Why the ‘Real Women’ fashion campaign was never real to begin with

Sali Hughes of the Guardian had a great point this week when she talked about the problem with selling magazines featuring ‘real women’. She reported that a German magazine had ended its ‘no model’ campaign because it had proved to be of no financial benefit.

PR stunts like this, where the magazine declared it would use non-professional, everyday women in its photoshoots, were designed to promote what the fashion industry is now seeing as a short-term marketing technique. Get on board with the average woman of a size 16, print photos of her and her friends, stick them on a Dove soap advert or two and call them ‘real women’. In other words, let the women who complained about size zero models have their share of the spotlight for a short time, then let’s get back to normal.

Although the global ‘real woman’ campaign has seen achievements for anti-anorexia campaigns and has fought for healthier professional models and stricter industry rules, size 16 women were never going to take over as the permanent height of fashion.

The Guardian article stated how it was all well and good for women to demand less use of skinny girls in the media, but the trouble is they still bought the magazines they featured in, and shopped at the places selling clothes for them. For any real change to happen, the industry would have had to have nearly collapsed, and likelihood says that was never going to happen.

Personally, I hate the term ‘real women’. It insinuates that every size 8 woman is that size because she has starved herself to be. I consider myself to eat a normal diet, and I could definitely exercise more than I do, but I still wear a size 8 most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with being a size 14, but it shouldn’t dictate that every woman should be to avoid being accused of having an eating disorder. Be a size 14 if you like, but if not, be whatever size you like, including the smaller ones.

Size 8 women are real women too, and shouldn’t be fought against in public images. Average or larger sizes can be given media attention too, but why do they call for ALL of the attention? A common feature of fashion magazines is to suggest outfits dependant on the age range of the reader, so why not do this by size too? For a truly fair industry, we need to stop pretending small sizes don’t exist as much as the larger ones, and give an even coverage to dictate what should be looked at and consumed. Calling out for the ‘average woman’ is only going to work if the majority can relate to it, or it will become known as the short-term PR stunt it is beginning to look like.


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