A friend just posted a powerful video by Dove where women of many cultures were given the ‘choice’ of walking through a door marked Beautiful or a door marked Average. Only 4% of women chose to walk through the Beautiful door, apparently.
I am quite churned up about this experience for a number of reasons.
The first is a very old, very personal, response to the word ‘beautiful’. I grew up with a philandering father who habitually told all women they were beautiful, only to slag them off when they were out of his sight. So I have a deep, deep distrust of that word. My bias has been claimed!
More importantly, however, is my response to an option or alternative presented as a choice. Notice how often in life we think things are either/or, when in fact there are so many additional alternatives. Nobody asked any of these women whether being seen as beautiful mattered to them. Nobody asked any of these women how they defined ‘beauty’ or ‘beautiful’. Is their heart/soul/spirit beautiful or just their face and body? What constitutes beauty for them? Nobody asked these women if there was some other dimension of them that they held profoundly more important than being beautiful.
Similarly, nobody engaged what the alternative might be for any of them. Is it average, or something else? And what’s wrong with looking or being average? When did we get to place where only exceptional, all the time, is acceptable?
The folks at Dove are committed to helping women, young and old, through their long-term Real Beauty Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves But let us not forget that Dove’s primary reason for being is the beauty business and being profitable within that sector. They have a vested interest in keeping our focus on beauty, regardless of how it is defined. There is a lot of money to be made by having as many women as possible believe that using their products will make a difference in her life. So, yes, it is nice that SOMEBODY in that industry is addressing girls and women who aren’t traditionally included. But never forget there is a pragmatic business benefit driving it all.
So – so what if beauty weren’t even an issue? What if smart, brilliant, energetic, potent, dynamic, creative, innovative, generous, skilled were human dynamics that any and all of us women valued so much that beauty no longer mattered? That we simply didn’t need to judge ourselves, let alone have others judge us on whether we are beautiful or whether we feel beautiful or not.
I think we’d be doing ourselves, and especially our young women, a huge favour if we no longer kept our focus on the topic of beauty. As a woman who has had (and continues to have) her own issues with body image, I certainly don’t deny that it is a huge challenge around the world. But if we keep the focus on beauty . . .or not . . .we give ourselves no other alternatives upon which to assess ourselves.
So I refuse to dance the beauty dance. I choose instead to value myself for my irrepressibility, my irreverence, my curiosity, my generosity of spirit, my sense of humour, my creativity, my brilliance, my insightfulness, my tenacity and my ability to love, amongst other things.
What about you? What do you value yourself for? What makes you special and unique? What do you bring to the world that only you can? What about yourself do you celebrate that feels much important than beauty?