Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Real Women?

Now I realise I may be burning some bridges with this post, but, it's not called the Ramblings of Mrs BeBe for nothing. When I started this blog it was started with the intention of having somewhere to air my views when it came to being a fat women who loves fashion and although the fashion element has taken over somewhat, I will always hope this is a place for other plus size women to come to talk, see clothes on someone who makes a little more sense to them than a model and maybe make them feel a little bit better about their marvellous bodies.

Today I want to talk about the term 'real women'. A term that has been banded around in the media for quite some years now and in turn has been twisted and changed beyond recognition. When companies like Dove started using terms like real beauty etc, I genuinely think it was a reaction to the airbrushed, unachievable standards of models and celebrities, and it was created to make women feel good about themselves, to know that it was ok, to be fat, or freckly, or grey. To basically say if you don't fall within the standard of what society dictates as beautiful well that's ok, because you are beautiful.

But in recent years it seems the Real Women description has been adopted by the media as a tool to placate plus size women and start an us and them war against thin women. For those women who maybe don't see the harm in it, or who genuinely do hate thin women it's become the standard insult to throw at images of thinner women, "oh she's not a real woman" well ladies, I've got news for you. If you identify as a woman, you are in fact a woman.

So you can imagine my frustration, but intrigue when I received an email from a company promoting an event taking place next year. The Real Women Clothing Show describes itself as a "retail paradise for ladies with curves". Oh don't even get me started... the whole curves argument can be tackled in another post!

I'd received a couple of emails from the event when this beauty turned up today.....

"Plus Size Women Spend Half As Much On Clothing As Their Slimmer Counterparts
Plus size women are spending an average of 45% less per annum on clothing than their slimmer peers, according to research commissioned by ‘The Real Women Clothing Show’. Lionel Fenton the event director of the show says, “greater choice is the key”."


The email then went on to say....

"The research specifically looked at the clothing buying habits of 400 plus size women located in the regions of London, the Southeast and East Anglia. The results showed that plus size women spent an average of £414 per annum on clothes compared to a total female average of £755 (verdict), which means plus size women spend £341 less every year.

Lionel says, “I wasn’t surprised at the result, the reason is simple it’s a lack of choice. More than half of our respondents had problems when shopping for clothing, if they were more aware of the wide variety of retailers selling plus size clothing they would spend more”!"


So what do you think? Do we spend less then our slimmer counterparts? I for sure agree with the lack of choice, but spend less? Really?

I'll be completely honest, I was in a pretty vile mood this morning so when I received this email it was like a red rag to a bull.... So, enraged, I composed the following email...

"Hi there,

Can I ask... Who are these women you spoke to? The same ones in the focus group who advised you that the "real woman" show would be a good name for your event?

Whilst I appreciate your efforts to bring this show to the public and create an event on such a large scale, I just find it hard to believe these are the same women who read my blog and I speak to on a daily basis? I speak to women who love fashion, spend money and embrace their bodies. Don't get me wrong, I speak to a lot who don't too, but it's crazy to think you managed to solely research with those kind of women.

I cannot emphasise how much opposition you will come up against because of the name of your event. It's already caused quite a lot of negativity on twitter.

Again I applaud the notion and idea, but think a rebranding whilst in these early stages would do wonders for your event. After all, all women are real women, regardless of size, shape or weight, it's both insulting to thin women and patronising to fat women.

Kindest regards
Becky Barnes"


Now I can't fault the organisation for its quick response time.......

"Hi Becky,

Thank you for your response and interest.

I admire your passion greatly, however we actually surveyed 400 women and 59.5% chose the the name for the show.

You are right a number of the respondents don't read blogs at all and that is the reason why your followers may not agree entirely with the name of the show. From our researching bloggers in the UK are followed by approximately 1% of UK plus size female community (approximate 100,000 women) therefore although their opinions are extremely important to us I believe we must be careful not to ignore the opinions of the other 99% (approximately 10 million women).

Bloggers and their followers tend to be trend setters, innovators, leaders, fashion forward, extremely confident and younger in age than the majority of women who are size 14+. So I respect your opinion greatly, however I have also spoken to many plus size women, retailers and investors who really like this name.

By using a generic term such as 'Real Women', which as you said means everyone. Our aim is to state that women don't need labels and are all the same regardless of their their shape, size or weight. Unfortunately, because this is a sensitive subject I do not believe we will make everyone happy.

Nevertheless, if you do not wish to receive any more information on this event, I will happily unsubscribe you from our list.

Kind Regards,"


So there you have it. I am yet to compose a response, I'm not sure really what to say. It would appear that I and my blog reading, and blog creating counterparts opinions do not count, nor do we represent "real women" well, if that my friends, is the case, I do not wish to be a real woman, I am quite happy to continue being unreal. Because until these huge forces take responsibility, and begin to be more mindful about the way they communicate with their customers, I do not wish to be a part of their "real" world.

UPDATE.....

In light of the response to this post, why don't we conduct a little market research of our own? If you could take the time to complete this survey I'd love to know what you all think....

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZK9DKS6

26 comments:

  1. Ah yes. Thank you for saying that everyone who identifies as a woman IS a woman, that's vastly important. Secondly, anyone who is alive is surely 'real' whatever she looks like. Until we start producing robots who look exactly like women I think the term 'real women' should be sent to Room 101. We're all women, full effing stop.

    Rags like the Daily Mail love to use the 'real women' term to cause a war between thin and fat people. It's a good news day for them if their readers are going at it hammer and tongs in the comment section.

    Every time I hear 'real women' it makes me barf in my mouth a little. x x

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    1. P.S. I reckon it's bull that we spend less than slim women...although you'd have to compare the same disposable incomes of a fat woman and a thin woman to get any real correlation, then do it in every single case. A woman who earns 20k a year and a woman who earns 10k a year will probably spend vastly different sums on clothing. Doubt they took account for that in their statistics.

      I spend a lot of money because I want to look good, and looking good costs more in a fat body because of lack of choice.

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  2. Just unfathomable.

    How can an event NOT see the importance of blogs & the Fat Pound.

    I probably spent DOUBLE that last year.

    They were surveying a very narrow section of the country as well. A section where prices are higher for housing, food etc, than up my way. So yeah, I probably have more disposable cash than if I lived in Luton.

    I certainly won't be planning on attending this event.

    x

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  3. Good on you for calling them out. I'm not statician, but a survey based on 400 people isn't going to proove a single thing. I have the same feeling a lot plus size/fat bloggers have with the term "real women", its a nonsense term that's always going to hurt someone.

    http://sortlifeoutbuymilk.blogspot.co.uk/

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  4. I feel the same with the Holly Willoughby "Real Women" modelling campaign she has done for her new line. Segregating women into camps only further drives us apart when as a collective we should be standing together. Women are oppressed enough in this world without sectioning ourselves off in this way.

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  5. I don't agree with the name of the event, but unfortunately I think he is right with the 1% thing. I think that my readers are also mostly bloggers, and I have some who aren't but who tell me that even though they love my outfits, they wouldn't always wear the same thing. I am not saying this person is completely right but I think that sometimes we are so in our online community that we forget a bit about the outside world. :)

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    1. You're right and you've made a good point, it's difficult for us to believe that these women still exist and that not everyone is a confident as us. I guess that's why we do what we do though, to try and help them build confidence! X x

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  6. Wow-way to put you back in your box. Their response would be hillarious were it no so depressing. Its an awful name for an event and Im baffled why they keep bandishing this figure of "400 women " surveyed as a a defence. They clearly think blogger coverage and participation is now crucial to the events success. Good to know.

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    1. that should read "not" crucial to the events sucess-frudian slip-as any event organisaer would tel you, blogger support is now important, maybe more than ever.

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  7. I'm really starting to detest any site of the phrase 'Real Women'..not that I liked it much in the first place (Don't know if you read this, it was in my earlier days as a Blogger: http://gailygumdrops.blogspot.ie/2013/01/the-semantics-of-fat.html)

    Leah is dead right when she mentioned the likes of the Daily Snail and all of their 'REAL WOMEN' articles.I think the likes of this event coordinator have got it all wrong, and see using 'real women'/curves' etc etc) as an easy label, without ever thinking of it's actual meaning or the consequences it has. It's like politicians who talk in soundbites. I'm not actually sure where I'm going with this, but your post has definitely hit a nerve!

    Another thing I can't help but notice is that no such labels exist for men.

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  8. The part got me was the reference to the age of bloggers now I am 38 this year is that old for a blogger?!! Also 400 women that isn't that many and they were all in and around the same part of the UK how is that representative? The stats say 59% chose the name so approx 220 women in the grand scheme of things that isn't a huge amount I think they need to do some better research!

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  9. I loathe fudgy statistics. Exactly how did the 59.5% (don't forget the .5) come to choose the name? Multiple choice? Raffle? I only buy magazines for the free nail varnish and bin the rest.My knowledge of fashion/beauty/skincare comes entirely from blogs. Your current follower count on twitter is 2,321, a great many of whom read your blog and that of others you post about. Knocks their 400 out of the ground. Also if there are 10,000,000 in their target audience their 400 equals 0.004% of it. Bugger, I need chocolate.

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  10. I got the same email this morning and instantly dismissed it, because I don't like the name they've chosen. I understand why they're doing what they're doing it and bringing it forefront in the media but by choosing that name they are alienating a group of people, people that would be a great tool for the event.

    I can't believe how limited an area they did their research, it makes you wonder if they limited the age group too. You do need to take into account people's circumstancesand like Kathryn said living costs are higher in the area they did their research. I easily spend more than my mum and sister do on clothes because it's more expensive to buy my clothes but I want to look as good as they do and try the different fashion trends.

    I won't be attending their event at my own expense.

    X

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  11. There are so many points I want to make about this, so apologies it will be a long comment....

    1. Having seen the obvious power and force behind bloggers, on all topics, which is only expanding and will continue to grow, companies should not dismiss this '1%' (I would like to see their evidence of that statistic, personally) Not everybody reads blogs. But all it takes is for one person to share a post they've read on Twitter or Facebook and BOOM - That percentage they think we don't reached? Reached, converted and nodding with us in agreement.

    2. So, there are 10 million women in the UK. Yet they have used the opinions of 400? Don't get me wrong - I'm not implying the opinions of those 400 are not valued. But as someone who has spent the past three years of my life, with many years of my life and career to follow, doing statistics, 400 is nothing. Minuscule. Not even a drop in the ocean, compared to the overall figure they are trying to represent. They've managed to talk to 400 people who don't read blogs? Great! Now speak to a further 400 who do. And their friends. And their neighbours.

    3. Spend less?! I can tell you without even sitting down to try and calculate it, than I spend well in excess of the 'statistic average' of £414. Or £755. In fact, I probably spend double that annually and I don't know many people who wouldn't also say that. Not because I am bigger or smaller than anyone else, but because I am a girl. I shop. I buy things I don't need. But one thing no one can deny is that bigger clothes cost more money. I am seeing massive faults in their statistic there and it is actually worrying. Again, I'd like to see the statistical proof for that one, against their research and research of others nationwide.

    4. I think there is only less choice in one respect. High-street shops won't accept bigger sizes, meaning retailers of bigger sizes have to stick to and rely on online sales and searches.

    5. Personally? I find the term 'Real Women' offensive. Why? Because I am a 24, nearly 25, year old woman who has spent my entire life being led to believe that I am not a real woman, because I do not fit into the stereotypical aesthetic group that society dictates. I find it offensive because 'some' slim women berate 'some' bigger women and vice versa, creating an air of animosity between the sizes that realistically, doesn't exist past a select few. I find it offensive because there are too many women who will see the term 'Real Women' and doubt their self worth.

    This has been long. And I'm not sure I've made a very clear point... Basically, I agree with you. And I am shaking my head worryingly at their responses and dismissive attitude. xo

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  12. This event sounds like a time bomb. You were actually very kind in suggesting the name change to try and save it. Pity that the recipient of your email was too arrogant to take your advice. I am giggling as I try to fathom the logic of 400 women representing 99% of plus size women in the UK, whilst readers of your blog, and all blogs in fact, account for the other 1%. I do not think that this person really understands the reach of social media. Even plus size women use twitter now!

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  13. What a bunch of arseholes. That is a passive agressive reply if ever I heard one. As a member of the blogging community I have to say I am friends with and identify with bloggers of all ages, sizes and sexes. I am 40 and do not feel defined by my age, weight or status in life. We are all real women, and although it doesn't insult me to hear this term I do agree it is separatism and could create a them and us culture which is counterproductive to promoting happiness and positive body image regardless of size, age disability etc. (feel free to share this with the organizers in your reply) grrrr

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  14. Thank you all for taking the time to reply and thoughtful lengthy replies, I think the one point we all agree on though is that the Real Women Clothing show is, a massively crappy, insulting name. I wish there was something we could do to dissuade them, but it's quite obvious that wont happen. Always wish I could think of a more thoughtful and measured reply to this man other than F off! Lol. Ah well ladies, we'll continue to attend events like Plus London and Plus North that aren't there to make money but just to promote and support plus size fashion :) B x

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  15. Hello folks - just sent my letter of to them. I see they have published an open letter on this very subject on their website - that sounds like they have taking alot of flak and also is a recognition of the power of the blogger.

    Mazerati Va Voom

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  16. From a non ps bloggers perspective if I may

    Firstly I don't think PS bloggers realize the importance of this niche position you hold simply for having the courage to put yourself out there and actually blog about being plus size. You have a great and close knit community all of whom seem to support one another. However, because of this support I think (as an observer) that perhaps, and at times, ps bloggers may forget what it's like for women who don't have this support structure? Before you reach to e-kill me allow me to explain that as an observer, it would seem that once you get into this community you gain the strength to shrug off the negativity that usually comes with being plus size. The way you were taught to feel about curves no longer affects you while the other 99% are left to the somewhat oppressive social ideals and perceptions of size. I mean, have you ever seen a plus size woman in the *UK* media who has been celebrated because of her curves? Kelly brook is someone our media regardes as curvy (size 12) but if I'm remembering correctly the media went above and beyond the call of duty to broadcast the fact that someone called her a whale or cow or whatever it is they said. I think even you (Mrsbebe) tweeted not too long ago how men would treat you in the past because of your size?

    Fact is 99% plus size women spend less because instead of celebrating their curves we instead look for clothes to feel "comfortable" in. And because of that, are attributed far less concern when fashionista marketing plans are drawn up... Truth be told I thought the number of PS bloggers and those that drawn inspiration from them was way below 1%

    We have to do better. And I really appreciate each of you ps bloggers for your courage and exquisite style but like it or not society is against us and has been since the 50's when advertising/media really took off.

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    1. Hi there, thank you so much for your comment. It's so great to hear thoughts from another perspective.

      I think for me, and yes completely in my own bubble, I was thinking from my perspective, but my perspective hasn't changed since becoming a PS Blogger. I guess I've always been a confident plus size women and spent a fortune on clothing, even sized 32 when my options were greatly limited, I still shopped for the absolute best in plus size clothing the most fashionable I could find and even ordered from America so I could look fantastic.

      But having said that, the life of a plus size woman is by no means easy nor is it pleasant at times. You're absolutely right when you say we have no role models, and yes I am still to this day subjected to verbal abuse because of my size. I completely understand the thinking behind this event, but what I was trying to get at, and probably not very eloquently because of my annoyance, is that there is no place in society for this real women nonsense, it's just insulting. And it's about time these companies who take our hard earned cash find a better way of marketing themselves instead of preying on women's insecurities.

      The idealist in me wishes that all plus size women could feel confident, I wish there was the choice of clothing that our slimmer friends have, I wish we weren't constantly berated in the press over our appearance, health and generally ridiculed based on our size, but we are and I guess in my tiny little corner of the Internet I'm trying to change that. I obviously saw this as one of my causes, in it's own snide way, I felt it too was taking the Mickey out of plus size women with its outdated and insulting terminology. I don't know I guess I thought maybe we were ready to be spoken to like grown ups, if that makes sense?

      Thank you again, I do appreciate everyone's viewpoint from every angle
      B
      X

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    2. Me again lol

      Advertising and marketing is essentially a play on insecurity. In the past (pre 50's) most ad/marketing campaigns were targeted in a more general way the everyday woman so to speak or at least an image that the everyday woman could identify with. It's why Maralyn Monroe (size 14) could be seen as a bombshell along with other curvy women of her age.

      This was the norm until advertisers realized that they could sell more and enrich themselves simply by changing the "aspirational" model. And in short this gave birth to the "desirable size zero." I learned all of this during a module at uni and it was pretty much a revelation to me. But I say all that to that say the following...

      The insecurities I myself and 90-99% of women who are Plus size is preyed upon because it was cultivated for that very specific purpose, to be preyed upon. And I'm glad you are outside the bubble. I'm glad that to you it's insulting and you can see it for what it is but the sad truth is most of us (the 99% outside of PS blogging) don't get that opportunity. I found PS blogs and it was a confidence boost just to see your confidence boosted if that makes sense? I feel as though at this point in time and because of you guys I too am outside (or inside?) the bubble simply from the ideas and styles you take time to put together. But beyond our "niche" everything that guy said in his email holds true. We may hate the terminology but again it holds true. So don't let it upset you just continue to do you and blog. Because you're actively changing the perception of what is and isn't acceptable for a ps woman one blog post at a time. And that's more valuable than any amount of money or ad/marketing campaign there is. At least it was for me X

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    3. Thank you. I've really appreciated your input on this, it's important I don't forget the feelings of the very women I write for, whilst maintaining my own standards. You're a star x x x

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  17. What the what? I'm a little confused. It sounds like they're saying that the majority of plus size women are old, not fashion conscious, and possibly cheap? Either they really don't understand their demographic, or the 400 "real women" they surveyed live under a rock somewhere. I also call BS on plus size women spending less money. I do agree there's a lack of options in plus sizes particularly 24+, but at least here in the US, I've found I often pay more for my size than straight sizes of equal quality and style.

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    1. That's what I thought Kara, but it's important to remember that not everyone is as confident and fashion forward as us I guess. I think time will tell in regards to this event, I'm sure it will be a massive success as they have the money behind them to buy press coverage etc. x x

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  18. If I can chip in with my opinion. I'm not a ps blogger, but I read several of them. I have to say they have encouraged me to spend more on clothes and not be embarrassed for wanting to look good.

    However I still don't spend all that much. For me there are two reasons for that. One is that there simply isn't enough choice. I've been looking for a dress to go to a wedding this evening and see lots of nice ones. Sadly none are made big enough. As much as I wish it didn't that makes me feel like I shouldn't bother looking and puts me off spending money.
    The second reason is that I just don't feel like I can shop like my slim friends. I feel like there are certain shops that I cannot enter because I'm fat. Therefore I spend less, because I look at fewer things - although shops may not carry my size, if I felt welcome, I may well buy accessories. The online selection for ps women is great, but we all know the perils of buying that way.
    So my point... I agree that the term "real women" is a poor choice, although it doesn't offend me personally. I think anything that encourages ps women to feel like they are welcome, they are allowed to wear nice clothes and deserve quality is a good thing. As the other non-blogger said I don't have the support network that you amazing ladies do. Even when I've spoken to my friends about ps blogs and how they boost my confidence; they still talk about weight and being bigger like it's a fate worse than death. That makes me feel invisible, and quite often I don't feel like a "real woman" because of that.
    Apologies that this isn't a very coherent comment, hopefully you will understand the points I'm trying to make.

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    1. Hey Sam! I completely understand your feelings and know that many women feel the same as you, but I urge you, please do not let these shops make you feel like this, walk in with your head held high a make the purchases you want to make, you have as much right as every other customer to be in there. I know it is easier said than done, and it's for that very reason that Toni and I created plus north, I think my biggest bug bear with this event was the name and in hindsight I was stuck in my own bubble and couldn't believe that other plus size women didn't spend as much as me on clothes (which is ALOT lol)

      On a completely separate note, if you need any help with finding an outfit please feel free to email with your size, likes and dislikes, what kind of look you're going for and I'd be more than happy to pull some suggestions together for you. Online shopping can be a pain, but as long as you consult the size guides, you should be ok.

      Thank you again to you and our anon commenter for helping me see a different perspective, really appreciate it x x x x

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Thank you for your comment, I love reading what everyone has to say! B x