Please take the following quiz: Do you want to be a woman? Do you feel like a woman?
If you answered “yes”to both of these questions, then congratulations! You are a real woman!
If you answered “no” to both of these questions, yay! You are a real man!
We are all real, yet in the media and colloquially, the word “real” is often used in provocative ways that imply that someone can somehow be less of a person if they don’t look or act a certain way or conform to outdated expectations of their gender.
Real women have this or that. Real men never do that. This is ridiculous. The complexity of the human experience and the diversity of the human body is way too big to fit in a teeny box.
That box, that set of rigid expectations, the social construct of gender norms, the digitally-altered media images that reinforce that real women and real men need to meet certain beauty standards or suffer as outcasts—these are the only things that aren’t real. These things are like the make-believe monsters that children fear beneath their beds and because they aren’t real, we shouldn’t treat them like they are and live in fear.
I often feel lucky to live right now at this moment in history in this culture. Things aren’t perfect, but in terms of personal freedom and societal acceptance, we have come so far in such a short period of time.
We live in an era where everyone can begin to celebrate who they are uniquely.
Anyone who identifies as a man can call himself a man and anyone who identifies as female can be a woman. Period. If someone else doesn’t want to be limited by gender and chooses to identify as neither man nor woman or if it’s more comfortable to be a combination of the two, then that’s okay too!
We can all be exactly who we want. Our lives are no longer defined by our body parts or by what other people tell us we ought to be. There is no ought.
A woman doesn’t even need a vulva or a vagina to be a real woman. She doesn’t need to be fertile or to have children, and if she does, she doesn’t need to be a certain kind of parent. A woman can work. She can own a business. She can be an artist, grow a beard, be skinny or obese. Her breasts don’t matter, her clothing choices are totally unimportant.
The same goes for men. A man can have a vagina. A man can “mother.” A man can wear makeup and he can run marathons and build houses and work out and get big muscles. He can do all these things at the same time if he so chooses.
And if a woman loves stereotypically girly things like lacy dresses, bouquets, princesses and cupcakes and if a man loves stereotypically masculine things like sports, trucks and grilling, great. They too should be celebrated as long as they are making authentic choices based on their own desires. People whose preferences and looks naturally fall within mainstream standards are just as incredible and worthy and lovable as those who don’t. They are real too.
People can finally define themselves on their own terms. No words, no religion, no gossip, no picture in a magazine or internet article can deny someone’s real-ness.
Real equals human, regardless of our quirks, our beliefs, our appearances or our identities.
No one can take away our humanity and we should all revel in the joyful creation of our unique, beautiful selves.
Author: Victoria Fedden
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Rose Morelli/Flickr