Solve the Mystery, Join the Debate: FFF Styles!

Happy Friday Feminist Funtimes, Beauty Coup readers!

Today I’ve got a doozy for you. The following flowchart appeared earlier this week on an extremely popular website, but not at all the sort of website where one would necessarily expect to find this sort of flowchart.

Except that I might argue this is precisely where one would find this flowchart, and the reasons for my argument are bound to be met with some raised pitchforks.

Here’s the blurb above the image:

A young lady walks by, who you find sexually attractive. You’re probably not clever enough to come up with an original thought, so the only remaining option is to yell out at her, like you are not a smart person. Should you do it?

What follows is amusing, insightful, and as I see it, undoubtedly feminist in nature.

feminist funtimes!
copyright website with the original post (see hyperlink below)

 

First, think about this graphic in the context of only this graphic. Would you say that it speaks to feminist values? If you’re a woman, does it address an issue that you’ve experienced firsthand? Is it amusing and clever? Do you kinda want to make fliers of it and pass it out to men on the street?

Once you’ve answered some of those questions, take a moment to consider what website you think would house this image. I’ve grayed out the website’s identifying logo in the top right corner, to give you some time to guess. If you’re ready to know, here’s the original post.

Now what are your thoughts?

 

 

How Beautiful Beauty Can Be

Tomorrow, our lives are going to change. Tomorrow brings new Oscar winners, immortalized in the annals of history. It also brings my annual fancy-dress Oscar party, which is always a monumental event. It brings more much-needed rain to the New Mexico earth.

But TODAY brings with it the launch of one of your new favorite websites, Afrobeatnik.

Here are some words we will use when discussing Afrobeatnik: fashion, filmmaking, sustainability, vintage, modern, diverse, inclusive, fabulous. And it is all very, very real.

Snuggle in for this special Saturday edition of Beauty Coup: an interview with site founder Angela Moorer – a wondrous, inspiring woman – and prepare to fall in love with Afrobeatnik. #beautyrevolution

BC: How did Afrobeatnik come about?
AM: Pretty much by me just, combining everything I cared about… I’ve been working for the past year with a non-profit with a great mission that I really support, but I’ve been doing more administrative work, and in the past there have always been more creative things that I’ve been tied to, I’ve put more creative things into what I’m doing… so I think I’ve felt a little restricted. And one thing I’ve learned, when you restrict someone enough, pretty soon they’re just gonna burst… Afrobeatnik was this bursting of me kind of being ready to do something creative, something that I care about, and to collaborate with others as well.

BC: That “combining everything you cared about” aspect, I noticed that right away. It isn’t just about representations of beauty in fashion… or on-screen, it combines both of those things and approaches fashion in an ethical manner…
AM: I mean, I’ve been interested in sustainable fashion for a couple of years now. I always wanted to work in fashion, but I never thought it was going to happen because when I got to know the industry itself I wasn’t inspired (by the fashion industry). I find myself more drawn to non-profit work, so if I was going to work in fashion it would be in some independent capacity.

We’re just kind of doing our own thing. We’re not really a part of any industry quite yet. I’m working with four different artisans …to upcycle vintage and to upcycle used materials and to share fashions that we think are beautiful. We’re not confined by anything, we’re not defined by anything, and it’s a really fun place to be. I’m excited to launch to see what the response is to it.

BC: I’m excited, too! S and I want to buy a lot of your clothes.
AM: Haha, awesome!

Like this:
skirt
And this:
dress

BC: In your own words, tell me about the mission and goals of Afrobeatnik.
We’ve got a pretty varied mission, but it’s all positive, and it’s all related in some way. The mission really started with the idea of Diversity. When I moved to Seattle from the tri-cities (Eastern Washington) there were a lot more different people. Growing up, Black History Month was an extremely scary time for me, because of the feeling of isolation – being the only black kid in your class, pretty much feeling alone in every aspect according to the way that you look. When you’re growing up, trying to figure out identity and who you are, your outside appearance impacts that… When I moved to Seattle and I found a community… I really thrived as a human being. I found that working in more diverse places, with people from different backgrounds, different countries, even… the more people I interacted with who were different from me, the more of a whole person I felt like I became. I understood the world a little better.

Another part of our goals in the Individuality aspect, which is tied to identity. Who you are within a community, while still remaining connected to that community. We tend to feel isolated by our differences, and what I would like to do is find ways to feel united by our differences – to love and appreciate all aspects of ourselves as individuals, and to love all aspects of others as well. I think they’re closely related – Diversity and Individuality – which is why I tied them both in. I wanted to make them both prominent values, but also separate.

Lastly we have (the value of) Sustainability, which is kind of just built into the way the company works. My personal preference is always thrift shopping. I barely buy anything new. For money’s sake, for uniqueness, I feel a lot of pleasure buying used. With vintage clothing especially, there’s this charm about it, this distinguished factor. You know it’s got some interesting history. So that’s why we decided to go vintage. As for the artisans – the handmade, upcycling work that we do – sometimes vintage clothing has gone through a lot, and it needs some work, you know it needs a little facelift; to be modernized in some way. Originally I brought on one person for basic repairs, but found all these items that could be turned into something really cool… So from there I brought on more artisans who were interested in upcycling things and wanting to make something new out of something old. And I think that’s what sustainability is about. It’s about reusing things …getting full use out of something, reinventing, giving new life. It’s crazy to me that some of this stuff might’ve ended up in a trash can somewhere. Our handmade collection launch is tied to earth day in April, but we’ll have a few things on March 1st as a preview.

BC: We’ve talked a lot about the fashion aspect of Afrobeatnik. One of the things that struck me the most was your ambition to use portions of your profits to make short films and documentaries that feature underrepresented cultures, women and minorities. What inspired you to tackle films as well as fashion?
I got into film a couple years ago… I did a certificate program at UW, and I learned a lot, it was fun… But, unfortunately, film communities are very tight-knit, and I’m not the kind of person who can’t wait around for someone to give me an opportunity. So I decided to try and raise the money to make the films I want to make. We’re at the basic stages of it. Once we start making some profits to get equipment we need and hire a mentor to help guide us, once we get those things in place we’ll begin the final idea. We’ve been throwing ideas around of what we want to do, and we’ve settled on a narrative web series featuring traditionally underrepresented women We’d like it to be funny, diverse, and full of culture, but also relatable. We talk a lot about the TV show Girls, we have discussions about all the things we think they’re doing wrong, and all the things we think they’re doing right, and I think one of the things that’s great about it is that it’s relevant, it’s current. A lot of people relate to that show. But the show obviously lacks diversity, it lacks culture. We wanted to tackle… something like that, in a narrative fashion, but we wanted to… bring in something a little bit deeper.

BC: I think that’s a really cool ambition. What are your thoughts on the importance of representative images across multiple mediums (print and screen)?
That has a lot to do with why I actually started this (Afrobeatnik), kind of my whole journey of self-acceptance and coming to terms with my own beauty and individuality. Growing up, I didn’t see people on TV that looked like me, and when I did it was always with straight hair, or really really light skin. I didn’t see myself represented in media, and I think that sends a message to young girls that they’re not important or they’re not beautiful. The message is that you need to assimilate to a certain culture or a certain ideal of beauty… when that’s the only ideal of beauty that you ever know. That’s why it’s important to get these images out there. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Lupita (Nyong’o), she’s all over the place , and she’d not someone you’d traditionally see in Hollywood. It’s inspirational, not only for me or for an adult who’s more sure of herself, but especially for young teenagers and little girls growing up. By sending these messages through these images, we’re confirming that beauty exists in places beyond the norm, and I think that’s incredibly important.

(Insert some serious Lupita fangirling for the next several minutes)

BC: I love your (Afrobeatnik’s) tagline, “We want to show the world how beautiful beauty can be.”
AM: Yeah, exactly.

BC: Let’s go back to the fashion. Where do you find/curate the clothes for Afrobeatnik?
There are a lot of different processes going on since we’re so new… We’re attending estate sales, those are awesome resources where you can find the best vintage. And also working with consigners in the area, which is a whole other part of outreach. We do have consigners who seem pretty interested in providing consistent inventory. Besides that, we also – mainly for our upcycling projects – what we’ll do is order wholesale vintage… We get a shipment and sometimes a piece looks great and we can sell it as is …sometimes the clothes need some upcycling done – repairs, like a hem, hole or buttons – other times the print/fabric is good but the design is not modern enough for everyday wear, so we turn it over to the upcyclers. We’ve only really started the upcycling program as of February, so… there’s a lot that needs to be tackled, so we’re trying to grow the artisan team.

BC: Who are your models?
Honestly, we’re not picky at all about our models. The whole purpose was to show real women in the clothing and to make sure the representations of women that we’re throwing out there are unique people, people who are often not seen. Most of the models are either friends of ours or people we’ve found through Craigslist. It’s interesting because people seem to be ready to hop on to a project …when they find out what we’re about. It’s great. Our models are very diverse. We’ve got all kinds of races and sizes, they’re inexperienced, and they’re real.

BC: I love it. I can’t speak for others who are ready to hop on this kind of project, but seeing that kind of wide representation (in fashion images) makes you want to get involved. I want to continue this effort to show a multitude of different types of women. I think that it speaks to people. It’s something we’re all experiencing on some level right now, as a movement.
AM: Totally.

BC: Do you have a Photoshop policy?
There’s no specific policy… but we don’t do retouching as far as body shape… skin… the other day I was retouching a photo where the model was sweating a bit, so I retouched that. But like, pimples, you can see on our launch flyer on our website (and below), the model had a little bit of a breakout, and that’s real and that’s natural and that’s the way our photos are gonna remain.

See?? Didn’t I tell you that you’d fall in love? If you’re in Seattle, you lucky duck, you should totally go to the Afrobeatnik launch party tonight. I would if I were you. And all of us should definitely support the Afrobeatnik website and shop their fabulous frocks and keep our eyes peeled for their savvy, spectacular web series! Cheers to these lovely ladies and their amazing work.

Afrobeatnik-launch-party-flyer-2-FINAL

Orange is the New Skinny

There are a few other posts I have in the works (e.g., Women Who Kick Ass on TV) but today I read this article that a friend of mine posted in facebooklandia, and it got me thinking about #5.

Strong is the new skinny.
Fit is the new skinny.

Or the extra bewildering…
Sore is the new skinny.
You can google that one if you want. It’s basically a tumblr of fitspo porn, so I’m skipping the link.

The stand apart here is Healthy is the New Skinny, and we’ll get to why in a minute. If you clicked on all the links, you can probably guess where I’m headed.

First, we’ll acknowledge that Jezebel has already addressed the NY Post article (Strong is the…) and with their usual flair and panache. This is one of their posts that reminds me why I started reading Jezebel in the first place. It isn’t overly snarky or negative; it’s clever and astute and makes succinct, insightful points. The post is summed up with:

Being strong and formidable shouldn’t be approached as a goal that pleases others; being strong and formidable are their own rewards. And women don’t need a “new skinny.” They need to be left the fuck alone and given the space to exist for themselves.

The fundamental truth here is this absurd idea of a ‘new skinny.’ This is a play on words to indicate that skinny was the Old Ideal, which means that whatever word you put in its place (strong, fit, …….sore?) is now the New Ideal.

So far the only group or organization I’ve seen that is using this oh-so-cleverness in any successful way is Healthy is the New Skinny. Call me crazy, but I agree that Healthy, in fact, should be the New Ideal. HNS goes so far as to actually represent a variety of women in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes within their website-blog-modeling agency. Yes, modeling agency. They also have a non-profit body image program, and an HNS shop where you can shop clothes on “more realistic bodies,” because let’s be honest. Even among our thinnest, lithest friends, do we actually know Anyone who is built like Giselle?

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.13.17 PM
So while I still find the ‘new skinny’ concept to be a bit contentious, if anything is going to replace skinny as an ideal, healthy is what makes the most sense to me. Healthy is something we all can (and probably ought to) strive for. Regardless of height, age, shape, weight (ohmygod I can’t say this enough please let this sink in: REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT), muscle mass, hair color, straightness of teeth, broadness of ribcage, cancer diagnosis* or number of limbs, healthy is attainable. We can all make choices that support, improve, and maintain our health and wellness. These choices are personal, and we need to make them for ourselves, based on what we feel enriches our lives.

This is NOT to say that in ALL CASES healthy = attractive or vice versa.

For example, I would probably be thinner if I was vegan. So many actresses are vegans these days, and the majority of them attribute their svelte figures to their everything-free diet. Good for them! However, there are some skinny-ass vegans who do not look healthy to me. (I suppose some people might find fragile bones and sallow skin attractive?) Me personally? I will never, ever, ever give up cheeseburgers. My body is prone to anemia, and so from time to time it craves a g–damn cheeseburger. Sure, sure, spinach is high in iron, I know. So fine, put some spinach on my cheeseburger.

Example number two: It’s patently ridiculous how many times throughout my life I’ve been told some version of, “you’re a really sexy smoker.” And you know what? In all humility I have to admit – it’s true. I love smoking, and for some reason I look hot when smoking, and mmmmm, yum, cigarettes. BUT, I feel far more beautiful when I’m not smoking, not just because my skin looks much better, but because I don’t wake up with a mouth that tastes like I swallowed an ashtray. And der, smoking ≠ healthy.

So I choose to eat cheeseburgers and not smoke.** These are some of my healthy choices, and they are mine for my reasons. Your choices are yours, and even if our choices are the same, our reasons are probably different. Which brings me to my final support of Healthy as the ‘new skinny’ : Agency. When women make their own healthy choices, and determine what is best for themselves at any given point in their lives, this means women are taking agency over their own bodies, minds, and spirits. Trying to crush that agency is why absurd beauty ideals exist in the first place. It’s one more tool for a patriarchal society to make women feel they are Less Than, and that without this kind of ass, those kinds of boobs, and that kind of face, we are somehow Other.

What we can do is change the conversation to one about what makes us feel beautiful to ourselves. I for one will be eating a cheeseburger tonight.

*just want to ward off anyone who might think that disease makes a person unhealthy. healthy choices are not taken away from you because you are diagnosed with a disease. disease is not by default the result of unhealthy choices.

**…the majority of the time. as a human, I am fallible, but I choose to not smoke most of the time.

age ain’t nothing but a number

Who remembers this song? I love this song. I loved in 1994 when I was 16, and I love it now in 2013 at the shiny new age of 35. Mostly it’s because I have a never-ending love for Aaliyah, but it’s also because age has never really mattered to me. I’ve had romances and friendships with older people, younger people, and people my age. While our age can influence who we are, in my opinion it doesn’t define who we are.

Apparently it does define some things, like pregnancy. Do you know what pregnancy is called in a woman 35 or older? A geriatric pregnancy. Seriously. Geriatric. Because that’s your first connotation when you hear “geriatric” right? 35. Certainly not, oh, I don’t know, 80. This site claims the term has been “changed to ‘advanced maternal age'” but my doctor and everyone at her practice did not get the memo.

So here I am, a 35-year-old actress, singer, and writer preparing for an eventual old lady pregnancy. But what did the internet want me to know? Not anything about enhancing my artistic career, or health tips, or new fun adventures to consider. Instead, I was inundated with methods for Preserving My Youth. The most important thing for anyone ever in the history of humankind. Looking young.

As my birthday drew near, the creepy search engines of google and facebook started posting ads for magic lady face creams promising to take decades off my skin. You know what else takes decades off my skin? Photoshop. I tried to do my own photo to see if I look as alabaster smooth as Cate Blanchett, but Photoshop is complicated, so all I managed to do was remove some fly-aways.

By now we should all know that there is no point in judging ourselves by beauty ads or celebrities on the red carpet. I just read in this month’s Glamour that Jennifer Garner has a standing facial appointment TWICE A WEEK. Guess what else will take decades off your skin? Two facials every single week.

The internets like to tell us what 35 looks like, how old we’ll be when we start turning into uggos, and what age is So Perfect that even younger ladies are aspiring to it via their helpful plastic surgeons. It even provides a forum for random douchebags to create graphs based on their asinine perceptions of when and why a woman is attractive.

Of course the internets also provide the rare glimpse at us real folks, like in this impressive slide show from Esquire that features all kinds of different women (no really!) from ages 18-53. While it’s annoying that the URL refers to women “aging gracefully” – because, truly, what does that mean? why can’t we just call it aging? – it’s an honest portrayal of what the headline claims: “What the Real American Woman Looks at in the Mirror Every Day.” Those look like women I know. Women I would have brunch with.

Also can’t help but love the woman who says “The best thing about being 35 is, you don’t have to pretend to give a f-ck anymore.” Heh. Damn right.

So because I’m Hollywood obsessed, let’s take a look at 35 according to Tinseltown… Do you know how hard it is to find ages of female tv/movie characters?? Very hard. So, here are two I was able to dig up sort of: Joan and C.J.

joan-holloway-650-430In Mad Men Season 5, Episode 4, “Mystery Date,” Joan is probably 35. Her fictional birthday is in February 1931, and this episode is circa 1966.

cj_cregg_the_west_wing_season_2_nbc_18h18i0-18h18kkThis photo is supposedly from Season 2 of The West Wing, and C.J. was supposedly about 34 when she joined the Bartlett campaign, so after two years at the White House she’s possibly maybe supposedly about 36 years old.

That’s all I’ve got. The only movies I could think of where women talk about their age were romantic comedies, in moments which frequently involve lamentations about turning 30. Because when you turn 30 YOUR LIFE IS OVER.

Liz-Lemon-Eye-Roll-and-Exhale-30-Rock

It amuses the hell out of me when people ask for your birthdate to fill out some random form, and they tiptoe around it for fear of offending you. “….we don’t need the year, but could we get your birthdate?” I always give the year. Why not give the year? What is there to be ashamed of? I don’t feel any different then I did five years ago. I didn’t have a meltdown over turning 30, and I’m not having one now. Better than the alternative, I always say!

Here’s me last week as I careened toward the geriatric baby making, maybe hottest but maybe ugliest, Game Over or is it Game On next year of my life:

Photo on 8-12-13 at 8.00 AM                                                 No makeup, with bangs

Photo on 8-15-13 at 8.08 AM

Makeup, with bangs

Photo on 8-14-13 at 8.03 AM

No makeup, no bangs!

Photo on 8-20-13 at 8.32 AM

Makeup… oops, cut my bangs so now they’re hard to pull back

So I can’t tell you What 35 Looks Like, or How to Stay Young Forever, and I don’t want to. What I can tell you is that this is what My 35 looks like, and that youth may have its perks, but so do growing and changing and learning and evolving and living.
581798_10151519966016933_151280541_nBirthday! Celebrating with friends. One is 32 and one is 27, and I’m not telling you which is which because it doesn’t matter. Cheers!

Talking to Our Daughters

This morning brought with it a handful of Facebook posts sharing these musings from Sarah Koppelkam of Hope Avenue. It is a sweet and idealistic post about what we should tell our daughters about their bodies. The short, short version is this: we should tell them nothing, beyond the functional. 

Again, these are lovely thoughts. I choked up a little reading “She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.” Excellent points are made about the importance of not degrading ourselves or other women in front of our daughters, and helping them to learn by example. Move your own furniture, don’t fear carbs, etc. All great advice. Still, after the first read, something didn’t sit right with me.

And then it struck me.

This is almost exactly how my mother raised me. 

There was no fat shaming in my house (and we’ve already covered that I was a chubby kid), and there was no celebration of thinness or beauty. This practice of non-discussion was extended to me, my sisters, my mom, and the other women in our lives. My mother encouraged all of us to play sports that we liked, even to the extent of coaching some of our teams. My mother is a fierce, strong, hardworking woman. She takes pleasure in all kinds of foods and experiences and spending time with her loved ones. She is a brilliant chef who has passed on to me a deep love of preparing and sharing food. My mom always encouraged me to pursue and improve my talents as an actress, writer, and singer. She believed I was capable of those things even when I didn’t believe it myself. 

I couldn’t ask for a more ideal role model for confidence, self-worth, and accomplishment.

So why did I go through years of insecurity, struggles with eating, and body image issues? 

The reality is that we are not the only influences in our daughters’ lives. While I commend the author and my mother for everything they did right, I think it’s crucial to point out what’s missing.

We need to be prepared to talk to our daughters about their bodies, because they will have questions.

Whether it’s: ‘why do my thighs touch and my sister’s don’t?’ or ‘why do boys always like the skinny girls?’ or ‘why does so and so have breasts already when I don’t?’ There will be moments where talking to our daughters about their bodies becomes essential. We need to arm her with tools to navigate a world that challenges all of the principles and ideals we’ve worked so hard to instill within her.

When I was young and chubby and working through that self-consciousness, it wasn’t in my mother’s toolbox to help me. She came from a family where being thin was an ideal and an expectation. Her mother and her grandmother were intensely fat-phobic. My mother and I weren’t able to talk about those things until I was very much an adult, and had found my own way through the jungle of messages telling me that how I looked mattered a great deal. I don’t blame her for not having those tools, and I am grateful to her for not passing on the judgements that she was raised with.

But I want to have those tools for my daughter.

I don’t have a daughter, yet. If nature hadn’t intervened, I’d be on my way to having one, but that daughter was not meant to be. All the same, I had enough time to begin to consider what kind of parent I would want to be for her, and these are the things that came to mind.

It would be wonderful if we never had to address the reality of value placed on a woman solely because of how she looks. But that isn’t the world we live in. There are numerous things we can do to work on changing that reality, but in the meantime, we need to be ready to talk to our daughters about their bodies. Because they will have questions.

mama y yo

 

with me every step of the way

 

A Refreshing Dip in the Pool

Who else is tired of shopping for bathing suits that are modeled by 5’10 women who wear a size two? All of you? That’s what I thought.

Enter Modcloth, a website known for it’s bevy of adorable dresses with vintage flair. Turns out they also sell bathing suits, and they oh-so-casually use models who are, well, more People than they are Models.

What I mean is that shopping for bathing suits on Modcloth doesn’t generally leave one with the feeling of “that’s cute, but how would it look on me?” They do use the term ‘plus size’ which I know is contentious for some, but on Modcloth this is plus size and this is plus size. It isn’t a one-plus-size-fits-all situation. The other models represent a variety of body types as well, such as this girl, or this girl, or this girl. Oh and this girl!

Lastly, I love how their main swim banner features two very different types of women, without comment. It’s just a little nod to ‘hey guess what – we all wear swimsuits!’

Where there’s room for improvement: The two-piece section would lead one to believe that women over a certain size do not wear bikinis. Also, they feature a woman of color in their swim banner, but all of the models in the actual collection are white. This makes me want to tell Modcloth that they can go ahead and be fully awesome, not just halfway awesome.

It’s still nice to see a clothing retailer headed in the right direction where models and swimsuits are concerned. So in summary, Modcloth deserves our feedback, support and encouragement.

Do I have to say it? Is the pun required? …Go ahead ladies, dive in!

bathing suit

Real Beauty in Advertising

By now most of you are probably aware of the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” videos that have been making their internet rounds. This is the video that I first saw. It’s a segment from the full version.

While the majority of reactions that I’ve seen involve words like “moving” and “so important” or “tears” and “thank you”, as with everything on the world wide web, there are naysayers as well.

Here’s my initial disclaimer: Yes, Obviously, this is an ad. It’s an ad that aims for the end result of you buying Dove products. And YES, Dove is owned by Unilever, the company that also owns hyper-sexist, patently absurd Axe body spray. Here’s what I have to say about those two things:

  • Almost everything we see and experience these days is some form of marketing, with the end goal being ‘buy this product, see this movie, read this book after you buy this fancy e-reader, etc. etc. etc.’ If you have a problem with marketing, you should probably move to Mongolia. Seriously. That documentary that followed babies for a year made it look like a really peaceful, uninfluenced place to live.
  • Dove Unilever Axe… If you really want to get up in arms about who owns what, then prepare to give up A Lot of your favorite things because guess what. There are about ten companies that own damn near everything, and when it comes to the people who control the money in those companies, that number gets even smaller.
  • Now let’s look at the number of women who have influence over what kind of media we see (including film, tv, radio, newspapers, books, magazines, communications jobs, video games, and the internet). For the 21st century, the numbers are still quite abysmal. The Women’s Media Center report, The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013, points out the finding that “At its current pace, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in government/politics, business, entrepreneurship and nonprofits.”

What does all of this mean? It means that every step counts. It means that there is nothing wrong with getting excited about a company choosing this:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.34.20 AM

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.33.26 AM Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.34.06 AM

Over this:

Kate-Upton-Guess-Ad-Campaign-Photo-Shoot-2011-Photos-6
Of all the naysaying, there is a key issue that is very elegantly addressed on this tumblr, and that (unsurprisingly) is the issue of race. I am in complete agreement that the Dove ‘real beauty’ ads consistently do not reflect the true diversity of the population. This video in particular features women of color for about 10 seconds in a video that is over 6 minutes long. The man drawing the women appears to be Hispanic, but he is not the target of the ad, he merely plays a role in it. I was hoping to see more from the women of color in the full version of the video, and I was disappointed to see that it was in fact more women who were white, most of whom were blonde.

I then read a comment on FB from my friend Anne who said she was on board with the video until her daughter, who is nearly seven, asked what she was watching. At that point Anne realized, “…as I explained it to her, it became clear to me that the video’s very narrow definition of what beauty looks like, as well as the idea of its supreme importance to a woman’s life, are actually antithetical to what I try so hard to pass on to her.”

Again, I agree. The idea of beauty’s ‘supreme importance’ must be turned on its head before women will be taken seriously as complex individuals with a great deal to offer the world beyond their looks. The unfortunate reality is that there is currently an intense amount of emphasis placed on a woman’s beauty, and this emphasis is Everywhere. Any instance of encouraging women to feel beautiful in their own skin should be built upon to challenge the current ideals even further. Celebrate and promote instances where you think media is doing it right, and call out the instances that aren’t. Go ahead and contact Dove and say “Your real beauty sketches ad had great intent behind it, but it’s a shame you didn’t see fit to be truer to your own message and feature a more diverse group of women. I’ll consider buying your products when I see genuine diversity in your ads.” Or something to that effect.

Anne then referenced a friend who questioned what the Dove ad means for women who “actually look like the photo on the left”…and honestly my first thought was, ‘but do you? Do you look like one of the photos on the left, or is that only your impression of yourself?’ I have to stand behind this campaign’s challenge to women to Be Aware of how you see yourself versus how others see you. This blog was started based on the frightening statistic that 97% of women, on average, have thirteen or more negative thoughts about themselves every day. Even more disturbing to me has been the number of women I know who hear that statistic and are entirely unfazed, because that sounds normal to them. It has become a personal ambition of mine to reverse that statistic, until 97% of women have an average of thirteen positive thoughts about themselves every day. In this endeavor, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Issues of gender and race are huge, complex, and deep-rooted. It is always important to question and challenge what we’re exposed to in this era of mass information, and to exercise our media literacy. When it comes to representations of women in the media that aim to be positive, I believe we need to acknowledge them and push for them to go even further. As I see it, the ultimate goal is to free women of the preoccupation with how we look. If in fact only 4% of the world’s women think they’re beautiful, and it’s certainly true that the vast majority of the world’s media is telling them that beautiful is what they should strive to be, that preoccupation is inevitable.

I’m compelled to quote the Contentious Ad Campaign here, because I think it’s a crucial point: Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. If we don’t even Begin to look deeper, to build confidence, to expand notions of a woman’s worth, we will never get to the point where girls and women value themselves beyond their beauty.

My final word is this – if nothing else, I am fucking thrilled that we are having these conversations. Any and all opinions are welcome here.

Now go forth, and be your amazing self.
Note: For above and beyond the messages of Dove, Beauty Redefined has a list of “doable strategies” to redefine and reclaim notions of beauty and health, encouraging all of us to push the boundaries and “promote real fitness, confidence, happiness and love for yourself and others.”