The question of ‘realness’, when it comes to valuing women’s bodies, is often an uncomfortable one. How ‘real’ can anything be in a superficial world, where a real body almost doesn’t exist any more? We have made up, dyed, shaved, cut, injected, trained and shaped our bodies in such a way that we now see our moulded bodies as real. The ‘real’ body is no longer the body that resembles the one we have at birth, but the one that has become almost like plastic.

When we think about some of the conversations on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, the question of ‘what is a real woman’ is, firstly, attached to images of the perfect woman. She is pretty, she is skinny and she is often quite well off. She can buy designer clothes and can afford expensive beauty products to keep her looking flawless. This is the image we often see projected, but on the other hand the world’s average Joes tend to refer to women who are ‘plus-size’ or ‘normal-size’ to be more real than those perfect, skinny women.

Neither type of woman is exclusively ‘real’.

Fashionista Alexa Chung, who has often been accused of promoting the skinny ideal, once said: ‘I think it’s about time people stopped judging women on their appearance and more on their intellect, like you can appreciate my style without having to appreciate my weight,’ she said. ‘[The two are] not mutually inclusive. I get frustrated: just because I exist in this shape doesn’t mean that I’m… advocating it and saying: “I look great.” How do you know I’m not looking in the mirror and going: “I wish I could gain 10 pounds [about 4,5 kg]?” Which is actually quite often the case. But if you say that, you sound like you’re bragging that you’re naturally thin, and you’re not allowed to do that because even though it’s not the ideal weight, it kind of is as well.’

Different people have different ideals. Not all skinny people are chasing the ideal of being ultra-thin. Not all skinny women have anorexia or bulimia; most of them might just be naturally skinny or watch their weight. Yet, people love to buy into the whole idea that models are unhealthily skinny, and therefore other people who are skinny must be so too. These generalizations are what drive most healthy-skinny women up the wall.

Then you get models like Katya Zharkova who’s admired by women the world for being voluptuous and curvy. I have often seen women comment on how ‘real’ she is and how much more representative she is of most women. That might be true in certain places and to me she is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and a great example of how sexy voluptuous women are, but one cannot say that she is in any way more ‘real’ than other women simply because she has more body weight.

For me, the focus should always be on health and self-confidence. If you are healthy and feel confident with your shape, it’s all good. The fakeness comes into it when women become unhealthy – often because of a lack of self-confidence – and start to mould their bodies in such an extreme way that they lose all bodily integrity.

Let us know what you think.