June 7, 2010

This is What a Real Woman Looks Like

This student created video is the follow-up to the in-class body collage assignment that begged the question, “What does a real woman look like?” (See The Daily Femme for their analysis of the body collage project, Questioning the Magazine Industry’s Ideal of Female Beauty Through the Power of Photographs).

The students’ statement about their project:

Today we’re inundated with images of a false reality that concentrate on one ideal form of beauty. Altering images via Photoshop, ultimately exposes us to millions of images are not “real.” Our project takes a look at the dangers of the media, from Photoshopping to white-washing to an emphasis on an unattainable perfection. Collectively, the images in the media do not represent the diversity found in the larger population; not all women are tall, thin, white, heterosexual or young. And in real life, nobody is Photoshopped. Where are representations of “real” women?

The advertising industry sells us images directly aimed women’s mounting insecurities. The for-profit consumer culture exploits these insecurities and rakes in billions of dollars each year. Ultimately, these images dehumanize, hypersexualize and disempower women.

Having struggled with our own body image issues and eating disorders, we know first hand the amount of pressure the media can exert on women and the psychological and physical costs. We wanted to address the serious nature of these issues and focus on the importance of a healthy body image.

Part of our video was inspired by our in-class project, the body collage that covered two walls from floor to ceiling with images of women in the print media. We were shocked to see the onslaught of these homogeneous all at once. This experience inspired our project as well as the Feminist Majority Foundation campaign, “This is what a feminist looks like.” Ultimately, our statement “this is what a real woman looks like” is a reaction to the exclusion of women in the mass media and the erasing of age, race and authenticity as a result of the standard industry practice of altering women that already reflect an incredibly small percentage of the population.

The video is a mosaic of our own stories; our struggles with our own body image, our relationship with our bodies and our message of self-love and acceptance.

This video was created as a final project in Women’s Studies 30: Women and Pop Culture with Melanie Klein at Santa Monica College (this video is also featured at Jezebel). Thanks to students of this fledgling class for their dedication, motivation and hard work. For more posts related to this class, see Body Image: A Personal Story, Young Women Speak Out About “The Curse,” Violence Against Women: The Clothesline Project Video, Student Activism Breaks the Silence Around Violence,  and Social Media and Feminism in the Classroom and Beyond.


  1. Yes yes yes!! Love this video and how amazing that it was posted on jezebel!

    Comment by Marley — June 7, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  2. Awesome – loved it!

    Comment by Bex — June 7, 2010 @ 6:38 pm

  3. fantastic! Made me cry. Will make sure my youngest daughter watches this. She is 11 and beginning to express doubt in her own beautiful body. Luckily she has two older sisters who are already feminists 🙂

    Comment by constance — June 8, 2010 @ 2:40 am

  4. […] Gesien by Feminist Fatale […]

    Pingback by This is What a Real Woman Looks Like « Verslanking — June 9, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  5. LOve this video shows how real women feel! I do all the diets they talk about and hate how the media shoves these images in our faces!!

    Comment by Delyla M. — October 20, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

  6. This film truly centers in on the hardships women must face every day in order to fit the “ideal” woman. Our capitalistic society targets the insecurities of women to sell products to gain profit. Due to this fact, it is hard to escape or ignore the pressures that are perpetually being placed on us to be a gorgeous, caucasian Size Zero. As mentioned in the film, women would benefit from turning off their televisions and embracing themselves for who they are, not what they are “supposed” to be.

    Comment by Jennifer Edgerton — October 21, 2010 @ 12:10 am

  7. This video was great and everything said was right on and accurate. The facts in the video are sad, however, what’s is worse is that most people are unaware of them.

    Comment by Dalal C. — October 21, 2010 @ 12:29 am

  8. Everywhere one looks they see what women are suppose to strive to look like, the ideal images of women. The problem is purely that these images and these ideals are NOT real. There are very few, if any, of the billboards or magazine covers with these “beautiful women” that have not been airbrushed or photoshoped. I think that the more people put their story out there for others to hear, in order to educate and enlighten those that think otherwise.

    Comment by Joshua. S — October 21, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  9. This video is great. It hits home to all issues us women in our current society face. I have a 13 year old sister and i am planning on showing her this video. I remember being her age and being pressures to look a certain way, or act a certain way. I think that showing this video to her will make her feel more comfortable with herself.

    I myself, have struggled with my own body image. I always considered myself “fat” or “unattractive”. Working on the assignment of the “body image” made me realize that what i strive to look for is not realistic. It opened my eyes to issues i never even knew existed.

    Comment by Orel Farahmandfar — October 28, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

  10. Wow, I really enjoyed watching this video! I agree with everything! I think it is horrible that marketing people portray images that seem attainable and cause us to feel ashamed if we don’t look that way. The images we see in the media are “perfect” and unattainable. And we use it as a standard to compare ourselves with it, which makes us look down on ourselves/body when in reality we shouldn’t because the images don’t exist in real life.

    Comment by maxine — October 29, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  11. Great video! I completely agree. I still compare myself to these unrealistic images portrayed in the media, even though I know they are not real.

    Comment by Leora Sheily — April 17, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  12. Great video! I completely agree. I still compare myself to these unrealistic images portrayed in the media, even though I know they are not real. -Leora S.
    Side Note: I want to see more fully developed women, rather than 117 lbs. 5′ 11” white women.

    Comment by Leora Sheily — April 17, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  13. I loved the video and it’s awesome that it was posted on Jezebel as well. I have always gotten annoyed with the lack of true female representation in the media and with more videos like this I feel like we could really make changes!!

    Comment by Danielle G. — April 19, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  14. This video reassures me that their are women out their who are strong enough mentally and physically to try and breakdown what society pressures us to. It is through ART, Yoga, Community, in which we can spread what the essence of true beauty is.

    Comment by Melani DG — April 23, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  15. I really enjoyed this video! It is sending a great message to all types of women that the “ideal” body image is unattainable and that no one should feel self conscious about themselves because they don’t see their body image/type reflected in the media. It is a very empowering video, expressing the realities of a “real” women, rather than media’s unreal image of a woman. Everyone should love themselves for who they are and not be ashamed of what they are not.

    Comment by Sherry S. — October 30, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

  16. Could not agree more with this video. I appreciate all the women sharing their thoughts and mentioning some really good points on what is seen out there, why and what we should be seeing. One of my favorite things that is said in this video is that she say that she compares herself with all these images, even if she doesn’t want to (or necessarily knows she is), because I can really relate to that.

    Comment by Tandis Shams Fard — November 7, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  17. i agree with the women who speak in the video. we need women who look like real women. skinny is not reality outside that TV screen. we should all take a second look and appreciate what we have, health, personality, and being intelligent.

    Comment by bianca castilo — November 7, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

  18. A number of the images of women featured in the media connotes the message that women are sexual beings in the system of patriarchy, such as women caressing their breasts and women being controlled aggressively by men. We should also note that these women are all skinny and acne-free as well. When we take these representations of the media and compare it with the women of the classroom, we realize that most students, although subconsciously influenced by the media, do not look even close to what the images in the media are representing. This just goes to show how unrealistic the representations in the mass media are, and the strain the media has put upon in our American society regarding body image.

    Comment by Bridget T. — November 26, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

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