It’s time for the second installment of my article “don’t make your child into a princess”.
This section will focus on the idea that as women, media tells us we have only one source of pride and value as a human being: our physical beauty. Without youth, smooth skin, white teeth, shiny strong hair and a thin figure we are valueless and completely unworthy – or so we are told. We have to do anything it takes to be pretty in order of deserving love and acceptance.
Within fifteen minutes of watching TV or looking at a magazine, 80% of women start feeling bad about their appearance. Their confidence fails and their self-esteem lowers, making them become self-conscious and self-critical. This strategy has been developed by advertising with the sole purpose of selling us women products that we don’t really need, anything from make-up to tooth paste to hair coloring to face creams and weight loss products and programs.
(for some comic relief full of truth, see the Mitchell and Webb’s look on advertising. Mitchell and Webb are English comedians with a knack for social commentary. The clip is called “TV advertising – sexist?” To view this funny clip click Mitchell and Webb’s video.
“Health and wellness” magazine states that “At least $6 billion is annually spent by Canadians on weight loss surgeries, pills, special diets and meal replacements”. Of course, dieting industries rely on these feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem to sell products that would make them $6 billion in profits.
And how exactly do they manage to make people spend their money on these products? By bombarding them with images of “beautiful” women that look nothing like a real person and making people believe that the only way of feeling happy, being loved and achieving satisfaction is to look like that.
They bombard us with images of thin, tortured, mentally ill women and make us repeat to ourselves “this is what beauty looks like”. And it works! Women believe that “thin” is beautiful and would go to any lengths to achieve this stereotype.
And what exactly drives women to torture themselves, cover themselves up with powders or colour their hair? It’s the most primal desire to belong, to be accepted and to be worthy of love. Women would do anything to be pretty, because, like all of humanity, we want to be loved and television tells us this is the price to pay to be valuable and worthy of love.
Now, is this the message we want to repeat to our children? Do we want our daughters to believe that their external physical beauty is the sole most important factor in their value as a human being? Do we want to make them believe that our love is conditional to how “beautiful”, thin, smooth, elegant and “princess” like they are?
The strategy should be to counter media by bombarding women and especially little girls, with the opposite message: to repeat it until they believe that they are already worthy, strong, intelligent and resilient and that they do not have to be beautiful. The message should be one of clear unconditional love and acceptance. The message should focus on validating women’s feelings, their strength and their creativity and to take away the weight of the societal expectations of physical beauty as the only source of female value. The message should change from “you are so pretty” to “you don’t have to be pretty, you’re allowed to be yourself”.
Here is an article with children’s books that feature strong women characters:
And some ads that feature girls in a more real, non-objectifying way.
More thoughts on this subject in my next article.