I'm getting all soap-boxy today. It's about a topic I've been thinking about for months, and it's finally come to a head.
You've all seen the Dove Real Beauty commercial, right? The one with the forensic artist? If not, here it is. Or watch it again to refresh your memory:
Many women's reaction to the video was powerful emotion. Some women cried at the message, which is captured in the tag line: "You're more beautiful than you think." Yes, I am, was the overwhelming response as thousands of women shared the video through social media.
Then came the backlash about whether the forensic artist was biased because he knew about the experiment, and how the majority of the women were Caucasian, and maybe that's the kind of beauty we're being told is somehow "real." Those arguments may or may not be valid.
It was a different response that make me sit up and pay attention: the one saying that outward appearance/beauty shouldn't be what society looks at anyway, and that making a commercial that focuses on it is wrong.
I even saw well-intentioned men get on the same high horse. They did mean well. I get that. Society is too focused on beauty. Isn't that the point? The truth is, we live in a society that does put an extraordinary amount of emphasis and significance to outward appearance. That is a fact.
Another fact: Women are often way too hard on themselves because they can never measure up to the airbrushed models and movie stars bombarding them every day.
I know I'm only one among millions of girls who grew up with a gorgeous mother who was convinced she wasn't good enough in whatever way (too fat or whatever else). I've tried hard not to pass on those kinds of ideas to my daughters, but ironically, discovered that I have, at least with one of my features, and one of my daughters now worries about that very same feature, even though she's totally gorgeous.
Dove took a new angle on the beauty war. Instead of using those images of impossible beauty, where the models themselves don't even look like that, they used everyday women and showed the beauty they have.
To me, it was refreshing to see a company essentially back up the trolley and give women a dose of positivity. Should beauty be the only thing we're concerned about? Of course not. But it'll take a huge paradigm shift, and likely generations, before we move past it. If we ever do.
To any man claiming he gets it, or that he somehow values all women equally, no matter what they look like, I say, hah. Even women don't/can't always look past the outer shell, and we're the targets of the issue every minute of every day. It's not a man problem. It's a societal problem.
Case in point: One of the men I saw who was up in arms about this commercial and its focus on beauty (rather than brains, or other qualities, it was implied) had previously referred to his wife on Facebook and elsewhere as his hot and gorgeous wife. For that matter, pretty much any time I saw him refer to her, the word wife was preceded by a word or phrase describing her physical beauty. And I'm sure he did so out of love.
But after a lengthy discussion on a thread about this commercial, and my (always vocal, sometimes obnoxious) opinions on how our society values appearance so much, I noticed a change. I have no idea if it was intentional, but suddenly this same good man started referring to his spouse as his smart, brilliant, and talented wife.
If we think it's wrong that Dove made a commercial about beauty, then we should be ticked off at every women's magazine cover, every makeup commercial, every movie.
The problem is so widespread that not too long ago, one of my writing idols admitted in a blog post that if she could take a pill to be prettier but stupid, she's take it. I was horrified, in part because she's so stinking smart (and she's already pretty anyway, yet apparently doesn't think so), but also because she was pandering to the lowest common denominator in society. Not even this brilliant woman of letters was exempt.
(I was also dismayed because I'd lived the stupid/pretty pill thing in the form of medication side effects that made me lose a bunch of weight but made me dumb as a rock, and I was absolutely miserable the entire time.)
So men: Do you think you get what it's like being a woman, or that appearance isn't that big a deal? Read this post about sexual harassment at a science fiction/fantasy convention and think again. Women, it's an important read for us, too.
Even better, watch this video with Dustin Hoffman. Years ago, I'd heard about the epiphany he had playing a woman in Tootsie, but I'd never seen this video where he describes it. This clip has been making the rounds on Facebook lately, so you may have already come across it, because I didn't get to putting up this post early enough.
If you've seen it, watch it anyway. If you haven't, watch it now, and then watch it again.
I dare you to think about women and beauty, society, appearance, and intellect, in the same way.
(I always knew there was a reason I admired Dustin Hoffman . . .)
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