Earlier this April, Dove came out with an initiative called Real Beauty Sketches. The idea was to have an artist draw a person without seeing her, based solely on the person’s own description of herself. Then the artist would draw the same person again but based on someone else’s description; in the end, the women are confronted with how they view themselves and how others view them. The difference in the final results is staggering – every woman believes herself to look better in the stranger’s view than her own. The faces in the second sketches are all lighter, fresher, younger, brighter than the ones in the first. The concept of this initiative is that of making us realize, as the video shows in text, that we are more beautiful than we think ourselves to be. The problem is, just how much of that beauty is real beauty?
Women describe themselves as “fat”, “old”, “tired”, “beginning to have crows’ feet”, while the words most used by the strangers are “thin”, “young” and many mention how “pretty” blue eyes are. I commend Dove for trying to promote a boost of self-esteem in women but what women?
If “old” is meant to be a common derogatory term then clearly we are bound to stop having self-esteem by the time we’re 60, or even before that. If “fat” is a bad thing and everyone considers themselves to be “fat” (quotation marks, as the definition of fat is a whole different story for another day), then about 70% of the world’s population is not allowed to think themselves beautiful because they don’t fit into US Size 2 jeans. If being thin, young and having blue eyes is what is meant to make us feel beautiful, then this is not a world I belong in. And I’m betting most of you don’t either.
I’m all for promoting self-esteem. It’s important to love yourself. And more often than not, strangers see us as beautiful people more than we do; I’ve met people who had seen me for a while before talking to me. They’d stared at me for seconds. When I asked what their first impression was, it usually involved only positive words. Once I was told I wasn’t talked to because I looked smart and pretty and that intimidated them into thinking I was, excuse the language, “a bitch”. Well, I’m not a bitch (I think), but I am smart, I am young, and I am beautiful, even though I’m not “thin”, I’m average, and I don’t have blue eyes.
The problem with Dove’s initiative lies in two key points. First, the fact that they (maybe out of ignorance) promote the exact same traditional idea of “beauty” that make most of us lose our self-esteem in the first place. Second, the fact that – and quoting the video – being beautiful and accepting our natural beauty is one of the most important things in our lives and impacts every choice we make and everything we do, including our rapports with others. This is not true – or, rather, shouldn’t be true, as backwards thinking is everywhere. As a woman, you should not be valued based on your beauty. You should not allow your looks to be what gets you where you are, what gets you the favour or kindness of others. It should be you and not your face to impact your decisions and your direction in life.
We do have to change the way we see ourselves. Not only women, but also men are subject to the judgement of others and, even worse, their own opinions of themselves. We all see ourselves in the mirror and, odds, are we can pinpoint all our faults yet are blind to our qualities. This has to change. But the traditional notion of beauty also has to change. You’re beautiful because of what makes you who you are, not because you fit into a standard box. And you know what? A big part of your beauty is what’s inside, not outside. A pretty face is nothing without a good brain or a kind soul behind it. A thin body is nothing without a dynamic attitude or elegant gestures to move it.
Love yourself because you’re smart, strong, kind. Not just because you are beautiful. Change the way you think about yourself as well as the way you look at yourself. We should not be hired for an important position just because we look young and thin and our luscious blonde locks cascade down our backs; we should be hired because we are intelligent, driven, professional individuals. Not Greek statues or classical portrait paintings. Love who you are, freckles, moles and personality included.