A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Women’s Health: You Gotta Have Girlfriends; A Post-50 Posse Is Good For Your Health

Women’s Health: You Gotta Have Girlfriends; A Post-50 Posse Is Good For Your Health

Women’s News: The Problem With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign

Women’s News: The Problem With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign

Women’s News: The Problem With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign

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Kate Fridkis

Blogger, Eat The Damn Cake

Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for the message “seriously, though, you’re beautiful.” And I agree with the viral Dove Real Beauty Sketches clip, so many of us get distracted by all of our perceived flaws. We get caught up in criticizing our appearances and miss out on our own beauty. We are often more generous toward strangers than we are toward ourselves.

I like that the Dove campaign is pointing all of this out. I hope it starts a bunch of conversations. And I hope that my reaction is interpreted as a continuation of the conversation, rather than nitpicking criticism. Because I really don’t want to nitpick, I just want to point out some things I noticed as I was watching.

In the clip, some lovely, thin, mostly white women who are all pretty young describe their appearances to a forensic artist, who sketches them without looking at them. And then other people describe these women, and the artist starts all over again, based on the new description. At the end, the women are shown the two portraits of themselves, and they can see how differently the sketched faces turned out, based on the descriptions. They realize that they’ve been unnecessarily critical of their appearances.

Something felt a little off. And I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I was getting slightly teary over the women getting slightly teary on camera as they realized that they had been too harsh, describing themselves.

Interestingly, even the sketches based on the self-descriptions weren’t actually particularly unattractive, and I was faintly annoyed with the idea that one sketch was supposed to represent unattractiveness and the other beauty, when the distinctions between the two seemed to lie in characteristics like a mole, shadows under the eyes, slight roundness in facial shape, or a few wrinkles.

Looking at the two portraits of herself, one woman described the one meant to be prettier as looking “much younger,” which seemed to be true of all of them. The more “beautiful” facial representations seemed to all be thinner and younger-looking. If that is the crux of beauty, then I guess we’re all pretty screwed by that obnoxiously inexorable bastard called time.

And there was the slight issue of the artist being a man. He got to be the one to gently suggest to the women, “Maybe you’re more beautiful than you thought.” He got to present their “true” beauty to them. That felt like it might be open to some discussion in an earnest gender studies class at a liberal arts college somewhere.

But leaving this aside, because, you know, there are always details, and we can always analyze them until everything falls apart in ruins, I think what made me uncomfortable watching the clip was that all of the blame was on the women.

In the tiny world that Dove created for the sake of this campaign, we women all feel somewhat inexplicably bad about the way we look. We’re kind of crazy that way. We focus obsessively on the one mole on our cheek and ignore our stunning eyes and upswept cheekbones. We look in the mirror and get everything wrong. And if we can just be shown the truth, the reality, we can start to hopefully move on with our lives.

It’s true, many (though definitely not all!) of us obsess over small details or feel perhaps disproportionately frustrated with aspects of our appearances other people barely notice (if they notice at all). It’s true that this is distracting and impedes our ability to see ourselves for how we look to other people. It’s true that it interferes with our lives. But we don’t do this for no reason. We don’t do this because this is just how women are. We do it because we have learned that doing this is a part of being a woman. We’ve learned that beauty is really relevant and also it’s strict and specific and cannot reside in a face with a pronounced mole, so we agonize over the mole.

And Dove implicitly agrees with us. The mole would be a problem if it were larger and darker. There it is, making the portrait on the left look ugly! But luckily it’s only larger and darker in our minds, and so what other people perceive doesn’t have much to do with a mole at all, and therefore, we are actually prettier than we thought we were.

In Dove’s world, as in the real world of beauty standards, there is definitely a better and a worse way to look, it’s just that, according to Dove, women are often mistaken about which side they’re really on.

We are not mistaken, though, in believing that we should be anxious about the way we look, if we live in a context where beauty is important enough to constantly occupy our minds and specific enough to result in some shadowy eyes equaling a loss of attractiveness. In this context, we’re totally right to worry.

And here’s the thing about beauty in the real world that Dove seems to be forgetting: we are not actually supposed to think we’re beautiful. That would be weird and vain and arrogant. It would be wrong and presumptuous. People are charmed when gorgeous movie stars reassure us that, actually, they feel unattractive and weird, too! They also hate that mole on their face. They also think their boobs are a strange shape. People are not charmed when a movie star seems to think too highly of herself, by being into her appearance, and they are certainly not impressed when a regular, normal-looking woman has the gall to think the same of her ordinary looks.

I don’t think that Dove is ethically obligated to lead an in-depth examination concerning potential causes for the modern woman’s body dysmorphia. I don’t think the Real Beauty Sketches campaign needs to include an hour of commentary from gender studies professors after the clip concludes. The clip serves a purpose. It points out how wrong our negative impressions of ourselves can be. It points out that it’s common for women to feel bad about the way they look, and it makes it clear that that is a sad situation.

But I want to point out, while we’re pointing out things about beauty, that feeling better about the way we look depends not only on the positive opinion of strangers (which is definitely powerful and important, as I recently wrote about here), but on our being able to own our own beauty, in all its complexity. Including aging. Including moles. Including everything that we already are. And, unfortunately, we really can’t get there completely on our own, by changing our thinking and our attitudes. The world has to meet us halfway, by letting us stop putting ourselves down and by celebrating our diversity, rather than beating us over the head with the same tired depictions of taut, slinky, lithe, teenaged beauty.

The world has to meet us halfway, by convincing us that there’s a lot more to us than the way we look, and that those things are, believe it or not, even more important than the way we look.

And if we happen to think we actually look good, we have to be able to say, “I am beautiful,” the way we can say “Oh god, I look terrible!” without it being a big deal.

Why is it still such a big deal? Because, annoyingly, people really, really care about beauty, and there are still a lot of rules about it, and that’s why women are thinking about it at all and feeling like we have to put ourselves down, even when we look like the kind of pretty, thin, white women that Dove would choose for a polite, non-threatening campaign about how, seriously, we should all feel better about ourselves.
Read more on Eat the Damn Cake

Women’s Health: You Gotta Have Girlfriends; A Post-50 Posse Is Good For Your Health

Three Middle Age Women

Suzanne Braun Levine

First editor of ‘Ms.’ magazine, Writer on Women Over Fifty, Author of: “You Gotta Have Girlfriends – A Post-Fifty Posse Is Good For Your Health, ‘HowWe Love Now,’ ’50 Is the New Fifty,’ and ‘Inventing the Rest of Our Lives’

The best thing a man can do for his health is to be married to a woman. One of the best things a woman can do for herhealth is to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends, especially as we get older. The longer we live, the more important our friends become. We call them our “chosen family” and in times of need they are the most likely to be at the door, on the phone, or in the waiting room. In other words, the post-50 version of “an apple a day” is “nurture your friendships.”

You know who your girlfriends are. I call them a “circle of trust,” and as we move past 50 we count on them more than ever. The reasons we trust them and love them just keep multiplying.

• They are fun to be with. So much so, that they are often our first choice to celebrate important milestones with — like a 50th birthday or a new job.
• They root for us and they put up with us.
• They stand up for us and they stand by us.
• They listen sympathetically when we need to vent.
• They know when we are hurt or angry and how to patch things up.
• They make us laugh, and keep us sane.

My girlfriends were in my mind — and in my heart — as I was writing You Gotta Have Girlfriends: A Post-50 Posse Is Good For Your Health. I thought about the ways I love each of them and how each came into my life.

My childhood friend: I have several friends from high school and one in particular who went to grade school with me too. Back then we thought we had twin families, there were so many parallels. We lost touch for 30 or so years, but when we found each other again it was, as I have heard from countless other reconnected friends, “as if we had never been apart.” (One put it this way, “When you don’t see a real friend for a long time, it isn’t that you have dropped a stitch; you just put the knitting down.”) When my mother was dying in the house I grew up in, so was hers. Talk about empathy.

My no-bullshit friend: She is brave and forthright and knows everything about lots of things. Since we met in college, I have counted on her to bring me down from my flights of sentimentality and effusiveness; those excesses aren’t honest and true, and we both know it. In those circumstances I think of myself as “Cleopatra Queen of Denial” and she is my reality check.

My new friend: We have only become close over the past year or two, but we have a lot of history in common. We grew up near each other, got married a few weeks apart in the same year, and even look alike. I think of her as me-like, but the other day when I was criticizing a mutual friend who had screwed up our plans, and said something like, “she isn’t organized, the way you and I are,” she replied, “you maybe; not me…” At that moment I realized that there is a lot more to learn about each other. I also realized that that’s what is lovely about a new friendship.

My unconditional love friend: In her eyes I can do no wrong. She is warm and trusting and embracing and I can tell her my most horrible truths. I still remember when my kids were young, I confessed to her that I was afraid of them — of losing control of them or of upsetting them. Her don’t-do-that-to-yourself look made that a life-changing moment.

My post-50 posse: We are five former colleagues who have been having dinner together once a month for over 20 years. We like to try new places, which is a good thing, since I am not sure we would be welcome back to a restaurant after a visit. We generally sit there for three or four hours, order an assortment of appetizers, laugh uproariously — and pay with five credit cards!

Each brings her own kind of support, encouragement, empathy and humor to the table. We tease each other about the very traits we cherish. There is the Do-Gooder; the Fierce One; the Peacemaker; the Pragmatic Midwesterner and me (“the Terminally Modest One,” according to the Fierce One, whom I consulted). Collectively we are more than the sum of our parts.

The thing about all of these different women is that I feel safe with each of them, and they all make me laugh! (I recently abandoned a promising new friendship because we just didn’t find the same things funny. There was clearly no future there.) We are our best selves together and our most vulnerable selves too.

Girlfriends are also, it turns out, the keepers of each other’s physical well-being. While researching You Gotta Have Girlfriends I found new studies of all kinds that showed how having girlfriends in your life reduces stress, enhances pleasure and even strengthens the immune system.

The book is a celebration and reaffirmation of what women in tribal villages and coffee shops, quilting bees and book clubs and on the frontlines of feminism have known instinctively: We live better, longer, healthier and happier lives when we are linked with other women in a circle of trust.

I hope you will think about your circle of trust and honor them publicly — by sharing your feelings and stories on Facebook and Twitter (using hashtag #GottaHaveGirlfriends) — and privately by contacting each one and telling her why she matters so much to you.

Suzanne Braun Levine was the first editor of Ms. Magazine and the first woman editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the author of numerous books, including Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzanne-braun-levine/health-benefits-of-friends_b_3087957.html?utm_hp_ref=womens-health

A Message From The Creator

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