Who Defines Real Beauty?

Posted April 22, 2013 by Katherine Toll in Building Your Brand

It’s official. I’ve turned into a conspiracy theory-ed, middle-aged female who believes the entire mediated world is plotting to reverse women’s meager progress in this God Forsaken patriarchal society.

Case in point — I should have jumped up and down when I saw the Dove ad campaign, “Real Beauty Sketches.”

It begins with individual women self-consciously describing themselves to an FBI forensic sketch artist who renders a drawing of each of them. The catch? The sketch artist never sees any of them…..he just draws them based on their own self-description.

I don’t need to tell you how pained each woman sounded, or disappointed, disillusioned, or discouraged either as they prattled off their list of flaws.  BUT, never fear, my frown turns around after I hear other women (and two men, WTF?) describe that very same woman as ‘pretty, she had a thin nose’ and ‘blue eyes, very nice blue eyes.’

I know, I know….What’s wrong with that? you ask. What a terrific idea! Women are so hard on themselves and this sends such a positive message.

That’s what I thought — at first – but their words left me feeling uneasy. Pretty? Thin? Nice, blue eyes? Close your eyes and tell me who else comes to mind resembling that very same description.

Barbie – her last name is Mattel.

These are two of my biggest gripes:

The conventional standard of ‘beauty’ remained unchallenged:  According to the sassy blogger, Jazzy Little Drops,

You have to be beautiful. And “beautiful” means something very specific, and very physical. Essentially every movie and tv show and commercial shows us that, right?

If we are to believe Dove’s spiel, physical beauty determines our lot in life: One of the participants wrapped-up the segment by saying,

It’s troubling. I should be more grateful of my natural beauty.  It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, they way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch…….natural beauty is critical to our happiness?? Is that what I just heard? Who, pray tell, determines what is ‘natural beauty’?  The media? The advertisers? Wikipedia?

I appreciate Dove’s attempt to capture the negative self-chatter that bounces around our heads, but the commercial simply missed its mark. So, instead of gratefully saying, “Thanks, Dove! You’re my hero!” I’m saying this:

I want better, Dove. Women and girls deserve a world that allows them to flourish regardless of what they look like. Reinvent beauty, so our actions define our beauty, not our appearance.





About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.