published 30 March 2007, MST
While it’s officially campaign season for everybody, the campaign I have in mind does not pertain to any specific national or local candidate. Instead of highlighting personalities, this program promotes a new perception. Instead of popularizing politicians, it aims to serve women from practically all age brackets. And instead of installing government officials for a fixed term of three years, it seeks to liberate these women from the mindset that they have to look a certain way in order to be considered beautiful.
I am talking about the ‘‘Campaign for Real Beauty’’ of an international brand of beauty product.
(Okay, the brand is Dove. I was hesitant to put the name in the beginning lest my readers think this piece had been pre-arranged. But I guess that even if it were, there would be nothing wrong with writing about it. It’s a perfectly good cause, and a perfectly timely one.)
In fact, I think the campaign is too worthy that I am now going ahead of the brand’s local distributor that may already be well on its way to introduce the program to consumers.
The Web site www.campaignforrealbeauty.com features, among others, a study commissioned by Unilever in 2004. The research, titled The Real Truth About Beauty, was undertaken by experts from Harvard University and the London School of Economics. Some 3,200 women aged 18 to 64 from 10 countries—US, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina and Japan—were interviewed.
The research became the basis for the campaign.
Findings from this study established that the pre-occupation with beauty and the perennial search for “perfection,” whatever that is, is universal to all females. Women’s relationship with beauty is complex—while it can be powerful and inspiring, it can also be elusive and frustrating.
Among the study’s highlights:
The most striking among the conclusions were that only 2 percent of total respondents chose the word “beautiful” to describe themselves and that 47 per cent rated their body weight as “too high.” This pattern increased with age.
According to the study, women acknowledged that “beauty” and “physical attractiveness” are, ideally, two different concepts. Beauty includes physical attractiveness as well as non-physical traits such as happiness, kindness, confidence, dignity and humor. Authentic beauty is unrealized and unclaimed.
Women believe, however, that the standards of beauty are increasingly becoming narrow and unattainable. Beauty has been functionally defined as physical attractiveness. It is now this measure for which most women aspire.
The study showed that women are least happy or satisfied with their beauty and body weight. This dissatisfaction compared only to their level of financial success. Women generally considered themselves most happy with the state of their health and their relationships—with friends, family, and romantic partners.
Scientifically established correlation between perceptions of self-beauty and self-esteem and happiness. Women more satisfied with their beauty are significantly more likely than those who were less satisfied to think that non-physical factors contribute to make a woman feel beautiful.
Such empirical findings only serve to back what it is that we have known all along: That beauty today has become essentially visual. There are stifling sterotypes of what it means to be beautiful—and these stereotypes are formidable. If you don’t meet the criteria, you may as well try thinking of another adjective to describe yourself.
Respondents to the study, however, came from 10 different countries and their answers may have been influenced by cultural peculiarities. A similar survey conducted with Filipino women would perhaps look interesting, given our colonial mentality and inferiority complex as a people.
Campaign for Real Beauty also includes the creation of a forum for women to participate in a dialogue and debate about the definition and standards of beauty in society, as well as advertising that inspires women and society to think differently about what is defined as beautiful.
Some companies make a killing out of this collective insecurity. If one is not thin enough, or fair enough, solutions are offered by various products and services. See how popular the show Extreme Makeover is. Why Vicky Belo and her contemporaries are multi-millionaires. Why Skin White sells like hotcakes.
There is another feature of the campaign that makes it truly worthy and forward looking: the existence of the so-called Self-Esteem Fund. This is for girls who, at their young age, are already bombarded with notions of what it takes to be called beautiful. The Fund undertakes projects to help girls with low body-related self-esteem. Workshops are conducted in schools to foster girls’ healthy relationship with their bodies and their looks.
I am sure most men would not agree. They would say that, for all this talk, it would still be the conventionally pretty woman who could make their heads turn: thin, fair, well-proportioned features.
But, really, we couldn’t care less if you agree or not. This isn’t about you, really. This is about us women. This is about feeling good enough about ourselves, living up to our potentials, soaring and co-existing happily with you in this world without worrying that we are unjustly sized up or sized down.
The best thing about the program, I think, is that it is a beauty product pushing for it. This makes sure that the campaign does not send the wrong signal and drive consumers to the other extreme—being passive, even defeatist, about their physical attributes that they no longer take steps to improve themselves and enhance what nature has given them.
I’m just really wondering whether there are any efforts to re-activate or to push this campaign more aggressively.
See, aside from that giant billboard in Guadalupe much too long ago and some free notebooks and notepads in promotional packs in the supermarket, not too many people have been made aware of this truly worthy drive.
It would be a waste if the message is not heard properly. I am sure that a partnership with women’s groups, girls’ schools or similar linkages would convey this message to the millions of women who need to be reminded that beauty is something to be claimed by all.
0 comments share