• Tue, Aug 9 2011

My Body Gallery: The Site That Shows You What “Real” Women Look Like

Discovered via The Hairpin, a new website where you can view photos of real women the same height, weight and body type as you. Fill in any or all of the categories—in addition to height and weight, you can enter shirt size, pant size or whether you’re ‘apple,’ ‘pear,’ ‘banana,’ or ‘hourglass’ shaped—and My Body Gallery will pull up a gaggle of user-submitted images from women within that same range. The idea is to provide a place for women “to see that the world is not a place of cookie cutters,” according to the site; to show not how women ‘should’ look, but ‘how we DO look.’ And unlike those ‘hot-or-not’ or guessing game sites, there’s no rating or guessing involved (thank goodness).

It’s still pretty new, and at the moment there’s a much higher proportion of teenaged girls and very young women than women of other ages. There’s an easy way to remedy this, though: If you are not a teen girl, go submit your photo, and encourage not-teen-girl friends to do the same! You can be as anonymous as you want to be (submit a photo with your head cut off, for instance, or use the site’s tools to black-bar your face or any identifying details), and photos can show your body fully-clothed or in varying degrees of undress.

More problematic, at first glance, is that some women seem to be lying about their weight. That was my initial reaction, anyway, and a friend who tried out the site said the same. (“I was looking at my size of 5’8 and 130, and there were some definite 160s in the mix,” she wrote.) It struck both of us as kind of weird and sad—why would women feel the need to lie about their weight on an anonymous site designed to encourage body acceptance?

But then a third friend stepped in and pointed out that perhaps we were missing the point. Sure, some of these women who have submitted photos may not be telling the whole truth. But isn’t it likely that, in most cases, the problem was with us—we just couldn’t accurately judge a woman’s weight just by looking at her photo? As the My Body Gallery rules note: ‘This is not a place for us to second guess what someone says they weight or what size pants they wear.’

Our weight-guessing shortcoming was not because we were biased, or particularly bad judges of this sort of thing, but because we all carry weight differently, have different proportions of muscle and fat, and different body types (different in a way that goes beyond simple apple or hourglass descriptors). One person weighing 130 isn’t gonna look just like another person weighing 130 (the same for 160, or 110). And isn’t that the point of the whole project? Lesson learned!

Photo: StyleBizPortal.com

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  • Beth

    I had another kind of ‘probably my bad, but unsettling anyway’ response. I searched for women with my specs, and then… judged them.

    I thought I was doing pretty well with my body image. But- looking at the pictures of those women made me realise that I’m not accepting the body other people see; I’m accepting of the slimmer, taller girl I can sort of convince myself I am. This is a total surprise to me! Guess I’m not so smart ;p

    It seems I manage to maintain my self-esteem by deluding myself that I’m viewed as taller and a bit skinnier than I actually am. And had no idea this was the case. Go the patriarchy!

    So, this site depressed me about my body and my body image, but that’s not the fault of the creators or participants. It did what it was designed to do; show up flaws in the basis of my body image. I better get to actually loving my body now…

  • LYNN

    HOW DO YOU GET ON THE SITE TO POST YOUR OWN STATS?

    • Elizabeth Nolan Brown

      You just have to register (top right corner, there’s a link) with your email address, and then you can post a photo.

  • K.

    I was excited…and then i looked.

    Women shaped like me aren’t real women! We don’t exist! (I’ve got broad shoulders, narrow waist and hips, flattish chest).

    Eventually ‘real women look like x” won’t be used to exclude other ‘real’ women.

  • Emily

    I once stumbled upon before and after pictures of labiaplasty which made me want to find pictures of what was “normal.”

    I found the site the-clitoris.com

    Horribly dated, totally NSFW, but actually really refreshing.

    As far as labia go, I and all of the women pictured pre-op are totally normal as far as I can tell. Beyond that, the site also features many images of regular women naked. I derive more confidence in my body from being able to see what other women look like without their (1993) clothing on than I do from seeing a picture of a faceless woman in a t-shirt and jeans labeled with her height and weight.

    Here’s the link, (again, NSFW),
    http://the-clitoris.com/f_html/female_figure_studies_1.htm

  • TeresaRebecca

    I recently came across a site with user submitted pics of women’s nipples. It was so reassuring – I’d always felt a bit embarassed by my large, super pale ones. Turns out I’m not a weirdo physically or otherwise.