I had to catch myself the other day when I commended a brand on their aesthetic by saying: ‘I like that they are using real women’.
I mean what does that even mean? It’s such a flawed way to describe inclusivity in advertising, because it alludes to the fact that ‘thin’ is not real. That thin women do not take up space, do not have insecurities of their own and do not also need to be represented in the media.
What this term means when at it’s purest, is that ‘real women’ in the media are women who have not had their images airbrushed, their limbs and waistlines photoshopped. This term refers to a reflection of women that we see on the street, the women that we love and recognise; the woman we see in the mirror.
There is a danger however, to only attach this sentiment to ‘plus size’ models and curvy women. This is detrimental, as it assumes that due to society’s beauty bias, thin and beautiful women are not able to feel insecure and are not entitled to feelings of self-hatred. It may also be difficult for these women to openly share their self-love: because it’s cocky or it’s easy for them.
Of course, we cannot disregard the perks and privileges that society gifts to women who fit within the ideals of what is deemed as beautiful. There is a ‘pretty girl privilege’ which exists alongside race, age, gender etc. Sadly, that is how our society works. But, in order to change the mould, or to make the mould bigger and more ‘one size fits all’ we cannot replace one with the other. Fashion and trends will come and go, so it is as though we need a disconnect from the impact of how this affects us and how we see ourselves.
We are the constant and beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. If we set aside what ‘society’ in general sees as beautiful and we begin to open up the possibility that different people may find different things attractive or desirable, we are only making for a more exciting and diverse presentation of beauty.
This is why women can be friends, because we don’t all find the same people attractive. Imagine how difficult it would be if you fancied your best friends’ boyfriend as much as she did? Carnage. (George, don’t get me wrong you’re fit, but I don’t fancy you. Feelings mutual I’m sure.)
Real women are not solely women who post #bodypositivity at the end of each Instagram post or have rolls when they sit down or bounce when they run. Real women are all women. Unless you have scales and tentacles, but even then if you want to present as a woman, go forth. What this movement needs to be; is ‘every woman’ – real and ‘fake’. As long as we’re not only seeing airbrushing and photoshop; then we’re seeing real women. We need to see stretch marks and scars and bones and rolls and hair (we need more hair) and boobs that point rather than perk and bums that droop rather than lift. We need to see disability and age and differences.
Authenticity maybe, an authentic representation of women as we know them. Models have always been real, they just haven’t always been diverse and they’ve stayed in one lane. One narrative of what beauty is.
So, let’s change the narrative. Because none of it really matters anyway. Beauty, as we well know, is not only skin deep.
The power of words are so important. Inclusivity is important. We cannot disregard women that look like models, in a bid to include those who do not. It’s still discrimination then. It’s still selective, exclusive.
All women have the right to feel beautiful, equally all women have the right to feel insecure. What Instagram influencers with a platform, and brands that care need to do is ensure that the latter does not out grow the former.
When other women begin to see women they recognise and relate to embracing and displaying their so-called flaws, they are more likely to do the same. The less we are addicted to the desirable and an impossible aesthetic, the more we will find beauty in the things that society does not glorify.
The marks that remind you of a time when you were weaker than you are now. The scars that signify survival. The skin that has grown from a seed. The stretch that has enabled multiple Sunday roasts and has the ability to grow life. The feet that have walked for miles. The spots that signify you need to slow down. The bones that stick out and remind you of your frame. The hair that grows in places not under your control. The wrinkles that signify a lifetime of laughter.
Fine, show real women, but don’t assume that this is only a size 14 and above. If we are representing real women – then this must be all women. Don’t promise to break the mould if you’re merely creating a new one.
Fuck the mould.
You’re beautiful regardless of the person modelling your clothes or rocking your jewellery. Remember the beauty bias and take the light away from the way that you look. Focus on other aspects and dimensions and soon the body will feel less like a canvas of beauty and more like a vehicle ready to take you to any destination.
We’re all beautiful, we’re all flawed. We all have good days followed by bad. We’re all real and worthy of insecurities and confidence.
We’re all ‘real.’