Advertising can feel so good. Like the latest Dove ads with sketches showing that when women describe themselves they are too harsh, when they see sketches of themselves as described by others, they are often brought to tears by how lovely those other people see them.
This is likely a true phenomenon because women are taught we have to be beautiful above all. Desirable. Sexy. To not be those things is to be invisible, erased.
So, I should probably like those ads.
I don’t. For a lot of reasons. I’ll let the amazing bloggers Shannon Fisher and Anne Theriault explain most of those reasons here below:
See, corporations are in the business of business. Not self esteem, not social good per se, or at least not social good as I see it. They exist to produce products that either the public needs, or thinks they need or are made to think they need so that the corporation will make and keep making money.
So Dove (Unilever, which owns Dove, I should rightly say) thinks your money is beautiful.
My favorite quote of Anne’s, and by favorite I mean enraging:
“Unilever also owns Axe, which is well-known for creating advertising campaigns that are, well, the opposite of empowering to women. Typically their commercials involve a teenage boy or a young man in his early twenties spraying himself with Axe only to suddenly be surrounded by a mob of thin, bikini-clad super models. These commercials are not only degrading to women (by putting forth the idea that men are only attracted one specific body type, that to fail to attain that body type means to fail to be beautiful), but they’re also degrading to men (by perpetuating the stereotype that men are all sex-crazed beasts who just want to have as much sex with hot women as humanly possible).
It is seriously such a fucking joke that Dove makes videos about how many unattainable images of beauty a young girl will be subjected to as she grows up and how this will warp her self-perception, while at the SAME FUCKING TIME Axe is creating those unattainable images of beauty.”
She does go on to mention some very distasteful campaigns done in other countries targeting women of color and marketing the desire to lighten skin, which is horrible. And the opposite of body and beauty acceptance.
The older I get, frankly, the more sexually and physically invisible I will become, at least to a certain segment of the population. That’s just a fact in this particular paradigm we live in. It’s already happened to a certain extent, because I am middled aged and I’m a mother, two strikes against being the idea female in a culture that idealizes young, thin, perfect bodies, and women who are not used goods so to speak.
But here’s the thing. The older I get, the louder I get. The bolder I get. The more radical I get. The more power I have. The less of a flippin’ shit I give about this crap we are fed and the more I see through it. Even though there are times when it feels horrible to realize that as I age and my looks “decline” my actual power grows and isn’t in my body, I’m finding gladness or at least some acceptance. I’m aware there is a power in being where I am, where many women are and will be, and the more I want to tear down a system that holds such weird values in place.
I may not be “desirable” in this paradigm, but why the hell would I want to be? It’s not my job as a woman to entertain men, something gorgeously pointed out in Lynn Beisner’s piece for Role Reboot.
My job, as a human, is to help other humans be more human. Together. Their job is to help me be more human, something Anne and Shannon and Lynn do fantastically and I’m grateful for it. All of you out there, men, women, genderqueer alike are beautiful BECAUSE you are human and more than the sum of your parts, not because companies/media/systems do a great job encouraging you to break yourself into parts, skin, or face, or hair, or cellulite or scent, making you question your worth and then offer solutions to all those parts. At a cost. You are beautiful outside of all of that.
I am too. I need to remember that more.