Beauty junkies fuel their obsessions online with a hideously distorted perception of beauty. Only 4% of women see themselves as beautiful, reports Dove. Now that’s an ugly number.
Social media campaigns to end the ugliness of the ideal feminine self include the #DovePositiveChange movement, which is launching today on International Women’s Day. They’re counting on multiple platforms to disrupt and challenge damaging dialogue, and pump up positivity through Photo Shop Action and Ad Makeover, a Facebook app allowing women to replace negative advertisements with words of affirmation.
According to Dr. Nancy Mramor, a media and health psychologist, posts such as Dove will draw on the power of social networking by attracting likes, positive comments and crowdsourcing.
And International Women’s Day can be a catalyst for drawing women together as an unstoppable positive force for change in the messages about the true meaning of beauty – which is self-love and self-acceptance, says Mramor, of drnancyonline.com. The volume of positive online messages is key, says Mramor. “Attitudes take time to change and are highly cultural, but flooding positive beauty messages from people who believe in them will gain momentum and can only grow in strength.” The Women’s Media Society fights sexist ads for women through #notbuyingit – it allows people to post against ads that objectify women’s beauty or sexuality, adds Mramor. The cycle of negative talk needs to be broken, according to Dove spokesperson Sharon MacLeod. “It is time we re-think the things we say as we post on social media and put a positive spin on the messages we communicate.
“Many women and girls have taken to their social networks to voice their opinions about their own appearance and the appearance of others - celebrities or their friends down the street. It has become an ‘open forum’ of discussion, with at times negative and devastating consequences.”
McLeod is hoping their Facebook app #DovePositiveChange will have women fighting back against ads about” dieting, muffin tops, and belly bulges” and lead to a groundswell effect on the larger community. Social media needs to get real, quit touching up photos, quit promoting stick skinny women and expand a woman’s ability to be beautiful, says Mary Jo Rapini.
“To be able to grow up with the freedom of an expanded broader view of beauty would be a wonderful gift to give each girl. When tweens and teens feel beautiful they grow up healthier and more confident.”
Rapini, a teen expert, says that we need more tweeting about beauty with natural looks, and we need media to step in and promote healthy models in magazines, healthy TV actresses, and re-package normal as being beautiful. “Girls should be given more freedom to find their beauty in their interests. It begins with women...we need to take back the power of what being a beautiful woman is, define what beauty is, and not allow a replication of what advertising minds have promoted as beautiful,” adds Rapini, of maryjorapini.com.
According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, we are not passive victims of some destructive message - media content is often reflective of what we believe and value. “Rather than focus on the negative - such as blaming the media and developing punitive apps - Dove could take this opportunity to promote the beauty of strength, education and empowerment in honour of International Women’s Day.
“Strength, competence and opportunity will beat out air-brushed photos or artificial standards of beauty every time,” says Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center. Social media can help by focusing people on the things they can do that make positive, tangible contributions. “Research shows that we feel best about ourselves when helping others.” Real beauty isn’t how people look – it’s who they are and what they do, stresses the media psychology professor.