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Are you “real” enough?

Skinny model and curvy model

The most recent Ann Taylor "Photoshop fail" and curvy model Jessica Leahy.

To be quite frank, the retouching debate has just become so boring. Don’t misunderstand me; I think it is great that we, the consumers, can now hold big brands and stores accountable for twisting a picture so much that it barely resembles the human being in the original shot. That being said, I don’t see the need for the overzealous ‘Photoshop Police’.

I think consumers of mass media these days know that no image makes it off the cutting room floor without some sort of photo manipulation – and much like a side mirror on a car – their minds flash with reminder that ‘people may appear realer than they are’ while perusing through catalogues.

Putting that aside, as someone with experience in the fashion industry, paying my way through university as a model beyond a size 10, I’ve always found it curious as to why females find so much comfort in the term ‘real woman’ – what does that even mean?

Jessica Leahy modelling Robyn Lawley Swimwear.

Jessica Leahy modelling Robyn Lawley Swimwear.

Jessica Leahy modelling Robyn Lawley Swimwear.

With a shape that would struggle to fit a pinkie toe inside a couture gown gracing a Parisian runway, I somehow thought I would largely – excuse the pun – be spared the judgement of cyber body bashers who consider themselves both judge and jury on all matters concerning ‘real women’.

Back in the day I would occasionally find my image on a blog or a website modelling underwear or a swimsuit with my girl curves out for all to see – which was fine until I discovered the dreaded “comments” sections.

To highlight how diligent this all-powerful online oligarchy is in wielding its influence, under my image I would see my physicalities being debated and dissected in excruciating detail. Of course these comments were on a sliding scale of positive to negative, and a lot I could whittle down to personal taste, but it was the comments about my shape not being able to quantify me as a “real” woman that I couldn’t understand.

Just to clarify I carry an ample amount of Botticelli curve and no one could accuse me of being a beanpole but, even if I were all right angles with a straight up and down shape – would that make me any less of a woman?

American comedian, Tina Fey seems to be on the money in her autobiographical book,Bossypants when she list’s her perceptions about the physical expectations women are supposed to embody;

“Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

I think most women can relate to lusting over at least five of the things on that list.

Perhaps the mother of all body image enemies is comparison. If women are always facing the mirror but looking at the reflection of the girl standing next to them, then of course they are not going to notice all the great things about themselves.

The point is there are too many expectations of women, full stop. We are never going to be able to hold up one type of beauty and deem it as “best” or “right” or “real” without shaming other women out there.

The fact is beauty is not a one size fits all. It’s a concept that even with the stretchiest cheap jersey fabric will never, and I mean never, fit everyone’s individual taste. So perhaps instead of wondering why women don’t look the way we want them to, why don’t we take issue with the demand of this ‘real’ shape that seems so entirely unrealistic?

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