Women are pretty = Women have value?

23 Apr

Surely you’ve seen the video by now. It’s been bloody everywhere. If not, here:

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

It’s been shared by nigh-on everyone over the past week or so, generally with a message similar to the one my buddy Sean used: “This is cool. Give yourself some credit ladies. You’re more beautiful than you think.”

I mean, on the one hand, I can’t argue that. It is definitely a problem with our culture that women (men, too, but I think it’s safe to say women moreso) face an unnecessary, unfair pressure to be attractive while simultaneously being force-fed the message that whatever level of attractive they are is insufficient. It’s a vicious cycle that has done more than just about anything else to accelerate the growth of countless body-image-related issues and illnesses. Dove should be commended for even this small move toward combatting that cultural paradigm.

On the other hand, though. What is the deeper message of this ad? Isn’t it, “Ladies, you have more value than you thought because you’re prettier than you thought”? I mean, I think that’s it. And…that’s bullshit, isn’t it? Doesn’t this ad actually perpetuate the notion that a woman’s value is inherently tied to her superficial attractiveness? There are undeniably ugly women out there, ones for whom no sketch artist and generous describer will generate a pleasant image. There are ugly men, ugly dogs. There’s probably an ugly baby tiger out there, though please don’t send me a picture if you find it. You don’t need a pleasing caricature of yourself to have value.

I don’t love the idea of tying anyone’s value to physical attractiveness (and not just because that would negatively affect my own value). It seems to me that approach, positive though it is, is the first step toward a slope that leads us back to where we are now.

I can’t blame Dove for that. It’s a “personal care” company; this approach sells product. And promoting greater self-esteem is a noble goal through almost any method. But ever since I saw that video — and I too shared it with several people after I watched it — I’ve had a bit of a nagging feeling. Tying someone’s value to physical attractiveness is one hell of a dicey proposition.

Am I wrong in this? Am I reading more into a simple, high-minded ad than is actually there? I honestly don’t know; I just know that the impressed feelings I had when I first saw the video have been intermingled with “this troubles me” ever since.

Let me know, folks.

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