When faced with the challenge of explaining non-Victoria’s Secret bodies to the world, brands rely on two words: “real women.” The problem with this vocabulary is that the idea that some women are “real” is nonsense. Our perception of how women look should be broader than “model” and the “real” people. The pervasive use of “real women” is wrongheaded for several important reasons.
Saying “real women” is a way of throwing the more peopled category of women a bone in an industry that obviously favors shapes that simply aren’t in the cards for nearly everyone. It makes sense that brands want stick a flag on those rare moments when they decide they’re all about us women who don’t find a lot in common with a supermodel like Karlie Kloss’s in a gold bird costume. When that Triumph Lingerie real women campaign or the Dove real beauty campaign put the spotlight on women who we’re not used to seeing in ads, it was the right move. But enough already with this label.