Proud2Bme | In Defense of Curvy: Why We Need to Respect the Individuality of Body Identities

  • News & Inspiration
  • Media Influences

In Defense of Curvy: Why We Need to Respect the Individuality of Body Identities

By Devyn Parsons--Blogger Georgina Jones recently wrote an article for Bustle entitled “Why we need to eliminate the word ‘curvy’ from the plus size vocabulary.” Although she made some very interesting points, I have to disagree with the conclusions she drew.

Jones states that “when somebody calls [her] curvy, [she feels] like [she’s] not being the right kind of fat,” since her body doesn’t have the type of curves typically accepted by society. I can certainly understand this sentiment, and if Jones prefers not to be referred to as curvy, that is completely valid. However, not everyone shares Jones’ relationship with the word curvy, or with any other body descriptor for that matter.

An individual’s relationship with their body is immensely personal by its very nature. Our bodies are with us from birth to death, and our relationships with them are influenced by our unique life experiences. It follows that the words we choose to positively describe and celebrate our bodies will differ.

Last February, I asked the readers of my blog to share one word they love to use to describe their bodies. The responses I received were incredibly diverse. Answers ranged from “strong” and “statuesque” to “thick” and “fat.” All these words were empowering and body positive for the individual who submitted them. Using a word to describe your body positively is never a bad thing, even if someone else might not use the same word to describe him or herself. If calling myself “potato-shaped” makes me feel like a babe, I should be allowed to do so unapologetically, even if it seems silly to other people.

Jones feels that the word curvy doesn’t apply to her body type. And, like she says in her article, that’s okay! But the word curvy does resonate with some people, and those people should be allowed to define themselves however they choose. They may feel the same way about the word “fat” that Jones feels about “curvy”: that it applies to a body type that is not their own. Everyone experiences body shaming and body negativity to some extent, regardless of body type, and should be allowed to describe their body type with positive terms of their choosing.

In her article, Jones states that “reclaiming the word fat was one of the most liberating choices of [her] life.” Other women might attain a similar feeling of liberation by reclaiming the word curvy. No matter which path an individual takes on their journey towards body positivity and self-acceptance, they should be supported and encouraged.

Jones also dislikes that the word curvy has a “connection to inappropriate content” and has “become a source of so much objectification and sexualization.” I would argue that this perspective implies that women who identify as curvy should feel ashamed of the sexualization of their curves. No body type should be hypersexualized and made obscene, and the abandonment of the word curvy feels like sweeping these issues of objectification under the rug. If the word fat can be reclaimed as body positive, can we not also reclaim curvy as a positive body descriptor separate from its associations with sexuality?

For me, the word curvy does not necessarily refer to the typical “hourglass” curves. It can be used to describe the curve where the neck meets the shoulder, the curve where the calf meets the knee, or the gentle rolls that appear on my stomach when I sit down. The word curvy is a celebration of these parts of my body and many others. Curvy doesn’t need to imply sexiness, but it can, if and when I want it to.

The crux of this issue is that we need to respect the uniqueness of each individual’s relationship with his or her own body. Words hold power, but the specific nature of that power will differ from person to person, especially with something so sensitive as body image. If Jones’ article had been entitled ‘Why I don’t want to be called curvy,’ I would have supported her stance entirely. However, I cannot support the imposition of her views on body identity onto women as a whole.

By Claire Trainor--Two weeks ago, a Bustle blogger wrote a piece talking about the word “curvy.” She opens the blog by saying, “being called ‘curvy’ feels like an insult — like a pedantic beating-around-the-bush phrase used by those wanting to avoid the word ‘fat’.” And while I’m sure that’s very true for her and I’m sure there are probably people who use curvy in that manner, that just doesn’t resonate with me.

I’ve been called curvy off and on my entire life and never have I interpreted it as being called fat. The thing is, I am curvy. The other thing is, I’m not fat (it would be okay if I was, though. I’m just not). I’ve never taken being called curvy an insult, nor do I think it’s a superior or “more polite” way of calling someone fat. For me, curvy just feels like another way of someone labeling my body and trying to put it in a box.

My problem with the term curvy, and all other terms like it (fat, skinny, thin, plus-sized, etc), is that they place us in neat, tiny categories with very little diversity as far as body type is concerned. There’s been quite a big movement recently to do this in the modeling world—lots of people argue that the phrase “plus-sized” should be removed from modeling to remove the distinction between “normal” models and those who are “plus-sized.” The Bustle blogger argues that by dropping the term, we prevent people from reclaiming the word “fat” as a good thing.

And while I think she has a valid point, I would also say that it’s up to the individual to decide. It’s not up to anyone else to define my body, to call me curvy or tall or fat or thin. It’s up to me to decide where I am in those categories. And a lot of times, I think that I don’t want to check just one. I don’t want my body to fit neatly into a “curvy” category because the truth is, everyone has curves and not all “curvy” people look the same. You can be thin and curvy.

You can be fat and curvy. You can be tall and curvy or short and curvy. It’s not a pick one system. Not all curvy people look the same, just like not all fat people look the same and not all skinny people look the same.

It’s been said time and time again—no two bodies are alike. So why should we continue to treat them like they are. My curvy may look different than the girl across from me on the train. By labeling bodies in any way, we’re destroying their uniqueness and trying to define people as things they’re maybe not or maybe don’t want to be. If the author of the Bustle piece wants to reclaim being fat and doesn’t like the term curvy, that’s up to her.

If I want to identify as being curvy but not as being thin, that’s my choice. The problem comes when an outsider labels someone else’s body because then, the lines get blurred.

About the bloggers: Devyn completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology at the University of Victoria this summer and has entered her first year of medical school at the University of British Columbia. After struggling with body image and witnessing the similar struggles of many friends, Devyn realized the need for change in how bodies are represented in society and set out to address this issue through her blog, Hourglass and Class. She also likes cats and classic rock.

Claire Trainor is a student at DePaul University majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology. In steady recovery from an eating disorder, she wants to educate, support, and inspire those struggling in anyway. She likes her dogs, hot chocolate, and books. Claire currently runs a (new) blog that can be found here.

For more on body positivity, check out:

Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

Tips for Fostering Body Positivity in Our Communities

Tinder Body-Shamers: Just Don't

Info

Facebook discussion

get help

 

About Us

Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.