Wednesday, 8 May 2013

It Impacts…Everything?


Ok, that was really lame. Let’s start over.

Hi there.

Also lame… OK, I’ve ruined the moment.

So. As promised, I figured I’d throw my two cents worth in on the viral video that has been gracing the interwebz as of late. It took me a while to get to it, but as you can see, I’ve been one busy sonuva lately. I had several friends ask me to weigh in on the Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercials. As I am not one to ignore my readership or my lovely friends, here she goes. I’m going to try and keep things rather brief, seeing as I’m a little behind on the times with this topic, and that I’m sure that most of what I am saying here has been said before. I don’t want to try to reinvent the wheel, but it’s worth it to me to put my own opinions out on the table. You don’t have to agree with me, I don’t expect you to. If you do, hey, great, go you! If not, well, thanks for putting yourself through this analysis. 

On a completely unrelated note I am listening to a really great cover of No Woman No Cry by Xavier Rudd. 

Anyway, Dove has been at this real Beauty schtick for quite some time. They have covered warning our young ladies about the dangers of media influence through exposing photoshop techniques used for magazines and billboards, have tackled the “beauty at any size” movement, and have provided a pretty solid message that loving one’s body is important, no matter what size/shape/color it may be. Your body shouldn’t matter so long as YOU are comfortable in your own skin (and that Dove body washes and other products can help you embrace yourself and practice self-love moreso than any other product or tactic it seems). They took a bit of a different approach with the Dove Real Beauty Sketches. For those of you who haven’t seen the video, I’ll provide it once again. If you really don’t want to take the time to watch it, I will provide a short summary (though I don’t really understand your reading this blog post if seeing the video wasn’t part of your reason for reading, but whatever floats your boat). 

The video begin with attention being drawn toward a forensic artist who will be a part of a little “experiment” Dove is putting on. Various women show up to a place where they have never been before, enter a large, spacious room, and describe their facial structure to the artist, who fixes a sketch based on what he is being told by these women. When he is finished, the women leave. The artist and the participants do not see one another.

Now, it just so happens that these women were told to get friendly with a stranger who was presumably in the same waiting room at they were. This stranger is also interviewed by the artist, and asked to describe the participant they had gotten to know. In the end, the original women re-enter the room only to be shown two sketches – one based on what they thought of themselves, the other drawn based on a description from the stranger they were told to get to know. This exercise seems very humbling for all of the women featured. They realize that they need to re-discover and embrace their own inner beauty, that they are their own worst critics, and that other people definitely see you differently than you see yourself. 

Now. This is all well and good. Let’s all go out in the world with a weight lifted off of our shoulders because now we are officially armed with the knowledge that what we as women see ourselves as is a distorted image of ugliness and (therefore) unhappiness! We have been presented with the “ah-ha” moment that frees us from the constraints of judgement. We are free to love ourselves! Do a happy dance! 

Or don’t, that’s up to you.

What I’m getting at here is that there are some latent messages within this video that I feel aren’t so liberating. I won’t lie, the overall message that the Dove Real Beauty sketches is getting at is a really good one! I am a firm believer that we (especially women) are far too hard on ourselves, constantly challenging what needs to be “fixed” and preoccupying our time (consciously or sub-consciously) trying to fit into some “norm” or ideal that in essence does not really exist.  I feel the overall message Dove is trying to convey is that women really need to embrace themselves as who they are, not what they think they see (which has been shaped, formed, and distorted by such things as media influence, objectification, patriarchy and misogyny). It’s the whole “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” type deal – that beauty can mean something different for everyone, and we all have it, just in our own special way (how’s that for individualism?). 

What my issue is (and I know that this is the issue that many respondents have had with this video, like I said, I don’t want to try and reinvent the wheel here) is that The Dove Real Beauty Sketches made me more aware of just how deep and ingrained Western Beauty ideals are within our society today.
  • I was first tipped off by the narrow sample size, which included a majority of Caucasian, middle (ish) aged women, no women with disabilities (that we could see), no old women (who are very often made invisible by the media), and no large women.
  • The way in which the strangers described the participants was interesting. What I mean here is that their choice of phrasing the “beauty” of the women they got to know followed a pretty rigid line as to what beauty may be considered to be in an idealistic form. One woman mentioned that a participant’s facial structure was thin, so she could see her cheekbones…she had a “nice thin chin”. The participant had previously described that same chin as protruding when she smiles, which apparently is a flaw whereas a “nice thin” chin is preferable.
  •   Other characteristics that drew my attention was the attention paid to “nice blue eyes”, “blond hair”, “full, expressive eyes”, “thin” features. All of these things were attributed to positivity, which (in our beautifully dichotomous society) draws attention to the opposites as being undesirable traits (I was always a fan of a chubby face myself. Cheeks and dimples are amazingly gorgeous). Those opposites just happened to be what many of the participants used to describe themselves to the forensic sketch artist.
  •  When the participants were shown their sketches, they were definitely surprised (I know I would be). But the way one woman described her sketches really caught my attention. She mentions that the sketch on the left (her description) was closed off, fatter, more sad (she attributed these as bad), whereas the stranger’s description featured an open, friendly, happy rendition of the participant. This in a way reinforces that this “look” or disposition is the desirable one – that looking closed off, fat and sad isn’t ideal.
  • The video closes with the women talking about how they now think that they are more beautiful than they had originally thought. One participant mentions that the way you think of yourself in space impacts everything in your life, the choices you make, choices in friends, jobs you apply for, how you treat your children … “It’s critical to your happiness”. This could be taken in a couple of different ways: A) We need to accept ourselves for who we are, love ourselves, and this will allow us to be more free flowing through life, as we won’t be so bogged down with the preoccupation of “fitting in” a certain way. B) The acceptance of yourself as who you are is also being impacted and influenced through ideals of what happiness means. In a sense this could drive people to be unhappy because they are constantly in the pursuit of happiness – perhaps they feel that they cannot accept their “inner beauty” because it is not one described within the commercial. One of those vicious cycle conundrums.
Remember, watch everything you see on television with a critical eye. The message being presented at the forefront is not always what you think. Latent (or hidden) functions of advertising are always present, and it’s important that we don’t get sucked in and fucked over by them. I’m not saying that Dove is inherently evil and is promoting Western beauty cult idealisms throughout their campaign meant to promote “real” beauty (whatever that is). I’m saying that it’s important to look deep within something before you hop on the band wagon. Overall, great message, underneath, I’ve got some issues. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction. Body acceptance is super cool and something we should all be practicing (myself included). Just be wary, young Padawan, the beauty cult lurks even within the most positive of messages. 

Very quickly before I go, I would just like to give you a (positive) recovery update

In December I saw a nutritionist in order to figure out a way to increase my calories and food intake without too much fear. Now that I have successfully been intaking a “normal” diet for more than 2 months (ish) I want to return to her to figure out some ways in which I can gain weight a little more steadily. I work out regularly, and I’m gaining very slowly, but now that the weather is nice I’m going out for little walks and strolls and such on top of my regular workouts (plus training for a 5 km run – one of my health in recovery goals). I don’t want that extra activity to impact my progress, so I need to figure some stuff out with her I think. What I love about the nice weather is that I will be able to do my cardio exercise outside and then just attend my gym for strength training. This is great because I fully plan on getting back into hiking (my brother’s wonderful girlfriend is going to be my hiking buddy), swimming, all that jazz.

Anyway, I was given goals in December that I was to work on at my own pace. These goals included:

  1.      Aim for healthy fats in my diet – milks, yogurts, fish oil, flax meal, olive oil, nut butters, nuts and seeds
  2.     Be mindful of my beverage intake – make your drinks count! Don’t let coffee take precedence over more nutrient dense beverages like smoothies, juice, milk, etc. 
  3.       Investigate a fish oil based Omega-3 supplement
I just wanted to let you all know that I have achieved and maintained all three of those goals! I’m a stickler for making sure I’m reaching my fat goals, I drink things like Vega, Boost, smoothies, and other caloric beverages, and I take a regular supplement that works for me. I’m really proud that I’ve achieved these goals (however small they may seem – at the time they seemed impossible. I was having issues even putting milk in my coffee) and I think I’m ready for a new set of goals.

I’m scared as fuck, but I’m told that fear is expected.

Bring it on.


Remember how I had mentioned that I was in the process of training to do a 5km road race? WELL FOLKS, I have been working up to regaining my strength through months of baby steps on the treadmill and adding little jogging sections to my walks outdoors, just to get used to jogging on pavement again. Today I jogged a full FIVE KILOMETERS!!! Words cannot describe how proud I am. I actually felt like a million bucks afterward. Not only was this because of the accomplishment that I had achieved, but because I know that I have been taking care of myself to the best of my ability while preparing for this. I'm going to take it easy though, as I know I am going to need to make some adjustments nutritionally in order to support my active lifestyle within recovery so that I can continue to exercise and be active (which makes me feel normal, happy, like my old self) without losing weight or halting my recovery. Looking at my body as needing fuel and nourishment in order to accomplish this road race is really helping me get through this. My dad also told me today that he is trying to get back into walking/jogging so that he can do the event with me!  So fucking pumped!

Me after my jog, cool down and stretches. Directly before I ate the biggest bowl of organic chocolate banana oatmeal known to mankind. Yes, it was fucking delicious.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, particularly when it comes to watching things in media with a critical perspective. Way to many times, there are totally invisible groups (like the elderly you pointed out here.)

    Also, I miss you! You be in Sackville soon please, graduation!