*Submitted by Crystal Houghtaling, a Foundation volunteer
Learning to love ourselves is difficult. It’s especially hard when we hear how inadequate we are everyday. Growing up I heard I was chubby and ugly quite often. My older sister was three years older than me and I really looked up to her. She was skinny, smart, and popular; but she was a bully. Not just to me, but to many other people as well. She made sure I knew how horrible I was on a daily basis. It got to a point where I didn’t want to go to school, and my education suffered.
My sister isn’t the only person that has shaped my insecurities though. The media has only validated the things that she told me as a child. Advertisement companies focus on women and bully them just the way my sister did. Even a woman who doesn’t have self-esteem issues still compares and critiques herself based on what she sees in these ads.
Advertising has a subtle way of deluding us into thinking we’re nothing unless we’re thin, fit and beautiful. Companies take a magnificent human being, Photoshop them and create an enticing tag line. They draw us in, with headlines like “Start This Plan Today!” “Drop 10 pounds.” “Firm up your abs, butt and thighs.” Then we think, “that’s what I should look like” and throw the magazine in our basket.
Jean Kilbourne discusses the harm the world of advertisement has on women and men in her documentary “Killing us Softly” and an article called “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt.” Kilbourne, an ex-pageant girl, discusses the pressure women feel to be perfect. She gives numerous examples of the way these ads make us feel fat, ugly and inferior compared to the women on magazines. Ads are constantly taking personal jabs at women, telling us to try the latest beauty cream or fad diet because we’re just too wrinkly and too wide.
There are dozens of videos of women discussing the topic of harmful advertising in the media. Although it seems like there is a larger network of people today who fight against these beauty injustices, the reality is it’s not any better than it was decades ago. The world of social networking and reality television is creating even more pressure to be beautiful. It’s not just wrinkles women worry about anymore, it’s lip size, chin size, butt size, nose size, and thigh gap. The extremes women will go through to achieve beauty requires a lot more than cream.
We live in a world where beauty is more important than brains and it is considered normal to criticize ourselves relentlessly. However, we as women should empower ourselves and each other to embrace our individuality and differences. All of us are beautiful and worthy of love. No ad or opinion of another person should have the power to diminish our self-respect and dignity. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be beautiful, as long as we are doing it for ourselves.
What does it mean to want to be beautiful ‘for yourself’? Is that even possible, or are we always influenced by external standards of beauty and what others think of us?
¹Kilbourne, Jean. “”Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt: Advertising and Violence”” Rereading America. 9th ed. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 420-25. Print.