Are beauty ads even a problem?
This is a loaded question, I know. It seems that everyday I see at least one post, if not more, on Facebook discussing the issue of beauty advertisements and fashion magazine spreads. How harmful they are and how deceptive they are. We're becoming more aware and I think that's a good thing. This is my take on the whole issue.
What's your problem?
A few days ago I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their biggest peeve with beauty ads. Here are some responses.
"That it's considered a bad thing to age."
"That so many models are so young, yet they're posed to look extremely sexual or half drugged, or both."
"That I will only be beautiful when I use that beauty product"
"The fact that everyone has a perfect body!"
"That they make it look like using beauty products is necessary at all."
"The typical photoshopping and "ideals" they portray."
Of course not everyone sees them as a problem.
"I like beauty ads, they either make me laugh or give me fun ideas for art work,.... They don't actually bother me, maybe it's because I almost never look at a magazine or watch tv. Or maybe it's because the models are usually all white ..."
I tried to encourage men to give their take on this as well, but they didn't. Who knows why.
The fact is there are many opinions and thoughts about the issue of beauty advertising and none of them are wrong. We each have our perspective. It does behoove us to be more aware though of how they are affecting and influencing the way we think about ourselves and others. (This includes the men as well.) Because the fact is that they do, one way or another. We are affected by everything that we see or hear in a positive or negative way. We just aren't always paying enough attention to notice.
I found this very interesting infographic slideshow on prezi.com as I was doing some research. You can view it here. Trust me, it's worth your time to look at. It makes some interesting points and shares insights from various people who have done more research than I have on this subject.
Here are some tidbits to peak your interest and get you thinking.
"Media images create idealized standards of beauty for women across all cultures." (Taylor, 2012)
"Women evaluate their bodies against this "American ideal of female body image" (Tylka & Sabik, 2010)
"Unrealistic images negatively impact men's views on women and lead to objectification and dehumanization to girls and women" (Taylor, 2012)
“Young women alter their perceptions of their own body shapes and sizes after they watch as little as 30 minutes of TV programming” (Solomon, 2013)
"Marketing agencies profit from selling the ideal image: We buy products that will make us closer to the ideal."
"The idea the media sells about the ideal of beauty seem to go beyond purchases and influence our core values and the ways we see ourselves and our peers."
What's even real in advertising?
We are all aware by now of the pervasive use of photoshopping in advertising which, among other methods, is used to enhance the models appearance to meet the "ideal". (Even the models aren't considered perfect enough or attractive enough. How insulting!) We can use this awareness to help answer some questions we can and should be asking ourselves.
How does this image or advertisement affect how I feel about myself? What messages are being fed to me through this image/advertisement? Are these messages intentional? Is it possible that my own perceptions and insecurities are also influencing my experience? Where do those insecurities come from? Are they natural or have I learned them from exposure to media and what others around me say or do?
And perhaps the most important question. Do I really have to believe what these images/advertisements are selling me about ideal beauty? I have an answer for you.
You have the power to choose!
Back when I was having my big post-partum self image struggle, I came across a link to a blog post a man wrote to his daughter. This letter was inspired by a trip to the cosmetic aisles that left him chagrined and upset. You can read it here.
As I was reading the comments I noticed a lot of anger being directed at the cosmetic companies for their emphasis on "perfection" and "flawless beauty", etc... I could totally understand the anger and frustration. We hurt when we feel like we're not good enough. We experience shame and we feel powerless. Then it hit me hard in the heart and in the conscience. I couldn't ignore it. We aren't powerless! We have a choice!
My whole life I've been taught at home and at church that we have this amazing gift called agency or choice. It's pretty central to my beliefs actually. Nobody has the power to tell us how to feel or what to think. Unless we give them that power. And how easily we give that power away. Especially when it comes to our ideals about physical appearance. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Seriously. Stop giving the power you were born with to people who don't deserve it and most certainly haven't earned it. In fact don't give it to anyone. Not even people you love and trust. It isn't fair to them. The only person who should be deciding how you ought to feel about yourself is YOU!
My husband tells me I'm beautiful all of the time. (I know, I'm lucky.) But he can't make me feel beautiful. He can't even tell me what makes me beautiful, although I value his opinions. I have to figure that out for myself. And so do you.
This epiphany was the turning point for me. I'm still figuring it all out, but I feel like my eyes are opening to the truth. The truth about real, soul deep, uplifting, life empowering, love centered beauty. Truth that no beauty ad or digitally altered media image can give me.
People. We have the real power. Don't forget that.