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Teacher Lesson Return to "Real Women Don’t Always Have Curves"
Real Women Don’t Always Have Curves
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Body Image—Reading Comprehension, Media/News Literacy

● Students will read a story and view a video to identify and analyze themes pertaining to the critical judgments we make about our bodies, and how our social networks (peers, family, community) and the media contribute to those judgments.
● Students will consider how both men and women are influenced and harmed by gender stereotypes in the media.

Standards: This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. (See end of lesson for a complete list.)

Vocabulary: Superficial, consolation, insecurity, obsession, stereotype

Introduction: Tell students to complete the following statements with as many things they can think of:
When it comes to their bodies, women feel insecure about…
When it comes to their bodies, men feel insecure about…

Ask volunteers to share their responses. Next, ask students where we get our ideas about what makes a body attractive or unattractive. (Examples may include family, friends, culture, advertisements, toys, video games, TV, movies, music, magazines, etc.)

Viewing: Screen the short Youth Communication video “Women in the Media” (4:26). Before the film, explain that it features a roundtable discussion by YCteen writers discussing a film, Miss Representation, that looks at how women are depicted and talked about in the media, often in destructive ways. (Note: If you don’t have the ability to screen the video, you can read an edited version of the roundtable discussion, entitled “Media Deceptions About Women.”)

Ask the students:
• What does the film tell us about how media shape our ideas of what is attractive and unattractive?
• Did the images of “ideal women” in the film match your ideas about what is attractive? Why or why not?
• How do stereotypical images of women (and men) reinforce stereotypes of gender roles? What examples do the teens in the film offer about this?

Reading: Read the story “Real Women Don’t Always Have Curves,” by Isaura Abreu. Before reading, review the vocabulary (above). Tell students they are going to read a story about a teenager who becomes insecure after her friends reach puberty and begin to develop “curves” while she remains thin. As they read, tell students to think about where Isaura’s insecurities about her body might come from.

Writing: After the reading, have students write responses to the following questions. Then, select particular questions/responses to discuss as a class or in small groups.

• Why does Isaura feel insecure about her physical appearance? Where do her insecurities come from? Can you relate to the way Isaura feels in the first half of the story? Why or why not?
• What makes Isaura question her preoccupation with having a “perfect” appearance? What is Isaura’s turning point? How does Isaura start to change?
• What larger consequences does Isaura see at the end of the story for society’s obsession with the “perfect” female look?
• What connections can you make between Isaura’s story and the Youth Communication video “Women in the Media?”
• Are you affected by other people’s opinions about your appearance? How?
• What qualities besides appearance make people attractive?
• Think about situations in which we—or others—judge ourselves and each other based on appearance. How can these judgments affect us, not only in the moment, but over time? How can we avoid such judgments and shift to focusing on qualities that don’t pertain to physical appearance?

Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading:
Key Ideas and details
● Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
● Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Common Core Anchor Standards for Writing
Text types and Purposes
● Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Production and Distribution of Writing
● Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Common Core Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration
● Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

For more on this topic, see our book Mirror, Mirror: Teen Girls Write About Body Image.
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