“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.

 

Are Diets for Kids Such a Bad Idea?

I’ve been bombarded by news that a diet book, Maggie goes on a Diet, is about to hit the bookstores.  As you can see from the cartoon cover, the book is meant for kids, not their parents, to consume (no pun intended).

Of course, my initial reaction is one of repulsion.

To be fair, the book is aimed at teens.  But if the readership stats of Seventeen and Teen Vogue magazines tell a story it’s that tweens read what’s meant for teenagers.

Still, should we be promoting diets to kids or teens?  Is that healthy?

But is the alternative better?  Childhood obesity is the biggest health concern facing children in this country.  And, as the saying goes, a fat kid inevitably turns into a fat adult.  If we’re not going to teach our children how to manage their weight and eat healthfully (and, let’s face it, the stats show many of us aren’t doing it, or, at least, not doing it well), shouldn’t we be happy there’s a book out there to guide them along?   As a mom of 3 kids with divergent tastes and different eating habits, it’s really hard to get something they’ll all eat, let alone make sure it’s the healthiest too.  Maybe having other sources to encourage good eating habits could be a plus.

No question putting the word “diet” in the title was a mistake.  I bet if the title used phrases like “eating to be fit” or “eating smarter” the book would have received less flack.  We Americans just don’t like the word “diet.”  Period.

Despite the title I will try to have an open mind about the book.  And even if I think it sucks, I still question whether it’s so bad that kids get some eating advice from other sources beyond school or mom & dad.

Comment or tweet me your thoughts @beautyskew

Marketing and the Fine Line Between Marketing and Exploiting

BeingGirl, Procter & Gamble‘s teen website about puberty and menstruation (primarily associated with Tampax and Always), is coming under some major scrutiny.  Moms in the UK are outraged at the accompanying advertising for “hot underwear” and hair removal products, including some manufactured by P&G.  They say all of the adverts are sending the wrong message to young girls about how their bodies should look (“BeingGirl website accused of ‘exploiting’ teenage girls“).

While I totally understand these moms’ concerns, they have to realize that at the end of the day they are benefiting from a manufacturer’s website, not a non-for-profit one.  P&G isn’t trying to hide that they are the ones providing all the great content (ads aside) to these girls.  There’s a bit of give and take here.  Of course the company should be sensitive to their target audience – which is just good marketing since their goal is to retain customers for the long run who will hopefully end up buying even more of their brands one day.

Yes, manufacturers shouldn’t promote products that obviously elicit negative feelings, especially among children.  But people have to take advantage of what brands and manufacturers offer with their eyes open too.

Comment or tweet me your thoughts @beautyskew