Why I hate the term ‘real women’

How dare advertisers dictate the parameters within which I can be a 'real woman'?

Share
Related Topics

There's something about the phrase 'real women' that irks me, possibly more than it should. Perhaps it's the tedious regularity with which, as a size 16 person, the phrase is thrown in my direction as if a) slimmer women than me are holograms b) their existence bothers me to the extent that I require reassurance c) the whole thing wasn't so obviously a thinly veiled euphemism for 'you're a bit fat'.

When it comes to advertising, however, I genuinely believe the trend of using so-called 'real women' has potentially sinister consequences (above and beyond me shouting 'will you sodding-well stop saying 'real women' as if that means something!').

As a body confidence campaigner/purveyor of the 'beauty comes in all shapes and sizes' school of non-idiocy, my stance on the 'real women' phenomenon may surprise you. Let me explain.

When models, who represent a paradigm of aspirational beauty, were uniformally six foot tall, a size 0 and 14 years old, those were dark and terrible times for anyone who didn't fit those very narrow criteria. But at least we could comfort ourselves in the knowledge that these people were not only genetic rarities, but had probably been airbrushed beyond recognition in addition.

Fast forward to 2013 and the aftermath of Dove's phenomenally commercially successful Dove 'real beauty' campaign and more and more retailers are using a range of shapes and sizes in their advertising, whilst pledging not to airbrush them. This can only ever be applauded as an excellent thing. Diversity in beauty and fashion? Brilliant! Bravo! What I object to is the attachment of the 'real woman' label.

For where there is an image of a 'real woman' there is by default an explicit expectation placed upon actual, three dimensional 'real women' that this is what they should look like. And when said image depicts a woman who has been scouted from amongst thousands of 'real' candidates by a street team to represent the brand, have probably spent hours in hair and makeup, been styled by experts before being expertly lit and photographed they aren't indicative of an aesthetic which is achievable by most.

Unfortunately, the well-meaning pledges not to airbrush undertaken by brands like No7 can have a similarly negative effect. For whilst airbrushing is undoubtedly sneaky, sinister & deceitful, it should be remembered that it isn't the only technique that can drastically alter a subject's appearance. Makeup and lighting experts were sharpening features, slimming silhouettes and lengthening legs long before the invention of the computer and there's just as little hope of recreating the subsequent flawless radiance in reality. 'Unairbrushed' should not be equated with 'this is how this woman actually looks' and yet one can't help but conclude that is the way we are supposed to interpret it.

Furthermore, it's patronising. My response to the influx of 'real women' ad campaigns was one of indignation. How dare advertisers dictate the parameters within which I can be a 'real woman'? Is there nothing sacred? Can't I just live my life?

Advertisers may very well ask 'how can we win'? - I have (rightly) criticised them for their historical insistence on presenting only one incredibly polarised notion of what it is to be attractive. Some have now begun to broaden the scope of shapes, sizes ages and races of models they're using and for that they should be given credit. But they've gone and ruined it by naively jumping on the 'real woman' bandwagon, actually jeopardising our self-esteem in the process.

So, if you really want to do us all a favour, advertisers, you should simply do this: Attach a disclaimer to every billboard, bus stop, TV ad, magazine and website that says:

"Adverts deal in fantasy. This is a world we have carefully constructed to create the illusion of a party to which you will not be invited until you buy our product. However, the party does not exist and your invite will be lost in the post."

"This is NOT real".

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power