Here’s an essay I wrote a while ago about an issue that I believe is extremely important and relevant to our society today. We must, must, must stop telling women that they are nothing more than their looks. We must stop dehumanizing ourselves. Instead of learning to love our curves, or our curls, or whatever the next campaign comes up with, we should learn to love ourselves-for the human beings that we are.
Let’s stop making it all about that body.
All Girls are Beautiful: Social Media and the Self Love Trend
By Baylie Karperien
Over the past year, the internet has been blooming with articles, videos, blogs, and ad campaigns telling women to love their bodies, because their bodies are beautiful. On the surface, it would appear that this encouragement is a positive thing, a step forward for society, a sort of emancipation for women from the body-image issues which plague so many of us. So why is it that we still need to buy brand name lingerie and apply Dove’s special “Nourishing Curls” mousse to our hair? Why is it that to be beautiful, we have to dress up our faces, smooth our hair, and take off our clothes? There are also messages telling us to ditch the help, to be proud of our “natural beauty”. Song lyrics tell women everywhere that they “don’t have to try” to look beautiful. Because according to them, all girls are beautiful. But what if we didn’t have to be beautiful? What if we tried to actually solve the problem instead of diluting the pain with metaphorical painkillers? What if instead of lying to ourselves, filling ourselves up with illusions, we started being beautiful, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the way that we looked?
Websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are all forms of social media that, while they are not responsible for this trend, spread and promote it, powered by the true perpetrator: our society. On the one hand, western culture strongly sexualizes women and girls, and on the other hand, tells them that they should feel good about the bodies they have. However, I believe that these two messages, which almost appear conflicting, are one and the same. Telling girls that they can be overweight and still “hot” does not promote a positive body image, rather, it further distorts and convolutes that image, and ratifies the message our society consistently dishes out that women are little more than sexual objects to exist solely for their beauty. The sexualisation of women is prevalent not only in social media, but television, advertising, magazines, popular music, and even products such as the Barbie and Bratz dolls that line the shelves of children’s toy stores, dressed in provocative clothing and thick, heavy makeup.
This issue of sexualisation is deeply rooted in our history, in the world of our past, when under a British common law of 1876, “women were eligible for pains and penalties, but not rights and privileges.” It took Canada until 1929 to decide that women could be considered full persons by law. Less than a century later, we are still not considered full persons by society. Social media reflects this view of woman and serves to promote it, yet also promotes the idea of self-love specifically aimed at the women it objectifies. There has been not one, not even one, body-image campaign featuring eighty year old women with bald patches and faded features that tries to promote the idea that all women are beautiful—however, there have been many featuring young, specially selected models with radiant facial features and smooth skin. This is simply because if the audience were to take one look at the elderly models featured in the advertisement/campaign/blog/social media post, they would instantly realize that the concept is false. Not all women are beautiful. This is hard for us to accept, because we think that if we do not proclaim someone to be beautiful, we ourselves are cruel, hating, anti-feminist judges. The idea that women are expected to be, must be, have to be physically beautiful has been pounded into our brains until we have lost the ability to think anything but.
The answer lies not in how we judge beauty, but in how we judge ourselves. Instead of trying to make our ideas of beauty expand to include all women, or outright lying to ourselves about our own beauty, which only leads to further body image issues down the road, our society should simply stop trying to tell women that their beauty is all that matters. And we, as individuals, should stop evaluating a person’s worth, including our own, based on physical appearance. This is not to say that there is something wrong or evil about appreciating physical beauty, indeed, God gave us the very marvelous gift of appreciating wondrous sights and sounds and tastes. However, it is when we expect women to be beautiful, when we care about their beauty instead of their thoughts and inputs, their talents and unique personalities, in short, the persons that they really are, that we are establishing false and convoluted perceptions detrimental to not only ourselves, but our society as a whole. Social media’s role in promoting this perception will only diminish when the perception itself diminishes—and although the Famous Five were able to obtain a finite ruling on the status of women as persons from the Supreme Court of Canada, obtaining such a status from society will not come quickly, nor will it come definitively, tangibly, or perhaps even visibly. But when it does come, the day when women can say, “I’m not beautiful”, and care about it no more than they would if they had just said, “I’m not a porcupine”, then the world will indeed be changed.