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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Think I'm Pretty

You know that Dove Campaign that everyone loved for a hot second before everyone hated it?

This one, where the artist sketches a portrait of a woman based on her own description of herself, and then sketches another portrait based on how someone else describes her? And the self-portraits are inevitably harsher than the others? The point being that, hey! You're more beautiful than you think!

It's a great little promo...with a lot of problems.

Mainly, as Anne Theriault at The Belle Jar points out, Dove Does Not Give a Shit About Whether or Not You Feel Beautiful. In this corporate age, you always have to look one rung up. And that rung, above Dove? Is Unilever.

Pollychromatic points out this bit, at the end of the video: “'It impacts the choices in the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.'”

Your beauty. Remember, that’s what this Dove ad campaign is talking about here. Your beauty."
Writer Elizabeth Hawksworth says she doesn't want to be beautiful. She wants women to be brave instead.

Then Cassandra over at Smibbo said everything I wanted to say. That we're missing the point. And she's right, imo.

And before you read about my flailings and failings, if you want real positivity in imagery and real acceptance in life, head over here. ...
Your self-image of your beauty, according to Dove, impacts your whole life. Therefore, we should all learn to love ourselves, and we can start by knowing that other people find us pretty, even if we don't think we're pretty ourselves.
When the video went around my feed, I shared it because I saw how much better it was making women feel about themselves, and that's a good thing.
But as my friend, Leona, said: "'There is no room in Doveland for women who know they’re hot.' (Source Feministing) Welp. I'm out then."
Me, too.
Because what Dove has done by attempting to tell all women they are prettier than they think they are is reinforcing the idea that our self-image is wrong. No matter what we do, we're wrong about ourselves. Again, people telling us what to think, for good or for bad. Let me go ahead and hit this on the head instead of beating around the bush.

I think I'm pretty.

Here's the thing, though, and I don't know what to make of it myself. If this is coming across as disjointed and weird, it's because of how unbearably uncomfortable I am even writing it. It goes against...things. It makes my chest tighten up. You aren't supposed to say it.

My friend just said it best: "You're dancing around a bit because you have negative feelings about your admissions because society has trained us all to avoid the topic of our own beauty. Believe me I know how 

you feel. It's awkward at best, feels dangerous at worst."

And that's exactly it. So, bear with me.

I never wear make up, I hardly ever match, I make weird faces. I just think I'm pretty anyway. In all of these pictures, for instance, I think I'm pretty.

I'm not "allowed" to think I'm pretty. I mean, sure, okay. I'm allowed to think that. And you, or whoever else, are then allowed to think I'm a pompous, self-important, full-of-herself asshat. In real life, should I ever receive compliments on my looks, I immediately say, "Lucky genes." I don't want to own it. I don't want people to think I think I'm better than them or that I think I have any control over what I look like. I make as small a deal of it as possible. Because wahhh, being pretty is so hard and people hate pretty people. Right? You know people are going to read those last few lines and think that's what I'm saying.

Honestly, I didn't even want to type this out because I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Point being, no matter how you think you look, it's ingrained in you to believe what other people think is more important. And it's burdensome either way.

This is the problem. This surety that other people's points of view are more important than our own.

I was having a discussion about this with a friend of mine about this. "I'd write about it," she said, "but I'm too unique-looking." At the same time, I was typing, "I'd write about it, but I'm too cookie-cutter."

In both cases, we assumed our feelings were invalid. Because of who we are.

And that's kind of what Dove is saying. What you think is invalid. Look at how wrong your image is when placed against other people's thoughts about you. Maybe you should think like them.

Meaning the solution they are providing is a bandaid. It's a way to work within the set parameters women have been given as boundaries for how they're allowed to feel about how they look.

What we really need to do is forward that message, push it further. Break down the conventions of beauty. Understand that because someone's genes gave them a look that's more conducive to praise in our modern society, it still means nothing. Understand that the only way to put everyone on equal footing is to thoroughly reject that image of beauty. Understand that how we feel about ourselves is valid and is a result of several societal factors working for and against us. Understand how we are a piece of this puzzle, not to better fit in (as some ads would have you do, like Ideal Image Laser Hair Removal, for instance), and not to see how other people do think we fit and therefore begin to believe we should think that too (like this Dove commercial), but to make a new puzzle. To make it out of Playdoh. So that it can move and shift and grow as we do, as individuals.

In the end, it comes down to caring about what people think. And on that note, I'm bracing myself for the barrage of comments telling me that 1) I'm not pretty. 2) I'm an asshole for even trying to talk about it. Because that's what I've been raised to believe happens. I've been raised to believe I do not have the right to talk about this. Because I think I'm pretty.

But I tried anyway. Because I'm confident.

And that's where we need to be. Confident. Have belief in yourself, regardless of all else.



  1. I heart this SO MUCH. The message from marketers is always that we're wrong (because if we're not wrong, we wouldn't be half so likely to buy some product, right? Because if we've been trained from birth to do anything, we've been trained to think we're insufficient. Hello, patriarchal world.).

  2. I had the same thought watching the Dove thing. "but I think I'm really pretty." I'd probably tell the guy all my best features and my sketch would come out looking like a fashion model or something. The idea you articulated: " idea that our self-image is wrong" was exactly what I was feeling and couldn't put into words. Great article thanks! sharing on FB



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