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What Even Is ‘Real’ Anyway?

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By Jenni Sellan
@jennisellan

“A blog for real women, real styling tips for real women, style advice for real women”. I cringe.

The fashion industry and it’s representative media are being (rightly) called to exceedingly higher levels of accountability than perhaps ever before; challenged to represent a greater diversity across race, gender, and of course, it’s most contentious issue, size.

In short, the industry is being asked to ‘get real’.
But what is real and by whose definition?

In a discussion about the interpretation of ‘real’ women within the context of fashion and its’ associated industries, it’s difficult to resist the pull back into the debate about self-image and equal representation of women within the industry; an argument as complex as it is provoking.

While the concepts may never be mutually exclusive, the call to action from this piece is to put an end to the word ‘real’ unless we are describing ALL women.

By nature the human spirit has a deep desire for connectedness and to feel represented and validated outside of itself; born out of concern and frustration at the fashion industries promotion of unrealistically thin models and its resulting negative impact (particularly) on young impressionable girls, the notion of presenting an alternative that the majority of women related to, no longer focused on a particular mold was the beginning of the ‘real’ woman campaign. Add social media to the mix and its’ multitude of voices, the desire to see a relatable example of womanhood has become increasingly loud.

However for all its ‘good’ intentions, in an attempt to reach all women everywhere, has the real woman movement along with the media in it’s desire to be politically correct and all inclusive, created a concept that after all is said and done, operating from the same sentiment of exclusion that it was fighting against? Isn’t the objective to create a different experience?
It is absolutely 100% true that the vast majority of women do not look like the women on the runways and in fashion editorials, but surely their size and profession do not disqualify them from being ‘real’.

Lets talk about averages, lets talk about representation, lets talk about the role of fashion and it’s duty of care; lets talk about smashing stereotypes, and lets change the way we talk about women. Especially those who don’t fit into our individual experience of real.

The use of the word (real) has become careless. Body shaming is horrifying at both ends of the spectrum because what makes a women real has absolutely nothing to do with her external attributes but when we come from this starting point, someone somewhere along the line is going to feel isolated from the discussion.

For its’ September issue, Elle Australia featured a silver reflective metallic cover, with no cover girl…other than the one looking into it. Every woman looking into the cover was a portrait of a real woman – a clever way of celebrating the uniqueness of women everywhere – no judgment attached.

We ought to be careful not to judge another individual or group because their exterior and experience doesn’t’ match our own.

A definition of real is bound to be subjective and therefore difficult to define, but we can certainly attempt to describe it; real is the woman walking down the runway, designing the clothes and editing the magazines; real is the woman reading this article and the woman writing it, real is the woman battling cancer and real is the woman who has become a mother for the first time. Real is the woman who is a size 18 and real is the woman who is a size 6. Real are the women suffering from addictions and substance abuse, real are the women being persecuted around the world, real is the woman cleaning your office and real is the woman who is fighting a battle against domestic violence…real is the woman who seems to have it all. The list is infinite.
Real is not the majority or the minority of women. It is every woman. Past, present and future.

Find your posse of real and judge not those outside of it.

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