Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's not popular but I Like 'Real Women'

You’ve probably seen the term ‘Real Women’ cropping up in the media usually in relation to images of curvy women. There has been a lot of backlash to the implication that only curvy women are real which is of course a ridiculous notion. The wonderful thing about the human body is that it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, each one worth celebrating. Thin women are just as real and valuable as curvy or plus sized women. But I'm not sure that the term 'Real Women' is about one kind of woman being more real than another.

Photo from Dove's campaign for Real Beauty
What I read into 'Real Women'
We don't see enough variety of women in the media. The number of images we see of extremely thin women is disproportionate to the variety of female shapes that exist in reality. The waif has dominated the advertising and acting world for almost two decades. The ubiquitous ‘skinny’ look has been hailed as the ‘most desirable’ figure for so long that ‘Real Women’ has come to mean ‘Figures outside of tall and thin’. We know that in reality very tall and naturally very thin figures are quite rare. The amount of exposure to waif-like images is massively disproportionate to the shape of the general public. 

PhotoShop is Not Reality
The most important reason we need the word Real is because the vast majority of images we see of women have been airbrushed and altered to remove any trace of imperfection. The amount of airbrushing that goes on to make already slender women look impossibly thin means we see very ‘Unreal Woman’ being postered on countless billboards and magazine covers for very real women to look at and feel inadequate over. From this perspective I don’t think the term ‘Real Women’ is entirely unreasonable and has a place in our vocabulary if we want to encourage body diversity in the media. 

A responsibility to body diversity
We are starting to see a shift in the body-types used in mainstream media with publications like Vogue Italia using 'plus size models' on their covers. However, the world doesn't break down into thin and plus size - the majority of women fall somewhere in between. I don't identify as a plus size woman but I'm certainly not waif-like, where is the model who looks like me? Is my body type not beautiful?

Personally I made a conscious effort to ensure that the models we use for Butterfly Collection are reflective of our customers, women with boobs sized D-K with a naturally curvy body. I don't want our customers to see images of B cup women wearing our bras and thinking that's what they should or could look like. I want women to be proud of their busty figures and not be ashamed of having great boobs. 

Considering that eating disorders in children (both male and female) is at an all time high I think we need contrasting images and vocabulary to stir up the media status-quo and establish body diversity - far beyond thin and plus size. 'Real Women' may not be the perfect phrase but at least it's a start. 

How do you feel about the term Real Women? Does it make you feel empowered? Enraged? Just another marketing term? I'd love to know your opinion xx


  1. This is a really great post. I'd need to write a novel-length comment to fully explain my thoughts on all this stuff but I think you really hit the nail on the head here, so thank you.

  2. You're right there is so much to be said on this subject. It won't be the last time I raise the subject that's for sure! Just checked out your blog - GREAT WORK!! We need more North American blogs for big busted women to stop the cycle of poorly fitting bras. I'll be a regular reader for sure!

  3. I've never been a fan of the term "real women" because a modifier like "real" implies that some women are "fake." And I think the last thing women of any size need is more criticism, commentary, and disdain towards their bodies.

    To me, all women are real women. The end.

    1. I agree completely. All women are real women, be they thin, curvy, round, square and everything in between.
      I feel sad when heavier women criticize my shape, as I'm sure ANY woman feels upset when it's implied that one's identification as a woman is dependent on one's shape.

  4. I totally agree that women need less commentary but I also think that we do see a lot of "fake" women in the media. Air-brushed, overly lit (Victoria's Secret is NOTORIOUS for this) and setting an aesthetic designed to make other women feel inadequate. Using the term Real Women maybe isn't the best way to address this but I feel like it's a start.

  5. I think a woman is real if she lives in the real world and is a part of society. Unreal women live on billboards and magazine ads and they've had hours of make-up and spray-tanning and whatever else that would make them all but disappear in a puff of smoke in the real world. Because once they step out of that studio, they start sweating and looking normal :) and then they're just as real as the rest of us.

    On a more serious note, though, I think if anyone could be considered an "unreal woman" it's the woman who thinks so little of her own worth that she goes under the knife for any and every plastic surgery available because deep inside, she doesn't feel she's "good enough". Then she becomes this caracicture (sp?) of the real woman she once was because she's chasing a sad dream of acceptance that she'll never find, because she keeps rejecting the real person that she always was.

    1. I totally agree. In my younger years, I was one of these women who wanted to be a caricature, wanted to be what the media deems desirable, and its just so,so sad.
      Ever since I accepted that my self-worth is not tied to my appearance I have been so much happier and at peace. The media is so evil for spreading the idea that any of us have to be anything other than ourselves. And yes, I see a lot of backlash about the image of thin women in the media and dieting, but hardly anything about the professionally applied make up in the media and the women who feel so inadequate with themselves that they will not leave the house without make up.