The C-word.

Three weeks ago (give or take), between the hours of 12am and 2am (the final window for action), I was hanging out (in bed) with a (not so platonic) friend when a certain C-word escaped his lips.

The kickback was instant. “Don’t call me that,” I snapped.

“But you are,” he protested, sadly watching my lady boner deflate.

You can probably guess which cockblockingly offensive C-word I’m talking about. It was..oh gosh, I don’t want to type it. All right, fine: curvy. As in, Look at that gorgeous, curvy body. Well, I never! How dare you, sir!

Summer 2008. The prime of my curves and the winter of my discontent.

Curvy. The more glamorous cousin of “big boned” and “sturdy” (see also: “appears to consume solid food”). Controversially applied to figures ranging from Lively to Sidibe, the jurisdiction of curvy is as tenuous as it is subtly offensive. Curvy, my ass.

Well. Exactly.

My (not so platonic) friend is right. I’m a small person, but a curvy one. You’ll never catch my jeans hanging off my hipbones; no matter how many miles I run, I’ll always lay claim to a thick-thighed hourgl@$$ shape. And please, know that I say that with appreciative self-awareness. My body works hard for me, and it doesn’t seem to pose a problem for anyone else. I also fall down a lot, so all that padding serves a practical purpose in the end.

And yet. And yet. The C-word awakens a shallow, defensive impulse. While misguided, it makes sense when we consider the many faces of curvy women:

A 70-pound gradient of curves and hair.

From my perch at the far right end of this spectrum, I can look to its Botticellian left and see an attractive girl—albeit one who might be called “curvy” in lieu of less generous terms. Having been on the wink-nudge side of curvy, I find it hard to shake the connotation. To shrink from double-D’s to barely-B’s is jarring; for the two to share a common label seems unequivocally wrong. Put me back in your thin bin, dammit. I was born this way!

But why should I care? Beyoncé is curvy, and I don’t see anyone complaining. Blake Lively is curvy. They’re curvy because their bodies have curves. “Curvy” wasn’t meant to be a euphemism for “fat”; politically correct society has made it one in recent years. While good intentions may drive our use of the C-word over the F-word, what about the consequences for those on curvy’s slighter side? If so-called curviness can lead me to question a healthy figure, is this linguistic revolution really for the best?

I don’t always love my body, but I respect it, curves and all. In my rational mind, I feel no shame about looking like a grown woman who eats. I don’t weigh myself. I care about my jeans size, but mostly because I can’t afford to buy new pants. If I can ignore a number, why can’t I ignore a word? Perhaps semantics carry more clout than we realize. The pen may well be mightier than the scale.

I don’t know what the solution is, and I won’t deny my heightened sensitivity to the language surrounding women and weight. I think “real women have curves” is bullshit – what are skinny women, imaginary? – but “skinny” is a vague and, for me, unrealistic ideal. I’m not a skinny girl. I’m a curvy girl, and I’m fine with it. I swear. Just don’t, you know, say it to my face.

Does the C-word bug you? Why or why not?

9 responses to “The C-word.

  1. Ugh, the nerve! Emma, I love this so much. Many things to agree upon: media uses curvy to cover an enormous range of bodies… and I think it’s bullshit. Blake Lively and Gabourey Sidibe couldn’t exactly swap closets, but apparently no one has pointed this out to Glamour and Allure editors. The negative connotation is largely in our heads, I think (yours and mine… I’ve had my own issues with desperately seeking skinniness) because let’s just say it: no one who’s had body issues wants to know that anyone else is judging their body, or even noticing the shape of their body. Once we finally convince ourselves that our weight shouldn’t be our main focus (as long as we continue to fit into those expensive pants), we want everyone to respect and abide by that. Plus, CURVY IS A STUPID WORD. It sounds weak and fluffy and all-I-do-is-eat-bon-bons-in-my-boudoir all day. Not flattering.

    He should call a spade and spade and call you the B-word: babe. Cuz you are.

    <3<3 Rose

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Thanks girl! Agreed on all counts. I think the other thing I’m driving at is that curvy is a shape and not a size—you can be a “curvy” size 2, which is part of what makes it such a stupid way to talk about weight. Like, why do we even need to go there? It just messes with anyone whose body type happens to be more naturally soft and feminine (or strong and bootylicious, in the case of Lady Bey). Ugh. I need a bon-bon.

      Also, regarding your second comment: I was once told at a bar that I was the second-hottest drag queen there. SECOND. HOTTEST. DRAG. QUEEN. I don’t know which part is more offensive. At least he didn’t call me curvy.

  2. Oh, and another thing: I’ve been asked twice in my life by the male species whether I was a boy or a girl. So take their observations with a grain of stupid salt… :)

  3. A guy friend of mine told me a while back that, simply put, men like women. This doesn’t mean that “real women” have to be a certain way, but rather that men are attracted to what exists (when’s the last time a guy complained when you got naked?). Whatever you say about a girl’s body can offend her depending on her own personal insecurities, so I don’t blame men for being confused as to why some girls get offended if you call them skinny or curvy and others love it. Personally, I embrace the C-word (when I know it’s not intended as a euphemism) because it does make me feel like a woman compared to a pre-pubescent girl with no definition. Of course, as you point out, we shouldn’t make curvy the “new” skinny, replacing one body type ideal for another. But since curves themselves are pretty sought after, curvy shouldn’t be a dirty word!

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Yeah, I’m with you. My hangup on “curvy” has very little (if anything) to do with being attractive to men—it’s more of an overall value judgment based on my experience. I felt like people saw/treated me differently after I lost weight, so in my mind I started to equate thinner with better and “curvy” with unattractive, sloppy, etc. Totally foolish, totally disordered, totally my own insecurity. I’ve been working through it the past few years, but it helps to hear how ridiculous it sounds in third person. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Rach!

  4. LOVE.THIS. I am curvy, for sure, no matter how many miles I run. But I have also been the anorexically skinny girl and, honestly…it didn’t suit me. I’d rather be strong and have muscles and something for my boyfriend to grab onto. If he called me curvy, though…I’d probably slap him. Even though to him it would be a good thing.

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Exactly. I’ve been thinner than the above photos as well and while I thought it looked good (and I still had the booty), it was just SO MUCH WORK for so little payoff. Because you know what? I look good now, too. And I’m sure those muscles and miles are WHY your boy thinks you are so damn foyne. (The C-word still sucks, though.)

  5. I think that the reason why you can’t get over this “C-word” is because of our social attitudes towards women being skinny/fit or simply not having any fat (which is impossible ofcourse). So I think for you having this unconscious negative assertion with curviness, which is actually historically a normal weight for a woman, is because of our unnatural modern attitudes towards women having fat. But I hope that you realize that your body is in fact normal, and rather really attractive (historically speaking; for example take a look at the bodies of goddess in Greek and Roman statues, i think that any man would see this as simply beautiful) to any man.

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