More Realistic Is Problematic

Recently, there was a well intention series of images where an artist reworked multiple comic book covers to give the women “more realistic bodies”.  It was done to bring attention to eating disorders.  And yet, I admit, I found it more problematic than praiseworthy.

The first thing that stood out to me as I looked through the re-worked covers was…well, lack of variety.  It was pretty much the same body type.  Slight decrease in breast size, pudgier in the middle, thicker thighs…

There was no variety…no more muscular women, no overly large women, no pear shaped bodies and so on.  The only body type represented was “mildly overweight/pudgy”.  And when you use a phrase like “more realistic bodies” lack of variety matters.  In the fight for fat acceptance, some have taken to trying to paint many body types as less realistic.

The problem is…a body builder’s body is every bit as realistic as an overweight man or or woman’s body.  The pear shaped body and the apple shaped body are both realistic.  I am overweight, but I do not think my body type to be the REALISTIC body type over the thin person.  People can be naturally thin, naturally heavier, people can lose and gain weight.

“Realistic” is meant to be the norm-this is where we should all be…it may not be intended that way, but that is it’s real power, enforcing a norm.  And people outside that norm then become condemned.  People were reblogging a series of pictures of athletes a few months back, it showcased a wide variety of bodies…short, tall, firm, soft, chiseled physiques, heavily muscled ones.  Some of the men were broad and barrel chested, some were narrow in the shoulders and smaller chests.  Some of the women were busty, some were smaller chested.  It was a massive variety of body types.  None were shamed as being the unrealistic ones.  They were all realistic bodies.

There was a missed opportunity here…the covers could have been reworked to feature a variety of body types.  Overweight, underweight, taller, shorter, muscular and so on.  People with eating disorders are just as varied as anyone else.  They all have different body types, narrowing down to pretty much a singular body type and stating it is “more realistic” ignores the variety of body types and ironically, could be every bit as punishing as the “model perfect” standard our society already promotes.

One thing I will say that I appreciated was that they photo-shopped both male and female characters.

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