The Vagenda

How To Be A (Real) Woman

There’s been a lot of talk about what constitutes a ‘real’ woman of late, and we’re here to set the record straight. Caitlin Moran may have given you all sorts of ridiculous ideas in How To Be A Woman that flagged certain instances which might strongly suggest you are female: getting periods, for example, or falling pregnant; working your way up the career ladder with a few bumps on the way, or even owning a bonafide vagina (haha… boner.) But the point is that none of this stuff really points you towards what a REAL woman is. All you vagina-owning, child-bearing, skirt-suit-wearing hordes of higher-voiced hussies better just climb right down. Because apparently, a REAL woman is ‘curvy’.

Now, we all got royally pissed off when size zero fourteen year olds hit the catwalk (and the pages of Vogue) as the next best emaciated-looking thing to aim for since ‘heroin chic’. We came out in our droves to condemn the industry that, alongside ballet, had threatened to make anorexia trendy for more than a decade. These are serious issues that we continue to fight in the media, while being mindful of the fact that some women really are slim, antelope-legged, wide-eyed beauties who barely have an inch of fat to pinch and still maintain enviable levels of health. And you know what? Some of us made judgments that went the other way.

As a petite young buck on the lower side of five foot tall, I’m not suggesting for one second that I stand in league with the teeny-tiny-waisted plus-six-footers who hang Dior clothes off themselves with professional ease. But the condemnation of them has dribbled down and clung to my frame like a well-aimed cumshot. In proportion with the rest of me, my boobies and my hips are little. Not nonexistent, but I’m definitely not going to prop a beer can up in my cleavage any day soon. I can squash my twins into those little bandeau bikinis from Urban Outfitters, and they stand up on their own without any Wonderbra support – in other words, they’re pert but they’re no good for a motorboat.

Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t fucking care. I like my boobs the way they are, sitting there at the front of me, balancing my shape, standing to attention, and failing to give me back ache. And you know what? I know someone who is COMPLETELY flat-chested – and she couldn’t give a fuck either. She lives a fulfilled life, has many ardent admirers, holds down a job, eats food, watches movies and participates in sport. It’s almost as if having small boobs isn’t a recognised and debilitating disability.

Does a ‘real woman’ have fifties curves? Yeah, maybe. But she also goes straight up and down, or has a petite frame, or has huge hips and teeny basoomas, or the other way round (the lucky devil.) I am not a fraudulent female because my boobs are unreliable lifesavers in a Titanic situation. And guess what? Inserting silicone into my chesticles would make me logically a little bit MORE pretend than if I didn’t, not less so. I’m professing my natural dimensions, not a single horn or a pair of wings, so can y’all start BELIEVING IN ME now?

So long as we continue propagating the idea that a ‘real woman’ exists, we perpetuate the belief that some women just don’t make the cut. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sit well with me. Let’s unite against these damaging attitudes about ‘fantasy women’ and fantastical woman, and accept that titties can be itty bitty as well as AOK, shall we?

Goddamn, am I glad to get that off my chest.

14 thoughts on “How To Be A (Real) Woman

  1. THANKYOU. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks the pin-up postcard ‘real woman’ mentality is as damaging to female body image as a size 0 Vogue model.

  2. What pisses me off is how hard it is to find an unpadded bra in a c-cup or smaller. Like we’re all desperate to pad our somewhat smaller boobies out with a foam-filled monstrosity because we all want to emulate Jordan’s silhouette.

  3. I’ve got a proposition for ya from your sisters at the other end of the tit-scale: y’all stop snootily saying “at least *mine* aren’t all saggy” or “more than a handful is a waste” and we’ll make extra sure to shut down those “real woman” assholes hard.

    in other words, truce? why fight each other when we can work together?

    (which is to say, you’re damn right.)

    -hugs from your 34G sister across the sea.

  4. The ‘Real Woman’ movement was probably meant to be affirmative but it’s just another way to make women feel bad about their bodies. Articles proclaiming ‘curves are back’ loosely translate to ‘Christina Hendricks is dead sexy and even we can’t argue against that, could a designer please lower themselves to a size 14 so we can get a better look at those assets’…but most women who are curvy don’t and won’t look like Red from Mad Men, and the moment you are halfway acceptable to the machine I think the pressure just increases to make it properly.

    The idea of a balanced figure is also unhelpful ladies. It’s only balanced if you are all small, or all big, and life doesn’t always work out that way.

    I am only half a ‘real’ woman. So much so that I can barely ever find a bra in my size. Why? Because the industry refuses to believe that I could have breasts the size that they are, and a back as wide as mine. I am not deformed, just pushing 6 foot and proportionally broad…but not similarly endowed. Short of a knife and some implants or a dangerous diet that goes entirely against my natural weight I will never be balanced, I’ll just be the way that I am.

  5. What Chordae said. We shouldn’t be divisive on this – women are women, whatever their size. And as a size 14 woman with a 34F chest, let me tell you that the media & fashion industry are only paying lipservice to the ‘real woman with curves’ debate as we’re still pretty much invisible. Ironic really, considering how big we are. For example, the new M&S ad features an older model (huzzah!) and a girl who must be all of a size 12 but blink, and you’ll miss the larger model. Ditto Dove who seemed to have dropped their ‘real’ women ads – which also included slender, small women

  6. Sign this petition to have Page 3 removed from The Sun. The momentum is gathering, and the ‘reasons for signing’ listed are so encouraging. Perhaps we can trigger a shift towards fewer unattainable targets for women and less cultural emphasis on big (displayed) tits as a universal standard:

  7. Yes! It’s been driving me nuts for years. Have at times been reduced to buying bras on trips overseas to countries where the average woman isn’t as “real” as in the UK.

    And… oh the irony of the “real” woman having to obtain her “real” figure by putting silicon implants into her… Words fail

  8. “As a petite young buck on the lower side of five foot tall, I’m not suggesting for one second that I stand in league with the teeny-tiny-waisted plus-six-footers who hang Dior clothes off themselves with professional ease. But the condemnation of them has dribbled down and clung to my frame like a well-aimed cumshot.”

    You really wanted to write that?

  9. It’s not just boobs… my beef is with others claiming that anyone who is a size 10 or less never eats! I’ve always been slim, (I was born an inch longer than my sibling and lighter) and I can rememeber negative comments froms primary school, it took until my twenties to realise that I’m ok, I look fine, it’s their problem.

    I eat, I eat three meals a day which are generally balanced but as a busy worker type person whos spends 3hrs + travelling every day I do have nights of pizza/chinese/ takeaway when I just can’t be arsed to cook fresh food. Choc hobnobs are accepted at any time :-)
    My point is, prejudice goes all ways,this article is great, all women are REAL women!

  10. Reading this article makes me v thankful that I don’t read women’s magazines anymore! I’m “curvy” only because I’m fat! Surely being round is the ultimate curvy size?? Also this crap makes women feel they have to explain themselves all the time; bollocks to that!

  11. This might be silly, but I get annoyed when ‘curvy’ is used to describe a woman who is carrying a lot of body fat regardless of how their waist measurements compare to their her hip or bust measurements. ‘Curvy’ has a definition, and misusing it as a euphemism only upshoots the idea that it’s not ok to be fat. It is. Fat women are healthy, and hot.

    I’m not fat, but I am curvy, which is also healthy and hot. I’m not better than anyone else, but I don’t enjoy being told how not curvy and not voluptuous I am because apparently we need to save those words for other people who need them more. It’s silly. Can we just use honest descriptors? I understand if ‘fat’ has too much baggage and hate attached to it, but ‘curvy’ is an inaccurate word because it doesn’t reflect your body fat percentile; only your distribution.

    I hope I’m not coming across as an asshole!

  12. I’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time. I never understood why people who are not as thin as models claim that they are “fake,” and that “real” women have curves. That mentality is just as harmful as believing that all women must look like Freja Beha Erichsen. Freja is just as much of a woman as Jennifer Hudson is, no matter what the shape of her body is. It’s insulting and close-minded and biased to honestly believe that the media has stopped portraying “real” women. It’s also just downright ridiculous. People could have at least chosen a different word, one that’s not so blatantly incorrect.