It’s been a lovely afternoon for me, spent meeting with a friend over coffee. I couldn’t help but overhear, however, the conversation taking place between two bushy bearded men two tables away. It seems I have a hyper-sensitive radar in regards not only to the mention of my name, but any reference to me whatsoever – in this instance, I was simply ‘nah, mate, the other one’.
We were being assessed. Luckily, not with numbers (I hate that. Why do guys have to label us with a mark out of ten? Could their way of expression any attraction – or lack of – be any more degrading?) Instead, they were comparing us to the standards of beauty of today. That’s when that term came into use… ‘real woman’. According to Santa’s Hipster son 1# and Santa’s Hipster son 2#, I’m a ‘borderline real woman’ because I have a bum, but according to his friend.. ‘nah mate, she’s not a real woman, she’s too thin, mate, too thin, I like real women.’
Excuse me, I can vouch that I am a real woman, and I can also say, with confidence, that I am not hovering around an imaginary line between womanly and… whatever the alternative is. Boyish? Butch? Barbie? I see myself naked on a daily basis, and trust me, I’m all woman.
Of course, the bigger issue with this conversation was the fact that we were being so casually evaluated in the first place.. I’ve heard men hold similar conversations in front of the meat aisle in Tesco. ‘Mate, steak tonight? What d’ya think of this one?’ – ‘Nah mate, look at it, that’s barely a steak at all – it’s a borderline cold cut! The only thing that’s good for is being slapped on a sandwich!’
I’m not about to start complaining about being picked at by men, however. I frankly can’t even muster the energy to do so. But I can muster the energy to complain about that term, because this isn’t just a degrading term used by men who see woman as objects to be assessed, and used, and disposed of, but it’s a part of the forefront of our society. It’s used in our magazines and on our TV shows and in our day-to-day debates as we compare ourselves to others. Suddenly it seems that in the ‘quest’ to force the fashion world to accept ‘plus sized’ and curvier women rather than sticking so stubbornly to their size-zero ideals, everyone has in the process developed this obsession with what is and is not ‘real’ or ‘natural’. Is that not counter-productive? Everyone has been calling out for the fashion world to accept all shapes and sizes, and yet we’re all too willing to decide for ourselves what is natural. And that just makes it ok for guys to then do the same.
Is it not about time that we adopt a cultural attitude that is accepting of all shapes and sizes? Take me and my friends, for example. Yes, I’m thin, but I have a bum and boobs . Take a look at my friends: anonymous friend 1# is thinner than me, and she really doesn’t have any curves at all, while anonymous friend 2# would be described as curvy, anonymous friend 3# is a full time plus-sized model and anonymous friend 4# has a perfect hourglass figure the we all can’t help but envy. (PS, those friends may be anonymous, but they know who they are and they have agreed to be mentioned here… just in case the rest of my friends real this and wonder.)
These are our builds, our natural figures and regardless as to how well or how badly our diets are going, our shape never changes, the only thing that changes is how squidgy the top layer is. Equally, while we all know that most models work hard to keep in shape, working on every inch of themselves until they are a sculpted masterpiece of perfection, it’s ridiculous to say that they are not ‘real women’ either, because they are there, they exist – I’ve seen enough famous models pass me in the street here in London over the years; Kate Moss and Lily Cole and a strew of lingerie models, and I can tell you, Photoshop or no Photoshop, they still look as stunning and slender as in their expansive portfolios. They exist and therefore they are real.
So please, can we stop referring to women as ‘real’ or ‘not’? Because last time I checked, it was definition enough to be a real woman purely to exist in all our fleshy goodness and to have no dangly bits between our legs… etc.