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The One Phrase We All Need To Stop Using

January 19, 2015

…is ‘Real Women’. You’ve heard it floating around everywhere, specifically when it comes to magazines and television. “We proudly feature real women in our ads” or “We only use real women in our fashion shows”. At first glance it seems harmless, even empowering. Real women have curves! Real women have imperfect bodies! While these statements are true, actually being a real woman, plain and simple, means you have a vagina and it has reached the point of sexuality maturity. It doesn’t quite have the same empowering ring as, “real women have butts!” but it’s the truth.

The overall point is so true, but the wording could be better. My first thought when I read this is…”are people in magazines not actual women?? If so, what are they…robots? Men?” If your child thinks that all women look like photoshopped magazine ads, they clearly haven’t been to Walmart (or like, anywhere).

Here’s the problem with this phrase. When you refer to some women as ‘real’ that automatically makes other things ‘fake’. You start a classic situation of us vs. them (read: never good). By saying that some women are real, or more real than others, you are implying that there are fake women out there. Yes, some women may have fake personalities or fake body parts, but that doesn’t mean they are any less of a woman (see above vagina comment). Every time you say something you feel is empowering like, “real women have curves!” an equally real woman out there without curves is put down at your expense. If you feature a certain size, weight, build of women in your fashion shows and claim that these are real women, you’re either stating a really obvious fact or you are suggesting women of different size, weight, or build are somehow less real. In my opinion, the only place you can find a fake woman is at a drag show.

One of Nike’s empowering ads. Be proud of your body! Just make sure that it’s not at someone else’s expense.

More than once, I’ve had someone look at me and say something along the lines of, “we’d love to collaborate with you on a fashion show, but we want real women, not skinny minnies like you.” They say it with pride like they are doing humanity a great service by putting on a fashion show with people of a certain shape and size. What they don’t realize, is that it’s horribly offensive. I wouldn’t dream about walking up to someone and saying, “we should do a fashion show, but I don’t want anyone that’s really short (or insert any description you would like here…short, fat, hippy, etc), like you are.” Sure, real women have curves. There are also real women who don’t have curves. I know people’s hearts are in the right place, but I don’t think they realize that what they are saying is offensive. No body wants to hear that they are any less of a person than anyone else.

Dove ad from here. Notice how they get the message across that every body is beautiful? Hint: it’s not by using the phrase ‘real women’.

If you haven’t made any goals for 2015, here’s one to consider: try cutting ‘real women’ from your vocabulary (or at least, start using it correctly). There are other, more correct, ways to say what you are trying to say. Do you want to put on a fashion show with women of all shapes and sizes? Try saying “community members”  or (here’s a crazy idea) “women of all shapes and sizes”. If you love the Dove ads (who doesn’t?) with a variety of women, try calling it that: “I love the ads with a variety of women” instead of “I love the ads with real women in them”. Together, we can all make sure that any movement which empowers women successfully empowers ALL women of any shape, size, color, height, or weight.

XO Bucky

Ps. I know I usually talk about light topics, but in respect of Martin Luther King Jr. Day I’ve decided to write this post on something I feel needs to be said. I hope you enjoyed it, and most of all, I hope it made you think.

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