I think my mom is so beautiful. She thinks she’s gained back weight she had lost. I think my mom is a size or two smaller than she wears, but she thinks her butt isn’t the right shape for slimmer pants. I think my mom looks like the epitome of sunshiny Summer when she wears her sleeveless dresses, but Mom buys cardigans for every one of them because she is embarrassed by her arms (specifically, the “Heybabies” ). I actually get kind of annoyed with my mother sometimes. Her ability to engage with people and let her overflowing kindness speak for itself is what you would know first about her. An amazing woman and so strong, in uncountable ways, why won’t she just accept that she looks good, too?
And because it’s who she is that counts, that’s what makes me so mad when she turns her focus to the exterior. My mother’s mistrust of her own beauty is like there’s a missing piece to a magnificent puzzle. But you know what? I do it, too. In a single day, my mom’s remarks about herself can break my heart and then I turn right around and do it to myself. In front of a mirror, I see the wrinkles between my eyebrows. And if I’m old enough to have wrinkles, shouldn’t I be too old for acne? I see sloped shoulders, someone who doesn’t stand up straight, which accentuates the fat rolls on my tummy. I see no butt. At all. There’s the spider veins (“Oh my gosh, is that a bruise?!?” a panicked friend once asked me) on the freaking whitest of white legs. Let’s not talk about feet.
My mom can’t see her kindness in a mirror. She can’t see her perseverance through illness, the loving commitment of her husband, her character, or her love for her family. She can’t see successful careers or two daughters that want to be more like her. I can’t see my passion for human rights, the pride my work gives me, the great friendships I share with people. We see only our own faces and mirrors are seldom forgiving.
Think about my list of defects. Think about my mom’s. Think about your own, the things you say to yourself in a mirror. Think about what you’ve heard women say about themselves and their appearance. And watch this video.
This video is fascinating. It’s not without it’s flaws (food for thought) – nor does it answer the question of why – but it completely captures the essence of the self-effacing degradation that women employ. As a young woman watching this video, I felt a sort of healing in watching it. I started to ask why I feel that way, and what is my definition of beauty, anyway? It’s time to seriously question it, expand it, deconstruct it. And if women at large can participate in that conversation, will the way in which we are marketed to fundamentally change? Because ultimately, that’s what I’d love to see, is women forcing a cultural paradigm shift. That so many friends have shared this video on Facebook is a testament to a rising consciousness that physical beauty is, in fact, a very personal subject that evokes strong emotions in women. The Dove ad campaign dovetails that idea and demonstrates a departure from typical beauty advertising – beauty is found in women naturally, not in a jar or a tube. That it is individual, unique, and not mass produced.
A final thought: the mirror is not forgiving because we don’t allow ourselves an inch, but the video shows us that others are much kinder. I do believe that the experiment stirs within us the natural, deep seated, wonderful desire for us to love ourselves for the right reasons, the reasons others see within us.