Dove, has recently released an advertising campaign, encouraging women to #choosebeautiful (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DdM-4siaQw). At first glance it seems innocent enough, encouraging women to see their positives, see their beauty. The company suggests of women polled, 96% of women will not use the word “beautiful” to describe themselves, and shows in its short film, women from five cities as diverse as Sao Paolo to London, choosing whether they are beautiful or average, by walking through labelled doors. Dove’s website suggests:
“Dove believes feeling beautiful is a personal choice that women should feel empowered to make for themselves. “Although the majority of women don’t describe themselves as beautiful, 80% agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful. It’s time women think differently about this choice,” says Steve Miles, Senior Vice President, Dove”
At the first blush, I don’t disagree that these results are skewed, that this says a lot about how women are influenced by society about their perceptions of their appearance. But beyond that first blush, I am deeply sceptical of the commoditisation of the body positive movement which seeks to combat the damaging impacts of images which market a particular kind of loveliness – typically feminine, able bodied, white, clear skinned, able bodied, thin but just voluptuous enough to be “sexy” – that isolates many from society’s view of beauty and desirability. Furthermore, it seems internally inconsistent from a company that makes profits from the beauty industry.
Furthermore, I would hope that I have more choice than choosing just beautiful. I have, like many of us both strengths and weaknesses which offers my husband, friends, family, colleagues and society unique contributions beyond whether I am having a good hair day (yep, that’s a while off while I grow out this pixie).
The final reason it does not pass my first blush, is that it is masquerading as a positive message, but remains focused upon the external desirability of women, rather than the inherent qualities that they possess. It suggests that we should reorient how we talk about our beauty, rather than suggesting that we could refocus our energies in something deeper, more complex than just our external appearance and how we choose to describe it. Whilst commercial enterprise suggests women should be focusing their attentions on their beauty – whether it be defined by ourselves, or by society- our efforts are being dissuaded from achieving our full potential. The greatest value should be more variable, and should be not just skin deep. The beauty industry is extremely profitable, around $55 billion annually in 2014, in the USA alone. The business of making yourself beautiful is said to waste about 55 minutes a day, or 2 weeks a year. Imagine the potential benefits of refocusing that attention and money elsewhere if we could refocus our value elsewhere. Considering the comparative time, energy and importance appearance is placed on men’s appearance, I thought that Caitlin Moran has summed it up best more generally:
“You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”
So yeah, I’m not choosing beautiful today. I’m choosing to be the intelligent, passionate, hilarious and caring person I know myself to be. I love clothes, and think that makeup can be tops, but I love me for so much more than any external reference that you could pick.
Today’s outfit post, has been delayed by a week, I have had the great joy of hosting friends from abroad, university and maid of honour duties in Melbourne. You might have noticed my use of the word blush. Today’s outfit is focused around my favourite purchase from my recent round the world trip, from H & M in Sweden (the mothership), a beautiful blush tulle skirt. It can be a challenge to put this together, it is foofy and needs a lot of calming down with darker colours. I’m working on a decent spot in our apartment for photo taking, you are going to have to imagine what my plain black boatneck looks like tucked into my shirt, because that photo is le rubbish.