What do we mean by “real women”?

Courtesy of DoveCourtesy of DoveAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average woman in the United States is 63.8" tall (just over 5'3") and weighs 164.7 pounds. Sure, the average does not mean the most commonly found measurements, but one thing is clear: these statistics are not represented enough in fashion. Runway models are typically over 5'10" and wear around a size 4. Are these models "real women"? Of course they are. But when the majority of the women the fashion industry presents are so far off from the average many would argue this is not a "realistic" portrayal of the American woman.

Surely there are many ladies out there who are tall and thin. There are women who are tall and heavy. There are women who are short and thin. There are women who are short and heavy. There are women who are "average." There are women who are unhealthily thin. There are women who are unhealthily overweight. As women who are unique individuals inside and out, we all are different and come in different sizes. Tall, petite, Pear-shaped, apple-shaped, hour-glass, athletic, and everything in between. We are all "real woman."

We bring this up because there has been much discussion on Shine lately, particularly in the comments sections, about what a "real woman" is. Sometimes it's tricky in this day and age to remain politically correct and come up with terms to use that will not offend people. We too are guilty of using the term "real women" to describe women who aren't models, but when we think about it, it doesn't make any sense.

There has been an increasing backlash against what many consider unrealistic representations of women in fashion and in the media. While "plus-size" models like Crystal Renn become more accepted by the industry and used in campaigns and runway shows, they are still a teeny tiny fraction of the often extremely thin women being shown. More stores are now carrying sizes above a 12 or a 16, which is important, because when so many women wear those sizes, they should have options too. And most of all, we think that the media has now latched on to more P.C. terms like "curvy," "plus-size," and "real" as a trade in for much more offensive words like "fat" or "anorexic" which can be used recklessly and are incredibly hurtful. We agree, some of these new terms suck almost as much, and we're open to suggestions on better ones. As women we have the incredible power to be able to define ourselves. So maybe it's time to ditch the phrase "real women," and recognize that we are all real. And hopefully the fashion industry and the media will catch on and continue their slow-and-steady path to representing a variety of body types and shapes. It would be pretty awesome if one day we could all open a magazine or click on a fashion blog or shopping site and find women who look like us. And, of course, actually be able to "shop their look" in all our sizes.

Related links:
Do plus-size models make women feel bad about themselves?
At last: New York Fashion Week caters to full-figured women with an all plus-size show
Were pounds added to this cover model's photo? Is this such a bad thing?
Model Kate Dillon speaks out-about being too skinny, too plus-size, and what's up with the Crystal controversy
Were the "real" women Dove ads airbrushed? The air-brusher says yes, Dove says no
Do we want to see more plus-sized models in magazines?
Italy's 'Vogue Curvy,' And 5 Reasons It Misses The Mark