So this video started going around my facebook today, with about a dozen of my female friends sharing the link with comments like, and “Everyone needs to see this”, and “All girls should watch this,” and “This made me cry.” And I’m not trying to shame those girls! I definitely understand why they would do so. And I don’t want to be a killjoy. But as I clicked the link and started watching the video, I started to feel a slight sense of discomfort. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, exactly, but it continued throughout the whole thing. After watching the video several more times, I have some thoughts…
[For those who didn’t or cannot watch it, the basic idea of the video is this: Dove conducted what they call a “social experiment”. They focused on several “featured participants” who evidently did not know what exactly they had signed up for. Over lightly melancholy music, they each briefly talked about their appearance, and how they wished they looked different. One by one, they arrived to a building they had never been to, where they were told to get friendly with a person they’d never met. Then, they were called back into a space where a professional forensic artist was waiting with his back to them, and separated by a curtain. Each woman described herself to the artist, and he drew them. Then, the stranger they had spent a little time with came in and described the participants from their perspective, and the forensic artist drew a second sketch. At the end, each woman came back to see the two sketches, and to notice the difference between how they describe themselves and how others describe them. Almost all agree they look more beautiful when described by strangers, and that they are more beautiful than they think. They talk about how important it is for us to realize that our self-perceptions are harsh, and say that we should spend more time appreciating the things that we do like. Dove then flashes the words, “You are more beautiful than you think.” across the screen, and the video concludes.]
“Well that sounds nice! Right?” Well…
First off, I will acknowledge the positives in the video. The team at Dove makes a valid point: most of us are our own harshest critics. Most women probably are more beautiful than they think. This serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t be as hard on ourselves as most of us often are, and it’s uplifting to remember that others are more prone to look past the “flaws” that we perceive in ourselves and to see beauty. The fact that it’s reminding young women to see the beauty in themselves is a good thing, and I want to celebrate that.
Now, let’s get down to real talk.
Good question, Dove. I’m so glad that you asked…
When it comes to the diversity of the main participants: all four are Caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest appears to be 40). The majority of the non-featured participants are thin, young white women as well. Hmm… probably a little limiting, wouldn’t you say? We see in the video that at least three black women were in fact drawn for the project. Two are briefly shown describing themselves in a negative light (one says she has a fat, round face, and one says she’s getting freckles as she ages). Both women are lighter skinned. A black man is shown as one of the people describing someone else, and he comments that she has “pretty blue eyes”. One Asian woman is briefly shown looking at the completed drawings of herself and you see the back of a black woman’s head; neither are shown speaking. Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.
Cool. Except not so much.
Let’s look at which descriptors the editors chose to include. When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars… Whereas some of theimplied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite), short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty”: young, light-skinned, thin. No real diversity celebrated in race, age, or body shape. So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes. If you’re fat or old… uh, maybe other people don’t think you look as fat and old as you do yourself? Great? Oh, and by the way, there are real women who look like the women on the left. What are you saying about them, exactly?
This reminds me of Winnie the Pooh…
No seriously, it does. Have you ever heard that quote, “Always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”? Well that quote is from Winnie the Pooh. It upsets me that lots of people share the quote without sourcing it, like they’re ashamed of Pooh Bear or something. But anyway, I digress. There’s something else that I’ve noticed: a popular version of the quote is making its way around tumblr, pinterest, and facebook. It’s the same at the start, but then add, “and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined”. That last part is usually written in the biggest text, or italicized for emphasis. It’s sort of like what this Dove video is saying, right? So… why is this so important? Why did girls feel like something was missing from that quote it its original form? Why are so many females I know having such a strong reaction to the sketches video, being moved to the point of tears?
Because the message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty.
Brave, strong, smart? Not enough. You have to be beautiful. And “beautiful” means something very specific, and very physical. Essentially every movie and tv show and commercial shows us that, right? It doesn’t matter what other merits a woman posses, if she is not conventionally attractive, she is essentially worthless (go watch Miss Representation for more thoughts on this). And my primary problem with this Dove ad is that it’s not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn’t really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn’t really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn’t the most important thing. It doesn’t really push back against the constant objectification of women. All it’s really saying is that you’re actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are (if you look like the featured women, I guess).
And actually, it almost seems to remind us how vital it is to know that we fit society’s standard of attractiveness . At the end of the experiment, one of the featured participants shares what I find to be the most disturbing quote in the video and what Dove seems to think is the moral of the story as she reflects upon what she’s learned, and how problematic it is that she hasn’t been acknowledging her physical beauty: It’s troubling,” she says as uplifting music swells in the background. “I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, they way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”
Did you hear that, ladies? How beautiful you are affects everything—from your personal relationships to your career. It could not be more critical to your happiness! And while it could be argued that the woman was actually talking about how you feel about yourself or something, it is clearly edited to suggest that the “it” is beauty. I know we’ve been told it thousands upon thousands of times before, but I hope you heard that, girls: your physical, superficial beauty is the most significant part of who you are, and the most important determining factor in your life. And now I want you to hear this: that is a lie.
What you look like should not affect the choices that you make. It should certainly not affect the friends you make—the friends that wouldn’t want to be in relationship with you if you did not meet a certain physical standard are not the friends that you want to have. Go out for jobs that you want, that you’re passionate about. Don’t let how good looking you feel like you are affect the way way that you treat your children. And certainly do not make how well you feel you align with the strict and narrow “standard” that the beauty industry and media push be critical to your happiness, because you will always be miserable. You will always feel like you fall short, because those standards are designed to keep you constantly pressured into buying things like make up and diet food and moisturizer to reach an unattainable goal. Don’t let your happiness be dependent on something so fickle and cruel and trivial. You should feel beautiful, and Dove was right about one thing: you are more beautiful than you know. But please, please hear me: you are so, so much more than beautiful.
Ps: Dove Marketing team is brilliant and talented, I will give them that, but they have also made some stopovers in Sketchsville… while they have done some cool things, like reminding us about how Photoshop distorts our image of beauty, they have also been accused of using photoshop themselves. They are also a little bit manipulative in their pleas to others to stop manipulating. Sometimes, they seem like they might be more than a little bit racist… and more than a lot bit racist (Skin bleaching? Really?!) And for all of their talk of “real beauty” and empowering women to be their best selves, Dove is owned by Unilever, which also own AXE, which is widely known for having some of the most blatantly sexist and objectifying commercials out there. See Hank Green’s video on the hypocrisy of major corporations here.
I am really fucking tired of every corporate connected , intellectual class feminist for a living writing about rape right nwo only in the context of
” Men do this and they don’t get punished and men and men and men”
Shut up and stop writing these god awful ignorant privileged screeds that focus on men and the most “GO Girl drivel ” you can manage
Talk about how women are afraid to report rape cause they might lose food and work.
Talk about how women get raped regularly in immigration centers and prisons.
Talk with the same self indulgent force about how poor Black/Native/Latina/Asian women are seen as “practice runs” or outlets for the sexuality warpedness that these boys KNOW not to bring home to the prized women that pass the test.
Talk about how those “prizes” step out of line and are pointed to US as what happens whens hit goes wrong
Talk about sundown towns.
Talk about how entire crime bills get hosed because LAWMAKERS don’t wanna give tribes enough political power to chase anybody past the reservation lines.
Talk about how sexuality in these kinds of town are centered around rich and poor and why the poor girls always end up raped and violated silently but middle class rich girls provide action
Talk about how The Duke case ended up with them being paid off cause she was poro Black and ” unreliable” and talks of a movie till they were found too repugnant to present sympathetically.
Talk about how this has now showed up in every single case like this since.
Talk about how disabeled women are abused in homes.
Talk about how gay teens are assaulted
Take about how trans women die after sexual assault at rates that make your fucking mocha taste like ash in your mouth.
Talk about that.
ANY OF IT
with the same blood thirsty fervor as you do when teh chance to say somethinga bout men comes up
But could one of you at least for the love of the holy Sepulchre find a way to make your fucking point that isn’t centered around a voyeuristic delight that you got the details to make your story pop
Because she was assaulted against her will , videotaped and then had it splashed across teh internet without her permission.
And this is as good a time as any for you to make your stand on teh photos of her violation and the beer tales of teh aftermath
— bell hooks (via feministinthekitchen)
Featuring: OOMK Zine, Lucy Burns, Jade Morris, Hannah Le Feurve, Onyeka Oduh, Julia Thompson & Lexi Harvey, Melanie Jane, Diana Cirullo, Monique Moreno, Teresa Ferreiro, Amina Ross, Jessica Fry, Anastasia Lewis, Amber E. Testa, Siena Barnes, Rin Larping, Joanna Simpson, Jess Muir, Emma Pelham, Alicia Rodriguez, Delilah Rosier, Cheyenne Addison ♥ Curated by Beth Siveyer
Cover art by OOMK Zine - “Schoolgirls protesting in India”
Protests about the treatment of women and rape victims have ignited in India after the gang rape of a female student on the 16th of December. Demonstrations and outrage has escalated after the victim committed suicide yesterday after being told by police to marry her rapist. While the situation for women in India is under scrutiny lets not forget that at least 47,000 adult women are raped every year in the UK (Fawcett Society, Rape: The Facts) and the conviction rates for rapists are shockingly low. The problem is global and in no way confined to the ‘third world’.
GIRLS GET BUSY IS NOW 2 YEARS OLD AND SO TO CELEBRATE, THE WHOLE ZINE COLLECTION IS UP FOR GRABS!
This includes GGB issues 2-14 and We Heart Lisa Simpson. All you need to do is follow the tumblr and reblog this post. A winner will be picked at random on January 7th 2013.
Friendly reminder that cis women are not the only women who have menstrual cycles.
When Emily Hauser tells me that about POTUS and the Dems’ aggressive attempts to “protect” the bodily autonomy of women—in the face of facts that dispute it, such as increased incarceration rates, poverty, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures for Black and Latina women, and increased every-other-kind-of-targeting for well-being of the brown (most often Muslim) women, I have to wonder what she thinks about the following:
Does the imprisonment/solitary confinement/indefinite incarceration of men–who are Muslim, black, Latino, Asian–count as a “gender issue”?
Does the economic and political detriment to women from having their sons, spouses, brothers, fathers entrapped and arrested–count as “a feminist issue”? By economic and political detriment, I mean the social ostracization, the material effect of the loss of income, the political vulnerability of having a male who is potentially the head of a household.
Does the deportation of hundreds of thousands of men AND women—and the separation of U.S. citizen/children from their parents annually count as an issue that “affects” women? By “affect,” I mean the psychic, material, social vulnerability to survive, to thrive, to live free of fear and harm. Does the legal adoption of those children to U.S. citizen parents and the subsequent break-up of families count as a “woman’s” issue?
These questions must be asked. Can we please give Falguni Sheth a God damn standing ovation right now?
“Sex acts are degrading when they make you feel degraded — and nobody gets to decide that but you, not even feminism.” YES THANK YOU.
I blame Schwyzer for the ineffectual, whitewashed, lukewarm feminism that is incapable of producing substantial change
A while ago, everyone was talking about Anne Marie Slaugher’s piece “Why women can’t have it all”. Back then I wrote that the reason why women cannot have it all is because feminism has stopped being about dreams and utopia and revolution and instead, it has become a movement set to compromise with patriarchy. We are supposed to want to have better positions at capitalist exploitation (women should aspire to be CEOs, earn more even at the expense of other women who are subjugated across racist poverty, exploitation of resources in the Global South, etc.). And now, of course, I have also spoken out about Schwyzer’s attempt to silence me (which as it is rightfully noted here, is not the first time he does to a Latina blogger).
Meanwhile, Schwyzer continues to have a place on the feminist table. He continues to be interviewed, his “side of the story” is made to matter, he is allowed to continue forcing himself into feminist spaces, he gets paid to write about women’s issues, for women, in mainstream media publications, etc. AND THEN WE WONDER WHY PATRIARCHAL POLITICIANS A LA ROMNEY DO NOT TAKE FEMINISM SERIOUSLY?! Then we wonder why the erosion of women’s rights across all the Western world continues unabated? Then we have round tables, talks, conferences, dissertations, seminars, paid writing gigs, debates, to discuss why women’s rights are on the first line of attack when racist, heteronormative patriarchy needs to be enforced? How can we even dare to wonder about the root cause of this when the most mainstream form of feminism allows a guy like Schwyzer to “represent” women? Have we been made so submissive by virtue of capitalist consumer culture that we misguidedly believe we need to “negotiate” our own fucking spaces with a guy like Hugo Schwyzer? Have we been collectively beaten into compliance that a White, cisgender, American man is “approved” to speak on our behalf and then we wonder why our interests are not well represented?
And while Schwyzer, individually, cannot be hold accountable for the complete demise of feminism, I believe him to be a very good metonymical representation of the movement’s failures. The failures represented by compromise, lukewarm attempts at “change” that only serve to further subjugate women, that continue to keep Women of Color “in their place”, boxed in an asphyxiating structure of White Supremacy, relegated to the role of “trouble maker” to be silenced, to be demanded “proof of her own oppression”. Schwyzer, allowed to be the executing arm of this White Supremacy, in the name of the very same ideology that is supposed to “liberate” women.
For as long as a man like Hugo Schwyzer can silence Women of Color and “groom” White women to act as his shields against our “mean anger”, no woman will be allowed to have it all. We have gotten to a point where the most revolutionary thing feminism can do is say NO. Just that. No. A white, cisgender American man can never have a woman’s best interests in mind. A feminism that gives Schwyzer the benefit of the doubt while he demands that we “prove” our oppression, is nothing but a sham. When white, cisgender, male politicians come for our rights, let’s not forget who kept the door open for them.