Why I'll Never Call Myself A 'Real Woman’
I just can't stand it when someone calls themselves or someone else a 'real' woman.
I've been reading Amy Schumer's book Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo -- yes I'm about two years behind everyone else, sue me -- and I'm really enjoying it.
It’s poignant and funny -- literally lol-funny -- and super inspiring. But there’s a bit where she calls herself a "real woman" as opposed to the "waifish elves" that dominate fashion runways and magazine covers.
She also describes models traditionally pictured in men’s magazines as "Svedka vodka-style fembot chick[s] ... with huge breasts on an otherwise young-boy body."
In the US these waifish elves/fembots typically wear clothing sized four or below, which is eight or below in Australian sizes.
Anything size six -- that’s size 10 for us -- is rarely seen on the catwalk or cover of a mag, men’s or otherwise. When they are, as Schumer points out, it’s in a 'wow aren’t they beautiful -- even though they’re fat' kind of way. Which sucks.
What sucks more is that not only are these women not properly represented in the media but they can’t even really go into a mainstream shop and buy clothes that fit them nicely and make them feel good. Yes, fashion has come a long way since larger-sized women were restricted to wearing ugly nana-bras and muumuus.
Hey -- if you love a nana bra and a muumuu more power to you. Basically, being 'plus-sized' -- for want of a better term -- can suck and there’s still a long way to go before this changes.
As I read this section in her book it became apparent that Schumer was establishing a strong and deliberate 'us vs. them' mentality. A waifish elf/fembot vs 'real' woman situation.
And it got me thinking. And a bit cranky.
If a 'real' woman by her definition rocks a size 10 or up then what does that make the women who don’t? Are those like myself zipping up their size eight jeans in turn ‘unreal’ women? Do we simply not exist?
Schumer mentions that we shouldn’t "get on [her] for skinny shaming" but well, she kinda is. See previous fembot quote -- how do you think those women with young-boy bodies and huge breasts feel?
A similar thing happened when the 2018 Victoria's Secret runway show aired. Many people -- mostly women in my personal experience -- were all "look at these ridiculously thin women -- talk about unrealistic standards of beauty!" There was a lot of "why don’t they put some REAL bodies up there too?" as well.
To me, this sounds suspiciously like women tearing down other women.
The VS Angels -- as they're known -- work incredibly hard to be the best they can be. They train like athletes and rehearse for weeks. That’s why they’re selected for the job. You just have to watch some of the videos of these women reacting to their casting in the show to see how much it means to them.
By discrediting them what you’re actually doing is discrediting what they represent -- which is young women who are out there working damn hard and achieving their goals.
Again, women shouldn’t be tearing other women down.
Cry me a river you say, rolling your eyes. It must be so hard for these so-called beautiful creatures, what with their perfect, desirable and socially acceptable bodies. Kendall and Bella and Gigi must cry into their silk pillowcases on their private jets every night.
Hear me out. Yes, being conventionally attractive can make your life better. Easier. (It can do shit all, too -- but that’s not really my point here.) My point is that by classifying one group of people as real or legitimate you delegitimise the rest. It doesn’t matter that the rest, in this case, are 'fembot elves'.
We don’t need 'real' women vs. the rest situation. We don't need to argue about who’s real and who isn’t, especially in light of myriad real real issues involving women.
Like the fact that people -- mostly men -- are saying that women shouldn't walk home alone at night. That women can't have ownership over their reproductive rights. That women shouldn't wear short skirts or g-strings. That women don't deserve an education. That women shouldn't wear red lipstick and hoop earrings to their swearing-in ceremony.
Yeah, yeah I know what you’re thinking -- what does this size eight bitch know about anything. Well, that's the whole point -- it shouldn't matter what your size is -- zero or eight or 28 -- to have your voice be counted.
But -- for those that feel that that's still not good enough -- I haven’t always been this size. Let me take you back to what I like to call the chubby years from about age seven to 17. I was big and I hated it.
I don’t know how much I weighed as I’ve never owned a scale and never will. I don’t know how much I weigh now btw. At my biggest, I was probably a size 16 which is actually the size of the average Aussie woman -- but on my frame, it just didn’t work. It was like jelly on a toothpick.
I used to work out and watch what I ate -- two things I still do -- but nothing changed my wobbly bits. That's until I started Year 12 and poor mum had to buy me new school uniforms, three sizes smaller. Yup, I quite literally woke up and was chubby no more. Sometimes I still feel like I am though, but that's another story.
Schumer writes that she feels mad because young girls are being shamed about their bodies. I feel mad about that too. I felt shame about my body when I was young and it's something that young girls do not need. But I also know that they do not need to be torn between what a 'real' woman does and doesn’t look like.
You know what a 'real' woman looks like? Anyone who identifies as a female. Fat, wobbly, rake-thin, big-boobed, no-boobs, chunky-thighed or trim and muscly. There is no definition of a 'real' woman because all women are real women.
I think of my friends and their wonderful bodies -- some have carried babies, summited mountains and fought off serious illnesses. My own has carried me through life, for better and for worse.
Schumer says "you can't ... label us anymore" and with that I heartily agree. Let's be done with labels like 'real', 'plus-sized' and 'unrealistic.' We are far too complex and amazing and powerful for a label.
We are women.