“87% of girls aged 11-21 think women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability” And What We Can Do to change that

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I came across this stat in a study conducted by Girl Guiding, a charity for girls and young women in the U.K.  Though the study is a few years old, it was recently quoted in a Guardian article, “From Social Media to the Catwalk: Is Fantasy Beauty Failing Young Women?”

As you can imagine from the article’s title, the Guardian story reflects on the preponderance of images of models and idealized portraits of women in social media, and how this imagery gives false and harmful notions to our girls about their own bodies.  The statistic is indeed alarming, and unfortunately a belief that will be hard to break.  Why?  Not so much because of the actual imagery put out there.  Frankly, I think we, as a society, have begun to show a greater range of what’s considered beautiful.  After all, Kim Kardashian in by no means a size 0.  And digital’s ability to cross borders means we get to see images of people from all different ethnicities and backgrounds that we never have before.  Check out the posts I wrote: Beauty From Around the World and Why It’s Contagious  or What’s the Definition of Beauty Anyway?  (a story celebrating people with “abnormalities”) both of which tap into digital’s revealing of new ways to think about beauty.  Do I think we can go even farther in presenting more realistic images of girls and women?  Sure!  But that’s not going to change our being judged by our looks.

The reason this will be a hard habit to break is that we are a visual species.  Our ability to analyze information is far more sophisticated and quicker via our eyes than via language.  That is why we’ve glommed on to all the photo taking, altering and sharing in the digital space.  And it’s not such a bad thing!  By taking, sharing, and appreciating images, we get to see a deeper story behind people’s lives.  Images give so much more texture than mere words.  Images offer nuance and emotional details that our texting would normally leave out.  Moreover, these images remind us of the tremendous beauty that’s around us or oceans away.  And that reminder elevates our daily lives — showing us how amazing our world truly is.

We make assumptions, draw conclusions and make judgments based on what we see, first.  Should we be content with the high percentage of girls who believe they are judged by what they look like alone?  Of course not.  We have to face the reality that our eyes will draw conclusions.  Let’s not ignore that.  What we can do is urge one another to not STOP at what we see, but rather dig into what’s behind the exterior.  And we must start with ourselves.

I actually think there’s even another way to look at this issue. Let’s not devalue the exterior beauty of what and who is around us. Let’s certainly NOT pretend it doesn’t exist. We SHOULD recognize it. In fact, let’s appreciate all people’s beauty, and recognize that how people uniquely appear is part of the story to be sussed out and listened to. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. We should value all the amazing characteristics of things and people — their unique beauty along with their origins, their stories, their talents and generosity. If we see — and remind our children and friends to see — that all people are a collection of traits, some physical, some emotional, some spiritual and some intellectual, we will value people as a whole that much more.

We have the amazing power to look AT and look INTO our world. Let’s do both and maybe that statistic will be a thing of the past.

 

Weekend Observations: When Frivolous Leads to Profound

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How we LOVE to make fun of reality TV.  We deem it as frivolous at best and downright brain-damaging at worst.  Add the whole Kardashian dynasty to the conversation and we can’t help but cackle at their maladies.  Just this weekend I came across numerous articles outlining, in gory, snarky detail, the exhausting lengths Kim must go through to be camera-ready for the tabloids.

Hang on there a sec.  How dare we be so critical? After all, these shows and stories somehow feed out appetite for something.

But more than that, these shows, and the celebrities they cultivate, may actually be quite helpful to society.  They may be the reason for some amazing new advances in social acceptance of otherwise-shunned people.

The greatest selling issue of Vanity Fair  — which also happens to be on newsstands everywhere —  is a testament to this.  Thanks to this magazine, Caitlin Jenner, formerly knows as hunky, Olympic winner, and Wheaties spokesman, Bruce Jenner, can finally show off her gorgeous, feminine side to the whole world. And I truly believe we can thank the Kardashian clan (and they producers of course) for this.

One can argue that had the Kardashians never risen to fame, Caitlin would have chosen to come out earlier.  But she never would have had the fame and resulting impact on the rest of us.  Her bravery to share her story and morph in front of the whole world makes it that much easier for the rest of us.

I am super happy being a woman and have no desire to change my gender.  But there is no way I want others who do want to, to live fear and sadness.

So thank you Caitlin Jenner and the rest of her crazy, overly-made-up, drama-hungry family for helping to change the world.

Looks Discrimination is Bad For Business

When I read the article, “Dress Code Discrimination: Different Figure, Different Rules?” I couldn’t help but nod my head throughout the entire piece.  The story is about weight discrimination.  The author, Kristen Houghton, writes about her friend who adopts the uniform of the season, i.e., leggings and tunics, but was told that she dressed inappropriately because of her weight.  To be more specific, her manager told her that her outfit accentuated her curves too much.  She was outraged and went up the ladder to get her manager in deep shit.

While I haven’t suffered from that exact form of discrimination, I relate to the story.  In my past life, I could wear a simple shortish skirt and get a “talking to.”  And believe me, I’m no Kim Kardashian or Victoria’s Secret model, but I still got my share of comments from the boss.  Unlike the heroine of this article, I would usually go home after such incidents, cry and then go buy more modest, frumpy clothes.

I’m not trying to get the world to wear hooker outfits to work, but I think we need to be more open-minded to all body types and let people express themselves.

Plus, if we let people express themselves in the ways that are most natural for them, they’ll be happier and more creative as a result.  This translates to more productivity and a better bottom line (no pun intended!)

So, you bosses out there, just let people be who they are and wear what they want.  Everyone will benefit in the end.

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