Last winter, I noticed a Dove ad in a magazine from England that looked very different than all the other ads. The women in it were different and so amazing looking. They were beautiful, but they were not 5 foot 11 and 100 pounds. Some of them were much shorter, and much, much curvier. Some of them were covered in freckles, some of them were older. The ad just featured six or so faces of women… did y’all see it? The ad was sponsored by Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” and each woman had a question underneath her, like
>”What do you think?
>oversized or outstanding?
>wrinkled or wonderful?
>ugly spots or beauty spots?
Since then this new ad campaign by Dove went on to feature six different “larger” women in their underwear for a firming cream ad. And it is really stirring a lot of attention. Don’t know if you’ve seen them or not, but their ads are now in just about every major women’s magazine. They have a website [campaignforrealbeauty.com](http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com “Campaign for Real Beauty”) that is just devoted to changing the way women perceive themselves. The front of the website starts with this simple statement
>For too long,
>beauty has been defined by narrow, stifling stereotypes.
>You’ve told us it’s time to change all that.
>Because we believe that real beauty comes
>in many shapes, sizes and ages.
>It is why we started the Campaign for Real Beauty.
Now I don’t know about anybody else, but I am SO GLAD that somebody is taking a positive step in this direction. I think the major, number one problem with the fashion and beauty industry is that it.is largely prostitutional; it holds out a fraction of a woman’s identity as a way of getting women to buy things, or wanting to look like something they are not. The effect it has on women is pretty much the same as the effect it has on men–men want to have sex with them and women want to become them. Men might struggle with pornography but women have their own version. As you all know we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other, to some ideal. Our version is basically buying the fantasy that is being held out to us–we get jealous of other women, we diet to death, we want to feel sexier, and we start to define ourselves in terms of our sexuality and appeal. But we still become trapped inside the same prison of shame and guilt that happens with pornography.
Now how silly is it that women line up like frenzied animals to buy the same purse that Jessica Simpson wore last week?
It doesn’t seem so far-fetched when you think about how the fashion industry hawks our desire for some kind of idolized beauty in order to sell. Celebrities and models are actual people but in the end all we see is this idealized “thing” we want to become. It basically prostitutes the women behind them.
Obviously these ads go a long way in showing alternative images of beauty. They show beautiful each individual woman is with all her “quirks” because those quirks are quite beautiful. But also, the other refreshing thing about these ads is that the women in them are not sexualized, so even though they’re in their underwear they are not being presented as something sexual. This makes you look at them differently. In other words, they are nice to look at but not because they are being offered as something that nobody can have. In fact, they are not being offered as something “to have” at all, but as people who are unique and unto themselves and as a result you enjoy looking at them without feeling shame or lust or jealousy.
Derek has written about this before, but nudity is quite beautiful. I am taking a figure drawing class right now and we spend hours a week drawing naked people, and I have never once felt embarrassed or ashamed to look at them, or even looked at them sexually. It’s all a matter of seeing. A woman can be fully clothed and still look unattainable and even pornographic. Pornography is a way of seeing that basically the enemy has created, reducing women to desirable sexual objects, and this “way of seeing” saturates even women’s fashion magazines, not just Maxim.
I don’t want to look at a woman in that fantasy way. In the case of the Dove ad, thank God, somebody said, we have to do something about this. The people at Dove researched and found out that only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. They were quite smart as they went about this, and there are multiple parts to what they have started, including funding a research project on beauty by Harvard women scholars, to a new program for Girl Scouts to discover their beauty, to an international website that is trying to dialogue with women of all ages.
Where we are at right now is that women have such narrow definitions of beauty that these ads are obviously setting off all kinds of buttons. I read yesterday that a newscaster in Chicago described the women in the ads as “chunky” and got like 1000 hate-emails. The funny thing to me is
What’s wrong with “chunky”?
It’s almost like we need to redefine the language of beauty itself?
What if God thinks chunky is beautiful?
Well, I know, I know easier said than done.
But somebody has to start somewhere. I like fashion magazines because I love fashion but I am dying for the day that there is one that comes out where the women look uniquely themselves and aren’t wearing lust all over them. However, these ads are a step in a good direction and I really hope that we hear more. Regardless of what they are selling, it is still refreshing to look at a woman who is standing in her bra and she is as old as my mother and you do not feel that she is 1. trying to be younger, 2. trying to be sexy, 3. trying to sell you something. When women are being themselves, they are actually very, very beautiful. I really do believe this and feel it fundamentally. And I think these ads nail that, by focusing on this woman’s flaming red hair and face covered in freckles you are suddenly taken to a windy high mountain where she is holding your hand and laughing and you have peered into the eyes of a queen. That is how each woman should be beheld–not as something to take or to rip the clothes off, but someone who is a queen and who you are PRIVILEGED to see a glimpse of, and was created before the foundation of the world. Any less is disgrace to that woman.