Thursday, 4 October 2007

Love the skin you're in

Dove have produced a new short film in conjunction with the Campaign for Real Beauty:

This is a great film and promotes a really important issue - that the cosmetics industry negatively affects young girls as well as grown women. However, these campaigns that try to persuade us to love our bodies, warts and all, really bug me sometimes. Basically, cosmetics companies seem to be using two types of women in their advertisements these days: Models, and Real Women.

The models, those leggy, perma-tanned, airbrushed gazelle-like creatures, have been around for a while. But the Real Woman is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Real Woman is voluptuous, relatively small-breasted and uses few cosmetics. She loves her body and she revels in her cycles and curves. She holds her head up high despite the fact that she is positively gargantuan by Hollywood standards, because she knows that she is beautiful and she loves her body. Well, I'm a size 6, I have E-cup breasts and I own so many sparkly eyeshadows I wouldn't be surprised if I am single-handedly keeping Barry M in business. Am I less "real" than the women in the Dove adverts? It's just another representation of female beauty to which few of us conform, even if the "message" behind it is rather more positive than that of traditional advertisements despite being just a sugar coating for selling us stuff.

There seems to be this assumption that women hate their bodies because of the constant bombardment of unrealistic images thrust at us by Hollywood and the cosmetics industry, and so we all need to learn to love our bodies in order to compensate for it. Fine. But why should I love my body? It's just a body. Men aren't expected to love their bodies. Loving your body makes as little sense as hating it. What we really need, in my opinion, is just to quit being so obsessed with our bodies in the first place.

The reason that loving your body is considered so important is that women's bodies are considered so disproportionately crucial to their worth as human beings. From childhood, women are taught that their self esteem should be tied up in their looks. There's this idea that you can't walk down the street with your head held high if you don't adore every inch of your body. This is bullshit. You don't have to love your body in order to be confident, because you are much more than just your body. I may have the shortest legs in the known universe, but I also have sharp wit, an optimistic disposition, kindness and intelligence. I may have big jugs, but I am also uptight, pedantic and socially inept. I am more than my physical appearance and I refuse to let my self image revolve solely around it.

There's also the uncomfortable truth that it's much easier for some people to love their bodies than others, whether from genuine attractiveness or the extent to which they fit some sort of media 'ideal'. If I do love my body, it's probably because it happens to be relatively close to the 'ideal' plastered all over billboards rather than because I actually have sky-high self esteem. And I realise that in an image-obsessed society in which women are regarded primarily as decoration with their worth measured by how fuckable they are, this makes me extremely lucky.

This pressure to love your body is just that: more pressure, on top of the pressure that women already feel with regards to the way they look. Loving your lardy arse is just as self-absorbed as punishing it with cellulite cream. You are only truly free of the beauty industry and the airbrushed standards it promotes if your lardy arse is not an issue in the first place.

The Campaign for Real Beauty, whilst coming up with some great films, totally skirts the issue. Although 'Love Your Body' is a big step up from 'You Need Cellulite Cream' the issue that would really be helpful for them to push is, 'Your Body Isn't Actually That Important'. But then, that won't help them sell any body lotion.


justin said...

“Loving your body makes as little sense as hating it. What we really need, in my opinion, is just to quit being so obsessed with our bodies in the first place.”

Hear, hear! Finally, the essence of the problem is exposed.

We should not concern ourselves with our bodies past ensuring that it is healthy enough for us to lead a good life.

Allow me to present an angry quote from Quincy:

“Fat is not ugly, it's unhealthy!”

Rich said...

Isn't it interesting that the campaign is called "The campaign for Real Beauty"? Apparently there's only one type of beauty, and though it's not the one perpetuated by the fashion industry, it's still entirely physical and superficial.