Model and actress Karrueche Tran recently posted a picture of herself wearing a bikini to social media.
As you might have already guessed, the response to this was…varied, as it usually is whenever a woman reveals to the world that she has a body. Because, let’s face it, whenever a woman does this, everyone and their dog feels entitled to give their opinion on how she looks.
Rapper Ralo told Tran that she “looked better” with her clothes on, and while this is problematic, as he had absolutely no right to objectify and police Tran’s body like this, the comments that I want to focus on are the comments that were not made by celebrities, comments like “she look like a 10 yr old girl,” and, even more interesting, “she look like a boy in his early stages of transitioning into a woman.”
There are a few reasons why I find these comments compelling. One of them is the obvious transphobia, especially in the latter comment, as this person is likening a cis-gendered woman to a transgendered woman, presumably as a method of undermining and insulting her, as though there is something wrong with being transgender (and, yes, I am acutely aware of the fact that this commenter used a male pronoun to refer to a transgender woman). But another reason why this response is worth noting is because it implies that simply by having a body—even a genetically female body—women can still fail to live up to the image of what it means to look “womanly.”
Tran is described as looking like a child, or as though she was not born in a female body—she is described as being distinctly un-womanly, simply because she has smaller breasts.
And maybe I’d be able to forgive this as an isolated incident if it wasn’t something that I’d seen before. There’s this idea that gets passed around frequently on social media, that “real women have curves.”
Sometimes this is used as a way to defend plus-sized women, because let’s not deny it: plus-sized women have a difficult time having a body in our society—they are deemed less beautiful than thinner women, they are frequently and publicly shamed, by both the media and the people around them, sometimes even by complete strangers. So in an attempt to take power back, some of them will make comments about how a woman should look in order to be “real.”
And sometimes, comments like these don’t have reasons so deep: sometimes they’re just meant to uphold the status quo, to say that women with breasts and hips and ass are hot.
But what about women who don’t have curves?
Aren’t they real women? After all, they identify as women. They live as women. They get treated like women do in our society, they get objectified and picked apart just the same. So why do we keep using this language?
The strange thing about referring to specific people as “real women” is that it implies that the opposite exists—that there are fake women. But there aren’t. You cannot fail to live up to the image of a woman because there is no one specific way that a woman should look. Society may have made up a few phony ways for us to fail, but they aren’t real.
Because here’s how a real woman looks: any which way she wants.
A real woman has curves, and a real woman doesn’t. A real woman can have large breasts or small breasts or none at all. Hell, there are some real women out there who have beards or penises, and that doesn’t make them any less real. The only qualification to count as a “real woman” is to identify as one. As long as that is so, then congratulations—you’re a real woman.
And, people: let’s stop policing the way that women look. Let’s stop shaming every last woman—celebrity or not celebrity—for having a body and letting people see it. Because at the end of the day, we’re never satisfied as a society. There has never been a woman who posted a picture of herself wearing a bikini on social media, and the general consensus was simply, “yeah, great picture.”
Karrueche Tran might have been deemed not curvy enough to be beautiful, but singer Rihanna was recently deemed too curvy to be beautiful, with one blogger even going so far as to make the comment that her “high key thiccness” would lead to “a world of ladies shaped like the Hindenburg.”
We as a society are never satisfied with a woman as just having a body—we are constantly finding ways to pick it apart, to make it not live up to our expectations, even if they do align with our society’s definition of beauty.
And, yes, these comments are policing—they tell women that, if they would just get breast implants, or eat more, or eat less, or do this, or do that, or go get that surgery, or whatever, then they would suddenly become more beautiful.
When the truth is that they won’t.
No matter what you change, there will always be someone out there who will pick you apart, so please, don’t change for them.
If you want to change, change for yourself, because you are the only person who has to be satisfied with how you look at the end of the day.
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Jakob Owens/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Erin Lawson