Monday, October 5, 2009


So we've all seen, probably, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund ads.

These are a good thing, that I'm going to nit-pick.

I don't like the name. Self-esteem? The message seems not to be "you're beautiful," but "it's ok that you're not as pretty as the girls in the ads." Since that standard is synthetic (computer enhanced, with the aid of a specialized makeup team and quite a bit of time), you shouldn't feel bad about not being as good as the girl on the billboard. After all, even the model isn't that good.

It seems to me the tack should not be that the popular standard of beauty is unattainable, but that it's undesirable. If this is our focus then "self-esteem" is no longer the central issue--focusing on self-esteem is too close to saying "you're not pretty enough, but it's not your fault, so it's ok to love yourself anyway." The focus ought to be on beauty and health, with the former understood as non-normative.

It is disconcerting that the image we pressure women to mold themselves to is impossible. But it is equally disconcerting that we basically have only one image. Surely there is something to be said for difference.

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