Did you see the now-infamous, undeniably depraved and clearly malevolentÂ Dove Real Beauty Sketch video? The one that cruelly touts that we are “more beautiful than we think”? I mean, dear lord, what are advertisements coming to? If you have yet to view it, here you go. Prepare to be inspired or offended.
Maybe you already saw it: “Oh no,” you cry, “not that again!” Yes. That again. I saw the video and I thought it was a really cool concept. It touched on an idea I’ve been facing frequently lately in my coaching training, which is how warped our self-image or self-concept can be.
We get to decide who we are (and how we look), but some of usâ€”most of us, I’d assert, myself includedâ€”tend to focus only on our flaws and shortcomings. The parts we can’t stand about ourselves. Just for the record, I’m not just talking about the fact I don’t have a cute little ski-jump nose or a gentle smattering of freckles just across the afore-mentioned adorable schnoz. I’m looking more at who I am being at the core of me, and realizing that I’m none too gentle when it comes to how I hold myself.
Now. You guys, this video has really pissed some people off. And I can sort of get it, at least inasmuch as having discussed it with those I know who are annoyed by their interpretation of the video’s message. I can understand what they’re saying, but honestly, I just don’t agree. I don’t think that the video is intending to subversively undermineÂ women’s rights/intelligence/worth. At least, that’s not how I chose to watch it (again, I kind of think we can decide how we choose to receive it).
I saw women describe themselves the way most of us (men and women) do: Critically. Not particularly kindly, because a kind description isn’t a realistic one, in our society. We don’t compliment ourselves, because that is considered gratuitous and self-centred. Shallow.
I don’t think the ad pointed out that women are only the sum of their facial features and heaven help them if those features aren’t interesting and symmetrical at the same time. I didn’t hear anyone say, “My nose is a little too big, and I’m unintelligent.” The ad is for a company that makes body wash, soap and deodorant. I don’t understand why they would be talking about IQ and career accomplishments. That’s not the point of their Real Beauty campaign. Seems a bit like getting annoyed you can’t buy milk in a shoe store, to me. Seems a bit like people just want to be pissed off, in my opinion.Â The point is that we are all beautiful, no matter how our genes are put together. WHAT A TERRIBLE THING TO SAY! LET US TAKE UP ARMS AND VOICE OUR DISCONTENT!
I personally appreciate the message that beauty doesn’t fall into one narrow category, as defined by fashion magazines and Hollywood A-lists. I personally like the idea of encouraging people to be comfortableÂ andÂ find beauty in their own skin. To be kinder to themselves. To hold their self-image a little more gently. For crying out loud, it’s really, really hard to do that these days.
And why is it so bad to want to be pretty, anyway? Based on the conversations I had about this video, it really seemed like people are holding it as an either/or. Either you can be intelligent and powerful and effective or you can want to be pretty. Why can’t you be smart and accomplished and still think of yourself as attractive? So what if I like to wear some makeup? I don’t enjoy eyeshadow because I’m full of self-loathing. I like to wear makeup because it allows me to have fun and be creative in my expression of myself.
I don’t think it’s really such a bad thing if someone wants to consider themselves in a favourable light. I also don’t think it’s the only thing a person’s got going for them (unless we’re talking about my cat, Maui, who really is just pretty at the expense of just about any other positive quality).
After all, we choose our clothing according to our definition of style. Fashion is in the eye of the beholder. We pay stylists to cut our hair and arrange it (though the outcome is more of a daily surprise in my case). We dress up for special events.
Pretending appearances don’t matter is not realistic. Human beings are aesthetic creatures. We are biologically drawn to beauty. We find beauty in the world around us: In a sunset’s golden rays, an unfurling rose, a musical melody or a delicious meal. That’s pretty natural. The world is beautiful. Nature is beautiful. We are drawn to our friends and our family and the features of their faces are welcoming and appreciated. We are drawn to our partners, by glances from afar that inspire shyness on a first date. We find them attractive, but that doesn’t mean that their looks are the only thing that we value about them.
I find it interesting that so many people seem determined to find a negative in this video campaign. It seems a bit pessimistic to me. I mean, people have gotten angry. I have other stuff to be angry about, I guess. Personally, I found the concept to be innovative and thought-provoking. Interesting. Refreshing. A reminder to extend to ourselves the kindness we reserve for others.
I admit it: I like being pretty, myself. At least, my definition of it. And I don’t think that I can only be pretty at the expense of being smart (or kind or creative or fun or accomplished or generous or any other damn thing I want to be). I think I can be all of it.Â It’s my choice. It’s yours, too.
Dare I ask? What did you think of the video?