The warmer spring weather is just about here, and many women are starting to pack away the oversized sweaters and cozy yoga pants in favor of tank tops, short sleeve shirts, sundresses and other clothes that tend to be more form-fitting and skin-baring.
I say all the more power to you. My qualm is not at all with what women wear; if you are over the age of six (or a particularly fashionable kindergartener), you are more than capable of picking out clothes that you like and feel good in.
Instead my problem is with a certain phrase that tends to pop up this time of year in correlation with these new clothes. That phrase is “real women.”
I’m sure you’ve all encountered it somewhere. If I had a nickel for everytime I read the phrase “real women have _______” or “real women are _______” on some social media website, I could buy a whole new wardrobe. In my experience, the most common version of this “real women” phrase is something along the lines of, “Real women have curves.”
Don’t get the wrong idea; as someone who has never been and most likely will never be a size 0, I can appreciate the sentiment. It can be especially difficult to feel good about yourself in a society that says your beauty is determined by the size of your jeans, so it’s great to see women with curves celebrating their bodies.
However, there is an inherent problem with a phrase that says “real women are/have ________.” It implies that women without that quality are “fake” or not as “real” as women with it. Some women are naturally thin, some women are naturally curvy, some have bigger breasts, some have smaller breasts, some are tall, some are short, etc.
Society has trained us to body shame each other. We’re taught that we can’t fully love ourselves without putting others down, and so we automatically resort to thoughts like “I’m thin, not curvy, so I’m beautiful,” or, “I’m tall, not short, so I’m beautiful.”
What society has tried to hide from us is that there’s a way to embrace ourselves without pitting women against other women. Instead of saying anything about “real women,” you could just say, “What standards? I love my body and myself, and I support other women no matter what they look like.”
Maybe it’s just me, but accepting someone as a “real woman” should only have one criterion: Does she identify as a woman? If the answer to this question is yes, then congratulations, you have accurately identified a real woman.
Ladies, here is my question for you: Do you identify as a woman? Well, then I am pleased to inform you that you are a beautiful, unique, very real woman. Being happy with yourself can be a daily struggle when every magazine cover has a ridiculously Photoshopped image of an already beautiful person. Let’s do each other a favor and make everyone’s struggle easier. Support one another instead of body shaming, and do away with all this “real women” talk.