Positive Role Models for Women


On the current issue of Australian Marie Claire magazine, Jennifer Hawkins (ex-Miss Universe, genetically blessed) appears naked without any photoshopping, in an attempt to be a positive role model for women (hmmm, still very attractive and will sell heaps of magazines).

Radio host Bianca Dye has appeared naked, without photoshopping her pot belly out of the shot in Madison magazine (hmm, not on the cover, won’t sell if they put her on the cover, but the ‘she looks kind of like me factor’ will sell heaps of magazines when they look inside it).

Bianca has come out saying that Jennifer is not a role model as she’s naturally thin, and is a model, so very beautiful naturally.  (read the full article)

Does Jennifer’s natural beauty stop her from being a role model?  Does Bianca’s natural pot belly make her a better role model?

And why do all these articles always use the term ‘real women’ like women who are naturally slim are not real?

Why do women put so much pressure on themselves to look a certain way?   No cellulite, ultra slim, no wrinkles etc.?  Who is ‘making’ women have such high standards, women or men?

A recent survey of 100 men revealed that they preferred to look at women’s faces anyway – read the survey results, and tsee the results – apparently men think women should be kinder to themselves.

Body image and what is ‘real’ or ‘normal’ has got to be one of the most emotive issues around.  What are your thoughts?


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  • Bianca shouldn't try to minimize Jennifer's efforts… they are both doing a very courageous thing, and both of them have lovely, "real" bodies. Thin/pretty women shouldn't be made to feel "less than" because of their looks any more than large/unattractive women should. I like both pics, I would also like to see some women go un-Photoshopped CLOTHED!

  • See, again, Bianca is white, conventially attractive, able-bodied and not fat. I'm just not seeing a whole lot of variety.

    But yep, I hope they keep it up, we are at least seeing non-blondes now. Baby steps, I suppose.

    And I'm loving the discussions these posts are generating.

  • Also, it kind of sucks that the criteria for "Role Model" for girls is now being framed in the popular media solely in terms of a willingness to get your kit off in print past the age of 25.

    Which may be well and good, but can we have some more criteria please?

    For example, Imogen's recent post about her career path and the obstacles she has overcome and the friends she made along the way. As a young woman trying to finish a graduate degree and build a career without completely going mad I actually found that post cheering. Now that is role modelling.

  • What a real woman is… is ANY woman. Tall, short, fair skin, dark skin, any weight.

    It has been asked many times, but why do we as women tend to tear each other down? Not always, but the fact that we do it at all is heartbreaking.

    I am not going to lie and say I've never judged, but I can say that I am actively working on not doing it.

    That whole "treat others as you would want to be treated" thing applies to just about every aspect of life.

  • I'd love to see fashion/style magazines use a greater variety of body types so that we can see how clothes will look on women who are not 5'9" and 110 lbs. But I agree with what LB said…let's have our "role models" be about accomplishments rather than just about bodies.

  • In my opinion, Jennifer didn't require that much courage for her cover. Her oiled, beauty-standard body looks pretty much like any Photoshopped image we see. These types of "natural" images by celebrities always seem a bit too much like bragging.

    Women who look more like Bianca deserve every bit of respect because they're putting themselves out to be critiqued by lesser people who love to vilify anyone who isn't shaped like a Miss Universe.

  • Hi Imogen,
    I've been reading a lot about this story on the online newspapers and it has really made me concerned. I think what Bianca Dye was expressing was that if Marie Claire's cover image was intended to promote self-acceptance in all women then they should have chosen someone closer to the average, perhaps someone who would normally get a bit more photoshopping. Not at all that Jen isn't 'real', but she has been blessed in ways many of us haven't. Plus it is her job to look good!

    What interests me is the anger that has been directed at Bianca Dye, particularly targeting her weight. It seems even today after decades of struggling to be accepted for who we are, inside and out, women are still judged on their appearance first. If you read any of the online newspapers you'll see many comments along the lines of "you're just jealous because you're fat" or "do some exercise rather than criticise others". Clearly Bianca is not fat, and even if she was would that make her opinions less valid?

    Wouldn't it be great if we were judged on our character rather than some subjective measure of 'attractiveness'?

  • There's so much anger and resentment floating around in these discussions. (Not here on your blog, Imogen, but surrounding these articles on the Internet at large.) And so much energy spent trying to quantify "realness," which is absolutely impossible. I wish people could look at what these two women did and say, "Good and also good," instead of "Not that big a deal and much more impressive." I see both women’s acts as brave and positive.

  • Here's my theory on some of the "real women" frustration going on. I live in the US and on this side of the pond the majority of us are overweight or obese. 63% of Americans, by the last statistic I saw. It's truly a crisis. There's not getting around the fact that it's unhealthy. That kind of unhealthiness takes a toll on the psyche and makes for a lot of people unhappy to some degree or another. So then comes the outcry to feature larger women in magazines to better reflect the current society, but I don't know that larger women in magazines will alleviate the frustration. Stick thin models are not universally healthy either, many of them achieve the skinny through eating disorders. I think featuring un-Photoshopped women with healthy BMI's would go a long way to broadcasting a vision of what's attainable and what is healthy. And they should be dressed! Seeing how women at a healthy weight look in their clothes would be so refreshing.

  • I have to agree with Jesslyn, in the part where she says that she wants to see healthy BMI women DRESSED. I´m a bit tired of all this nakedness. And I would add, that I would like to see women wear a correct size of clothing. Too,too often I see especially young women or girls in too small clothes.

  • The Dove women were purportedly airbrushed. I did a story on it. Excellent post, Imogen. I happen to fit into the 5' 8" blonde, 128 pound category. It truly pains me that people (usually other women) view this "remark" or "admission" as showing off in some way. I have been accused of "showing off" by wearing a wide belt for gosh's sake. I have a new friend in the same boat. I can't tell you the number of times people have shunned us because we make them "feel bad." When I was in my 30s, I lost two very good friends (or so I thought at the time). One said she didn't like me any more because I made her feel like "chopped liver." I cried and cried over that because I just wanted her to be happy in her life. The same thing happened about five years ago and again two weeks ago. My question is, if I like the way I am, do I have to give it up because it is perceived as something so desirable that women get angry or hostile if they don't look this way? Then if I say their behaviour is hurtful, I get remarks like "Cry me a river" or "Oh yeah, RIGHT!" (I am sure someone will read this the wrong way.) I truly live on the edge in friendhips when the person is overweight no matter how much I try to play myself down (and why should I feel I have to do that?) I do have a couple of good friends though who appear to recognize this and don't seem to care about our respective degrees of perceived marketing "perfection." Still, I feel hurt about the friends I have lost.
    My point here I guess is that the way "perfection" is portrayed in the media is cruel all round and DUMB. We are all perfect.

  • Today, I see Ricki-Lee Coulter has been interviewed by Woman's day and is also posing in bathers (I think). She is embracing her curves. She is also commenting that Jennifer is not representative of the average Australian woman. I agree with her on that. We are all different and some are slender like Jennifer but what is the point of "miss perfection" posing nude? And why is Jennifer a role model? What about all the teachers, nurses, doctors etc….Society is idolising people for the wrong reasons – movie stars, celebrities, miss universe. Sure some have talent but really god status? Why do we care what they wear, what size they are? What bag they have.

  • This is such a dilemma, and you would think that this wouldn't cause that much of a problem….except where it is promoted most is in the market place. Here in the US, I get many clients who either can't purchase, or have and been so insulted in the process of purchasing, so they do not shop at commercial stores. Sales people are so insulting and degrading that these "un-normal" shaped people are made to feel like second-class citizens or that they are anything but normal.

    In case we all forget – Marilyn Monroe was a size 16, and Jane Russell was a size 18. Both of these women were not only considered models of their piers, but sex goddesses! I miss those old days of clothes being designed to fit all sorts of bodies. Take a look at the original version of "The Women" where Adrian had a myriad of figure types to fit & design for, and they all looked beautiful.

    Oh Dear – this is one of my "red buttons"….and it just went off again….I just get carried away on this subject!!! But glad see you posting the same sort of sentiment here.

    Maybe one day……!!!

  • Do you know I couldn't have said it any better than the previous post by ranksubjugation.

    There is this belief that naturally thin women (like Jennifer) are not 'real women'. People are always so quick to critise women for being thin. Maybe it makes them feel better.

  • Someone mention that Marilyn Monroe was a sexy role model at a size 16. True, but a size 16 back then is not a size 16 of today. It was much smaller. Size 10 to 12.

    Perhaps if we stopped photoshopping all media photos and just show someones true self (whether thin or not) this would be a start.

  • one reason why this blog is good is because its focus is all our different shapes and forms-and not just one. This is the focal point in these matters of body image, that we women seldom get to see the whole different spectra of different shapes. Once we realize we all have different forms, and that is good, we can start appreciate the one that is ours.

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