On The ‘Real’ Women Movement And The Fear Of Fakery
It’s no big secret that the men, the media and the masses are unduly obsessed with what a woman should look like (and behave like, feel like, respond like, but we haven’t all day here). One popular friendly suggestion of late comes in the form of a desperate plea for ‘real’ women – you know, those ones with skin and bones and stuff. Often so well-meaning, the real woman totem has been erected in all feminine focused patches of the media: real women wash their (gloriously smooth and blemish free) real skins with fluffy, frothy soap; real women barrage suspiciously thin and supermodel women from catwalks with angry words (or at least men do on their behalf). Men (apparently themselves real and unreal) prefer their women to be really real, a natural beauty, a ‘but you look so much better without make-up, dear’ woman.
Our culture, as it so often does, seems to have given us a buzz word and conveniently forgotten to provide the definition.
The thing is, the ‘real women movement’ so often has good intentions. These women are meant to bridge that all too cavernous-seeming gap between the perfect female form plastered over the media and the girl in the bathroom mirror. Beautifully lit, open-mouthed smiling, size twelve, soft skinned, thirty-something brunettes may make a welcome change from beautifully lit, pouting, size six, soft skinned, twenty-something blondes, but it seems both are just static statues and painted pin-up girls shoved in a gallery that intends to inform its visitors what exactly is pleasing to the eye. In fact, to hell with the hokey gallery metaphor, it’s more like a gladiatorial arena in there. Each socially-approved form of woman must be pitted against each other relentlessly until one walks proudly out with the unparallel pleasure of being the Most Attractive (to whom?) weighing on her pleasantly-toned-but-not-masculine shoulders.
It certainly would be a good thing to flick through a magazine and see a parade of women of all shapes and sizes, women that look like you and me, women who look lively and animated and distinct. Maybe the real woman concept is, at best, trying to encourage this. But the idea of ‘real’ and ‘natural’ being desirable features creates a whole new monster: The Fear of Fakery.
I have a friend who is no stranger to fake tan. She’s a fake tan fan. People often inform her ‘you look orange’; rudely, invasively, tactfully, apologetically. Her response – ‘I know, I intend to’. The thing is, some people just aren’t aiming for the presumed and approved natural target. They’ve got the same arsenal of weaponry, but they’ve loaded them up with different colours, different volumes, pointed them in different directions, and for some reason this has become an entirely awful thing to do. To let the natural façade slip and look downright fake is a supposed mistake, a disrespectful slight on the body they were blessed with, a desperate attempt to try and stand out from the crowd, a sign of vainglorious indulgence.
There’s a huge abundance of tools and techniques out there solely designed to alter one’s appearance, but it seems that the correct use of these resources is only to replicate a super-improved version of ‘the natural look’. But what about the quest for fakery for its own sake? The pierced and tattooed alt goth kids and the flawless fake eyelashed perma-tanned tribe from TOWIE all seem to appreciate this – and face their fair share of stick for doing so. It’s niche, it’s laughable, it’s reserved for the youthful and certainly unprofessional. But what if it weren’t? What if – get ready for this bombshell – how you make yourself look doesn’t mean anything all that significant? And that’s at worst; at its best, revelling in fakery can involve heaps of artistic expression, a whole lot of fun, and the security of knowing that what you’ve done on your outsides somewhat reflects the best bits of your insides.
Besides, ‘natural’ too has become an empty buzz word, an auto-antonym. With the dizzyingly fast advancement of beauty products on the market that work better, faster, and longer, it’s increasingly difficult to identify our natural selves – so why do we cling desperately to the idea? Take cosmetic surgery. There are countless motivations at work when a person decides to undergo a non-vital surgical procedure to alter their appearance. Perhaps they’re selfish, superficial or saddening ones. Cosmetic surgery is expensive, dangerous, permanent, and the backlash from observers is amped up accordingly. A convincing boob job is seen as lying or cheating; they may be big and perky at last (as I’m told a breast should be), but not bestowed on you by Mother Nature, now were they? But why is the world’s outlook so deeply ingrained to think like this? Perhaps it’s a purely biological desire that serves an evolutionary purpose. More likely it’s another way to try and get women, punks, teenagers and tearaways to conform to an arbitrary default that lets as little of their identity slip as possible.
Let’s leave behind the game of who can trick the most people into believing we’re one hundred percent natural, when in fact it’s all smoke and mirrors. Take ‘real’ and ‘natural’ off their almighty pedestals, because we’re not sure how they got up there in the first place. You’ve been given a blank canvas – use it well, use it wrong, don’t use it at all. It’s all up to you.
What do you think of the ‘real’ women movement? Do you stand by it, or think it does more harm than good? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Written by Laura Kent