September 26th, 2012
08:16 PM ET

We asked, you answered: Are we really ready to take a look at 'real women'?

There is arguably not much shock value left in Lady Gaga’s out-there and often barely there wardrobe choices. But when the superstar singer decided to bare it all this week showing nothing but a simple bikini, her bod and a few extra pounds, the world stopped to stare – and comment - once again.

Gaga, admitting a longtime struggle with bulimia, proclaimed on her blog that she was embracing her new curves and urged her “little monsters” to do the same.

Photos: Gaga's new curves and most memorable looks

Meanwhile, fashion designer Ralph Lauren made headlines of its own by hiring Australian plus-size model Robyn Lawley. Lawley stands 6-foot-2 and wears a size 12.

The intense focus on fuller figures prompted Lesley Kinzel, associate editor at xoJane.com and the author of "Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body" to write a piece for CNN.com asking our audience "Are we really ready to take a look at 'real women'?"

The CNN community responded to the question in droves. Check out our roundup of conversations about body image happening on CNN.com.

There’s nothing plus-sized about Robin Lawley

drldeboer I'll say it again. 6'2 size 12 is NOT "plus" it's normal! An example I think would be "plus sized" is 5'5 size 14. And no less beautiful than anyone else if the body is well treated, healthy and fit. It's fashion designers who need to change their conceptions, not the public.

Seetheway  6' 2" and a size 12 is not PLUS size.  At that tall, a 12 is the same as a 5'2" wearing a 6.

MomWiz  Sorry, but I can't find anything "Plus Size" or "Real" about a 6 foot 2 inch, well proportioned model who is simply taller than most! "Tall/Large" (as in men's clothing designations) maybe - but plus size typically is shorter, wider and requires clothing with extra fabric in areas that are typical of the plus-size body.  This campaign is just another come-on by the fashion industry. Marie Claire does a monthly section featuring a real plus-size model, which at least is a step in the right direction!

What is a ‘real woman’ anyway?

TechGirl6806  So just because I am naturally tall (5'10") and very thin (120 lbs.), I am not considered a "real woman"?  I have always been thin and through many (failed) attempts to gain weight, I still remain the same size. I am completely healthy and actually eat more than the rest of my family but people look at me and think I am too thin. It doesn't make me any less of a real woman - nor does it make it OK for you to tell me to go eat a cheeseburger.

Steven Martin  Let's see all sizes and shapes of women. Not everyone's idea of beauty is the size 0f model.

garet821 I don't buy products that advertise plus-sized women. I'm not attracted to them, as most aren't, therefore it doesn't work for me. Are 5'6" size 1's not 'real'?

Danbun The question is: Do we want to see "nonmodel" types in ads and entertainment. There will always be some who are not the "normal" model look, as that appeals to some people and consumers. But overweight is NOT something I want to see, nor am I interested in "plus" sized models, or any other euphemism.

I don't want the anorexic type either. But athletic and thin IS what I want, and it is what my wife is.  All of us should eat properly and in moderation, and exercise regularly.  Our society should not accept obesity.

JohnnM  Yes, I want to see REAL WOMEN in the media ... digital and print.  I want Hollywood to show and promote REAL WOMEN. It is sickening to see the starving stick figures, surgical altered and air brushed portrayed as women. Free our women ... from the slavery of the fashion industry, Hollywood hype and liars in advertisement.

Putting appearance in perspective

Esther Bautista Yes, I want to see more real women like me!  But for me the issue is the media dictating what beautiful is.  Sure there are woman that are more attractive than others, but when they get the limelight and the praise, women and young girls get the message that looks and sex appeal are all that matter.  Everyone is going to get old so it's dangerous to put so much effort on trying to keep that youthful look.  I really struggle personally with the idea that I must look like a supermodel to have value or feel good about myself.  It is a tension.  I know it's a lie, but I feel the underlying issue that affects what I do.  Or maybe it's the putting of beauty on a pedestal ... it gets elevated and we worship it rather than God.  Maybe one day I will find supermodels actually envying me and my little life? Instead of the other way a round.  It is a struggle.  Beauty is not everything!  God is everything! 🙂  That's where I am anyway.

When the fashion world and the ‘real world’ collide

SeattleLiz  Some people are prettier than others.  It's just a simple fact.  Fashion designers want their clothes to be seen on very pretty people.    It's not their job to make everybody love themselves deep down - it's their job to sell clothes.

The problem is not that Ralph Lauren is using too many pretty people or not the right kind of pretty people.  The problem is the constant pressure we feel to compare ourselves to the people in the ads.   Then we feel bad if we aren't as pretty as someone who has been through a ringer of stylists, hair dressers, makeup artists and Photoshop image enhancers.

Here's the message I wish more women would get– YOU DON'T NEED TO BE PRETTY. Do the best with what physical attributes you have, as you wish, but spend your mental energy focusing on the talents and character facets that make you beautiful.  If you go looking for someone prettier than you, you will always find her.  Big ___ing deal.  That's not what life is about.

WmPreece  Liz, as a photographer I can tell you there are gorgeous models in every size and age that can rock any well-made clothing. They can do amazing beauty product ads and more. It's just that some don't want to go to sizes if they look bigger than their competitor - that's how fashion works.

SeattleLiz Thanks for the reply Wm– good points to make.  I have a friend who used to be a plus size model and she was a knockout too.  She is a big girl, no question, but very well proportioned and extremely photogenic.  I myself am petite and small-boned.  There is room for both of us to be beautiful, no matter whose definition of pretty you are using.

Do men face the same body image issues as women?

Mike Morrall Are there fat male models? I feel I am being unfairly compared to better looking guys.

Ed98208  Men's egos are plenty fragile. They just aren't as focused on their looks as women are because ... guess what? They aren't valued completely based on their looks by the opposite sex like women are.

Mike Morrall  Ed98208 – Get out of here with that crap. Men don't value women solely for their looks. They place some importance on a woman's looks, just like women place some importance on a man's looks. This sort of thing is like saying women value men solely for the size of their bank accounts and the power they have.

And one woman shares her size with pride!

Nicole Burns I'm going to do it ... here we go ... OK ... I am 5 foot 2 inches tall, 170 pounds, size 12, measurements are 40 / 31 / 41 and I am sexy, dang it!

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Noel Hollis

    Why are we so obsessed with looks. Why isn't there an article on here about the declining number of women in STEM fields? Or management positions, or corporations? How does arguing about beauty help us progress as a society? Everyone has their own opinions on that, but being able to handle a database malfunction isn't an opinion....it's a skill.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jasonsviewjason

    We really need to be clear about what is obese and what is not. Of course people shouldn't be mistreated and ridiculed, but obesity is a problem that we need to solve. Just because people in this country are getting more and more overweight it doesn't mean that people should embrace this trend. Check out this article.

    October 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mapaxn

    It's hard to talk about this without people's egos getting in the way. Judging by the content of the comments, I see nothing has changed. Everyone is on the defensive, acting like they either need to justify themselves to total strangers or demand the love and admiration of everyone because they do happen to fit into the unrealistic beauty standard. Please. I don't care about that. This article is about how magazine publishers and advertisers altar the bodies of women – ALL women – to achieve an unnatural affect. Plus size or ultra thin, it's clear that nobody is immune to photoshop. So the question becomes, how long do people stare at this and start to believe that is reality, and all women are failures for not living up to the reality of airbrushed bullcrap? American society claims to value diversity, so how about valuing people for what they can offer in their personality regardless of size? The obsession with body type has created a culture of individuals devoid of depth of thought, personal philosophy, or political intelligence. Most people can list to me all the different kind of diets they are on, but can't analyze their way out of a wet paper bag with a hole in it. That's the sad truth.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Todd

    The truth is – aside from a few chubby chasers, the vast majority of straight men find thin, fit women in the size 2-8 range the most physically attractive. Usually not super-twig-skinny size zeros, but thin and fit. There's some variation in terms of what exactly is preferred, but the preference for a slim woman without a lot of excess body fat is near universal.

    That doesn't mean chubby/fat women are completely worthless or doomed to be single forever. Guys still fall for bigger women based on personality, sense of humor, demeanor, etc etc. Appearance is not the ONLY consideration in real life, but things like magazines and movies are all about the physical and all about the fantasy, and so far as physical fantasies go, yes – that's usually women who look like Brooklyn Decker. That's just reality.

    Women do the same thing. Your husband might be a chubby dude who takes good care of his family and has a heart of gold...but your fantasy is still the dudes in Magic Mike. That's ok. There's nothing wrong with ideal types and fantasies. It's when it starts bleeding over into real life too much that it's a problem – guys drool over Brooklyn Decker, but they're never going to get a girl who looks like her (unless they look like the guys form Magic Mike) and vice versa.

    That's my take on it, anyway. Don't get so wrapped up in what the ideal physical type is.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • chandler fry

      dude – thnx for your post you exact example of what I'm talkin bout you drool over that chick cuz you taught to drool over that chick and you sure enough havent been much outside the USA cuz if you had been you would see many places where oppostie true

      October 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ernesto

    as long as a woman is not tub of lard i'm alright with that

    October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. why exagerate?

    since when is 40 31 41 a size 12? has to be a a 16 at least.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dx2718

    Clothing stores sell clothes. If it is women's clothes, they are supposed to be selling clothes to women. If you show your clothes only on skinny models, most women will have no clue how the clothes will look on them. If we're shopping online, we're not going to buy unless we have an inkling the clothes might flatter us. So – use "real" models because you want to give "real" women an idea of what the clothes will look like on them. Use a variety of sizes because women come in a variety of sizes. 6'2" and size 12 is one possible size, but it's not even close to plus sized. That girl is thin!

    October 7, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. Stacey

    Are we really ready to look at real women? This is stupid. Every woman is a "real" woman. There's no difference between showing a 5'11 model wearing a size 2 and showing a 5'6 model wearing a size 10. My body doesn't look like either of those, and not every woman is going to relate.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HUMPMAN

    I would bang her 7 ways to sunday

    October 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. XO

    Why can't we see women of all shapes and sizes? The same goes for men too. If you prefer one over the other, fine, but don't let the media, Hollywood, etc...dictate what you should be attracted to or not. Think and feel for yourselves; and lastly, let's all refrain from insulting or hurting each other.

    October 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Kate

    Funny the comments by the skinny girls complaining that people don't think they're "real" when they're not represented... we're all "real" we just aren't all represented!

    October 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. R Burns

    " I have always been thin and through many (failed) attempts to gain weight, I still remain the same size." and " All of us should eat properly and in moderation, and exercise regularly. Our society should not accept obesity." Very telling comments! There are so many studies out now proving what many of us have always known- some body types are just that. Not a reflection of diet or lifestyle, yet the witch hunt continues. Some of us construct our own realities for the moment – but will it last? The examples we often see would brainwash us all to think that we should re-examine our choices in life on a continual basis and if things are beginning to change from the personal ideal that is an excuse to opt out of whatever agreements we may have made to forge a new reality, for the next little while at least. And criticize anything that is promoted as less than ideal. Nothing could be more destructive!

    October 9, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      I agree that wanting a different body-type can be very destructive and that there are criticisms out there if one is not fitting certain standards. However, obesity is a real health problem and some people do have a weight problem well beyond that explained by a genetically-programmed body-type. In addition, many non-obese people with body-types that don't fit 'the standard' perceive that they are less attractive/acceptable than others perceive. For example, many men on these boards (and men I know, including me) prefer women with more curves than most models. And curves does not mean overweight. Another problem is that people trying to be nice use terms like 'curves' or 'big-boned' for people that are curvy or big-boned and OBESE. This does not help.

      October 14, 2012 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. chandler fry

    the bottom line is we all brain washed . we told who we supposed to think beautiful so we do matter of fact we controled in most parts of what we believe

    October 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. James

    I have always said that women torture and contort themselves because of their fears of the opinions of other women, not men. There is nothing attractive for me in these super skinny models. On the other hand, Lady GaGa, setting her lack of musical talent aside, and peeking under the eight pounds of makeup and goofy wardrobe choices, looks like a relatively average young woman. As far as I am concerned, average is more than OK. I'm not interested in morbidly obese, but a little padding here and there suits me just fine. And I don not think I'm alone in this.

    October 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeremy

    I really only want to see the pretty girls, to be honest

    October 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
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