Sunday, December 20, 2009

So much more than decorative

I've been watching too much Hulu lately. I admit this freely because my couch-potato hours are productive. I knit Christmas presents for those near and dear to me while I watch hulu and while my fingers are flying through my wool, my mind is free to ponder the things advertisers are attempting to tell me. Most of the time I find ads insulting to the intelligence but the latest Dove ad has me fearful of raising a daughter to be anything but a vapid talking head.
Dove's new ad features a little girl being bombarded with other advertising images and words. Hot, beautiful, sexy, these are things the little girl is being told she aught to be and she feels she is not up to their standard. Then we see this little girl taking some class about self esteem sponsored by Dove and then we see her say into a microphone in front of many people, "I promise to think of myself as a beautiful person."
While most people would not object to a cute little girl thinking of herself as beautiful, I do. While she was taking classes to learn how to think of herself as beautiful, what other enriching activity was she missing out on? She could have been finally cracking long division or figuring out how to do a layup or a pirouette or just spending time with her family. Instead she is told at these classes that she doesn't need to look like those people in the magazines, she's beautiful just the way she is.
And she is beautiful. But why is that so important? What is with our cultures obsession with beauty and why does everyone have to feel beautiful in order to be considered mentally healthy? If you don't think you're beautiful then you must be depressed or and the very least have low self esteem. What if you're not beautiful and you don't think you are? What if you know that you're not beautiful and accept that but know that you have value anyway?
That's the real thing we're missing here. Wouldn't it be better to teach that little girl that she has value that has nothing to do with her outward appearance? Beautiful or not, she is human and she is valuable. Einstein was no Adonis, Susan B. Anthony wasn't exactly fetching and my 8th grade English teacher bordered on homely but all of them made great contributions to the world that had nothing to do with their beauty or lack there of.
There is a great scene in "Little Women" by Lousia May Alcott that describes this beautifully. The oldest sister has been permitted to go to a party and there conducts herself rather disgracefully. She allows herself to be dressed and pressed and powdered and primped to a ridiculous degree and to the point where she compromises her own modesty. She comes clean to her mother who tells her that having fun at a party is all very well and good but that she wants her girls to know that they are far more than decorative.
Louisa May Alcott phrases it much more poetically than that but I can't find the book just now so go look it up if you like.
If my daughter knows that she is beautiful, that's fine, but I want her to regard that beauty simply as window dressing for what is underneath. Her beauty is decoration and I want her and know her to be so much more than decorative.

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