Taking Back Beauty: A Movement is Underway!
Since we launched our groundbreaking body positive billboard campaign in northern Utah this summer and fall, we have been overwhelmed and amazed at the love, support and attention Beauty Redefined has received from individuals and organizations all over the world. From Sue Thomason of the wonderful non-profit U.K.-based magazine Beautiful featuring us in the current issue and even potentially working with parliament to fund and place our billboards in the U.K. (fingers crossed) to every TV station in Salt Lake City interviewing us about the campaign, countless people have heard our messages promoting true beauty, health, happiness and empowerment.
But we are definitely not here to brag.
We’re here to show you in every possible way that this is NOT a hopeless cause. That body hatred and cripplingly low self-esteem among females does NOT have to be the norm anymore. That you are NOT alone in feeling fed up with the objectification and sexualization of females or the harmful effects of those normalized phenomenons on the way we perceive ourselves, the choices we make and our relationships.
Lexie and I created Beauty Redefined: Taking Back Beauty (in conjunction with our co-authored master’s thesis and project) 2.5 years ago. We went from feeling truly burdened and overwhelmed by the depressing state of women’s representation in media — with its shockingly narrowing standard of beauty, and the accompanying mental and physical health crises for females across cultures, classes and ages — to quickly feeling … hopeful. With every person that approached us after our presentations throughout Utah, every comment on our website or Facebook page, every blog post about our cause, every e-mail from a supporter, every website that featured our work and now every company and news organization that contacts us for meetings, interviews and collaborations, we are reminded that this fight is worth fighting. And we can WIN.
And we are thrilled to announce our latest WIN in this fight: A MASSIVE billboard with our favorite Beauty Redefined message, “You are capable of much more than being looked at!” is going up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for three months starting January 2012! What a great way to start the new year off right for every person that so deserves to know this truth. And we thank every one of YOU for making this happen. Two months ago, we were contacted by a wonderful reporter in Alabama who wrote for Outdoor Advertising magazine and heard about our billboard campaign in Utah through word-of-mouth (we’re guessing one of you who posted one our stories on Facebook or blogged about us!). He interviewed us for a story on how we are using for-profit media to share these powerful truths with females who need it, and we are grateful he was a proactive man who sought us out and wrote a fantastic piece. THEN, last month we got this email:
I just read your article that was published in the Outdoor advertising magazine. This article was very inspirational. I have a daughter that will be growing up in the media today. I understand your going to be posting billboards across the country. I would like to offer one of my billboard faces to you [for 85% off of its original rental price]. This billboard is located along Pennsylvania Turnpike which is heavy with interstate traffic. This is one of the ways I can contribute to your cause by offering this rate on one of my billboard faces.
Owner of C. Lewis LLC
And because of two men who understand the power of these messages, we are now announcing the first Beauty Redefined billboard is going up in the East, for thousands and thousands of passersby to see! THAT is how we take media literacy and the truth about female value to the streets – quite literally. Thank you to every one of you who help us make that happen, by supporting us with your pocketbook, talking to people about our messages, linking our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, etc. It’s a beautiful thing :)
The thing is, there’s plenty of money to be made in ways that ultimately hurt us – both in for-profit media upholding unattainable ideals for women to spend their lives, time and money trying to achieve and for men to seek after endlessly and unsuccessfully because no woman will ever satisfy that standard. Unreachable ideals will always drive a profit and capitalizing on female insecurities is a hugely successful way to reap billions in cosmetic procedures, beauty products, weight loss tactics and tools to fix every new conceivable flaw. Almost all media (with rare exceptions like PBS and NPR) is for-profit, meaning it is funded by advertising $$$ and therefore has to cater to those advertisers. Is a hair color company advertising in those pages or on that screen? Then there will be no gray-haired women shown in a positive light on that TV show or in that magazine. Believe it!
But Beauty Redefined is based on spreading some really wonderful news! We don’t have to buy into it. We don’t have to mindlessly accept the alternate reality about women’s bodies and potentials and capabilities that media surrounds us with. We don’t have to helplessly sit back and watch our children, families, students, friends and colleagues internalize blatant lies about what it means to be female and what it takes to be healthy, desirable or happy. We have more power than we ever imagined when this began, and we’ve seen it in action more times than we can count. There is serious progress being made every time a girl, woman, boy or man learns to recognize and reject harmful messages about female worth — messages that have truly become second nature and normal for most people in this media-saturated world.
We are just two 26-year-old Ph.D. students in Utah who feel passionately about women’s worth as more than objects to be looked at, and we decided 8 years ago that we wanted to do something about it. We are so grateful that the more immersed we get into this work, the more change, progress and hope we see spreading everywhere. Thankfully, people are noticing and joining this fight because the messages we share are true. And not just true because they’re backed up by extensive academic research and numerous credible scholars – but because people feel the truth of it when they read/see/hear/share it. You are capable of much more than being looked at. Your reflection does not define your worth. There is more to BE than eye candy. If beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong. If any of those statements resonate with you, it’s because you already know it inside on some level, and this is a happy reminder. We’re just here to remind you of truths you already know.