Late to the party, as usual.
I realize I'm probably the only person in the world who hadn't seen this before today, but here it is:
When I saw the first real beauty Dove ads a year or so ago, I thought they were great. Then the backlash started. Articles like this one questioned (quite fairly) the slightly disingenous nature of an advertising campaign that touts "real beauty" in order to sell a firming cream that eliminates cellulite. (Here's another article discussing the campaign from a strategy-over-morals sort of perspective.) I read reports of men commenting about the women being "fat" or "gross" or saying things like "The only time I want to see thighs that big is when I'm looking into a bucket of chicken." Really nasty, hateful, make-me-want-to-kick-someone-directly-in-the-testicles-with-boots-on kind of things. And then it got worse. Women started saying shitty things, not about the ad campaign itself, but about the models' bodies.
I recently led a workshop which involved taking a group of 12- to 18-year-old girls to a traveling exhibition of Lauren Greenfield's Girl Culture (photo essay here). At one point during our post-tour discussion, one of the most grounded and seemingly least culture-led girls in the workshop grumbled, "Stupid boys," and it led to us talking about the fact that usually it's other girls who tear girls down. I know that when I was in middle school with no self-esteem and believed I was completely ugly, it wasn't the boys who made me feel like shit about myself. Sure, the fact that they were completely uninterested in me sucked, but it was the girls who tore me down, who tore everyone but their best friends down, day after day after day.
Seeing the Girl Culture exhibition and reading the book and working in a very girl-centered program and realizing that I may have a daughter of my own in as little as five or six years have all come together and caused a lot of deep-thinking episodes over the past few months. Trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm not a skinny teenager anymore has added to that. How liberated and enamored of real beauty and self-acceptance am I if I nearly break down in tears in a dressing room because I can't find a bra that fits? When I look at models in catalogs and wish my breasts were small like theirs? When I'm too embarrassed to go to the pool to swim laps because my stomach is flabby and my thighs are fat, even though they got that way from lack of exercise in the first place?
I don't really have any answers or big brilliant thoughts. All this stuff has been kicking around in my head for months, and seeing the "evolution of beauty" video this evening sort of caused it all to gel.
I was thinking about these things a lot during one particular week in the summer. During the same week, I spent a day hanging out in this really eccentric touristy-type town not too far from where we live. I planned to write a blog entry not unlike this one, and took this photo to illustrate it:
I never got around to writing the entry (until now), but I still like the photo. As you can probably see, I have really weird-looking feet. They're wide and sort of big and my toes are kind of ugly (especially my big toes). Big deal, right? No one really has pretty feet, you know? Except that I can remember as a kid...maybe in third or fourth grade...hating with every fiber of my being any activity at school that required us to take off our shoes. One of the coolest things I remember from grade school was an odd end-of-the-year ritual my school had. Each kid's parents were asked to send a can of shaving cream to school, and then we sprayed the shaving cream onto the tops of our desks and smeared it around and fingerpainted with it. Apparently, this cleaned dirt and pencil marks and stuff off of the desktops. As you can imagine, we LOVED doing this. Except one year, for some reason, we all ended up doing it outside, barefoot, and I couldn't enjoy the shaving cream event one bit, because I was so scared that someone was going to see my ugly feet and make fun of me. Isn't that just sad and sick? I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, and I can still remember curling my toes up and trying to make my feet as small as possible, hoping no one would see them.
I still don't think my feet are cute. I definitely don't have a career as a foot model in my future. But I've come to terms with my "grapedy toed" (thanks, Mom...) "duck feet" and what I can do with them / where they can take me. Perhaps someday I'll be able to learn to love my imperfect body as well.