Wednesday, October 25, 2006


So, the soap for fat girls has released another ad in their 'Real Beauty' campaign that is causing much buzz. We're all supposed to applaud Dove for telling us that the beauty industry has created unrealistic standards, and that if we use their body wash we'll still have cellulite, but that's okay because every girl is beautiful in her own way. But you know what? It's not true. Some people are ugly, most people are average and a small number of people are really freaking gorgeous. I figure I fall somewhere in the large middle catergory (maybe I'm wrong, it may be I fall into the first category, but since nobody has ever told me so, I'll go on with the belief, deluded or otherwise that I am an average looking gal).

If we are talking about physical beauty and not "beauty on the inside" (which we already have a term for, it's called "being a good person"), some people have more of it than others. This is just a fact of life. Apparently, if you have daughters you are supposed to be very concerned about this fact and do everything possible to hide it from them. And you must lie: "of course you're as pretty as the head cheerleader with a modeling contract, you're just a different kind of pretty".

The new ad shows an averagely pretty woman going into a model shoot. They do her hair and makeup and she looks much better, though just in a regular person sort of way. Then they do some serious editing on the picture, change her image so that she basically doesn't look like herself anymore, and she's worthy of being a cover model. Everyone is very excited about this ad, finally we are showing our girls exactly how the industry creates these false standards of beauty that we hear so much about. Except that the ad is a lie. Vogue does not take normal looking girls and digitally edit their images for a photo shoot; they take gorgeous people and edit their photos. I'm sure that you could take a picture of me and change it so that I look prettier than I actually am. You could not take a picture of me and make me look like Angelina Jolie. DNA, or God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster dictated that Angelina would have the kind of beauty that could make otherwise straight women fall in love with her, and that (despite my name) I would not have a face that could launch a thousand ships, but rather would have to settle for the kind of looks that turn the heads of creepy Varsovians. Do I wish I were prettier? Sure, I guess. I wish even more that I had a voice like Nina Simone. But I do not. Now, I could accuse the music industry of creating false standards of vocal ability as a result of all the post production that goes into creating a CD. But at the end of the day, Nina Simone still had a better voice than I do. Similarly, I could complain that the publishing industry creates false standards of writing by editing the works of great authors before they are released. But even with an editor, I don't write like Ryszard Kapuściński. These are all things that I need to come to terms with. I have my own special skills that these people don't have (that I am at a loss to come up with right now... man this post is depressing!).

What is wrong with society is that we have decided that it is okay for reasonably attractive girls and women to be depressed about their appearance and then blame their self-hatred on somebody else. You know what? It's not okay, it's vain and pathetic. I refuse to buy into the idea that just because you feel bad about something, you have a legitimate cause to feel that way (see also: Islamist rage). There are teenage girls in Rwanda who had someone take a machete to them when they were a toddler, think of the body issues they must have. So don't tell your daughter she's beautiful (unless you are Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, then I guess you can go right ahead), tell her what is actually special about her. It has meaning, and has the added value of not being a god damn lie. And while you're at it, tell her that she needs to stop blaming other people or corporations for her imaginary problems and get on with living her life.

1 comment:

pmac said...

That reminds me of a Lao Tzu quote, the gist of which is that it's all relative and all about contrast. Without ugliness, beauty is meaningless.

From the first version I could find it in, by James Legge:

1. All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and
in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they
all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have
(the idea of) what the want of skill is.
2. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the
one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease
produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and
shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that
(the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of
the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones
become harmonious through the relation of one with
another; and that being before and behind give the idea of
one following another