By now it’s entirely likely you’ve seen it: Dove put out an ad where a bunch of women sit down and describe themselves to a forensic artist. Then, a stranger they just met describes them to a forensic artist. Surprise! They’re not as ugly as they think they are!
Look, here’s some real talk: I do not know a single person who doesn’t struggle with body image on a daily basis, male or female, to varying degrees. And when I first watched this ad, I was moved. Of course I was — they’re paying a lot of people a lot of money to ensure I am moved. And it is, in fact, moving to see an advertisement so clearly focused on pointing out that people are often their own harshest critics, and that being hard on yourself isn’t fair. I loved that. Let me repeat: I loved that, and was nearly in tears for a good part of the ad.
I am all for things that make people feel more beautiful. To paraphrase Margaret Cho, I’m gutted by those who don’t find most others beautiful, because they’re missing out on a lot of beauty in the world. I have no doubt that the women featured in this ad did feel shitty about themselves, and might still. Listening to them describe themselves felt like… Well, like listening to myself. Can’t be too vain, here. Gotta be “honest.” Gotta play ourselves down, all the time, as if admitting that we like something about ourselves is a cardinal sin.
God, it hurt.
And then we got to the strangers, and the first stranger says, “She was thin, so you could see her cheekbones… And her chin? It was a nice, thin chin…”
God, that hurt too.
Thin, thin, thin. The mantra I’ve been repeating to myself my whole goddamn life. No part of me is thin or ever has been. My wrists, maybe? Uh?
Of course, they show the women seeing their portraits, too — the ones they described and the ones others did. And most of them tear up. I would, too. Hell, I did, too, because when I watched this the first time I was emotionally tangled up in it in a way I didn’t expect. I wanted to like it; I wanted to be moved. I was moved.
One woman looked at the portrait of herself that she’d drawn and said, “This one looks more… closed off. Fatter. And sadder, too.”
I wanted to love this ad. I wanted so badly to believe that an advertising company is using its considerable powers for good. I wanted to feel like acceptance is a thing, like at least one ad company really is trying to expand the ideas of what beautiful is and what people want to see.
Instead, I got more of the usual: Thin good. Fat bad. It triggered serious body dysmorphia in me today that I had a lot of trouble dealing with and tried to ignore or circumnavigate instead of approaching head-on.
Why are we so validated by this dichotomy of fat versus thin? Why are we so relieved when others tell us we’re thinner than we think we are, or that we’re not fat? I ask these rhetorical questions because I have answers: we equate good traits with thinness and bad traits with fatness. Thin people are friendly, open, healthy, beautiful, and good. Fat people are lazy, stupid, gluttonous, unhygienic, ugly, and bad. When you tell someone you don’t think they’re fat, what you’re usually telling them is that you don’t associate any of the aforementioned traits with them. This has nothing to do with whether or not they are actually fat.
Ultimately, Dove is trying to sell us something, and that something is a cosmetics product. Given this, I understand that my frustration is probably a little unfair, but God, am I sick of feeling alienated by campaigns promoting “real beauty” that want nothing to do with my fat ass.
If you actually think physical attractiveness is important in a relationship, you are not shallow. To make a good relationship last you have to be physically and mentally attracted to the person. I am tired of seeing people being called shallow simply because they are looking for someone attractive to them, mentally and physically.
You are shallow when physical attractiveness is the only thing that keeps you two together.
It is, however, incredibly important to examine what your personal constructs of attractiveness are, and naive to go through life without taking the time to do this — after all, certain kinds of attractiveness have been drilled into us from birth, and the images we see of what we should consider attractive aren’t organic. They’re manufactured to keep people anxious and insecure, and therefore keep them buying the products the companies that manufacture our ideas of attractiveness want us to buy.
So yes, your proclivity for brunettes or freckles might be organic, but the overwhelming resistance to the attractiveness of fat people or non-Western conforming POC is not organic in the slightest.
Just something to think about.
The answer is totally sexism.
If you are like me and grew up listening to incredibly angsty twenty-something men whining harmonically about the women that have wronged them and the loves that have failed, then you know as well as I do that men write songs about specific women all the time. And they use their fuckin’ names (or names, anyway, that allude to specific women, just as the “Dear John” song alludes to John Mayer but uses a well-known conceit known as a ‘Dear John letter,’ Google that shit, to achieve thatˆ), too!
Like, I love Andrew McMahon as much as the next awkward teenage girl who hit puberty somewhere between 2001 and 2003, but homeboy writes a LOT of songs about specific women where their NAMES ARE THE TITLE: “Amy, I,” “Amelia Jean,” and “Letters to Noelle,” to name three of ROUGHLY TWO DOZEN. Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, Brand New, fun., fun.’s previous and more depressed incarnation The Format, Taking Back Sunday, and countless others that I noticed, as I was nonchalantly scrolling through the time warp sections of my iTunes, talk about relationships with specific women and use names that probably only thinly veil the references to those women. Like, there’s no way you broke up with Justin Pierre for being a self-absorbed alcoholic or whatever and didn’t listen to Motion City Soundtrack’s next album and think, “Well shit, ‘Last Night’ is totally about our breakup, that blows. Why did that douche basically imply I broke up with him because I couldn’t keep up with his brilliance? What?”
The main difference is that Taylor Swift’s beaus are usually also famous, but here’s the thing: men in all genres of music are constantly — constantly— working out their relationship angst through music. Justin Timberlake has now written two consecutive albums, albeit with a seven-year gap, about his relationship experiences. Literally all Justin Bieber seems to sing about is some lady he wants to dance up on or how sad he is because some lady didn’t let him dance up on her. Bruno Mars writes about love and breakups all the time. Nate Ruess (of fun.) is all, “I Wanna Be The One” on one album and then on the next album is like, “Why Am I The One” and sometimes I just want to be all, “Jesus, why the fuck ARE you the one if you keep writing about your breakups on your albums?”*
This is because it is an artist’s right to work out his (OR HER) feelings through his (OR HER) art. This is as true for Taylor Swift as it is for Nate Ruess, okay? It’s as true for Taylor Swift as it is for Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake or some other Justin who hasn’t surfaced yet (and probably won’t because it’s probably like Highlander and there can only be one). Female artists have as much right to write about their breakups as male artists do. And Taylor Swift’s not the only one to do it — she’s just been the most open in interviews and in the press about her relationships, which has led to this weird entitlement circle where people feel like they SHOULD know about Taylor Swift’s relationships, and then mock her mercilessly for writing about them.
Through some stunning combination of what appears to be her own willingness to connect with people through shared experiences by talking about her personal life, the fact that she dates people of equal visibility, the enthusiasm of whoever handles her image in flaunting that openness and visibility and encouraging the media to pry deeper, and the media’s willingness to throw women under the bus as “catty” or whatever have created an environment where Taylor Swift is
- expected to share personal information about her love life and
- punished for sharing that personal information OR
- punished for not sharing that personal information AND
- disallowed from writing about it in her music because ‘everyone knows already’ or something
I’m not saying she hasn’t had some part in creating this environment, but it’s sure as hell not JUST her. And I just don’t fuckin’ get why everyone is so obsessed with who she is or isn’t writing about or is or isn’t naming when dudes pull this shit ALL THE TIME. The difference is that she’s criticizing equally visible men. That’s pretty much it.
Like, homegirl needs to stop hating on other women so much and there have been a lot of great conversations about how she contributes to slut-shaming and victim-blaming and sex-negativity, but I’m JUST NOT CLEAR why the media at large is more concerned with whether or not she’s calling John Mayer a douchebag (basically) in a song than they are with, say, John Mayer being a total pretentious shit all the time.
Or, more generally: why the fuck are we being so much nastier to a girl writing about her breakups and love interests than we are to powerful men who do the same thing ALL THE TIME to women they met at Starbucks and who don’t have multi-million-dollar record deals?
* I am well aware these songs are about very different things. Also, I volunteer as tribute to be the next muse for a tortured love song, I am js. Call me.
justdyingtolive replied to your post: I am actually astounded at how many people are…
Maybe there are just more skinny white actors and actresses in the industry? If you want more diversified casts for new shows, start encouraging more diversified people to go to acting school. Or if you aren’t skinny or white, YOU get on these shows!
just gonna put this here
Ah yes, because racism, sizeism, and sexism don’t seriously affect casting in Hollywood.
There are a ton of POC and people of different sizes in the industry. They just don’t get cast because it’s assumed that the target audience won’t care about them, which is Total Fucking Bullshit.
(Also, nobody attack gingerhaze, she’s putting this out there to give an example of the moronic pushback she’s received as a result of — GASP — suggesting casts be diversified. It’s a great post, actually).
Christopher Sebela and Matt Fraction weigh in on the latest comic industry drama centered on Tony Harris’s recent outburst re: fake versus real nerd ladies, their choice of cosplays, and who exactly should be allowed to do what.
Awww lordie, I missed a “real nerd girl” neckbeard rant? DAMMIT THOSE ARE MY FAVOURITE.
you’re not a REAL NERD GIRL if you’re not willing to exist as just a sex object or if you make nerd guys in any way uncomfortable SIMPLY BY EXISTING DUH
Long hair, boobs out and make up are awesome and all but in plane factory…not so much
I love this image so much.
I’ve seen some women who are offended by this and say it’s ridiculous that her cleavage is showing and things of that sort.
Personally, I think it’s great.
Why should we have an image of a women with her hair tied up and flexing her muscles like she’s a man? (not that that isn’t great too!) In a way it suggests that when our hair is down, our breasts are visible and we wear (GASP) lipstick, we’re somehow lesser than men? We can do it! We can be feminine and successful.
You see what I’m saying here, ladies?
You don’t have to lose your femininity. Being feminine is great. Being masculine is great. Strength is not limited to one way of being.
Yes, thank you.
I never liked the one where she was all masculine, because that’s certainly not who I am. But it doesn’t mean I’m some weak being that can’t work hard.
“Okay, I have an idea for an update of the old Rosie the Riveter feminist icon.”
- “Oh? Sounds good, maybe a more inclusive series of pictures showing women with different body types and ethnici—”
“No, no, not like that. I was just thinking we could make her the same, just more feminine and pretty. Conventionally attractive white women are always getting shit on by the feminist movement.”
- “Uhm… wait—”
“Yup, okay, first let’s have her strong empowered facial expression changed to a sort of flirty, sultry gaze.”
- “But that’s—”
“Oh, and we definitely need to add some cleavage there too.”
“Okay, next lets forget the whole ‘strong arm’ thing and have her be fixing her hair.”
- “That is literally the opposite of—”
“Now let’s make her facial features more conventionally attractive!”
- “What? So basically it’s now JUST retro fashion pin-up of a white girl with an hourglass figure? Saying YES WE CAN… fix our hair and flirt?”
“Yeah, not ALL feminists hate bras and shaving, DUHHHHHH!!!!!!!! You should be a little more inclusive. Don’t discriminate against petite white cis girls!”
so it’s agreed we’re all following porcelain-horse-horselain now.
idk what’s wrong with you guys we DEFINITELY needed a super-sexualized version of Rosie the Riveter, D U H
let’s think about how men never have to settle for the “geeky” and “nerdy girl” and how there are dozens of movies where the ugly little duckling is transformed to this gorgeous woman so that the male character can be with her
and how there are dozens of movies where women are taught to look past looks and see that those “nerdy” guys are actually really great
Did 21,000+ people really never see Shallow Hal? because that’s one of my favorite movies. Js.
wow sexism is over tbh
WOW SHALLOW HAL EXISTS
THAT EXCUSES EVERYTHING
THAT ONE MOVIE CLEARLY MAKES THE HUNDREDS OF OTHER AWFUL ROMANTIC COMEDIES OKAY
SEXISM IS OVER EVERYONE! WOO!!
Casual reminder that Shallow Hall involves an average-looking overweight dude refusing to date any woman who’s not “hot” and can’t be convinced of the worth of women who aren’t “hot” until he’s hypnotized so he CAN’T SEE HOW THEY ACTUALLY LOOK. The whole message of Shallow Hal is not that “all people are attractive” but is in fact “even ugly people can be loved sometimes.”