Easily digestible sentences are great for marketing and sharing. Quick to read and rolling easily off the tongue, they make great little graphics, tshirts, and statements you can parrot without thinking. I appreciate a good, simple phrase.
I don’t, however, appreciate any phrase that contains “real men” or “real women”. Here’s a few of my least favourites.
5. “Real men wear pink”
Issues with pinkwashing and corporate greed aside, “real men” do wear pink. They also wear green, blue, black, white and purple. They wear Hawaiian shirts and no shirts. Some wear dresses. I appreciate messing with gender binary and reclaiming pink as a sexless colour, but just as real men wear pink, real men also choose not to wear pink. Because they have agency.
4. “You won’t be a real woman until you have children”
I understand that bearing and raising children is something that most people do. I understand that the ability to grow an entire human being and to give birth is something that connects to the primal instincts of cis-women. But infertile women are real women. Women who were not born with the pre-requisite parts for human growing are real women, and women who chose to adopt, foster, or even not have children at all are still real women. We don’t need to put other women down to make ourselves feel legitimate.
3. “Real men don’t hit women”
Yes they do. This is what they call a “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy. Men who hit women aren’t fake men. We don’t get to eliminate the worst of the group we identify with just because they’re assholes. Men who hit women are still men, and it’s up to the people who don’t enact violence on others to identify the things that cause it, address them in their circles of influence, and hold those who do responsible for their actions. When we disown the perpetrators of violence, we create an “us” and a “them”. This excuses us from casting a critical eye on our actions as a society by inferring that “they” were never “us” to begin with.
2. “Real women have curves”
Yes, real women do have curves. Real women are also thin, fat, tall, short and have bodies of all different types. Thin women are still women. Women with muscle are still women. Size 40 women are still women. If you feel the need to throw one person under the bus in order to justify another, you’re not being an ally, you’re being an asshole.
1. “Real men have penises” & “Real women have vaginas”
This one is usually used to counter all of the previous points. I get the point of it, but factually, it’s just incorrect. In about 1% of live births, children show some signs of genital ambiguity. In up to 20% of these cases, the genitalia are “ambiguous” enough to warrant surgery. Basically, if the doctor looks and can’t quite decide whether he should say “Congratulations! It’s a boy!” to the parents, they carve up the baby’s pelvic region until it looks like the gender they’ve assigned it.
According to Anne Fausto-Sterling, for a girl, a medically acceptable clitoris can be no bigger than one centimetre. For a boy, an acceptable penis size must be between 2.5 centimeters and 4.5 centimeters. The range between one and 2.5 is unacceptable in either sex.
Additionally, Transgender people exist and are deserving of your respect. Science and Psychology both agree on the existence of gender dysphoria, and therapies geared to “treat” these issues by trying to re-enforce the gender assigned to them at birth just don’t work. Many trans people decide not to undergo sexual reassignment surgery for a whole host of reasons, and it simply isn’t any of your business what someone has below the belt so you can decide whether someone is a “real” man or woman.
There are two things at play here, and both are complex. Sex is biological, Gender is an identity. Most people’s sex lines up with their gender identity. For some people, it doesn’t. Both sex and gender fall on a spectrum.
Here’s an easy way to see if you should reblog, retweet or share a graphic or message that contains the words “real man” or “real woman”.
Is the statement “Real men are people who identify as men” or “Real women are people who identify as women”?
If not, it’s bullshit.
If yes, show me that graphic and blog on, you crazy unicorn.