Real Beauty And Real Ugly

1 May

Dove just put out a new ‘Real Beauty’ video and it’s been getting a fair amount of press in the feminist-blogosphere.

I simultaneously love and hate the feeling I get from watching this video. On the one hand it’s making my mascara run and on the other hand it couldn’t be cheesier.

It reminds us that yeah, maybe your mom pointed out that you have a large jaw when you were a kid, but why is that so worrysome? Why is that the first thing you mention when indeed it’s just fine? Why is that sort of unhelpful criticism the stuff that our subconscious are made of?

Yes, it’s helpful to remember that you are your harshest critic, that no one is looking at you and being distracted by how horribly large your ears are. They’re just bad thoughts, unhelpful for anyone. And that quick hit of self-confidence is useful in our society.

However, Alexandra at Feministing makes a great point as well.

At the same time, though, Dove is cementing a whole slew of beauty standards even as it pumps up self-esteem. Sure, maybe we’re prettier than we think, but the metric hasn’t changed. In part I’m talking about the obvious, physical scale of feminine beauty. For one heavy-handed example: one of the women central to the film thinks she has a large jaw; her new friend, however, says “she was thin so you could see her cheekbones, and her jaw was a nice thin jaw.” This version of the message–that you’re thinner than you think you are–reinforces the assumption that thinness is valuable. The take-away might be immediately gratifying. But by accepting the worship of slenderness within a supposed challenge to mainstream standards, the video entrenches fat-shaming further. [x]

This stuff is sneaky, not because there is some sort of puppet master pulling strings, but because it has been around us so long that it has seeped into us and it just sits there waiting to be awakened.

I agree with Alexandra that “I don’t think that Dove is doing bad work for this world. I just want us to build another, better one.” I think we’d rather be allowed to be ugly, like Brienne.

Why does the twist ending have to be “she was beautiful all along”? Why can’t we just let her be brave and strong and awesome and loyal and determined and kind and ugly?

Even if you are well-intentioned and mean it to be a sort of “everyone is beautiful” message, it still kind of feeds back into a culture where a person – and specifically a woman – has to be physically beautiful to be valuable.

I like Brienne because she flies in the face of that. She doesn’t have to have her makeover moment. She has the purest and most noble heart of anyone in the series, she’s a fantastic fighter, she’s valuable – and she’s ugly.  [x]

I think we’d both much rather a PSA that tells me that I don’t need to always need to be beautiful. That would be a paradigm shift I’d pay into.

If you are a woman, everything revolves around whether or not someone wants to fuck you. Instead of addressing “all bodies are beautiful” how about, “it is not necessary to be universally fuckable”? [x]

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