Beauty Redefined Blog

You’re Not Pretty or Ugly Enough to Talk Body Image. Do It Anyway.

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After several years of studying body image and writing/speaking about it publicly, the same brick wall loves to pop up and stifle any productive conversation about what we do: Our looks. Lexie and I will never be pretty enough or thin enough or ugly enough or fat enough (or insert any looks-oriented factor) to be credible spokespeople for positive body image and media literacy. Regardless of how research-backed, profound, truthful or crucially needed our messages are, there are — almost without fail — people who will dismiss us entirely as “just jealous of beautiful women” or “too pretty to know what body shame feels like.” Though those might sound like two radically different statements, they’re the exact same thing. Any comment or discussion that turns attention to our looks instead of our words minimizes us to just bodies. Nothing more than an object to look at, pick apart, judge and dismiss as never quite right.

Click on this image to check out many of our media interviews and stories featuring us!

I experienced this in an interview for a close-up profile on Lexie and me in a newspaper. We’re always immensely grateful for any media exposure Beauty Redefined receives, and this was no exception. The reporter was cordial and professional, and one question she brought up a couple of different times was reflective of a question we get A LOT. She said she was looking through my photos and described us as attractive, fit, young women. Because of that, she wondered if we ever face any bias from people who wonder how we would know what we’re talking about – how we could understand what it feels like to feel crappy about yourself or face criticism from others about your looks.

My automatic first response is the same as many girls and women: shut down the compliment. Dismiss it as an exaggeration or untrue (“No, really, I swear I’m not thin.”). But I know better. That derails the discussion and again, keeps it focused on my looks. Instead, I thanked her for the compliments and told her everyone’s perception of our looks is different, and we face both sides of that coin, which leads me to sharing with her (and everyone) my most important point of all: When we dismiss someone’s words due to our  assessment  of their appearance, we’re minimizing them to their body. We have got to stop that. One of Beauty Redefined’s most important mottos is “You are capable of much more than being looked at.” We focus on teaching women that they are not defined by what they look like, and teaching everyone to view and value women as more than a collection of body parts. 

I reiterated this point two separate times during the interview, after being asked again why promoting positive body image is my passion if I’m already an attractive woman. Here’s what made the final cut for the paper:

“But overcoming deeply embedded stereotypes has been challenging. The youthful and attractive Kite sisters have themselves faced a form of bigotry in their crusade. “We definitely had experienced both sides of that stereotype,” Kite said. She said people who don’t know them assume they’re pushing their message because they’re fat and ugly. When people see what they look like, they face questions such as, “How would they know anything about feeling bad?”

“It’s often the women who are closest to the ideal that feel the furthest away,” Kite said. “They learn to value themselves solely for their appearance. We really can’t win. It wouldn’t matter what our bodies look like. We just need to get out of solely judging women on their appearance.” 

After the interview ran in the paper and online, a very popular radio show in Utah, X96’s Radio from Hell, discussed the interview on Sept. 28.  (Listen here if you’d like: RadioFromHell on Beauty Redefined). After our front-page story in the Tribune on Feb. 14, Radio from Hell named us “Boner of the Week” for how “idiotic our campaign is.” We won’t even share that radio bit with you because it’s so disgusting. On Sept. 28, Co-hosts Kerry, Bill and Gina read a few sections of the article and then had this follow-up discussion: 

Bill: I think this is a g … I think this is an OK thing … I wanted you to look up the pictures.

Gina: Are they beautiful?

Bill: They’re nice looking women. They’re very nice looking women as far as I can tell, and I just thought, well, it’s pretty easy for you guys to talk about that, about body image and changing stereotypes and that kind of thing. Do we have pictures of them? Yes, we have pictures of them. I just wanted your assessment as to what you think they look like.

Gina: They’re pretty.

Bill: They’re very pretty.

Gina: But what does that matter though? Would this be a different story If they weren’t attractive?

Bill: No, I just wanted to say “It’s easy for you to say.” You’ve got it easy. It’s easy for us  pretty people to say, “It’s OK if you’re ugly.”

Kerry: It’s like the guy with all the hair saying “It’s OK if you’re bald.”

Gina reading live advertisement: Ideal Image laser hair removal, call 1-800-be-ideal. [Not a joke. This happened. Don’t call that number.]

Bill: A texter says, “Ask the twins if their boyfriends are short, fat and ugly.”

(For the record, the appearances of “the twins’” boyfriends have varied, but all are beautiful in their own ways. “Short, fat and ugly” would not be an appropriate description of any given boyfriend of “the twins” — or of anyone’s boyfriend ever. Rude. Lexie would like to add that she got married a couple months ago and her husband is the opposite of “short, fat, and ugly.”)

We love the shout-outs, and all publicity is good publicity and all that, but this shallow, surface, stifling emphasis on appearance just sucks. There are so many better things to talk about. Like how media literacy is shown to help improve body image in young women. And how girls who feel good about themselves make healthier choices for themselves. And how people who aren’t preoccupied with their looks are literally better at everything than when they’re focused on what they look like. And how Beauty Redefined is teaching people how to recognize and reject harmful messages about women’s bodies in media so they can get on to leading happier, healthier, more productive and fulfilling lives.

What we do is SO unbelievably far from telling people, “It’s OK if you’re ugly.” We’re showing people how their ideas of “ugly” and “beautiful” are distorted by profit-driven messages that are holding us all back from health, happiness and fulfilling relationships, and then teaching people how to redefine those ideas for themselves.

Report on THAT, suckers! (Sorry, that’s now out of my system.)

So the next time you are speaking up about some body image issue, whether it’s pointing out to a group how one-dimensional “beauty” is in mass media or posting a link on Facebook about the awesome newscaster Jennifer Livingston talking back to a critical viewer who minimized her to her body, don’t be surprised if you get a snarky comment about your own appearance.  Until women stop getting minimized to their bodies, here’s what we can do:

Don’t defend, deny or otherwise dwell on your looks – whether the comment was positive or negative toward you. Instead, point out the fact that your appearance doesn’t change the validity of your belief, or the truthfulness of your statement (depending on context).

Emphasize the point that whenever we minimize a woman (or a man) to what she looks like, we are contributing to an unhealthy culture of body shame and appearance obsession that is harming all people. Remember that girls who feel badly about their bodies – regardless of what they look like – are more likely to make poor health choices over time. They are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles and make poor nutritional choices. By body policing or criticizing people’s bodies, we are never promoting real health or fitness. We are promoting body shame. Never let an excuse of “concern for her health” be a shield for body shaming, and when it is, point it out.

Don’t let comments about your appearance stop you from spreading true messages that can promote positive body image. You never know who else is watching, reading or listening that needs to hear what you have to say. You have a greater influence than you realize. We need your help to redefine what it means to be beautiful and healthy in ways that benefit individuals and families, and not corporations and industries.

Know that you don’t have to be the picture of beauty, health, confidence and body positivity to stand up for uplifting truth about female worth, health and potential. You just have to believe it. If you believe women are capable of much more than being looked at, that a woman’s reflection does not define her worth, and that there is more to be than eye candy, then don’t be afraid to show it! Show it in your words – in the way you talk about other women and yourself – but also show it in your actions. Be an example of positive body image. Even if you’ve gotta fake it at first, as you live like you love your body, that will eventually become your reality. And, I promise, your reality is much more beautiful than you realize. Join us as we work on taking back beauty for girls and women everywhere. 

 

  1. Peregrine
    Peregrine10-05-2012

    Although I fully sympathise with those who don’t fit the “ideal” set by media, as they face a lot of challenges due to what they look like, they are not the only ones who have a terrible time being objectified by others. As soon as I hit puberty I went from an A cup to a DD cup, and now I’m resting on a 12F one (Australian sizes, or very, very large in other words). Men would always be checking me out, constantly commenting on them. At the time, I enjoyed the attention I got. But it wasn’t healthy – very quickly I had these standards I needed to keep up with. Whenever I didn’t meet these standards (my eyebrows are too hairy, my stomach isn’t flat enough, etc), I would feel worthless because all of my self-worth was in my body and how I looked.
    Then I was sexually abused, a couple of times. Each and every time the guys would excuse themselves by saying they couldn’t control themselves, it was because of how I looked. I believed them. I still do. I developed anxiety, and now I panic whenever I have to get undressed. I’m ashamed of my body, and I constantly have to keep it covered. I’m in therapy now because of all those guys who objectified me, and sexualised me.
    And now because I don’t dress to show off, my boyfriend of nearly 3 years will say stuff like “Why don’t you wear shorts? I don’t like your baggy jeans”, and stuff like that which continues to make me not feel good enough. (Don’t get me wrong, though – he’s a real sweetie, and as soon as he realises what he said he apologises and takes it back.)
    It’s a long process, but I’m getting better. Your articles help, too. Especially that one about modesty. Please keep writing – you’re giving so many women the confidence they need. I just wanted to point out that it’s not only the ones that are far away from the ideal that get affected by how they look.

    • Invisibleimaginings
      Invisibleimaginings11-22-2012

      There is no excuse for rape. Those sacks of sh*t that raped you are ENTIRELY responsible for their own actions. Your beautiful body is NOT an excuse for their barbaric act of animal savagery upon you. They are rapists who belong in a cage. You did NOT deserve to be raped just because of how you looked. That is crap excuses men give to violate your rights and your body. I am so sorry that has happened to you. A woman should not have to live her life in fear and anxiety because they are beautiful. No woman should be punished for being attractive. Men DO NOT have the right to act like filthy pigs just because a pretty woman is there. They have brains and they make the choices and that are responsible for those choices. Again I am so sorry that you had to go through what so many of us women have to go through just because so many men refuse to respect us or our bodies.

      • Cassie
        Cassie12-04-2012

        I Cassie

    • Ela
      Ela02-14-2014

      I can also relate to what you´re saying, though I´m not the biggest Baywatch bombshell (not that those would be MY personal standards, but they obviously are for the vast majority of ppl), but I am quite close to the “nice” girls you get to see on covers though it isn´t but after 15-16 yrs old that I realized that, I´ve always been a major thumbboy. The thing is I am now very passionate about the subject of how media imposes genre identities and hypersexualizes women with everything, I find that revolting oftentimes because it just creates this huge social motion where women are desperate to achieve a certain look&sexuality and where men are prone to understanding that this truly IS for their sexual delight. So I even started to NOT appreciate guys hitting on me just because I knew they were only drawn to the appearance, and that only fueled the same vicious circle. So I actually struggle with ppl like being very offensive when I express my beliefs regarding to the objectification trend we´re in, because they tend to objectify me and dismiss any kind of argument I might bring just on the basis of considering me=woman=object. They don´t call me fat or stuff like that, but they do invent other things like sexually frustrated, or narrow minded, etc.
      So hei, it might be a bit difficult, but the truth is I actually feel empowered because I know that I can conciously choose which value is right for me and not just get along with the force fed meals the media gives us. You just go on and be awesome and start making your own rules and visions!!

  2. Sarah
    Sarah10-06-2012

    I love this. You are doing some real good out there, and I thank you for it.

    I’m sure it must feel like an uphill battle, underwater with weights on your ankles, though. ((hugs))

  3. Elena
    Elena10-06-2012

    Thank you for the fantastic post.

    As someone whose work is also focused on body image and media literacy, I am often facing the same scrutiny.

    Just recently, my partner suggested that in 10 years I can make a sequel of “The Illusionists” documentary entitled “The Illusionists – Reloaded.” My immediate reaction: “In 10 years I’ll be in my early 40s and people will say that I’m criticizing media portrayals of women because I’m envious and frustrated.”

    It disheartens me to see that women – regardless of their talents or accomplishments – are always judged first and foremost on their physical appearance: perceived attractiveness, age, and body size.

    The relentless scrutiny over women’s bodies is a practice tied up to so many economic interests that unfortunately I really don’t see it going away anytime soon. Thank you for the inspiring work you are doing, Lexie and Lindsay, and for the courage, true grit and grace you display time and time again.

    big hug,

  4. Angela Meadows
    Angela Meadows10-06-2012

    This is the first time I’ve come across Beauty Redefined, and I was moved by both your argument and the way in which you articulate it.

    I would never have thought it possible, but I am beginning to see a glimmer of hope. In response to Elena in the comments, yes, they’re going to keep selling it, but we don’t have to keep buying it. When there is money is self-respect, that is what they will sell. We just need to shift the status quo.

    It seems like such an uphill battle sometimes, but more and more women (and men) are starting to call out these messages rather than letting them sift into our subconscious as personal and communal self hatred. Media literacy and good role models are everything. Thank you all for being a part of that.

  5. Nicole
    Nicole10-06-2012

    Regardless of how a woman is perceived, I ask you to find me a woman who hasn’t FELT fat or ugly at any one time. She is few and far between. No matter how they look, it seems all women have felt body shame in one way or another. The fact that this feeling has struck the whole spectrum of women should make clear that the societal systems in place are pushing all women down. The important work you and Elena are doing is critical to changing the patriarchal engines that are harmful to women.

  6. kj
    kj10-07-2012

    Well I have to thank you for speaking about it despite all the people who don’t understand or just don’t want to hear it. I’m at what I believe is the end of the process of healing from years of body shame and self image issues. Finding your blog was a huge part of peeling off one of the last layers. There were never eureka moments in this process, it was more of a slow realization of certain truths. The last peice of the puzzle was realizing just how much I’ve internalized the (what I now see as so obvious) objectification of women and how harmful it is to me and other women! I’d already started to have a more positive view of myself for quite some time now, but I think the important key missing was to change the way I view all women, not just myself. Thankyou so much for your work.

  7. heidikins
    heidikins10-09-2012

    I heard the X96 blurb on my way to work and started swearing at my radio; I was just so mad at them belittling you both and the things you do in one or two sentences. Argh, it gets me angsty again just thinking about it.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing.

    xox

  8. Naomi
    Naomi10-24-2012

    That really does suck. I guess a lot of people don’t realize that negative body image is a universal thing. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who had never struggled with her body image, regardless of what she looked like.

    In a way, comments like this are a form of ad hominem attack – saying your message isn’t valid because of some character trait (or in this case, your physical traits) that others object to. It’s a logical fallacy but everybody does it.

  9. BBDee
    BBDee11-13-2012

    Ladies, thank you for a very articulate analysis of this important issue. I find it interesting how you say you’ve seen “both sides of the coin” on this issue as I too have been judged both “too pretty” and “too ugly” depending on who was passing the judgment! If “They” think you’re too pretty you are not taken seriously, just a cute, helpless little ball of fluff…but if “They” think you’re ugly and/or fat you’re seen as an embittered, poison-spewing ballbreaker! Yes, I’ve experienced both! Keep up the good work!

  10. Bronwyn
    Bronwyn11-13-2012

    Very well expressed. You make a really excellent point. I can honestly admit as a dietitian to having been in this area as well… aka along the lines of you’re not skinny enough to know good nutrition or you can’t help me you’ve clearly never had a weight problem.
    And it is the same, it takes away from my message and makes it all about the body and the image, not the discussion or the information.

  11. Bethany
    Bethany12-04-2012

    I actually heard that radio snippit one morning and that is how I first heard of you. I most always disagree with their opinions on that show, but that time especially I felt offended for you! Sure it was a compliment but to think your words aren’t valid because of your looks? But. That is how I discovered you and this great movement so in a way I am grateful for their harsh words because it made me want to investigate more. I love this post though because I often have these feelings about things I blog about. I write a lot of marriage advice and have only been married for 10 months to an amazing man and I sometimes feel like “that’s easy for me to say…” kinda thing. So I’m grateful you posted on this subject. It touches on so much more than just speaking out about body image.

  12. Nicole
    Nicole01-23-2013

    i appreciate how you are making a difference!

  13. sam
    sam02-19-2013

    I get it, I really do. But as a woman who was not born in the least bit attractive, I maintain that the average or beautiful can never fully understand true rejection. Yes they understand objectification, but that is altogether a different shame.
    There comes a time in older age where the gap lessens considerably and where even the beautiful are no longer objectified and men are too tired to perform and the work force doesn’t need what you have, so take heart you will not suffer under the judgements of a shallow society for at least 1/3 of your life.

  14. SilverRain
    SilverRain02-20-2013

    I love what you ladies do. It IS an uphill battle. Evaluating women on their appearance is so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Your number on the scale of appearance has nothing, NOTHING to do with being objectified. As someone whose number has run the gamut from pretty high to pretty low, I feel equally bad about myself. I have found the easiest place to live is where I am now, on the heavier side of “normal.” Sadly, it is just a little heavier than I feel healthy, but it’s hard to motivate myself to get healthier knowing I’ll just be reduced to my looks even more than I am now.

    I actually had a friend tell me all my success in life was due to my looks, yet I know I’m certainly not on the attractive end.

    Your point is dead-on. It shouldn’t MATTER so much! Why does my day go better if I feel attractive vs. if I am having an off day? Why should your message be dismissed because of what you look like? It is so painful and damaging to women AND men. I know of one man who is so obsessed with the scale of desirability, he is convinced he rates poorly and thus has a personality that drove me off being his friend, even though he was incredibly interesting to me at first.

    The worst part is when our 3-6 year old girls start looking at themselves in the mirror and evaluating their own worth. It breaks my heart to see it.

    But how do you fight against that evil thought process when so many people around you cling to it vehemently? How do you teach a child that what others think doesn’t matter, when you know it does, that others’ evaluation of your attractiveness as a woman will affect your ability to provide for yourself, to excel in school, and to find a good companion for life?

    You can talk and talk, but it often feels like it changes nothing, even in your own mind. And that’s the most discouraging of all, to find yourself constantly visualizing your looks in order to change your behavior. I can imagine it gets very frustrating for you both. How wonderful that you at least have each other (and some of us) to cheerlead through the frustrating times.

    Keep going, you’re doing a great work.

  15. Liz
    Liz02-20-2013

    I have noticed that the closer I come to my ideal body, the more critical I become. Currently, I want to get back to exercising and get in better shape. When I look at pictures of myself when I WAS exercising and eating right, I think I looked great. I think I look amazing. I WISH I looked like that now. But then I remember how I actually felt about myself at the time. I remember feeling frustrated that I couldn’t lose that last five pounds, I remember hating my spider veins, I remember obsessing about my stretch marks. I remember seriously considering plastic surgery to perfect those areas that I couldn’t change with exercise or nutrition. The closer I got to my idea, the more it eluded me. I never got to a point where I felt that I looked perfect, and I can see now that I never will–IF I continue to judge my appearance by the standards set in today’s media images. I see beauty in just about every person I meet–but I have a hard time seeing it in myself. I know I need to change my mindset. It’s my mind that has to change–not the media (although that would help), and not my body. Thanks for this message, and keep on keepin’ on!

  16. Letsy
    Letsy02-23-2013

    You guys are amazing, I love the message you are sharing, I met you today at a relief society meeting, and am so thankful for your message, I am really hoping you can attend an ARP meeting in our area at one point, the wives of Porn Addicts self esteem has been so thrashed – your message would be like a “balm of gilead” to their souls. It was for me today :) I shared a link to your blog today, and am hoping my friends will visit your site, and feel the relief there that I felt today. Again – Thankyou.

  17. Gina Bacon
    Gina Bacon03-28-2013

    Lexie and Lindsay,

    I think it’s very important to acknowledge the reality that you are, indeed, beautiful white women. I support your messages, but want you to dig deeper into the body image issue. I am considered very beautiful by a lot of people, but have struggled with anorexia and low self-esteem since I was a child. Knowing that celebrities are photoshopped does not impact my self-body image. Knowing that the media is hypersexualied and objectifying doesn’t change the fact that I look in the mirror and see ugly.

    I think you should use your bodies to promote a message that low self-esteem and poor body image has more to do than one’s actual physical body. It’s an internal issue that manifests through food control, unhealthy habits and poor self-body image.

    We shouldn’t minimize women to their bodies, but everything that you say and write about is completely focused on women’s bodies. We need to move the conversation from what’s external on a woman’s body to what’s internal: the need for perfection, the lack of being around similar looking people (i.e. being Black or Asian in a white dominated area), thinking that you’re a bad person, feelings of guilt and shame…the internal affects the external. Let’s recognize that it doesn’t matter what a woman looks like on the outside because feelings of hatred and self-deprecation come from the inside. And as gross as it is to think about, everyone basically looks the same underneath our skin.

    Keep up the good work. You’re impacting so many people in so many positive ways and I thank you for that.

    • Beauty Redefined
      Beauty Redefined03-28-2013

      Gina,
      Thanks for the comment – you totally proved the point of the post! You say, “Let’s recognize that it doesn’t matter what a woman looks like on the outside because feelings of hatred and self-deprecation come from the inside.” And that is the exact point of the post, and the exact point of everything we write about, as you can read in the post. It feels like you must not be familiar with our work for you to say “I want you to dig deeper into the body image issue.” If you have read our posts, you’d know that BR is specifically committed to the fact that our internal feelings about our bodies have everything to do with the way we treat our bodies – regardless of what ideals a woman does or does not fit. Indeed, we do use our bodies to promote the message that low-self esteem has everything to do with our feelings and nothing to do with the actual appearance of our bodies. Some might consider us “beautiful” (while others consider us ugly and jealous) and being considered beautiful WHILE speaking up about this issue and sharing our own personal stories of body image pain is exactly how we use our bodies to promote the message you ask us to promote. My dissertation research is about how shame manifests itself in unhealthy behaviors, and that is one of the main points to most of our posts. I hope you can see that when you read more. Even the posts about Photoshopping and our hypersexualized culture dig deeper to how those ideals affect our internal feelings and our external choices – whether or not they affect yours is your individual experience. So I’d say we’re definitely on the same page here.

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