When you hear the words “real women” what is your first thought?
Does your mind differentiate between women that are particularly thin? Heavy? Curvy? Straight? Are some real and others… not?
Media outlets, in all their various forms, seem determined to separate women into “real” and “unreal” camps. Us versus them. You versus me. Most of this differentiation is focused on our body shapes, with “curves” somehow getting top-billing. Now, I adore Christina Hendricks with all my heart, but she is no more real than Liu Wen. Neither woman should be defined by her size, shape or color. None of those make someone “real” and someone else, what… a figment of our imaginations? An alien? A mannequin? A Barbie doll? Better yet – a Cabbage Patch doll?
I don’t know about you, but ALL the women I know are REAL women.
Yes, we come in different shapes, sizes and colors but these arenot the things that define us. We are so much more than that.
I’ve touched on this topic myself in various forms on the blog before, but a few weeks ago I decided to reach out to my fellow bloggers and see what they had to say.
What does being a women mean to them?
What do they think of when they hear the words “real women.”
I was amazed and overwhelmed by the positive response to my request and am proud to present Part One of a Two Part series.
Please enjoy these wonderfully moving words of wisdom from the beautiful and real women below!
From a young age, being a woman has been a loaded gun – it meant being put on diets in elementary school to realizing how much power my confidence and sexuality had in undergrad. There’s an incredible power to being a woman and I think that’s why society tries in every way to make us powerless. From telling us how we need to look, what we should weigh, what kind of households we “should” have, and how to balance beauty and intelligence – because god forbid in 2011 we’re both.
Sadly, I feel like most women aren’t in a position to receive messages and education on empowerment – and in a blogosphere of outspoken and passionate women, that’s incredibly easy to forget. When I think about the women I work with, there’s often too much on their daily plates to really THINK about how they’re treating other women or themselves. They’re too busy trying to get meals cooked, work full-time, get the kids from soccer practice, finish their homework, get good grades, fall in love or stay in love. In many ways, it’s the biggest way the feminist movement has damned us – it put us in a position of needing to do it all now, and, in the process, providing us with so much that we neglect to think about how we interact and treat our fellow sisters.
The only way to empower all women is through how we act. Be kind. Share compliments. Offer hugs and support. Work to break stereotypes and celebrate the choices women make in all aspects of life, because we have the ability to make a choice.
A “real” woman is a state of mind. For me a “real” woman is someone who is comfortable in their own skin. They dress for themselves, not for the approval or attentions of others. A “real” woman doesn’t let society dictate arbitrary or outmoded definitions of femininity – to be a “real woman” means knowing yourself enough as a woman to express yourself in real time, your real life.
It took me a long time to finally accept my body type; my fuller figure, my bigger build. I’m still working on being happy and confident in my own shape, but acceptance is a powerful first step. I’ve found that it can really change your perspective and make those other goals seem a little less far away. So often I feel that the media tells us we ought to look like something we’re not, that we should be constantly striving for something else. It doesn’t make much sense in the long run.
The phrase “Look like a model” doesn’t make much sense either when you consider that the word “model” means a copy or representation. For women who work as models the word defines their job, not their body type, not the circumference of their waist or the length of their legs. We women don’t serve as a representation of anything but our own individual beauty. No woman is a facsimile and I think it’s high time the rest of the world accepted that. Acceptance really is a powerful first step, and it does lead to some pretty extraordinary change.
We are women, real and amazing. We are mothers, daughters, friends and lovers. We are also so much more. Each one of us is strong, beautiful and uniquely perfect. We come in all sizes, shapes, colors, backgrounds and personalities. This should be celebrated. These beautiful differences add to our allure, our mystery. There are so many truly wonderful things about being a woman. We are exquisite. We have more power and strength than many of us realize. And unfortunately, many of us undervalue ourselves. I wish we could all see the beauty within each one of us. We are superheroes after all. Seriously, many of us give birth to new life and sometimes, multiple times! How many men can do that? So today is the day we look ourselves in the eye (via mirrors, of course) and promise to value ourselves and see the beauty within. We are beautiful.
Real women are not defined by a body shape, race, culture, religion or appearance. Real women are defined by the heart. We have a soul that cannot be denied, and a mind all our own. We can come in many shapes, sizes, orientations and personalities – our common threads may differ from person to person.
For me being a woman means I strive to remain strong, to be confident, to own who I am and not let others control me – I just want to be the best me I can be. I don’t strive for perfection, that unattainable goal, I just want to stay true to all I hold dear. To me a woman is just one of two genders – we’re women because we’re not men – we were created differently and uniquely. What’s more important to me than being labeled as real or not is if I know who I am no matter what others perceive me to be. We are often misconstrued as things we’re not in today’s society and to me the ultimate goal is to maintain integrity and identity all my own. We can have scars and flaws and that’s not a bad thing – it’s things to embrace as what we were born with or what happened to us in our life stories. Being a woman was not a choice we made, it’s an opportunity we were given. Gender is not a burden, and boundaries aren’t impossible to cross.
Included here is a picture of my arm (completely unretouched, not an edit made) and it shows something I’ve had since birth, just like my gender – my birth mark.
For a lot of fashion magazines it would seem that “real women” are those women with curves. Sure, they are real, just as real as the models that are more often than not featured in these magazines and on the catwalks at fashion week and just as real, again, as those of us who find themselves in the in-between size range – somewhere between the models and the plus-sized women who are deemed somehow more “real”.
I wish that when a fashion magazine featured “real women” it would include ALL types of women. Women from size 2 to size 20 are real because they exist – I just wish we could celebrate every size of woman rather than holding one up as “better” than another. Whatever shape or size, every woman has the potential to be truly beautiful and the right to be celebrated.
Only recently did I begin to enjoy and feel blessed that I am a woman. I love that I can wear a dress, I can wear make up if I want to, I can wear tons of jewelry or nothing at all, and still feel beautiful. I am beautiful because of the curves of my body, the way my mind thinks, there’s just so much more. You can compare the way I see being a woman to many pieces of artwork, Botticelli, Cezanne, Vermeer. All of these artists portray such beauty in the female figure. It is amazing to be able to embody that beauty and feel like a piece of artwork, whether I am in sweat pants, a gown, or jeans and a t-shirt.
Every woman is a “real” woman, whether she is skinny or fat. Every woman is beautiful in her own wonderful way. I am so happy that I get to be a part of that. Even though that means cramps, menstruation, clothing fitting issues, whatever it may be.
The term “real women” is yet another way for society to divide us, to make us doubt our worth, and turn on one another. Well I have news for you: we are all real women, regardless of age, race, height, weight, size etc!
Embrace your womanhood, and wear it with pride no matter what society says!
As I approach the big 3-0, I’m learning what it truly means to be a woman. I’m learning that confidence, courage, sexiness, the ability to love, and the strength to persevere isn’t found in the things outside of me. It’s not in a pair of shoes, the perfect job, the perfect figure, or even in my husband. I spent my teens and 20’s chasing all that until I realized they all have been inside of me all this time!
So being a woman to me is learning how to celebrate yourself, be brave enough to go after what makes you happy, and forgiving yourself when you stumble along the way!
To me, ‘real women’ should mean women as they are, women that haven’t been airbrushed within an inch of their lives. It shouldn’t be – but all too often is – used to be disparaging about other women as a way of making ourselves feel better. Women’s egos can be far too fragile in this regard because of the effect of the media; if this were a conspiracy it’d be an incredibly effective ‘divide and conquer’ tactic.
As part of my local feminist group I helped sticker public bathrooms with positive messages for women, eg “ignore what the media says – YOU are beautiful!” I don’t always feel happy with how I look, but I keep telling myself that ‘I’m beautiful as I am’. Some day I’d like to go beyond this and think, “I don’t need to be beautiful to feel good about myself.”
When I was asked about my thoughts on being a woman, I suddenly felt very uncomfortable. Not because I don’t consider myself as one. But I feel the same way about boldly stating in print ‘I am a real woman’ as when football or royal weddings come up and I want to buy some innocent patriotic paper cups: will people know I’m doing this out of bonhomie and fellowship, not hatred? Will they know I actively fight racism as part of my day job? I start to apologise and fumble. It only takes a few – often filled with righteous indignation – to ruin a word or an image for everyone.
I am a small woman: height and waist size, I’m petite. I also happen to have a large bust, which seems to have saved me in the past from hurtful ‘give her a sandwich’ comments. I have not been so lucky with ageism. It seems it is not offensive to ask a woman her age if you think she’s too young to be taken seriously. I know (and I am not showing off, this has affected employability in the past) I look about 10 years younger than my real age. Like being slim, on the surface it’s a boon: not when the ignorant use it to base assumptions on. I have big eyes and a babyface: but I’m not a little girl and this isn’t an indicator of some luxury-filled soft life. If you think it is, try doing my job for a day: it’s not one for little girls (nor little boys). I am a real person, just as you are a real person. I am a real woman because of my gender – but the real part of that phrase has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the size of my brassière, my weight or my skincare regime. It’s to do with maturity and integrity: something that those who mis-use the phrase to hate lack.
I used to hate my widow’s peak and my nose. I always thought my hips were too wide and my thighs too muscular. Then I realized all the things I disliked about myself were the things that made me unique and special. No one else looks like me, no one else has my figure or my features, and that’s what makes me a real woman. None of this “I have curves so I’m a real woman” crap from me. But I am a real woman because I accept myself, my flaws and my body as it is, and embrace all of it.
This acceptance of myself, and the world around me, is what makes me a real woman.
I am an intelligent, intuitive and an interesting person. I love life in spite of all its ups and downs. I can endure all the pain in the world and still smile. I have an ability to find positive in everything and think straight regardless of the complications. I believe in raising the bar and not following the beaten path. I am not ashamed to admit when I am wrong, nor am I ‘unnecessarily’ modest. I believe, neither my struggles nor my achievements define me. Neither does my size, skin color, caste or religion. But what does define me as a woman is my compassion, care and honesty! I am on a life-long journey to be the best version of myself. Hence, I am a real woman.