I consider myself to be a feminist. That is, I believe men and women should have equal rights, opportunities and encouragement to succeed.
I also acknowledge and appreciate the struggles women all across the globe have endured to be recognized as equals to men. I see the continuous fight against body shaming and low self-esteem. And, I’m proud and joyful so many women work to diminish these negative influences.
I have to say though, ladies, I think we are continuing to miss the mark on several important concepts.
Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a new viral social media “challenge” has begun, this time directed exclusively at women – the #20beautifulwomen challenge. The objective of this so called challenge is to post a “beautiful” picture of oneself, and then nominate 20 other women to do the same thing.
So far, I’ve seen thousands of gorgeous pictures. However, just like the Ice Bucket challenge, this new social media craze has some structural flaws.
To begin, I want to relate this challenge to a popular video released by Dove two years ago titled “Real Beauty Sketches.” In this viral video, Dove selected several women to participate in a sort of secret campaign about beauty. The moral of this campaign was to help women realize they are much more beautiful than they believe they are. I, like most other women, was emotionally struck by this encouraging message when I first viewed this video.
I then began reading articles in response to this video that questioned the true theme behind the advertisement that was literally hidden in plain sight – that beauty is essential to a woman’s happiness.
All of those women in the video were initially sad and insecure about their supposed unattractiveness, and then achieved a great sense of relief and joy when they discovered their true beauty. Why? Because they couldn’t be truly happy with themselves if they weren’t physically beautiful.
This message is also the central theme of this new #20beautifulwomen challenge. Its purpose is to make women feel beautiful, attractive and desirable. What it’s really teaching us is that beauty is everything.
Most of the pictures I have seen have been selfies in which the girl is dressed to the nines with hair and makeup reminiscent of America’s Next Top Model. With bright eyes and a big toothy smile, the girl usually includes some kind of caption/song lyric about being beautiful. She then thanks the 500 women who nominated her for the challenge and nominates her own gorgeous friends to also post flawless selfies on Instagram for the world to see.
My questions are: What about the women who won’t be nominated for the challenge? What about the women who are not considered beautiful by societal standards?
You really can’t be telling me that this so called “challenge” is beneficial to all women, because I know a number of women who will do nothing but suffer from it.
I don’t know who started this challenge or what his or her intentions were. It’s possible that the creator’s ideas of beauty extended beyond physical attractiveness. If that’s the case, then I’m glad somebody sees beauty as more than superficial.
Regardless, this challenge continues to reinforce a standard that the community of women needs to fight to destroy. We don’t need to be beautiful to be happy. We should be able to create our own standards of beauty to encompass personal qualities such as compassion, courage, joy, resilience, etc. Attractiveness needs to be secondary to our happiness instead of the keystone that holds it all together.
So, to the women of Instagram, take a moment to reflect before you post that beautiful selfie – which standard are you fighting for?