receiving negative feedback to such a perfect example, of what we are all doing to our image obsession and what we should REALLY be saying.

People will always be so closed minded and down right RUDE about this subject. And somehow its the skinnies who aren’t “allowed” to be offended, yet we are the ones being shamed for being born thin.

Cant we just all agree to find beauty in derversity? And have our own idea of what we find beautiful, and NOT feel the need to shame others, to attempt to feel better about ourselves?

anonymous Jun 3, 2015 6:10am

We need to effin retire “accusing” people of being anorexic! It’s a mental illness and has the highest mortality rate. We don’t taunt the bald girl saying “lung cancer…pfft, smoker”.

Real women are all shapes and sizes. Women with anorexia don’t starve themselves to fit into a bikini or for attention; they do it because they hate themselves and want to die. They are still real women.

anonymous Dec 15, 2014 7:58pm

I'm thin, I'm not a curvy woman, it makes me be less hot? as the image says

anonymous Dec 13, 2014 8:08pm

As the admin of this website is working, no uncertainty very shortly it will be famous, due to its quality contents.

anonymous Oct 22, 2014 11:16am

There will always be certain body types or looks that are considered more attractive by the majority. The problem with a lot of campaigns is when they come out with catchphrases such as “real women have curves”. Actually, some real women have curves, and some real women aren’t curvy at all, and some real women are overweight, and some real women are underweight, and so on. Having a certain body type does not make you a woman.

anonymous Sep 16, 2014 3:28pm

does it really matter? no. only if you let it. move on. it's only a body. it'll be gone in a lifetime….ashes to ashes…

anonymous Jun 22, 2014 9:22pm

Thank you! Agreed.

anonymous Jun 22, 2014 6:41pm

I love this, but why are the "suggested articles" below : "How to get flat abs" and "Give it Up: 10 worst foods" … ?? Frustrating that no matter how much there is in the way of body love, there are always a few "but get skinny now!" ads or "buy our fitness DVD!" just an inch or two below. Even in magazines like Yoga Journal, the Almased weight loss ad is one of the biggest. Cognitive dissonance in the wellness industry is costing dearly authors like this and wellness practitioners who honestly believe in body love.

anonymous May 26, 2014 6:28pm

being healthy is sexy – in any shape

anonymous May 26, 2014 2:37pm

Can we retire the whole "real" thing altogether?

anonymous May 26, 2014 1:36pm

A- F'ing- MEN!

anonymous May 26, 2014 7:10am

The one thing I dont get why did they put average actresses next to the beauty icons? I dont think anybody would agree the gals at the top are hot, not because of their bodies, but overall they're not super pretty. If they wanna use skinny girls, why dont they show VS models, or some athletes? Or Kate Upton, even if I dont like her… 😉

anonymous Apr 5, 2014 3:56pm

While we are at it, let us also get rid of the phrase 'real men.'

anonymous Apr 5, 2014 12:01pm

Just to clarify, I think beauty is mostly how you feel about yourself, how you care for your own mind and body. It doesn’t matter what shape or body type you are. If you care about yourself, work on yourself, your body will also show it. And that is attractive.

anonymous Apr 5, 2014 11:56am

I disagree with the idea that were all equally beautiful. You’re telling me that a girl who eats excessively, has low self esteem, let’s herself go, is the same as a girl who fights it, who works hard, who evaluates what she eats? To me, the beauty comes in effort and struggle, which is reflected also in the body. I only partly agree that you can’t control what you’ve been given – but for the most part you can. I was a skinny, pasty white geek – now I surf, work out, and jog daily.. Were not all equally beautiful. But we all have the ability to become who we want to.

anonymous Mar 22, 2014 4:31pm

I love this. My entire life I was told I was homely. Then people were nicer and told me I was okay but not pretty. I was always slender, however so instead of telling me I had a nice body I'd hear things like "Men don't like thin women." Even last night when going out with friends of mine I got the "Men hate skinny women," and everyone looked at me. Mind you, at the table I was the only brunette and I probably had the least attention from any of the men there yet I was getting the insults. I tried to find groups of women who suffered as I had over the years, but every single group was about being overweight and knocking thin women. Makes me feel very alone.

anonymous Mar 22, 2014 4:26pm

As the saying goes….”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

anonymous Feb 2, 2014 1:38pm

Love this! Very similar to a blog post I wrote the other day called "Real Men." Consider reading at I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the read, Kate!

anonymous Feb 2, 2014 8:19am

skinny has never been hotter to me

anonymous Jan 21, 2014 5:23pm

Perhaps we can expand the definition of real women to include every shape, size, race and colour. After all, real-life women do come in a variety of shapes, sizes, races and colours. Just looking at a label or term is not enough, re-defining the term may be more inclusive and beneficial in the long run. Just as we could and should re-define what beauty means because beauty does reside in everyone. This article reminds me very much of two blog posts I have written –… and
I believe, every woman is a Goddess and somtimes, even she does not realise that she is one. When she discovers her inner Goddess, she will start believing in her own beauty and magnificence. Perhaps then it would not be as hard for her to also believe and see in beauty in those around her as well.
As I have always said, outer beauty may capture our attention, but it is the beauty within that captures our hearts. And that is most priceless beauty of all. Hence, unveil your inner Goddess 🙂
Peace 🙂

anonymous Jan 13, 2014 8:58pm

I’m 36, within my healthy BMI, no kids, not married, conventionally beautiful, self sufficient& sucessful(because I have a strong work ethic), all with real 32 E boobs. 99% of “real women” would not consider me so if they just read those stats an saw a picture of me. For me, being really real has been a blessing and a curse. “know thyself” and be true to that. You won’t be so quick to judge and then, ladies, you will be real.

anonymous Jan 13, 2014 6:15pm

The quote about our deepest fear is the beginning of a Nelson Mandela quote and should be attributed to him.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 15, 2014 8:11pm

    No, it's often misattributed to Mandela. It's a Marianne Williamson quote.

anonymous Jan 12, 2014 10:16pm

I think that there is beginning to be a lot of misconceptions from where the whole "Real Body" phenomenon came from. As a curvy yogi myself, I have faced prejudice in and out of the yoga studio, often being told that I am "not the yoga type", or I had trainers who did not know how to work with my body except to tell me the yoga way was not to be fat! In my classes I share the time with people of all shapes, sizes and skill sets, each of us learning to love what we have instead of fighting against it for a "norm" that isn't real. I am not talking about curvy as much as not denying what my real body is and what it is capable of today! I don't push through the pain, I don't abuse it, and I work with what I have without self judgement. This is what I share with my students! My Real Body is where I live and how I love all of who I am…!

anonymous Nov 23, 2013 3:03pm

I think that the point is not that "we are all beautiful." If we were all beautiful, we wouldn't need a word for it. The point is that it is not necessary to be beautiful to be a worthy human being.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2014 2:54pm

    I would add that there is something beautiful in every human being, but that striving for some physical standard of beauty is overrated. Thanks for reading. 🙂

anonymous Nov 23, 2013 9:43am

Reading this made me sad. It seems that only externals matter to society. What about health, what about intelligence, what about acts of compassion, service and love. Don’t these count as beautiful? I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to be what society has told me is beautiful but its a moving target. Now I am focusing on being the best human being that I can be, good thing it doesn’t so much matter what that looks like because I’m tired of being judged by what I look like on the outside…and now I get to contend with ageism.

anonymous Nov 23, 2013 9:02am

This article and resulting thread are really chiming with me….

I am a man and I am short and blond and (maybe depending on your thoughts) handsome. But the words so often put before handsome when discussing men are tall and dark. This does land on me, it can’t fail to, and I know that the skinny agenda must land on women in a much stronger way because our society is obsessed with women being beautiful whereas as a man I have a few get out clauses like being funny or something.

But I guess where I am with this is how prescriptive it all seems, to tell the truth it’s so boring. Isn’t attractiveness about how someone makes you feel? This said I am ashamed to say that I have found tall, short, fat and thin women to be very attractive and I have let societies trends override this….. I am working on this.

anonymous Nov 23, 2013 7:52am

Regarding Dove's 'Real Beauty' campaign – and other similar public relations endeavors – we need to look a little deeper. Turns out, it's a confidence game aka a con game:

"The mistake in interpreting this ad is in assuming the ad is selling based on the women and their beauty. If that were true, it would be counterproductive: if they are naturally beautiful, if the problem is actually a psychological one, then they certainly don't need any beauty products. A beauty ad operates by creating a gap between you and an ideal: by creating an anxiety that can only be mitigated by the product. But this ad reduces anxiety and avoids cynicism. Therefore, it is not a beauty products ad. It is selling something else. This is why there aren't any products in the ad."

So before you read that piece, do you know what Dove is selling? If not, well, that makes you the mark, doesn't it?

Follow that up with this related essay:

Deeper psychological waters here than this debate has proven willing/able to plumb…

anonymous Nov 22, 2013 11:07pm

As the husband of a very thin and tall wife I get disgusted at the "real women" ads. My wife could out eat me on any given Sunday, yet people comment that she is obviously unhealthy and "tries" to be thin. So I should try to make my wife go from a size 1 to a size 12 so people will think she's real??

If you want to eat processed foods, microwaved meals, and veggies out of bags due to convenience, then that's up to you.. But don't call yourselves "real women" to make yourself feel better. Don't poke fun at the women who try to feed their family right ( and my wife is a 60-70 hr a week attorney who still takes care of the house and kids, so spare me the " I'm to busy to bake garbage")

This subject gets me soo angry cause I watch my wife eat like a normal healthy person, and she's made fun of.. Yet the mom who packed on 90lbs of " baby weight" gets to make fun of her cause she's now in the majority..

Real of fake, it's ALL garbage. It's the overweight populous who is grabbing at every straw they can get not not have to look at themselves in the mirror, and say " I have a (unhealthy) eating disorder". Instead they choose to poke fun at the other end of the spectrum..

    anonymous Jun 3, 2015 8:02pm

    My husband has the same problems. I grow a garden and eat very healthy. I am also naturally tall and thin. I dont eat garbage, because like your wife, I care about what goes into my body and my family’s. I work full time, and still make time to keep us properly fed. Being healthy is important to me. And im so tired of being shamed into feeling like less of a woman because I dont have thick thighs or a belly. Its very nice to have YOUR point of view

anonymous Nov 22, 2013 6:33am

Maybe we could stop using descriptive words with negative connotations like "fat" or "skinny" to describe each other — both of which are ridiculously subjective and relative. Maybe we could use words like "green eyed" or "brunette" instead. It seems silly to talk about not criticizing each other while using critical terminology. Or, even better, maybe we could stop focusing on LOOKS all together and start to determine a person's value based upon their inner processes, behavior, and strengths?

anonymous Nov 21, 2013 9:05pm

I saw the "real yoga body" article too and wanted to write a response much like this–thank you for writing it! Maybe if the article had said, "this is what one yoga body looks like," I wouldn't have had an issue… but I think it's ABSURD to proclaim that one type is more "real" than another.

anonymous Nov 21, 2013 4:28pm

You make a good point in that even "alternative" standards of beauty can become just as domineering as . But I'm afraid you're still off the point. What needs to stop is not the scrambling for whatever the new standard of beauty is – that's never going to change – but rather the myth that "everyone is beautiful." It is complete bull, and it needs to stop.

Now, everyone is beautiful in the sense that everyone is human, is capable of love, is a part of the universe, et cetera, et cetera. But let's be real. That's not the kind of beauty we're talking about, at least not in regards to the Dove campaign. The kind of beauty we're talking about is the kind that does NOT apply to everyone, and we only beat girls down more by giving them contradictory messages that, on the one hand, they want to believe, but on the other they know is complete crap. Not everyone is beautiful, and guess what – THAT'S OKAY. Beauty is not the sole source of your value. If you're smart, ambitious, funny, caring, responsible and generally pleasant to be around, but ugly as hell, you still have plenty of other things that give you value. The message we need to send to young girls is not that everyone is beautiful, but that everyone is valuable, and that value does not rest solely on how pretty you are.

And don't give me that "beauty is on the inside" crap either, because there's plenty of people who ugly there, too. And it's STILL not what decides their value. Women just need to be less fixated on beauty in general, and take advantage of all that's been passed down by the brave souls who fought for our rights to be more than simple gender roles.

anonymous Nov 21, 2013 10:38am

I absolutely and completely disagree with you. All those women are not beautiful, they are ok. They have to accept themselves, but they are not beatiful and maybe they don´t need to be.

anonymous Nov 21, 2013 3:18am

Fantastic article that definitely needed to be said!

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 10:27pm

I have to agree with this piece. I am also the naturally skinny type, so people eye roll and think I'm a jerk if I talk about my own body image issues just because they are different. I've dealt with rumors being spread about me since junior high that I was anorexic and bulimic. I had guys not want to date me unless I gained a few pounds. I even feel self conscious during yoga classes during forward folds because I feel like I look like a starving greyhound and like everyone is judging me. If I'm out to eat at a restaurant I have to do everything in my power not to go to the restroom for fear that people are going to think that I'm going to purge. I feel skeletal. Just like many women try to lose weight unsuccessfully, many others try to gain weight unsuccessfully. I would like to be curvy and feminine, but this is the body I was given. On any given month I might not even have breasts because my weight fluctuates so often without any rhyme or reason; but damnit, I AM still a woman. A real live one! Just like almost every woman on the planet, I have trouble finding clothes that fit in a flattering way, people have preconceived notions about my diet and lifestyle and say completely inappropriate comments about it, I am self conscious when someone sees me or touches me without clothes on, etc. etc. People express concern thinking I'm sick, or just flat out tell me I need to eat a cheeseburger. I feared choosing a healthy lifestyle with a proper diet and exercise for years for fear that it'd make me lose even more weight since I couldn't gain weight eating total crap food. The grass is always greener, ladies. Keep that in mind. I have to remind myself that just as much as I'd kill to have someone else's soft curvy body type, someone else would kill to have mine. It's all a matter of perspective. It's amazing how everyone struggles with the same problems and yet thinks they're alone. Be sensitive to all women of truly ALL shapes and sizes when we talk about healthy body image, and note that HEALTHY is the key word.

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 9:06pm

I suggest we retire the practise of making a female's appearance the most important and most discussed thing about her.

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 8:12pm

I’m tired of seeing articles bashing thin women. And, btw, calling someone “skinny” is not a compliment. Articles like this don’t help women of all sizes feel comfortable with their bodies. Instead it perpetuates the pattern of putting down one female body type at the expense of another. Maybe if there were more articles embracing the beauty of women’s minds bodies and souls we could move beyond the bashing and fully embrace the beauty of female diversity in all its forms.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2014 2:52pm

    Did you read the article? The point of the article was that women are beautiful and real at any size, race, age, etc.

anonymous Nov 20, 2013 7:06pm

Couldn't agree more! Thank you for this! 🙂

anonymous Nov 9, 2013 5:41am

Ah yes, a good idea to drop the whole label of "real" woman as having anything at all to do with our body type. Rather than dredging up another version of the female body as more real than the next is an exercise in futility and more judgment.
I make it my practice to refrain entirely from making comments about a woman's appearance, as we'll as a mans. This lays to rest the idea that beauty has anything to do with our appearance. I find It's best to be patient with those who are unkind. Let the comment go right by with neutrality. This is difficult to do, I must admit. And it is not the same as ignoring it. When my space is held with this neutrality and awareness of their comment, there is a pregnant pause- the comment has nowhere to go and seems to sort of hang there for the speaker to see. Other communication styles may work better for you.
Since I am naturally very thin and straight, it seems to make me open season for weekly comments about my body. Ive always found the comments to be judgmental and tiresome, at best. The comments ranged from androgynous in the eighties, to anorexic at times, more recently. So I simply stare down the comment as mentioned above.
It's best to relate to people in terms of what you wish to bring forward in them, since there is so much more than the surface to behold.

anonymous Nov 3, 2013 8:16am

Good, but this photo is a bad choice. Kinda goes against everything the article is about.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2014 2:51pm

    The point of including the photo is that the article debunks it. 😉

anonymous Oct 30, 2013 6:51pm

I was always under the impression that a “real woman” possessed a vagina she was born with. Maybe that’s just an assumption on my part though.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2014 2:51pm

    No, I disagree. I have had a number of friends who are women and were born in male bodies. I consider them real women as well.

anonymous Oct 20, 2013 3:20pm

this girl is straight up marriage material.

anonymous Oct 15, 2013 4:17pm

Yes Maya Angelou is beautiful, but why not have diverse faces of age and races? Or have all the women around the same representing a 'starlet' type beauty? Like a Kerry Washing or Naomi Campbell? And include Diane Keaton, Kathy Bates or Judi Dench. Also the in picture of the women ('when did this become hotter than that') there are no black women or women of color (what about Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Rita Moreno etc. Yet Maya Angelou is oddly thrown in the mix. There is an imbalance. I'm not implying racism but a lack of awareness.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 13, 2014 2:50pm

    It was mainly an issue of available (free to use) photos at that moment. I wanted to depict different races and ages, but also somewhat familiar faces in small space. 😉 I hear what you are saying too though. I would have loved to have done a large collage of all different types of women.

anonymous Oct 14, 2013 8:04pm

Time for some realism. Guess what… to many if not all of you, someone else is going to be more pleasing to the eye. I have my own perception of physical beauty. I would rate myself around an 8.5 because, to me, I fulfill about 85% of what I would like to be- physically. Not bad, that's above average. That number might change depending on the eyes that are looking, but the most important judge, to me, is me- not even my significant other. If they want me to be blonde, and I am okay with that, then I will do it- even if, to my eyes, it knocks me down to a solid 8. If I'm not okay with being blonde, then get use to loving brown or leave me be- don't worry I understand, you see beauty in your own way and blonde is worth a good 3 points. You know why I don't think I am a ten though… because I looked at someone and said, I wish I looked like that. That's not an evil thought, that's a complement. Go even further and it can turn into humility. Physical beauty isn't everything. Go ahead, say someone looks better than you. It's okay. In fact, be proud of it. You are not the most physically beautiful thing on Earth. Everyone knows why physical beauty can be a blessing and a curse- you can't be good-looking and smart. Well you can but life wont make it easy because many things come easier when you're a physical 10. Bottom line: some people are Miss America, some people are average and some people are, to say it nicely, interesting. These will change from person to person- because "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Just remember to be happy with not being the most "beautiful" person in the room. Look at that person and say to yourself that they have features you wish you had and be happy for them. There's no need to throw yourself a complement right after that- just be happy someone else gets to live life with joys and woes in their own way and you have the ups and downs that make your life uniquely wonderful. There's too much hand-holding, ear-cuffing, and eye-blocking in this world. Don't tell everyone they are the most beautiful thing they have ever seen. Just tell everyone to not take their physical bodies so seriously. Otherwise, whatever fluff you propose will just make people feel better momentarily and then they slip back into depression because they realize the physical world is kind of ugly. Truly believe in this article's message that your body has stories, love those stories more than anything. When the world burns down we are all the same.

anonymous Oct 14, 2013 12:38pm

I am a man and this is just my two cents on the subject. Women tend to lash out like this because society favors women who are skinny. Regardless of having natural beauty if a woman is more voluptuous she is automatically overlooked by societies standards and considered fat. I think this is just the frustration of the majority of women coming out. Yes, we should all be considered equal but society has NEVER been that way. They have always favored something over another for ridiculous reasons. These memes you see floating around are just a natural backlash to peoples frustrations about women's body image and what they are told that they should measure up to. Just saying, "we are all equal, and we are all beautiful" is fine and dandy and I agree, but try telling that to the media which relentlessly projects a certain image into everyone psyche. It's not going to happen.

anonymous Oct 14, 2013 11:16am

I’m a man, and while I fully endorse everything you say I need to point out a place where you leave yourself open to “more ‘ideal body’ arguments. You state in essence that there are popular young actresses who maintain an -ideal- weight that most women can’t maintain and stay healthy. I assume from this you mean skinny and not Christina Hendricks zaftig. Ideal. Suggesting that if most women -could- look like Twiggy or a Barbie doll, they would. Which then flavors the rest of your fine essay as, “Just because we can’t look like YOU think we should look doesn’t mean we aren’t beautiful. So who is ‘you’? I suggest that ‘you’ is you. Because I don’t think it is me, or most men. Most of us like our women curvy, not taller than us, and -fit- is good, so everything stays in place longer. Some of us like skinny boygirls, some hot rolypolys. Some of us dream of supermodels as ‘toys’. But the truth about Barbie and Twiggy and Giselle is they are -models-, hired to disappear behind the clothes they are wearing. So if you don’t like yourself and want people to see you for what you can buy and hang on your body then fight to get skinny. It is one kind of female success to shout “I can wear Halston and you can’t.” Otherwise, think hard about YOUR best look and work for that, or dare to make your looks secondary to what you are -doing-. And remember that healthy and fit and your life are the best looks of all.


Blake Wilson Oct 14, 2013 10:41am

Real women have two X chromosomes. There. I said it!

anonymous Oct 14, 2013 8:33am

Thanks for stating the reality.

anonymous Oct 13, 2013 9:51pm

My earlier post is gone. I think this article has already been done a million times…there is more ..if this is where you are then ok…

anonymous Oct 13, 2013 2:32pm

I almost feel like this article is part of the problem. To complain that women who do not meet the conventional standards of Hollywood are finally able to have a voice or a measure of social acceptance by suggesting that it is a "poor me" mentality is harmful. The better point would have been to stress that posts like the one included are a way for women to strike against airbrushed images that promote a body type that no woman can achieve. I felt that this article was written by a conventionally beautiful woman for conventionally beautiful women to glorify their social acceptance while chastising any oppositional uprising.

anonymous Oct 13, 2013 11:26am

The other evening I went to a Burlesque show. It was such a liberating experience as the women who were performing were 'imperfect' with cellulite yet had the confidence to be almost completely naked while they danced. The crowd loved them. I have been guilty of seeing the imperfection in my own body and feeling not good enough compared with the media images of women as perfect. Burlesque has a lot to teach us.

anonymous Oct 13, 2013 11:00am

Each time we use a descriptor we will most likely run into trouble. Beware the descriptor.

anonymous Oct 13, 2013 7:10am

Maybe the title of the article you critiqued is just a bad title, and I see what you mean that we shouldn’t go to the other extreme of putting down skinny women or suggesting they aren’t “real” women, but, I still think that the “real women” article is making an excellent point, or at least, it resonated with me. As a yoga teacher I have been criticized in the past for having a round body. When I’ve been thinner everyone commented on how great I looked thin. Their comments were always, “you lost weight, you look great!”, or, “have you lost weight?” I just thinking having my body scrutinized all the time is uncomfortable to say the least, and honestly, how thin we are is really not the point of a yoga practice. I can see the backlash against skinny as negative as well, but I don’t think that was the point of her article. Eating disorders are rampant and at least at this point in history the honest truth is the media circus that really helps to create this all is not going to end because billions of dollars are made off of women’s insecurities. I’ve heard people say boob jobs are the new norm and many other disturbing things at the yoga studio. I guess, good luck humans, we’ve got a long way to go!

anonymous May 30, 2013 11:28am

The "woman" next to me is a 7 year old German Sheppard. And she is beautiful.

anonymous May 30, 2013 6:28am

I enjoyed this post . My husband and I just had a conversation about this same subject a few days ago. Regarding the "pinup" or starlets from the 40's or 50's , he , of course, considered them as being "fat". I replied with That's because it's ingrained into your brain and your generation. If you were your current age back in the 40's and 50's , I bet you would feel differently. I then went on to say it doesn't matter what size you are, it's what inside that counts. And since that struck home a bit, he got on the defensive. I used to be in shape and thin up until my early forties, maybe even a few yrs. after. Then I became ill with an autoimmune disease and other spine and health issues. The meds. and sedentary lifestyle made me gain 10-20 lbs over the course of 10 yrs . total. Is that why he doesn't touch me anymore? Of course not! he replies. Makes one sit back and think . Thanks for posting . As usual, the best writing…..

anonymous May 29, 2013 8:18pm

Ok, I LOVE this! LOVE, Love, love it! To me, a real woman is a woman who embraces herself as she is and is confident in her value, not just physically but mentally and spiritually, as well. I think we need to stop looking in the mirror to find our value. I think, as women, we need to love eachother and lift eachother up instead of tearing eachother down all the time. I mean, where has it gotten us?? Nowhere.

anonymous May 29, 2013 7:06pm

Thank you for posting this. I find it equally damaging for media to condemn naturally thin woman. I am a bony girl who has been judged and mocked and talked about at every turn during my life. People make an awful lot of assumptions about us thin folk. And does it ever occur to them that we too struggle to find ourselves beautiful? Acceptance should be universal. We are all goddesses. To point to people like me and call it disgusting or disturbing or gross. THAT IS REPREHENSIBLE.

anonymous May 20, 2013 7:19pm

Heather, Sammy is correct, you wrote “neonatal” twice in the paragraphs just following the graph of the CIA factbook data (IMR for US and world, 2000-2011). One is in the paragraph with the bold type, and one immediately above. You may want to correct this as its low-hanging fruit for those who wish to detract from the substance of your post. Reply

anonymous Feb 23, 2013 8:10am

[…] stopped accepting the “women should only come in one variety” message of the media. “Real women” are soft and small or tall and muscular. Some are curvy, others muscular. There are many ways for […]

anonymous Jan 1, 2013 8:36am

[…] […]

anonymous Oct 30, 2012 11:51am

[…] In yoga, we develop strength to support our body weight relatively quickly. As one’s strength builds, our physique may change. This happens naturally, over time. This doesn’t mean everyone who practices yoga is going to look like the girl in the latest Strong Is the New Skinny (or whatever) ad! What this means is that we learn not looking like the girl in the ad is ok. […]

anonymous Oct 5, 2012 9:05am

By keeping a constant laser-like focus on women's bodies instead of the many other things we can contribute to the world other than decorating it with our looks, we serve only to keep women second-class citizens.

anonymous Aug 4, 2012 6:35am

[…] yoga and eat a moderate amount of high quality, organic, non-processed foods and still be chunky. Healthy bodies are not one certain way. The fitness world would like us to believe this so we can live in fear of fatness and spend lots of […]

anonymous Jun 25, 2012 2:02pm

Love this! Agree 100%. It's frustrated me beyond belief seeing those pop up all over my facebook. My sister is skin & bones, always has been. She never idolized anorexic celebrities, she was born that way, however was accused of being anorexic all through highschool. The grass is always greener on the otherside. Curvy women hate the skinny women for being skinny, but countless skinny women wish they had some curves! Hence the popularity of breast augmentation! If we all just spent a little more time focusing on our own features that we admire & teaching our children to do the same the world would be a much less judgmental and competitive place.

anonymous Jun 25, 2012 12:12pm

It'd certainly be nice if we could all learn to empower ourselves without putting down others…

anonymous Jun 25, 2012 11:37am

Thank you for this. I know folks who post images like the one at the top on Facebook and Twitter ad nauseum. Sometimes it’s accompanied with a rant about how skinny women aren’t “real women.” Sometimes it’s also accompanied by nasty comments about how ugly the “skinny” women in the images look. Sometimes it hurts my feelings a little, because I’m a pretty small chick (once I sat at my computer wondering if my friends doing the posting/ranting think I’m ugly). So yes. . . 86 the competition and the comparisons. We’re all beautiful.

    anonymous Oct 14, 2013 10:26am

    And that kind of comparison making only shows how low their own self worth is. Nobody who is truly confident needs to make someone else feel bad about themselves in order to feel good.

anonymous Jun 20, 2012 7:09pm

[…] “You are too thin.” Child: (big toothy grin) […]

anonymous Jun 7, 2012 1:23pm

This is awesome Kate! The "real women" thing has always angered me, being a size 00. I think all women should read this!!

anonymous Apr 20, 2012 6:45pm

[…] Realizing that there are many ways to be beautiful is also a good thing. […]

anonymous Apr 5, 2012 11:23am

[…] This is a story that reveals the sort of liberation that happens not because I happily tossed away my undergarments, but rather because I—once and for all—threw away my very unrealistic ideal. […]

anonymous Mar 23, 2012 1:19am

Thank you for this!!! It was so beautiful!! 🙂

anonymous Mar 14, 2012 10:37am

[…] information as well as misinformation. We have never been inundated with so many harmful messages. They are sometimes delivered subtly, sometimes aggressively, but we end up over-saturated and overwh… This is a global experience with tremendous impact. There is a staggering increase in eating […]

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 8:04pm

Can we retire "real men" too then please? We could retire gender guidelines all together, which seems reasonable. I don't think we can celebrate morbid obesity as beautiful, I know it's awful to say, but honestly someone who doesn't take care of themselves can't take care of anyone else. Compassion takes self control and self-love, someone who doesn't love themselves won't take care of themselves. I know it's hard to eat well or exercise enough, that's fine, overweight or out of shape is fine, but when one can't function.. that's when issues arise for me. Then again, who am I to say how someone should live… I don't really have the right, noone has the right to tell anyone how to live, which is weirdly terrifying. I am a pretty in-shape male who is overly-self conscious myself, but I used to be flabby when I was younger, but I grew out of it. Personal choice is really the ultimate right? It's a hard issue to be sure.

Then again, I don't think individuals are entirely to blame for weight problems and bad health in the US or Australia, since we have garbage food everywhere because as a culture, we've decided that cheap prices matter over sustainability and health (at least in the U.S., I just know Australia has an equal weight problem as the U.S.)

Cheers, peace, and whatnot

    Kate Bartolotta Feb 25, 2012 6:06pm


    (Cheers, peace and whatnot to you too)

    anonymous Oct 13, 2013 8:14am

    I technically fall into the category of “obese” and I “take care” of myself. Until I got pregnant I was running 3-4 says a week, do yoga, eat whole and nutritious foods, don’t smoke, moderate alcohol. Don’t assume because people are overweight that they don’t love themselves. It’s a more complicated situation for most than “just eat less”.

    Thought this whole post was about quitting judgement of ourselves and others.

anonymous Feb 14, 2012 1:21am

Can we retire "real men" too then please? Getting things called "masculinity" shoved down my throat disgruntles me from time to time.

anonymous Feb 13, 2012 1:03pm

Apologies if anyone has said this already, but the women on the bottom row are still FAR smaller than the average woman today. I could never understand what this image was trying to say, or how it’s supposed to be empowering. “Thin= decidedly not hot,” for sure. But then what? You can be larger than Keira Knightley, but if you’re not shaped like Marilyn Monroe, then GTFO?

It should be noted that all of the women on the bottom row had extremely small waists in addition to proportionately larger hips and busts, which is as unrealistic to obtain as the super-thin ideal of today for most women. I share Bettie Page’s measurements and am 5’1″, and have been relegated to the ‘ewwww!! skinny anorexic twig stick!’ category, so I might as well look like Keira Knightley.

So, this is a dig at anyone who has a slim, straight figure, and also excludes anyone who is larger than Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe. That’s a lot of women, and yet everyone thinks this image is just the greatest self-esteem booster.

    Kate Bartolotta Feb 13, 2012 8:11pm

    My point in the article was that we need to get beyond what the picture is saying. Women are skinny, women are curvy, women are fat, women are muscular & all of those and every other body type are "real women."

      anonymous Nov 24, 2013 11:13am

      Right… I get your article.. But I just blasted a bunch of people on Facebook… because of course they missed the point. There they were, saying things like, 'the ones on the top are hotter than the ones on the bottom.' and.. 'I'll take curvy over skinny any day.' and so on and so on. I really feel it is the media who has pitted women against each other. ALL WOMEN ARE REAL WOMEN. We are women because of how we think, nurture and love. The exterior parts of us are either a blessing, a curse or a little of both. I hate.. HATE my breasts. I have struggled with their size since I was 13. I FINALLY got to the 'ideal boob size' (through age and weight gain) and now I read somewhere the average bust size is a 38D!? Surely this is because of all the boob jobs women get because they feel 'not good enough.' Whatever the reason…. it's ridiculous that young girls have to see this crap. Think back to the days when there was no social media and how females struggled with body image. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a young girl today. It definitely explains why a lot of young girls today think 'letting it all hang out' is important to be someone. Really sad….

    anonymous Jun 25, 2012 12:18pm

    Terria, that's just it. It's not about embracing this body type over that body type as the embodiment of a "real" woman. We are all of it (body types I mean) & everything in between. I think the article is reminding us that ALL women are REAL women & should be celebrated as BEAUTIFUL.

anonymous Feb 12, 2012 8:01pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 30, 2012 7:39am

[…] The phrase 'real women' is pretty condescending. Share this:Facebook Filed under: Gaps. Leave a comment Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) ( subscribe […]

anonymous Jan 29, 2012 2:36pm

[…] call to retire the phrase “real women” for […]

anonymous Jan 27, 2012 3:54pm

[…] caption here reads, “Most runway models meet the body mass index physical criteria for anorexia.” A more honest caption might be, “Hump this, you skinny […]

anonymous Jan 26, 2012 3:00pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jan 26, 2012 6:26am

Some women r naturaly skinny like some r naturaly more curvy and there’s nothing wrong with that. What bad is extreme, unhealthy skinny or unhealthy heavy.

anonymous Jan 25, 2012 10:05pm

This one was hard for me Kate, because I'm all about the surface.
I'm hoping to enjoy future articles, please dummy it down, pronto.

anonymous Jan 25, 2012 6:17am

[…] immediate reaction was “Yes, get the word out!” but as I took a pause and read the flurry of activity surrounding it I realized that this montage suggests that “real woman” can’t be […]

anonymous Jan 24, 2012 10:01am

Did you see the replay photo to this? I posted both to my facebook. Healthy bodies are beautiful. If you are naturally skinny you are beautiful, if you are naturally curvy you are beautiful, if you are average you are beautiful, and anything outside or in-between.

What isn't beautiful is any of the above achieved through unhealthy means.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 24, 2012 12:54pm

    Absolutely! I did see it (and you should blog it up! xoxox)

anonymous Jan 23, 2012 7:09pm

Just Posted to the Elephant Love: Loneliness, Dating & Relationships FaceBook page.

Jennifer Cusano
Editor, Elephant Love.

anonymous Jan 23, 2012 2:59pm

This is such an important message. Just because someone is thin, doesn't mean people should assume they have an eating disorder…… We come in all shapes and sizes and the world would be boring if we all looked the same. I think an elephant is equally beautiful to a giraffe or to a frog or a peacock. Our earth is made up of millions of ways to be beautiful……..

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 24, 2012 12:55pm

    I love the comparison of the different animals–such a great analogy! Thanks!

anonymous Jan 23, 2012 12:59pm

Wow this is really crazy because I was going to write an article for this magazine purple inc I write for about that photo and had the exact things to say about it. Well done on this article you took the words out of my mouth

    anonymous Jun 25, 2012 12:12pm

    I've been working on something similar for my blog as well. This is such an important message – I hope we can shift the focus to more discussion like this versus this "real" women pinup I see all over the place. It makes me sad.

anonymous Jan 23, 2012 12:44pm

I never had a real idea of how large my actual size was in comparison to others (I'd thought I was much smaller … so much for the media feeding adolescents realistic images), until the first wave of the consciousness-raising movement known as fat acceptance started in the mid 1970s. (Of course, I had not been much in my body as a young person …)

The second wave is much more illustrative than just getting so-called "real-size" plus size models to grace the Roaman's Calalogue….

See the BMI project:[email protected]/sets/72

anonymous Jan 23, 2012 9:49am

I think that what this discussion shows, in part, is that many women, myself included, compare their bodies to other bodies and do not feel that their body is enough, perfect in its "imperfections", and whole. Until I began practicing yoga regularly and seeing a therapist who specialized in body issues, I had no perception of what my body looked like. Despite that I am (and pretty much always have been) 5'6", 135-40, I always thought I was enormous and disgusting to the point that I would not leave my house. I've met so many women with similar stories, and I feel so sad every time I hear one. Discussions like these help those of us not to feel alone and to heal. Thank you!

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the brand new Elephant Health & Wellness Homepage.

Sheri McCord
"Like" Elephant Health & Wellness on Facebook

anonymous Jan 22, 2012 11:01pm

Gee – I thought we were carbon based life forms whose prime directive was to nurture life – in whatever ways we are talented to do so – this whole discussion continues on the premise that physical sttrativeness is the prime virtue – AIEEEE! Beauty is everywhere and not defined by the media – think about it- how many beautiful people – moments- scenes- communities- do yuo engage with that Manhattan or any other spintank has NOT defined?

anonymous Jan 22, 2012 8:56pm

Maybe the point of the "real women" tag is that if you look around, you see fewer skinny beauties than you do average, dumpy, plain, or otherwise imperfect. It's aggravating how firmly entrenched we are in comparing our selves to others for whatever reason. As a single woman, I do the same with couples these days. The devil on my shoulder says "move the hell out of the way, must you stop to grope each other in the middle of the sidewalk?" and the angel on the other shoulder says, "How sweet, remember when you had that with someone?" Same with beautiful girls, a flash of instant anger (why?) followed by a sigh and gentle appreciation. Like the old cat says in the song Memory: "I remember the old days, I was beautiful then…" Don't know what the answer is, sorry I am rambling, it's late….. 🙂 – Alexa M.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 9:43pm

    I think the big shift in thinking about beauty happened for me in massage therapy school. I am always amazed and startled at how unique and how beautiful each body is. The different skin textures, colors, musculature, faces, bone structure–all so fascinating. Once I learned to soften my gaze a bit, I started finding beauty everywhere. You are beautiful–now–not just back then!

anonymous Jan 22, 2012 3:18pm

Feminism without PMS. You're amazing for writing this level headed editorial.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 3:56pm

    Haha! Love that (actually a little PMS…shh…don't tell anyone!)

anonymous Jan 22, 2012 7:58am

I'm so glad you posted this and I completely agree with your viewpoint. I saw the picture circulating around and felt awkward. I’m the skinny type, the one on the upper side of the picture. Just as more voluptuous women have been offended by the anorexic model stereotype, are we now going to the opposite extreme?

It’s exactly what happened with feminism, first we’re oppressed, then we liberate ourselves and then we turn into the Femme Police and get rid of all men.

Yes, society has been cruel to us. The fashion industry is cruel. Even we have been cruel to ourselves. Skinny and not so skinny. We all have body issues and few of us feel perfect (if any). But the solution to low self-esteem is not pointing your finger at whoever looks different than you.

Balance, acceptance, individuality, that’s where the sexy lies. No woman is hotter than the woman who’s learned to accept her own signature beauty (with all its ups and downs).

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 10:51am

    The first time I saw the picture I like it because I love seeing the classic beauty icons instead of overly plasticized modern Hollywood. But then I thought, there are so many different things that are beautiful…why leave anyone out?

    anonymous Mar 22, 2012 8:44pm

    Lovely response…I too am the "skinny" type, although I have certainly fluctuated over the years. At this point in my life I'm almost 30, 5'7" and weigh about 115 lbs…I'm certainly under the "accepted weight" but my extremely active lifestyle makes it difficult to pack more pounds on no matter how many avocados I try to fit into my day…believe me I'm trying. There are days when I love my body… I'm all muscle after all and that makes me feel strong, and then there are days when I miss having a full round booty and a decent chest size(all of which have gone by way of yoga and rock climbing). I actually worked for many years in photography, retouching photos of women who already looked perfect to me(don't blame the retoucher…it's a well paying job especially fresh out of college), but it was never those images that caused my insecurities. It was always me, wanting to look like someone other than myself. When I was finally able to accept who I am…flat chest and all… I realized that I am already all the woman I will ever need to be.

    Thank you Andrea and Kate for bringing this point up. When you strive for perfection, at some point(hopefully) you have to realize it is unattainable as well as being completely subjective. The universe thrives and exists only because of it's imperfections…it's time we all learn to find the beauty in that.

anonymous Jan 22, 2012 6:42am

I agree with you that we shouldn’t tear down women who meet our current societal beauty standards and that we should all treat each other with kindness. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a good reason for these debates; they just shouldn’t turn into personal attacks on specific women or groups of women. I also have never felt that the term ‘real woman’ was meant to exclude the beauties among us, but to include average women whose images are rarely captured in the media in a positive way. I don’t believe these debates are about women trying to compete with each other, I think they are a reflection of the pain of exclusion and shame that women feel in society. You can remind us that we are all beautiful, but until we are actually treated that way in everyday life, we are going to need a lot more than reminders! We need people willing to challenge the constant promotion of a certain type of body and the rejection of all others. The ‘Real Women’ campaign, while not perfect, at least started this and I am grateful for that.

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 9:26am

    I agree….sometimes they are a reflection of pain/shame. That still doesn't make it okay. Thanks for your thoughts!

anonymous Jan 21, 2012 10:49pm

PS: Heidi's an easy target. No one, no one I know has ever claimed that she was sexy…well, not since the plastic surgery, anyways. ~ Waylon

    Kate Bartolotta Jan 21, 2012 10:54pm

    Yeah, she's a little scary! Never saw her show (shows?) but still…feel sad for her that she felt it necessary to do all that surgery.

Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 10:49am

Yes, Lorin! I like that (well…don't like that it happens…) We do project so much onto the reasons behind why people are the way they are at times.

Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 1:18pm

"how is knocking someone else down really making ME better?" Yes!! That's it exactly. Not just about appearances, but that does seem to happen too often. Thanks!

Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 3:58pm

Ok, but who decides what is healthy looking? That's my issue here… Some women are never going to be voluptuous no matter how well they take care of themselves. Some put on muscle very easily and will never be long and lean. Lots of different ways to be healthy and beautiful.
Looking forward to reading your post!

Kate Bartolotta Jan 22, 2012 6:43pm

Amen to that!

Kate Bartolotta Jan 25, 2012 5:38am

The feeling may hit you. Then you choose whether to keep entertaining it or to let it go.

anonymous Jan 25, 2012 5:43am

Ha!!! NOBODY!!! :)) you're hilarious….

I watched that video again today; I was telling someone about it and the whole yoga world "uproar" and they were baffled at what they thought was such a ridiculous response….their completely detached response was the same as yours and mine: artful, graceful, beautiful…..

Anyway, it worked wonders for Briohny!! Good on her….

Hey I thought of you when I was writing the article this morning, 5 Things…go and read it :))))

anonymous Jan 25, 2012 7:25am

Briohny, a few others … not everybody ..

I quote:

"The implication that rippling abs can be yours with a couple of yoga classes a week is obviously motivated by profit. It is the creation of yoga studios who want you to buy more classes, and of corporations who want you to buy all the necessary yoga accoutrements your ‘yoga body’ needs (pants, mats, water bottles, mat holders, towels, mat cleansing mists, and even your underwear) directly from them."

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Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven.
She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds.
Kate’s books are now available on and Barnes &

She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives.

You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.