“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men's eyes when deciding what provokes it.” ― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women
The beauty myth, how what others perceive as what beauty is can, will be and has been used against women. Advertising agencies and Hollywood are portraying to young girls and women that youth, beauty and love go together to make a complete and happy existence in life. From reality television shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras, to youth clothing stores such as Justice, and Dove beauty ads geared toward women of all ages the portrayal of having to be pretty is everywhere you look.
Toddlers and Tiaras is a reality television show of the behind the scenes events of child beauty pageants. The children on the show are spray tanned, wear makeup, and wear fake hair. And the thing that baffles me most about all of this is that the children are all under the age of 7. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t remember what happened to Jon Benet who was a child beauty queen but yet there are still hundreds of parents that a dress up their children like little dolls and put them on national television for the world to see. These little kids are being told to be more beautiful or for the boys to be more handsome, and to excel at their looks at such a young age when the focus should be on teaching them fundamentals of life and to love themselves as they are.
The picture above is from the show’s website on TLC online. All of the little girls are so beautiful before and look absolutely ridiculous after they are all done up.
This type of show has made me shy away from watching anything of TLC because I don’t want to support a company that will exploit children in that way. TLC also has a spinoff of one of the contestants that is too old for the Toddlers and Tiaras show and she has her own show now called Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. It is yet another show that I will not watch because it makes me angry not only towards the station but also towards the parents of all of these children.
On a more personal note, I recently went shopping for my goddaughter who turned 6 years old. I went shopping for clothes for her and she is the first little girl that I have shopped for in the last ten years so it amazed me how hard it was to find clothes for her that seemed age appropriate. A lot of the stores I went to, Justice included, had very few clothes that didn’t resemble those of clothing you would find in the juniors or adult sections also.
My goddaughter is a little girl who is a tomboy and she doesn’t like a lot of the clothes that are covered in glitter and words, but she is also getting older and doesn’t always want to wear the t-shirts with cartoon characters on them either. It makes me wonder what little girls clothes will look like when I have children. I would want them to look like little kids, not little kids playing dress up.
Advertising agencies aren’t much better than stores, marketing, and television. My recent experiences watching television commercials and ads on you tube led me to the Dove website. There is a link on the website with their social mission, it is:
Anxiety about beauty begins at an early age, and can even keep girls from doing what they love. You can change that with a conversation. Reach out to the girl in your life and talk to her about beauty, confidence and self-esteem. There is a lot about this statement that I like, and I would like it all if I had not previously seen Dove ads on you tube and television on the “evolution of beauty”. In a sixty second ad they change a plain, pretty girl into an exquisitely beautiful one with her hair done and makeup on.
The mission statement on the Dove website is great; everything they say in it is spot on for young girls and even young men. But they should state that beauty comes in all forms. So many young people are trying to alter their appearances with makeup and jewelry and various hairstyles and hair colors; they need to also be told that natural is beautiful too.
These days you can’t turn on the television or even the radio without hearing and seeing ads for laser hair removal or lasik eye surgery to eliminate glasses, all things that have been made to be seen as unbecoming in the looks department. In the past there was a television reality show called “The Swan” which was a makeover show where they take a woman or man that is seen as “ugly” in society and change their appearance so drastically that they are almost unrecognizable to their friends and family. Other reality television shows that I can think of off the top of my head are “What Not to Wear”, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition”.
So many shows that basically start with telling people how ugly they are personally or even just the clothes they choose to wear make them ugly. It all reminds me of a quote that I heard a lot growing up and that is “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. Just because what I think is pretty someone else may not, does not make it ugly and vice versa.
Dove. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov 20th, 2012, from Social Mission: http://www.dove.us/social-mission/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=contribute_self_esteem&utm_campaign=unbranded_self-esteem dove evolution- You Tube. (2006, Oct 6th). Retrieved 2012, from You Tube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U Etcoff, N. (1999). Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. In N. Etcoff, Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. New York: Anchor Books. Good Reads. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov 20th, 2012, from The Beauty Myth Quotes: http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/836516-the-beauty-myth-how-images-of-beauty-are-used-against-women TLC. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov 20th, 2012, from Toddlers and Tiaras: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/toddlers-tiaras/before-after-pageant-pictures-part-27.htm Watts, N. (1991). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Women are Used Against Them. In N. Watts, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Women are Used Against Them. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.