What Makes a Real Woman?

I don’t know why it took me so long to come to this odd realization, but it happened yesterday.

I was watching The View (don’t judge – it was just on for background noise) and heard that Amy Schumer was bringing to light what it means to shop for clothes as a real woman. I’d heard the phrase a thousand times, but I absent-mindedly said “who isn’t a real woman?” out loud. The only one that heard it was my cat. She just stared.

Why had this never come to me, EVER before? There’s studies on studies about how society views women, how the media portrays them, and how young girls are pressured, more and more, to look thin and perfect. But then we look at this – a thin associate at a store tells Amy and Lena Dunham (surprise, she’s there too) that they are too big for the clothes at the store.

Of course, this video is an exaggeration – Lena would probably not wear ONLY a plastic coat if a twister is on its way and there’s warm quilts within eyesight – but it was a moment of woah for me.

So many ad campaigns out there are targeting “real women.” Dove, for example, pushed out a campaign showing women of all shapes and sizes in the same style bra and underwear. Aerie boasts “the real you is sexy” on their bags and marketing materials, literally calling the campaign “Aerie Real.” I’m totally in for the positive messaging about confidence, but why do we have to define women as “real?”

Average is the word you’re looking for, friends. Average. Every woman is real. Every woman – born a woman or not – is a real woman. Thin, nice, fat, amputee, mean, obese, funny, disability, smart. Every woman is real. Body shaming works both ways. Yes, we hear about it more when it comes to “fat shaming” and the like, but women are also shamed for being “too thin,” even if that’s just how their body is.

Women who are “too fat” have a problem with finding clothes, and so do women who are “too thin.” It doesn’t stop there. Average women have a hard time with clothes too. It happens to everyone – that’s what makes you a real woman.

I’ve come to hate this phrase, now that I’ve thought about it. These strange double standards that I’ve been living with my entire life have made me so frustrated, not only for myself, but for every real woman around me. The expectation is to be thin, but I have to simultaneously be real, which has become a synonym for “not too fat and not too thin. Must have curves and imperfections.”

I’m average. I used to be not-so average, but I’m average. I’m not too fat and not too thin, I have some insecurities, scars, and imperfections. But I’m still real. I’m as real as the Victoria’s Secret models who look amazing wearing basically nothing, as real as Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham in the field, as real as athletes, scientists, teachers, and astronauts.

Yet, I still find ways to beat myself up over my body. This sadly is not a moment of triumph for me. I won’t be ending this post with, “and you know what – that’s ok! I love myself! I’m done caring!” But that’s a part of being a real woman, right?

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