Saturday, October 28, 2006

The campaign for real beauty revisited

A week or so ago (or sometime recently ... who knows? I'm a mom. I have no idea what day it is) I posted a link, found through Love2learn Mom and feminine genius about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Danielle Bean found it last week, too, and asked for comments. She got tons, and they were all over the place, with a lot of different reactions. (Go here to read her post and the commenters as well.) Margaret asked about thoughts on the issue, too.

I've thought about this little video, but just haven't had time to post about it. Now I've got time (because daylight savings time ends tonight, and that means I've got a "found" hour. )

When I found the video, I immediately showed it to my husband and daughters. I had mentioned to my girls that the people in the film were going to do a lot to the model before they took the photo of her. My girls' reaction to the ending? One of them said, "Hey! That's not even her!" Yup. That's what I wanted them to get out of it. The final shot we see is not even her.

We all found the computer "enhancement" to be a little spooky. (Hey, that's it! It's really just a scary Halloween video, isn't it? That cheeky Dove.)

My girls also said things such as, "She was really pretty to start with -- why did they change her neck? Why did they change her eyes?" Yes! Success! I wanted them to see just how much work goes into that "carefree, pouty, windblown look." I wanted them to see proof that the pretty girls on TV don't really look that way when they arrive at the studio. They're already pretty, yes, but they aren't the artificial perfection that passes for beauty in our world.

They took from the video what I'd hoped they would. That may be because I've been preaching this message from the start. From the time they are little, I talk to my daughters about what "real beauty" means. To me, it starts with love for God and other people. Our actions must be beautiful before anything else can be. Then, I also talk to them about taking care of ourselves, being the best we can be, being clean, neat, and yes, even attractive, in a modest way. And then, we talk about how TV, magazines and catalogs are all trying to sell us something. All the time. And that it's our job to sort it out with the eyes of faith.

We have to talk to our kids -- boys and girls -- about this, because we live in a world that bombards us with images of "not even her" beauty at every turn.

I probably allow a bit more pop culture into our lives than some Catholic moms do. My philosophy on that is that we live in the world, but God commands us to not be "of the world." But, because we live in the world, we have to deal with it. Don't get me wrong -- I do protect my kids from plenty of unhealthy influences, but I also try to gauge what they're ready for, how to introduce it, how to temper it, and how to help them navigate through it. Controlled exposure and controlled guidance are the keys for us.

Let's see ... beauty influences from the world ... It starts with Barbie. And, yes, I do allow Barbie, but it's Barbie With Disclaimers. My daughter will tell you, "If Barbie were a real woman, she would be a freak of nature."

Yes! Success!

Pop singers. My kids used to like one, but now that they've seen her shrink ("Is she dieting?" they ask suspiciously ....) and pile on excessive amounts of make-up, they think she must be too obsessed with her appearance. They've also heard that she smokes and so they've abandoned her completely.

Yes! Success!

They like Raven Symone, who is a very pretty girl, but is also a very normal weight. My girls think she may be the most beautiful girl on TV.

Yes! Success!

And what about TV? Why allow it at all? Well, again, for us, I believe that it's a matter of controlling and guiding the exposure. Since they were very small, I have been The Voice of Reason, hanging over their shoulders, proclaiming The Way It Really Is during all-things-TV. Over the years, I've countered just about everything they've seen on television, to the point that I now hear things like this from them:

"Do you think that thing really works? I don't think so. They're just trying to sell it to us."

"Oh, right! That toy would probably break ten minutes after you got it home."

"Look at her hair. It would never stay that way in real life."

"You know, that dress is kind of pretty, but in real life, you should never wear something like that. It's immodest."

I don't mean to make it sound as if I've raised perfect little children who are not at all influenced by the culture around them. They are not perfect. They are influenced. They do sometimes want junk, buy junk, request junk. If you'd like proof of just how imperfect we are in this regard, just stop by for a half hour or so, and our imperfections will be quite apparent in no time at all. But, we're muddling through a complicated world, doing the best we can. And overall, I've been pretty happy with the results of my Voice of Reason approach.

Other than making constant disclaimers about most of what they see on TV, what do I do to instill ideas about "real beauty"? I mentioned earlier that we talk about inner beauty. That's a cliche, I know, but it's one that comes from truth. My oldest has begun to notice boys (not real boys ... they are still either just friend material, or gross) in the form of a crush on a celebrity. That has paved the way for some interesting discussions. It's already come up that "cute" isn't enough. When the aforementioned cute celebrity used God's name in vain in an interview, the aforementioned daughter got quite mad at him and decided that she could never marry someone who talked that way. His "inner beauty" was affected.

Yes! Success!

I would like to make it clear that when I talk about inner beauty, I am not pitting it against "outer beauty." This isn't an either/or thing. Stressing one's inner beauty doesn't have to mean being apathetic about one's appearance. It doesn't necessarily mean eschewing make-up, though it could mean that, and that's perfectly fine. I'm not "for" or "against" make-up. It's a very individual choice, and I know women who are beautiful when they wear make-up and women who are quite beautiful without a bit of it.

(On a side note, I have to add that one of the things about Atticus that I first loved was that he could not have cared less about what he wore, or about how it looked. He was so completely unassuming about that that I fell in love on the spot. That, and his incredible intelligence, and he made me laugh. That was it. I was his. But, I digress ....)

So ... back to my point. I'm not opposed to make-up. I wear it many days. If make-up helps one to feel more attractive (or, in my case, to look awake), I see nothing wrong with it. I also have nothing against hair implements. I'm not a curling ironist. I own one (two if you count that one that's duct-taped together.) There's nothing wrong with fighting against one's natural hair. It's an ancient, time-honored tradition that, as far as I know, will not keep me out of heaven. (Too much time with a curling iron could certainly earn me some extra time in purgatory, but that's why I only spend a minute or two a day with mine.)

Did I have an ultimate point to make here? Or has this just been one long ramble? And, more to the point, are you sick to death of my use of italics?

As I'm sure you can tell, this post has not been thoroughly planned, thought-out or revised. I just wanted to throw out a few thoughts about beauty, the world, and how we deal with it all at the Edmisten house.

The inner teacher in me wants to summarize:

We are fallen creatures, living in an imperfect world.

Nothing we do will be perfect.

The world will always try to sell us something.

Don't buy it, daughters of mine, whom I love more than my own life.

Do your shopping with God. He's got the goods.


Alice said...

>If you'd like proof of just how imperfect we are in >this regard, just stop by for a half hour or so, and >our imperfections will be quite apparent in no time >at all.

That is not what I hear from Lissa. : )

Thank you for this sensible and extremely true post.

Jennifer said...

I started reading this at 2:00 this morning. It sounds like your daughters are on the right path. You seem very balanced in your approach and I really like that. I am already worrying about the teen years and BOYS!. Thank you for sharing this.

Cay G. said...

Great, thought-provoking post, Karen.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, to all of you.

Alice, Lissa is just too nice. So are you. :-)

Margaret in Minnesota said...

Don't close the polls on the this post yet!! I tried to leave a comment twice yesterday to no avail--Blogger was just being weird.

Let's see if this one works.

First, yes, that cheeky Dove. They will probably triple their sales by these ads.

Which is fine. (I'm a Loreal gal, myself.)

I am so happy you took the time to write this post, Karen! It's classic Karen E--substantial meat to chew on but with a lot of extra humor on the side.

So thank you. You are a very good model for this Minnesota mom, whose three little girls are just a hop, skip and a jump behind your three.

And they do hop, skip & jump, don't they? Oh, may God bless & keep our little girls!

Amy said...

Karen, you always know how to hit the heart of the matter, with grace and humor. Thank you for this post! I am encouraged! :)

Momto5Minnies said...

As a Mom of 5 girls, I really do appreciate your thoughts ... awesome ones at that!

You rlast 5 lines really moved me!

Elaine ( )

Karen E. said...

Margaret, Amy, and Elaine,
Thank you so much!

Warren said...

What kills me is that Unilever sells "feel good about yourself" to women (with their dove real beauty campaign), and "treat women like objects, who will fall all over themselves to give themselves to you if you use our products" to young men (with their Axe bodyspray commercials).

Talking out of both sides of their corporate mouths.


Karen E. said...

I haven't seen the Axe commercials, but why am I not surprised?

I hadn't thought about the Dove thing for awhile, and even when I posted the link yesterday, I was more focused on my daughter's Barbie comment than the Dove campaign. I just now clicked through to the campaign, and on the current first page, they present us with three women in their underwear.

Thanks a lot, Dove.