Last night, I was scrolling through my facebook news feed, as one does, and I saw a photo someone had 'shared'. It was a photo of a woman's belly covered in pregnancy stretch marks, and it bore a caption that (summarised) called for people to post photos of themselves, no matter what they looked like, to fight the Photoshop culture of media.
It also included statements like:
"Real women have stretch marks."
"Real women have curves."
Don't get me wrong, here. While I am all for resisting the prevalence of Photoshop in advertisements and the like, I cannot help but be equally resistant to campaigns saying that REAL people are a certain way.
"Real women have stretch marks." So, because I've never had a child and therefore have no pregnancy stretch marks, I'm not a real woman? I beg to differ. I have breasts and a vagina just like every other female on the planet. Just because I haven't had children yet doesn't make me less than someone who has. And what about those few women who get to have children without the stretch marks? Does that make them not real, somehow? No, they're real just as much as I am.
"Real women have curves." Don't hate me, but I'm 5'9"ish, and 120ish lbs. I have always been a stick, a bean-pole, a twig, tiny, skinny, thin, slender - there's no end to the words that get applied to my body type. I have a small chest and nearly no hips. I am under no misapprehensions about what shape and size I am. Yes, I'm very close to the magazine ideal. But. Phrases like "real women have curves" make me feel angry - that the idea that having fewer curves makes me less of a woman. I'm not this way on purpose, I am just the size I am and have always been. Am I inadequate simply because I'm thin?
"Real people..." I realise all these "Real People" campaigns that get started are an effort to help people's self-esteem by accepting and de-marginalising the larger/stretch-marked/what-have-you people, but the problem is, this re-marginalises those who are thinner/scar-less/what-have-you. I'm not less than human simply because of what I look like, but neither are you.
So, I'd like to argue, with all due respect and consideration, that REAL people are kind, REAL people are accepting, and REAL people are all different sizes and appearances. REAL people don't marginalise anyone, REAL people don't judge books based solely on their covers, and REAL people don't allow others to judge or bully anyone.
Real people love.