Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. A world where more than a meager 4% of women think they are beautiful. A world where women, young or old, find beauty and value in their quirks and don’t view them as flaws. This is a world that Dove is trying to build. For the last few years Dove has been creating and advertising their “campaign for real beauty”. This campaign focuses on building positive self-esteem in all women. I love this campaign, but moreover, I love the idea of seeing true beauty.
The most recent ad they put out features an FBI sketch artist asking women to describe themselves. From their descriptions, he sketches them and then they leave. He then asks others who had met these women earlier in the day to describe them. When he is finished, both sketches are hung side by side. It’s astonishing how the women were so harsh on themselves, while the strangers described them in a far more “beautiful light”. This ad was created to show women (and men) that we tend to be our own worst critic. When we look in the mirror we see flaws. When others look at us, they see something far more beautiful. Now, I am not sitting here endorsing Dove in any way. I find plenty of faults with the company, especially with Unilever, the parent corporation for Dove, but what I am saying is that at its most basic, real beauty and positive self-esteem is something so vitally important to teach women and girls.
Working in higher education, I spend a lot of time with 18-22 year old women, especially the women in the sorority I advise. It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk about themselves sometimes. I’ve on multiple occasions given one of my women a compliment only to hear them respond with a “Thanks, but my hair is a mess today” or an “I’m so pale, I look horrible.” As women we are taught to be so self-deprecating about our looks that it funnels into our confidence as well. We can’t accept a compliment about ourselves without feeling the need to clarify a flaw. We strive to be or look like someone that the media tells us is beautiful. A beauty that in my opinion, isn’t real. To me, real women are beautiful. Pale is beautiful. Freckles are beautiful. Curves are beautiful. Wrinkles are beautiful. The media may try to tell you they are not, the media is wrong. I wish there was a way I could tell each and every one of these women they are perfect. I want to stand on a chair and shout about how beautiful they truly are, but I’m pretty sure they would think I am crazy, or knowing these women they would throw something at me and tell me I’m being awkward. They don’t know how blessed I feel and proud I am to work with them. They are 140 of the most beautiful, bold, quirky, funny, silly, thoughtful, and smart young woman I have ever met. Yet, they don’t see that. They see their flaws. And for what it’s worth, I catch myself at times doing the same thing. Standing in front of the mirror and picking on myself about the way I look. I’m trying to train myself to ignore the voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough, but it’s a challenge.
My genuine hope is that one day my sorority women, and all college women, see their beauty. I hope they find beauty in their quirks, find beauty in their heart, find beauty in who they are, not what the media tells them to look like. I challenge all women, especially those working in fields where they have the ability to impact young woman, to model this version of beauty, and to teach and empower young women to see this beauty in themselves. I challenge us all to defy the version of beauty we see in the media, and to create our own standard to beauty.
For more information on the Dove campaign or to see the video referenced above, please visit: http://realbeautysketches.dove.us/
Kristen Rupert is the Coordinator for the Center for Student Leadership and Service at The Ohio State University. Follow her on twitter: @KARupert or follow her personal blog at www.kristenrupert.com .