Women are rarely satisfied with their appearances. I’m not. My mother isn’t. My roommate isn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman in my life who looked at herself and said “Nope, I wouldn’t change a thing.” And to me, that’s rather heartbreaking.
We are all constantly pushed into a quest for more, a quest for pretty, beautiful, or, sexy, a quest for different. We, as women, are beleaguered with constant media impressions saying “You are not enough. Buy this, and then you will be one step closer to being enough.” We have products that are anti-aging, anti-fading, anti-wrinkle, all to help you stay young, desirable, vital.
For many, many years, there’s been a great focus on bodies in our media and in our minds. Bodies that are too skinny or too fat are seen as unattractive or lesser. The perfect proportions, the perfect weight, the perfect size – these are things that women are conditioned to want for themselves, and things they are conditioned to seek.
In recent years, many women have pushed back against that trend. Curves have been embraced, women with large thighs and broad chests and wide hips have flaunted their curves rather than trying to hide them, enjoyed their bodies rather than trying to change them. This is incredible. This is amazing. This is good and right and true and should be encouraged for every woman. Enjoy what you have, flaunt it too. But with this acceptance of self, for many women, comes a habit of judging and putting down others.
I’m sure you’ve heard a woman say something along the lines of what “real women” do, or say, or look like, or act like. From the 2002 movie Real Women Have Curves to e-cards based on the behavior and looks of a real woman, we have defined “real women” in a thousand different ways. And while this may comfort women whose goals, appearances, or desires are considered counterculture or “other”, it is actually an incredibly isolating way of improving one’s own self image. By saying that real women have this or that characteristic, appearance, or habit, we are implying that all other women are fake, lesser. While we are real women, others are not.
How is this in any way different from skinny women disparaging larger women, or women of one race disparaging another? In fact, it isn’t. It creates a divide between women based on shallow differences that do not change your heart, your mind, or your soul. We are all real women. Real women have curves. Real women also have none. Real women are from Europe and real women are from Asia. Real women are tall, short, skinny, fat. Real women wear makeup, or don’t. Real women work out, or don’t. If you are a woman, you are a real woman.
It’s time to stop disparaging each other and subtly undermining each other by saying what’s real and what isn’t. Every woman is a real woman, and implying that some of us – any of us – are lesser based on our appearance is bullying, plain and simple. Alienating and isolating others may provide us with a quick boost of self-esteem, but it will never be a path to long-term happiness.