Beauty Redefined Blog

More Than a Body? PROVE IT.

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Have you ever noticed this thing that girls do to each other that guys never do? When you see your friends, you may say something like, “You look so cute!” or “Have you lost weight? Looking hot!” or “I love your outfit!” When a friend posts a picture online, girls will always post “Pretty! Look how skinny you are!” or “I cannot get over how beautiful you look!”

Now reverse the scenario.

How often do guys greet each other with “Dude, I love that outfit!” or “Have you lost weight? You look so good!” How often do guys comment on other guys’ photos with “Did you do something new to your hair? Looks awesome!” or “Looking really handsome, bro!” or “I seriously can’t get over how hot you look!”

billboard2It’s funny when it’s reversed, right? This happens because we live in a world where girls are taught that they are to be looked at above all else, while boys can be lots of things. We talk to little girls about their pretty dresses. Their toys are sexed-up dolls and dress-up kits. We can’t watch the news without a “fashion police” segment on what lady celebs are wearing and how they look in it. Most diet pills and diet foods are targeted directly at women. Many girls and women are featured on TV, in movies, or magazines purely as props to be ogled. In children’s animated movies, female characters are barely represented and when they are, they are wearing just as little clothing as women in R-rated films. There are almost no movies in theaters right now that feature women in leading roles of any kind, doing anything other than being looked at.

No wonder disordered eating has skyrocketed in recent years, with hospitalizations for little girls with eating disorders up 100 percent in the last decade. And cosmetic surgery increased 446 percent in the last decade, with 92 percent of those voluntary procedures (mostly liposuction and breast enhancement) performed on females – many younger than 18. And self-objectification is leaving even the youngest of girls and the oldest of women with fewer cognitive resources available for mental and physical activities, including mathematics, logical reasoning, spatial skills, and athletic performance.* No wonder women and girls face such immense pain and stunted progress today. If we listen to the profit-driven lies in the world, we are bodies to be looked at, judged, and constantly in need of fixing.

So today, let’s reverse the trend.

Let’s compliment the ladies in our lives for more than their looks.

Dig deep next time you want to give a compliment. If you give a looks-based compliment, pair it with a character-based compliment. Don’t skip out on the looks-oriented compliment, but don’t always stop there, either! Say something nice about who they are, what they do, and how much you care about them outside of how they look. Try to make a resolution to compliment girls and women for more than those easy comments on pretty hair, weight loss, clothing, etc.  While those compliments are nice, we can do better. When we minimize other females to just their bodies, we forget to remind them of their beautiful talents, characters, and gifts! Plus, when you get a compliment about your looks, it’s SO EASY to brush it off and not let it sink in (“I’m just in good lighting” or “that picture was taken at a great angle” or “today is just an especially good-looking day”). We are more than bodies, so let’s make sure to remind each other of that powerful truth. 

Let’s talk to little girls about literally anything besides their pretty dresses.

Ask her what books she is reading, what sports she is playing, what job she wants when she’s older, who her favorite teacher is, what her favorite subject is, who her friends are, what she likes to draw, what she likes to do for fun, who her heroes are, what her favorite joke is, etc. The list is endless! Those conversations will be valuable to her and will help her remember she’s a lot more than just a pretty face – especially when the toys and media marketed her way are trying to incite her insecurities and make her believe “sexy” and “pretty” are her only goals. Check out the awesome organization we’re part of to talk back to media and toy makers about what Brave Girls Want and get involved! 

photoshoppedLet’s stop photoshopping ourselves out of reality.

Today, we see women presented to us all hours of the day in every form of media that are Photoshopped out of realityOver time, many of us come to hold ourselves to that unattainable standard that appears so normal and unquestioned as we physically Photoshop ourselves out of reality with products and procedures. What does our world look like for little girls growing up today?  And how much pain, energy and time will they have to put into physically Photoshopping themselves out of reality? We raise that bar of what “normal” looks like for ourselves, our daughters, and strangers on the street when we take part in our own physical Photoshopping. Here’s an outrageous idea: What would happen if confident, beautiful women decided to forego painful and expensive anti-aging procedures, breast enhancements, all over hair removal or permanent makeup? How could that change the way their daughters and friends perceived  their own “flawed,” lined, real faces? Their own varied-looking and perfectly functional breasts, thighs, and arms? How could simply owning and (treating kindly and speaking nicely about) our so-called “imperfect” bodies affect not only our own lives, but those over whom we have influence? Is it possible to slowly but deliberately change the perception of these “flaws” as something to hide and fix at any cost to something acceptable and embraceable in all their human, womanly real-ness? We say yes.

Sanah Jivani, a young woman diagnosed at age 3 with Alopecia, is an incredible example of deciding to stop physically Photoshopping herself by taking off her wig. See her inspiring story in the video below!

Let’s stop the endless fat-talk. 

The mother-daughter relationship can be either incredibly helpful or dangerously harmful to a daughter’s body image. We stress the message that we are all more powerful than we realize and our influences matter. If you say something negative about your body or your looks, SHE WILL HEAR. It will negatively affect her view of her own body. When a mother, grandma, sister, friend, or teacher speaks negatively about her own body or the bodies of others, she is teaching those under her influence more than she knows. The lie she reminds others of is this: We are all bodies to be looked at, fixed, and judged. And while we cannot shame or blame anyone for perpetuating that profit-driven lie that surrounds us our whole lives, we know there is a better way. For every girl or woman, please you know you are capable of much more than being looked at. It’s a message that will change your life and allow you to do and be and live in a world that needs you. Once you believe it, you will radiate that truth to those around you. Read this awesome post for more.

Let’s turn away from the stuff that hurts.

Set a goal to cancel out any media choices that tell you lies about what it means to be a female. Walk out of theaters, cancel subscriptions, find a new TV show to love. You’ll thank yourself and you’ll be an amazing example to strangers in the theater, friends on the couch next to you, and media execs with money to lose. Further, start paying attention to the way women are presented in movies – it’ll blow your mind. If they are there as more than just a body to be ogled, the movie will pass the simple Bechdel Test:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something besides a man

If that movie doesn’t pass the test, at least talk about it with those you see the movie with. Facebook it. Tweet about it. Speak up. And if you want to re-sensitize yourself to what all the media you are consuming is doing to you? Try a full-on media fast that’ll change your life. Like Naomi Wolf so awesomely put it, “While we cannot directly affect the images [in media], we can drain them of their power. We can turn away from them and look directly at one another. We can lift ourselves and other women out of the myth.”

Click on this image to buy our latest sticky note design!

Click on this image to buy our latest sticky note design!

Let’s flip the script.

Lean on Caitlin Moran’s rule of thumb for whether something is worth getting all worked up about: Are the men worrying about this as well? If they’re not, you can surely bet the reason you’re worried is because a profit-driven industry has been begging you to obsess about that flaw until you spend all your money to fix it. Surgical implants? All-over hair removal? 500-calorie diets? All lady problems. Maybe it’s time to rebel against the system that profits from giving us anxiety over the roots in our hair all the way down to the tips of our toenails. Try this: literally flip the script. When you’re reading a magazine, the news, a book, watching a TV show or movie, etc., imagine what it would look like if the genders were flipped. Would a man pose like that in that ad? Would that journalist describe a male politician in that way? As media consumers, we see SO MUCH sexist, objectifying, limiting stuff every day and it starts to appear normal and natural very quickly. When you flip the script, you begin to be re-sensitized to how media puts women “in their place” as objects to be looked at. And it’s OK to be mad about it! 

Let’s put that body-hating voice in our heads on mute.

Too many girls and women have a constant script of mean thoughts about themselves running through their minds. Recent studies show us that girls who don’t like their bodies become more sedentary over time and pay less attention to having a healthy diet. If you think you’re gross and worthless, why would you take care of yourself? On the flipside of that, research has found that girls who respect their bodies are more likely to be physically active and eat healthy. They are more active and make healthy lifestyle choices way into the future.** Set a goal to stop letting negative things about yourself constantly float through your mind. Start with a day, a week, a month, whatever you can do, and make it a permanent practice!

Let’s remind each other what we’re capable of.

You are capable of much more than being looked at. Do you know who you are? Have you grasped the powerful role you can play in a world so badly in need of your unique talents, wisdom, and light? Are you aware of your unique mission at this point in your life? You’ve got something great to do, that only you can do. And if you are here to be looked at, to appear, to survey yourself, instead of do an inspirational work that only you can do, you are not fulfilling your mission. Cheesy? Yes. True? Oh yes. More true than you know.

For more great strategies to flip the script on body hatred in your life or the lives of those you love, check out our whole page of ways to get started. And to buy our new sticky note design and talk back to degrading media, click here

*Fredrickson et al. 1998; Fredrickson & Harrison, 2004; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Harter, 1993; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990; Simmons, Rosenberg, & Rosenberg, 1973; Steinberg, 1999; Steingraber, 2007

**Patricia van den Berg & Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. (2007). Journal of Adolescent Health.

 

 

  1. Gerry Dorrian
    Gerry Dorrian07-24-2013

    Thank you for that brilliant post, which I’ll be sure to share. When you posted pics of Barbie I remembered when we bought our daughter a Barbie dentist-nurse doll but removed it because neither of us had ever seen a dentist’s nurse with a (very) short skirt and high heels. Why is big business trying to push these unattainable images on our daughters?

  2. John
    John07-29-2013

    “And cosmetic surgery increased 446 percent in the last decade, with 92 percent of those voluntary procedures (mostly liposuction and breast enhancement) performed on females – many younger than 18″

    - MANY younger than 18? That’s simply not true, which is why you haven’t backed that particular assertion up with any kind of number of source. It’s actually 1.3% in the States, which is 1.9% LOWER than ten years ago. That’s not many.

    “Don’t skip out on the looks-oriented compliment, but don’t always stop there, either! Say something nice about who they are, what they do, and how much you care about them outside of how they look.”

    -Do you really need that much adoration and validation?! Boys don’t often compliment other boys looks, but nor do they say “Bro, the caring nature you give your little bro touches me to my soul and uplifts my spirit. You’re an inspiration. Bro.”

    Believing a little girl will grow up to think she is a mere face and body because the media and her toys told her so is an indictment of the quality of parenting and schooling she received, not the fault of some faceless company who cares about profits, not your kids, and obviously shouldn’t be looked to for life lessons. When wholesome sells, they will market that, but in the meantime this is just a pitiful transference of blame.

    Disney girl-characters are almost always pretty or glamorous. And they guys are always a chisel-jawed adonis. We don’t believe we should or are even likely to look like that. Why are the effects gender-specific?

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined07-29-2013

      Jon: So the 219,000 procedures performed just on teens in 2010 is not “many?” We strongly disagree.
      Until the majority of girls and women feel OK about themselves, rather than “disgusted” or in a near constant state of self-objectification, as studies show, then we can stop advocating for “that much adoration and validation.” Your third point is such a contradiction of the rest of your comment. We are working to encourage families and friends to counteract media and social influences that teach a girl to believe she is a mere face and body, yet you seem to disagree that it is necessary. Lastly, we are an organization dedicated to counteracting the harmful influence of beauty ideology on girls and women. No one ever said the effects of Disney or other messages are gender-specific.

      • Harry Minot
        Harry Minot08-10-2013

        You’re quite right. And the “other” surgery that too-young

    • Glynda
      Glynda12-21-2013

      John, I don’t usually respond to these things, but I felt your comments needed a reply.

      Respectfully, women absolutely do not think like men! We are not just different in physical appearance and procreation functions. That doesn’t make women idiots or men pigs. We are simply different. I don’t expect my husband to act like my girlfriend and I’m not one of his buddies.

      As for attacking the parents: Please never assume that all children follow their parents’ examples, therefore the parents must have been bad. Have any of us ever done absolutely everything our parents told us to do? I know that some of the parents fall for the commercial traps, but there are countless others who are fighting it tooth-and-nail to keep their children’s self-esteem intact and deeply rooted in character and intelligence. Sadly, we sometimes lose that battle. It is heartbreaking to witness as these children struggle with everything from blighted potential to suicide.

      The industries that are marketing to our sons and daughters hire child psychologists and other experts to know how to shape thought, opinion and culture. They are formidable, especially when combined with peer pressure. Let’s help one another.

  3. Carole
    Carole07-31-2013

    While I want to half agree with this article, it’s a little skewed. Men are put on commercials to be ogled just as often as women (Kraft commercials, anyone?). Glamour also has a few Youtube ads that feature hot male models wearing almost nothing simply for a woman’s (or gay man’s) viewing pleasure.

    Also, no major female roles in movies?? Uh.. hello? Hunger Games. Harry Potter. That new movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. And that’s just the first three that pop into my head. There are tons more.

    And what’s so bad about wanting to look nice and give another girl a compliment? Women and men are different, and thus they have different conversations.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined07-31-2013

      Carole, the article isn’t skewed. There is truly no way in the world that men are on commercials to be ogled as often as women. The Kraft ads are a new thing and yes, a man is there to be ogled. But there are millions of ads objectifying women and barely a handful that objectify men. And yes, there are almost no major female roles in movies in theaters right now. The only one is The Heat. Hunger Games and Harry Potter are not in theaters, but yes, those are examples of movies that feature female roles. Thank goodness there are a few examples. Finally, if you’ll re-read the long excerpt we wrote about complimenting women and girls, you’ll see we highly suggest you compliment them on their looks as well as many other things.

  4. Karlie
    Karlie08-09-2013

    I’m sorry, but are you now trying to say that wanting to look good is not okay?
    I normally love your articles, but I just don’t agree with that. I wear makeup, love it, in fact, and it is a form of self expression for me. What is your take on makeup? Do you guys not wear it because you feel it objectifies you?

  5. Harry Minot
    Harry Minot08-10-2013

    Although i’m male, I HAVE (back when I was fat, and unapologetically so) received those “You’ve lost some weight!” greetings. My response was: “That’s a vicious lie!” followed by a gentle smile. Message sent. But life can be ironic and funny. Now that I am more broadly “acceptable” I’m actually more radical.

    • Litotes
      Litotes08-26-2013

      Good for you Harry. Great comeback. I’ll have to use it. :)

  6. Litotes
    Litotes08-26-2013

    Great article! I am definitely sharing it. :)

    The fact that so many people are criticizing it for totally invalid reasons shows that it is a message people really need to hear. Anyone that could say that men are objectified as often as women (although I do agree it’s on the rise), that there are just as many great roles for women in movies, or that an article that clearly asks us to compliment women on other things “as well as their looks” is against makeup or dressing up, has so many layers of defensiveness that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Great work. Keep it up! :)

  7. Jessica
    Jessica12-09-2013

    I appreciate these articles you post. Growing up I always saw myself as disgusting, especially as a teenager, because I had really bad acne. I always tried to avoid people, because I didn’t want to disgust them. I have worked very hard to gain confidence in myself, which hasn’t been easy. I still find myself slipping into that negative thinking sometimes, but reading these posts help remind me that I am more than what people see. And because of this when I do look at myself I am able to see that I’m not disgusting and I see all of me; not just my face and skin, but my sense of humor, my skills at work, my health, and my ability to learn and create. I see my ability to help others. I believe this life is about learning to be your best self, and a “self” is more than a face; it’s being a friend, it’s about making mistakes, but getting back up and trying again. It’s about learning and doing. So thank you for your time and support, it’s definitely needed!

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