Beauty Redefined Blog

How Boys and Men Can Help Take Back Beauty


Below are some practical tips that boys and men can use in the battle to take back beauty. This important cause can be greatly benefited by the support of males who care!

RUN from Normalized Pornography: Depicting sexual images and dialogue is now a normal part of media all hours of the day, and it is presented as “safe” in advertisements, catalogs, TV shows, movies, men’s and women’s magazines, books, video games, websites, billboards, etc. Research is very clear that pornography changes the way men and women view each other, it gets in the way of us forming loving and healthy relationships with family and friends, it skews our perceptions of female bodies, our sense of self-worth, and our sense of women’s worth.  Do not just walk away – RUN from it!

Check Your Vision: Be conscious of the vast amount of media we consume each day, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. In fact, the average American spends about 4.5 hours every day watching TV or movies and another 3.5 hours on the Internet, on top of being exposed to about 3,600 advertisements from every angle. As you go through your day, pay attention to what you see and what messages go against what you know be true about yourself and others you love.

Remember Some Jokes Aren’t Funny: Decide now that you will not make jokes about the appearance of a girl or woman in your life. Even if you are trying to be funny, it won’t turn out that way. Joking about weight, height, or appearance in any way can stick with girls for an entire lifetime, since so many sources have taught them to believe their value is dependent upon their attractiveness.

Be a Positive Example: Be especially cautious when making comments about girls’ and womens’ appearance, even if they are celebrities in magazines or on the big screen. Even if you say something you think is positive about a woman, like “She is so hot!” it is likely that the girls and women in your life will automatically make judgments against themselves based on what you said. Even if they don’t tell you, most girls and women care very much about the way the men in their lives treat, view and speak about other women. Your example can have a profound effect for good or bad.

Unreal Ideals: Remember it is reasonable to assume no image we ever see of a woman in media has gone un-manipulated. As early as 1991, a media industry insider referred to the digital alteration of women as a “retouching epidemic.” And today magazine editors refer to airbrushing as an industry standard. Plus, vertical film stretching to make women appear taller and thinner is a common technique, as are filtered lenses on video cameras and soft lighting, which do away with wrinkles, pores, and other so-called “blemishes” for women on TV and in movies. The next time you start comparing the females in your life to those you see in media, remember that even the beauty ideals don’t fit the ideal they are supposed to represent!

Go on a Media Fast: Choose a day, a week, a month, or longer to steer clear of as much media as you can. That way, you can see how your life is different without all those messages and images, and when you return to viewing and reading popular media, you will be more sensitive to the messages that hurt you and those you love and those that are unrealistic. One group of male college students in Utah went on a “media fast” for three months, and at the end of that time, the men claimed they found the real women in their lives more beautiful while they were on the fast, and continued to find them more beautiful once the fast was over.

Turn Away From Harmful Images: The girls and women you know and love are hopefully trying hard to remember that the women they see in media are digitally manipulated to appear “perfect,” even though they don’t really look that way. When you put those types of pictures in your locker or subscribe to magazines that depict women in unrealistic and degrading ways, the females in your life may then believe those are the types of women you value most. Turning away from media images that hurt women (and men) is a perfect way to help the females in your life understand what you really value in women – real women you see face to face.

Object to Objectification: Pay attention to media that is objectifying to women, which means it shows women and girls as just PARTS of themselves. That happens when the camera pans up and down their bodies, or zooms in on certain body parts. This also takes place when magazines or movies and TV talk about women’s bodies in ways that degrade them and turn them into just body parts instead of thinking, feeling humans. Boys and men exposed to sexually objectifying messages (which are inescapable in today’s media landscape), learn to primarily view and value females for their outward appearance and actually endorse objectifying images in the future. Yikes! Turn away from objectifying media – it is harmful for you and for the females you love.

Show Them What You Value: Most girls and women claim they’re trying to achieve these beauty ideals in an attempt to become more desirable and attractive to men. If the things they are trying so hard to obtain are not actually all you value in a woman, be sure to make that known by speaking about women in positive ways and referencing their characters, personalities and talents as things you admire and seek in girls and women you want in your life. Choose to compliment the girls and women in your life for those things, too. The compliments that stick with you for a lifetime are those that acknowledge your valuable qualities, like a good attitude, selflessness, talents, and honesty.

Be Critical of Media, Not Yourself or Women: While the U.S. is the No. 1 producer and exporter of media, we are also the only industrialized country in the world without some form of media literacy in public school curriculum. We need to feel an obligation to put media under closer inspection for the influence it has in our lives. Next time you are flipping through a magazine or watching a movie, train yourself to ask important questions about what you see. If you don’t like the answers you find, remember you can turn away from the messages that hurt you and those you love!

  • Do you feel better or worse about yourself when viewing or hearing this media? Do you believe the females in your life would feel better or worse about themselves after viewing or hearing this media?
  • Who is advertising in these pages or on this screen? (Look for ads and commercials and you’ll see who is paying the bills for your favorite media messages)
  • Who owns the TV show, movie, magazine, video game or website you are viewing? (Research the company and its owners and you’ll find out who the powerful decision makers are behind the scenes of your media of choice)
  • Is the media you read and view promoting real health or impossible ideals meant to make you spend money and time? Who are those messages promoting impossible ideals usually speaking to?
  • How are women and girls presented here? Are they valued for their talents and personality? Do they look like the females in your life?

Get Back to Reality: Since we’ll see more images of women in one week of media viewing than we’ll probably ever see face to face, it’s important to give ourselves a reality check! When we look eye to eye with the women we know and love, we can remind ourselves what real women and real beauty look like. This real definition of beauty is so much more than just looks! It is your best girl friend’s basketball skills, your sister’s hard work on her English paper, the lines on your mom’s face from years of beautiful smiles and laughter, and so much  more.

Tell the Truth: Point out the difference between media representations of women’s bodies and real-life women’s bodies while watching TV or flipping through a magazine with friends or family. Saying these things aloud will help you train your mind and the minds of those you love to recognize what is real and what is far from the truth. Remember, honesty is always the best policy!

Take Media Into Your Own Hands: Post links or start discussions on blogs and social networking sites to continuously spark conversation about dangerous ideals (like the thin ideal, surgical enhancement, white ideals, etc.) and to bring to light those who profit from our belief in those ideals. And when thinking about your future college studies and/or present career, consider going into journalism, advertising or media production so YOU can produce messages that uplift rather than degrade. Since it’s rare to see an ad that does anything positive for female body image, we have launched a campaign to fund a billboard promoting healthy body image here in Salt Lake City. If you can help, please do!

Be an Advocate: If our suggestion to turn away from media that degrades or otherwise women is just not enough for you, consider your fierce influence as an advocate for truth and uplifting messages. When you come across a company’s advertising that fuels female insecurity or a magazine that objectifies women even as it claims to empower them, speak up! Blogging your disapproval is a great start, and so is posting links to news stories that reveal harmful ideals on social networking sites. Join us on Facebook for regular links to share and continue this conversation! If you’d like to go a step further, write to and/or call your local cable company, TV station, newspaper and any other media outlet perpetuating harmful messages. Get the word out that the media message you have seen is inappropriate and dangerous and threaten to boycott if it is not removed. If your complaints are not heard, do NOT patronize those institutions and suggest the same to your loved ones.

Redefining Healthy: Getting back to reality involves figuring out what “health” really means – and it’s not what media shows us. For-profit media like women’s fitness magazines or TV shows would have us believe health and fitness are all about what women look like, and any doctor can tell us that simply isn’t true. If you know a girl or woman who believes her health and fitness depend on what she looks like, encourage her to talk to a doctor, nutritionist or other health specialist to figure out what healthy really means for her individually. She can then work with them to set healthy goals for herself that aren’t based off profit-driven beauty ideals.

Refiguring Health: If you are a health practitioner, doctor, or medical student, a lofty but necessary goal can be developing and helping to implement accurate and reliable measures of healthy weight, whether that means developing new algorithms that can better predict individual body fat or steering clear of the inaccurate Body Mass Index in favor of other financially feasible measures like waist circumference measurement or skinfold thickness tests.

The Power of Media Makers: Media decision-makers like editors, producers, writers, directors, and web developers can and should disrupt the steady stream of idealized bodies with positive representations of more normative shapes and sizes, with positive dialogue or editorials regarding those images that does not focus solely on appearance.

Health Activism in Play: Anyone willing and able can work to visibly resist messages that repackage women’s health in power-laden “beauty” terms in any way possible, whether through volunteering to speak out against harmful ideals for any audience who will listen, attracting media attention toward dangerous messages like advertisements or TV shows that lead to low self esteem, or speaking to local leaders and politicians about inappropriate or dangerous messages in media programming or local advertising.

  1. Breanne

    Like the modern layout. I really enjoyed the content. Bless you for the brilliant post.

    • admin

      Thank you so much! We’re grateful to help spread empowering messages. Thanks for the support!

  2. David

    It’s hard to know what to say right now, knowing how conflicted I am in terms of what I value as beauty. I do know that there were some very useful tips that, if I remember to try, will likely help me to see more girls’ beauty in areas that I don’t. I’d also like to backup what was said about media fasts. It doesn’t work for everyone…and actually serves to be counterproductive for me, but I’ve known plenty of guys that found more girls more beautiful the longer they went without subjecting themselves to media images. Overall, I am very impressed with the advice I see here and will try to be mindful of it when I can be. Thank you!

  3. Daniel McKnight
    Daniel McKnight02-28-2011

    I have always been bothered by the way “beauty” is used to get people to buy products. Advertisements (in any visual medium) often use an attractive female (of questionable reality) to either convince men that they can have ‘a girl like that’ if they buy/use such and such product, or convince women that buying/using such and such will make them look just like the woman in the advertisement. The really sad thing is that we sometimes believe it. It disgusts me that it is “okay” to trick people out of using their common sense.

    Thank you for pointing out things that everyone can do. I for one will try much harder to keep reality in mind when I see such advertisements.

    • lulu

      AXE commercials. It’s all about “buy this, get perfect women throwing themselves at over you.”

      • Richard

        It’s known as “Lynx” in the UK, but the marketing is much the same. How anyone is convinced by it I don’t know- I certainly ain’t. Now they’re even trying to tell me that the reason I haven’t got a girlfriend might be due to dandruff, of all the trivial things! (and of course, to get blokes to buy their new range of anti-dandruff shampoo). The same thing goes for deodorant, shower gel, you name it…

        Whilst I am sure that smelling and looking bad might have certain impact on what a woman thinks of a man, I would imagine that it’s not the only thing they consider. And frankly, I imagine the reasons I remain single and unattached have more to do with things like spending too much time at home on the internet, not having the confidence to take things further than the platonic level at most, and more.

        (I am leaving sex out of the discussion because, as a Christian, I don’t consider it appropriate before marriage anyway.)

        Much the same could be said with regards to women- it’s a myth that looks alone are all a man looks for in a woman, and it is certainly not necessary to wear a lot of makeup or have your hair looking just so. It can do something, it might not and sometimes it can even be counter-productive. But to be fair, it’s not as important as all that. I’d much sooner look for someone I can get on with, hold an intelligent conversation with, and more.

        But all that aside, it’s not hard to see through the marketing if you’re in the right frame of mind, no matter what the commercials are and which gender they’re aimed at.

  4. Novella

    Practice makes perfect.

  5. Pam

    This is awesome! I would like to spread the word!

  6. jason

    I think sara dawson out to be the ideal for beauty for all time.

  7. Glenn Koenig
    Glenn Koenig01-04-2012

    I like the goal of this site. I also think about how much we as a society socialize men, so that men urge each other to think of women in certain ways, even when the TV is off or the magazines are already recycled. And men also get the message that we’re not capable of anything but gawking and sex. Men often feel we’re more crude or socially inept than women, which just adds to the problem. The result is that men often feel that everything would be fixed in our lives if only we “had a girl like the one in the picture on the cover.”
    So, this list of ‘shoulds’ is a good laundry list on the issue, but along with it, I think we need a way to support men, thank the millions of men who appreciate women in all shapes and sizes, who like bodies with curves, and like (and fall in love with) women who are creative, confident, intelligent, and energized.

  8. Max

    People have always told me I’m not beautiful, but you give me strength to believe that I am, and I will do something with my life. I just love you guys soooo much! :’)

  9. Richard

    A little note on pornography. It’s not just the normalised sort- many men consume far worse, so bear this in mind for future articles. That said, one thin far too easily leads to another- to my shame, I’ve been there, so I know. Even something which may seem completely innocuous can lead to far worse if you become obsessed with it.

    Part of the thing with me- which reading stuff like this makes me keenly aware of- is the way in which as a man I can become obsessed with feamle beauty, sexual attractiveness and so on. Whilst it does play a natural part in, as it were, finding a mate, and sex is an important part of human nature, it’s not all there is to life, including our dealings with women. It even affects the media we consume- I sometimes worry my decision to, say, buy a CD or record is more to do with the main performer being female and attractive than to do with her actual musical ability! Or, that if you focus too much on how attractive a woman is, it leads to unhealthy obsessions. Either way, it helps feed the culture of distorted beauty, as well as the media and marketing complex that is part of the great self-reinforcing feedback loop I mentioned elsewhere.

    That said, I wonder if it is entirely wrong to admire a woman’s physical beauty altogether, and perhaps complement her on it, as long as we don’t forget the whole person?

    And, I wouldn’t blame the media entirely. It’s a vast mix of that, a celebrity and fashion-obsessed culture that makes being seen and how you are seen overly important, and a culture which over-emphasises sexuality free of any restraint. Plus of course the lingering remnants of that particular sort of patriarchal ideal which under-values women except as sex objects or objects of desire, not as full human beings.

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