We Will Make Sure You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are

Everyone’s seen the new Dove ad, right?

In it, women describe themselves to a police sketch artist, who draws them without seeing them.

Then, other people who have actually met the women describe her to the artist.

The sketches are notably different. In the ones where women have described themselves, they end up looking like hideous troll monsters. The ones where others have described them are way more accurate, and they convey their actual physical beauty as well as attributes like kindness and friendliness.

Then it occurred to me how hard I am on myself as well. And it occurred to me that real beauty is not somebody’s outer shell– it’s the soul they show. It’s really hard to take a bad photo of somebody’s who’s happy.

I showed this to Cadillac, and he said, “Why did you need an ad to tell you what I’ve been telling you for 15 years?”

So I thought about that for a little while.

Women learn from an early age that our bodies are commodities. Chop them up, sell them, comment on them, criticize them. We analyze ourselves and other women as if there’s *ONE MALE* left on the face of the earth and we’re all involved in some hyper Bachelor-type competition for his affections.

Here are a few pieces of evidence about how we tear down/objectify women, culled from the news over the past few months– most within the past week, actually.

A CBS Houston affiliate put up a poll asking if this OKC Thunder cheerleader is too chunky to cheer.

The photo of Kelsey S. that ran in the OKC Thunder

Sports Illustrated model Kate Upton has also been accused of being fat.

If Kate Upton and the cheerleader–the epitome of feminine desirability– if those two are fat, then surely the rest of us are hopeless.

Female Olympic athletes are photographed by the part, focusing on how nice their lady-bits look rather than their skill.

Queen Frostine in the Candy Land game looks like this now:

Nick Jr. showed actor Josh Duhamel (copying Katy Perry) in this commercial, between commercials for Mattel and Hasbro commercials, during Sponge Bob (which, by the way, freaked out my kids so much they came to get me).

josh duhamel

Even if you’re smart enough to go to Princeton, a career isn’t what you need. All you really need to care about is catching a Princeton husband.

If you weren’t smart or well-off enough to go to Princeton, then you can have a baby as a teenager and be a star via MTV; and when that star fades, you can put your commodified body to good work and shoot a porno and get a deal for nearly a million dollars. (Also: Exhibit Everything Kardashian).

Check out this short film, which splices together many of the ads featuring women-as-bodies, and also what would happen if men were in the roles.

Okay, I’m done depressing myself. If you want me, I’ll be taking samurai sword fighting classes with my daughters and son.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

4 thoughts on “We Will Make Sure You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are

  1. Love it. Well, you know what I mean. It IS depressing and disturbing, but what can you do to stop exposing yourself and your daughters to it? Other than not watching TV and not buying those magazines, I mean…

    1. There’s nothing to do– it’s everywhere, on billboards, on T-shirts, in attitudes. All we can do is encourage them to do stuff like play waterpolo and soccer and encourage them to respect their bodies as functional, strong machines rather than merely weak objects meant to please others. Their dad, I think, is particularly effective– teaches all the kids, through living and verbally, that truly strong men are not intimidated by strong women and do not need to subjugate others to make themselves feel better. I wrote about some of this for this blog, not really wanting to revisit it entirely on my own again.

  2. Though I hadn’t seen the detrimental bits (don’t need to see more), I have seen the Dove ad. My husband’s response was the same as Cadillac’s.

    So. You started off thinking about the subject, and got side-tracked into the depressing areas. Now. What are your final thoughts? How will you keep from beating yourself up yet again about your looks? How will you improve your self confidence and/or self image? (Yes, I could also touch on the subject of your daughters’ psyches, but I really think they’ll get their ideas from you.)

    You brought up an excellent topic, but then you veered off and left without any determination.Now that you’ve cheered up, what are you going to *do* to fight against — or correct or improve — the attitude in general? Just a start — somewhere. You know it’s up to each individual to create change. 🙂

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