When Dove launched its “Campaign for Real Beauty” 10 years ago, the campaign was a reaction to the unattainable beauty standards set forth by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Now, in 2014, impossible standards persist while social media provides a new arena in which women must "fix" themselves in order to be seen in the best light.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram can provide an enriching social experience for young users, if not an unavoidable one. But with the rise of airbrushing apps and Instagram filters, resisting the temptation to enhance or alter publically broadcasted self-portraits may mean falling behind in the age-old beauty game.
A decade into their iconic "Campaign for Real Beauty," Dove has created a short film, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Cynthia Wade, titled "Selfie," which shows mothers and their teen daughters in conversation about the harmful effects of selfies, and how the trend of meticulously edited self-portraiture is giving young women a warped sense of beauty, with which they inevitably compare themselves.
While recognizing a space to redefine beauty in a digital age, the film reminds mothers how the way they discuss their own appearance affects their daughters. While technology has provided many new lenses through which young people can choose to see and present themselves, mothers and grandmothers can also have a distorted self image based on the ideals presented to them. While the film doesn't make an explicit connection between social media behavior and the inheritance of self esteem from mothers, it demonstrates that external pressures are not limited to an Internet generation, and all women need to take back their beauty. By using selfies as means to redefine beauty, the tools are already "right at our fingertips."
In the film, teenage girls in Massachusetts are encouraged to take self-portraits that capture their self-perceived flaws. The photos were displayed in a gallery, where other participants left written compliments on their peers' selfies.
“I was surprised to hear about the other girls insecurities,” one participant said, “They were things that made them different. What made them different made them unique, and what made them unique made them beautiful.”
While societally mandated beauty standards will always exist, with "Selfie" Dove looks forward to a time when "the creativity of social media allows [young women] to decide for themselves what beauty is," as one mother said in the film.
While redefining beauty by expanding its parameters is a positive goal, we should also challenge the social value of being "beautiful" in the first place. Implicit in Dove's "redefinition" of beauty should be a recognition of its shortcomings, and all the other remarkable things women and men have to offer the world, other the symmetry of their face or the space they take up.