Friday, October 16, 2009

Whose self-esteem is it anyway?

Evolution is the name of a very brief video which I can only describe as fascinating. It is produced by Dove Films as part of their Real Beauty campaign. The video is a cool time-lapsed portrayal of how a young woman goes from being a regular person to billboard fabulous – well, my daughter thought she looked better, particularly in the eyebrows (?), before processing – I don’t agree. This brings me to my point: the video’s intent is to show how the beauty industry is culpable in the development of low self-esteem in girls.

First, let me say that I don’t fault Dove for their attempts to use the current false-morality cash cow of blaming corporate greed for the ills of society. I do find it ironic, in a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot kind of way, but I don’t blame them more than any other company who uses it in their advertising. If you go to their campaign website, you’ll find all kinds of tools for developing your real beauty and self-esteem including how to keep that salon blow-out look all day and the possible ways to react when you find out a boy you like wants to “go out with you” (I found that beauty in the quiz for 11-12 year old girls).

While you’re at the Dove video site, be sure to watch the two videos onslaught and under pressure, each with a beautiful little girl who is at first bombarded by sexual images from the beauty/fashion world and is then further insulted by the group dynamic of having to profess that she is beautiful just the way she is in a crowd assembled for the sole purpose of hearing and applauding such floating pap. How on earth does a young girl get the notion that she is otherwise, or worse, that she can and must bolster her self-esteem through such public declarations???

No doubt about it, she is totally beautiful, but what is really going on here? Where are her parents when she’s slumped on the couch watching infomercials that air at three in the morning? What is she doing in the middle of Times Square, or its advertising equivalent, without supervision? And most importantly, who actively sought out the indoctrination of this spectacular little creature as she is handed the microphone and repeats what has only recently been fed to her? Who is to blame for her uncontrolled exposure to, unexplained curiosity of, and subsequent inability to comprehend the glitz and glam that was not intended for her, but for fully formed adults?

Dove, and many, many others, wants us to think that the beauty industry, the advertising world, and, oh hell, society at large is to blame. Nope. If that little girl has problems with her self-image, her parents are to blame. As a parent, I am keenly aware of and interested in the self-esteem of my children; helping them to develop their self-esteem has been one of my biggest challenges.

Instead of concentrating on the Dove campaign, which I have personally enjoyed for its portrayal of beautiful older women, I wanted to discuss self-esteem in general. Their campaign conflates body image with self-esteem, but more importantly, it presents the argument that self-esteem comes from sources outside of a person. This is the wrong I wish to address more fully.

It is also too large a topic to include in one post. My research into the meaning and development of self-esteem began to get so diverse and unwieldy that I decided to first post on my inspirational point of departure. It is my plan to explore this important topic much further.

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