What is a “real woman”? If you rely on memes to tell you, you’ll get lots of different answers including:
“Real women have curves.”
“Real women are strong.”
“Real women have cellulite.”
A few years ago I was so thankful to see these kinds of messages because they were a stark contrast to the messages that idealized the thin body, which only made me feel inferior and self-critical.
I was an early adopter in the “Real Women have curves/cellulite/are strong” movement and I understand how it helps ease insecurities in the initial stages of body acceptance. It can be the gateway drug to body positivity—the internet gives you permission to accept a “flaw” that you’ve been told to hide by the majority of our media outlets.
I can appreciate that as a culture we are trying to shift the standard away from the Hollywoodified cookie cutter ideal that has made us complete psychos. I am all for embracing bodies of different shapes and sizes.
However, I need to call bullshit on this “Real woman…” movement. It does a disservice to what body positivity is all about—a belief that all bodies are good bodies.
It perpetuates the idea that there is an ideal or benchmark to live up to and celebrates women who fit into that box. It encourages women to evaluate aspects of their appearance in comparison to someone else’s. Not to mention the adjectives that typically follow the statement “real women…” neglect people of different races, abilities, gender identities, races and ages.
In addition, the word “real woman” alludes to a woman’s desirability—so what we’re really saying when we say “real women have curves” is that “curves make you more desirable,” further reinforcing the belief that a woman’s attractiveness is her most important asset.
Here is the truth: Real women have a pulse.
Real women have a pulse and every single one of them is worthy of respect and taking up space. There is not one body type that is better than another and by classifying certain bodies as better than others we end up pitting women’s bodies up against each other.
Let’s stop telling women who and what they should or should not be. Let’s stop judging others if they don’t live up to some kind of cultural or counter-cultural standard. Let’s stop telling women that their femininity and desirability is defined by their appearance.
Yes, we need to see more diverse bodies—but we do not need to classify one as better than another as that is missing the point of what body positivity is all about.
Real women have a pulse. Even if she is horrible on the inside, that doesn’t strip away the fact that she is a real woman. Sometimes real women don’t have a vagina and that’s OK too.
So before you post or share another “real woman…” meme, ask yourself, “am I respecting all bodies with this sentiment?”