Yesterday, Daisy Ridley shared a screenshot of her Star Wars: The Force Awakens character Rey to her Instagram. The image, which had been making the rounds on the ol’ Internet, featured Rey on Jakku with a speech bubble saying “I can’t believe the unrealistic expectations I’m setting for young girls. Who cast me anyway? Don’t they know real women have curves?” Ridley wrote in response to the image, “‘Real women’ are all shapes and sizes, all ethnicities, all levels of brave, have families, don’t have families. I am a ‘real woman’ like every other woman in this world.”
She later deleted the instagram because it included the username of an earlier poster, and uploaded another one in its place:
Admittedly my first takeaway from this exchange between Ridley, her critics, and her fans was just “gawd, social media can be a trash fire.” However, conversations about inclusivity and body positivity are vital, even when those conversations take place on forums that aren’t necessarily conducive to nuance, so let’s take a sec to break this interaction down.
It’s hard to tell without knowing who the original poster was if they were just concern trolling. Ultimately, whether or not this individual genuinely meant their comments or not is irrelevant, since there are absolutely some fans who rightly feel that they’re not being properly represented by Rey. In terms of this specific poster, though, the use of the phrase “real women have curves” makes me more than a little skeptical. I’m a skinny person, so correct me if I’m straying out of my lane here, but the idea that you need to have curves to level-up to ‘real’ womanhood has always felt a little male-gazey to me. I feel like “real women have curves” (the phrase, not the movie) has evolved to have less to do with weight, and more to do with men gatekeeping what kind of fat or thin or in-between female bodies are pleasing and ‘authentic.’
Of course, we do need more body diversity in Star Wars, and in media overall. Hopefully as great female representation in Star Wars evolves to become the norm, rather than the exception, that increased inclusivity will also be a priority. But it’s not Ridley that we should be holding accountable for how long it’s taking that inclusivity to arrive; it’s the directors, producers, and other people (usually straight white men) who dictate the default in Hollywood. It would be a different matter entirely of course if Ridley had somehow excluded women of any size, but I’d argue she’s done nothing but push for inclusivity–earlier this year she posted a video of her bad self dead-lifting 175 pounds alongside the message “The female form is beautiful in all shapes and sizes, whether that’s athletic, straight up straight down or curvy; you just have to do what makes you feel good, try not compare yourself to other people and LOVE YOURSELF!!!”
There’s an urgent need for more body diversity in Hollywood. And calling for that increased diversity isn’t ‘skinny shaming’ any more than advocating for greater roles for women is about hating men. As it stands now, Hollywood is systemically designed to favor skinny women, and, when thin people like myself are distressed by seeing that system whittled away, someone should get us the world’s tiniest violin. But placing the pressure for systemic change onto the bodies of individual women, as we’re seeing here with Daisy Ridley, and as happened to Gal Gadot when she was initially cast in the Wonder Woman role, is reductive. It takes the blame off of people with more power in Hollywood and puts it onto the shoulders of women who, although admittedly currently enjoying the benefits of thin privilege, did not choose the bodies they were born into. It’s not Daisy Ridley or Gal Gadot that are lacking here, it’s Hollywood’s imagination and faith in women.
As for people harassing Ridley over her International Women’s Day post–what is wrong with you? Have you not seen The Force Awakens? Rey eats bros like you for breakfast.
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