“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.

 

When Beauty Is Right In Front of You

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Sorry folks for being down this past week or so… we had to do some maintenance thanks to all those pesky hackers out there.  But all is good now!

One of the many positive attributes of our digital, mobile and social lives is how we have opened our eyes to the beauty right in front of us thanks to our constant access to technology.  So much for our digital lives are spent capturing, sharing, viewing and engaging in images or photos of everyday things.  We researched this and came up with the term, Fascination with the Familiar, to describe it.  We may marvel at the occasional piece of art.  Yet, if you actually count the minutes of our day spent in the digital world, most of it is not evaluating masterpieces, but, rather the beauty of the everyday.

People may bemoan the advent of the camera phone because of all the seemingly self-indulgent selfie-taking we do.  On the flip side, however, our access to our cameras have made us that much more acutely aware of the beauty — the everyday beauty — around us.  And this everyday beauty reminds us of how special our very own lives and surroundings are.

And here’s another reason to keep our cameras handy: artful manhole covers.  Yep, the Guardian came out with a piece a few days ago of photos of gorgeous, artistic and historic manhole covers from around the world. (See pics below)

I bet these pictures will have us look at manhole covers — hell, our own streets — in a totally new way.

Will we have survived without ever knowing the existence of these pieces of everyday art?  Sure.  But seeing these quiet sources of beauty and imagining the possibilities on our very own streets just makes our world that much brighter.

We may be living behind a camera much more than ever.  And I do value witnessing the beauty around me without the filter of a lens.  But if our reliance on these digital accoutrements allows us to see new sources of beauty every single day, then I think it’s a net gain.

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