Lately on social media, there seems to be this trend of showing pictures of mildly attractive men and women doing mundane things, with text over them arbitrarily calling them “real” men or women.
These photos are ridiculous.
There is no such thing as a “real” man or woman. If there is, does that mean there are imaginary people as well?
Sometimes these images are funny and appealing. Like “real women belong in the house. And the Senate.”
Other images are not so appealing and actually promote unhealthy gendered stereotypes. An example of this is “real men don’t cry.” Or “real women have curves.”
These gendered stereotypes hold men and women to unreal expectations.
Men are allowed to cry, and that does not make them any less of a human being.
Women are allowed to be whatever size they choose.
We cannot hold each other to these unreal expectations that exclude individuals on the most arbitrary of standards.
When we promote these images on social media, we are not only excluding individuals from the trans community, we are ingraining it into our culture that men and women should only be a certain way.
What is a real man or woman? Is it a code of conduct? Is it an appearance? Is it an assumption?
The term “real” is completely subjective in this sense. When you say that one is “real” and therefore valid, does that mean that the converse of that is not true? So if a man cries, is he not a man? What is he at that point?
We are dismissing the experiences, and therefore the lives, of people who do not fit into these neat little societal boxes.
We cannot tell others who is “real” and who is not.
Some would argue that posting these images is just a way to show their preferences and are not meant to be taken seriously. But these ideas leach into our culture, and this is how we will treat ourselves and those around us.
For the man who shared “real women have curves,” have you thought about your sisters, nieces and daughters? How many of them will stand in front of mirrors cupping their breasts, praying that they will grow larger, so they can be a “real woman”?
Last year, RealSelf.com reported that one in five women is “actively planning or considering plastic surgery.”
That number is incredibly high. Twenty percent of women are unhappy about their bodies. Maybe one too many people told them they were not real women if they did not fit a certain stereotype.
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that men accounted for 77 percent of all suicides. Many studies have shown that crying is a stress reliever.
A study conducted in 2009 by Dr. Lauren Bylsma of the University of Pittsburgh, stated that people were more likely to feel better if they cried alone or had someone there to support them.
If it were socially acceptable for men to cry and then feel better, maybe they would not commit suicide as often.
Even in recent pop culture President Obama came under fire for crying in public over the death of 17 children Sandy Hook in 2012.
What kind of culture judges a person for crying over the death of children? A toxic culture.
It is not that one person sharing one image means everyone is going to go jump off of cliffs and get plastic surgery.
But it is the ingrained notion that as a culture, we do not accept those who do not fit into the normal folds of society.
So maybe tomorrow, you don’t share the image.
Maybe tomorrow you tell someone it is OK to cry and that your body does not define your womanhood.