I think the above list startlingly sums up not just what our daughters have to contend with on a daily basis but everything that’s wrong with how women are portrayed in the movies, on TV, in magazines and newspapers and on social media – a Body Image Myth that is impossible to live up to.
Ask any man, who has any level of maturity, if he wants a woman who looks like the above list and he’ll tell you that all he wants is a woman who will actually go out with him and accept him for what he is. He doesn’t care about her eyebrows or the size of her feet or whether her boobs are big or not – all he wants is boobs of any shape or size.
But our young women have this image of perfection, this lie rammed down their throats at every turn. They’re not allowed time to breathe, to find themselves, to work out who they are inside before they’re forced to look at themselves through the eyes of our judgemental social world and find themselves wanting.
Down that road lies eating disorders, depression, self-harm, obesity, failure at school, lack of self-esteem, plastic surgery, poor job prospects and missing out on a life that could be absolutely fabulous if only they could see themselves through the eyes of someone who loves them for who they are not what they look like.
Last year teengirl and I went along to the Dove Self-Esteem Project in London and we both came home slightly changed, different women – armed with the tools to challenge the myths that have manifested in the media and the fashion and beauty industries, armed with the knowledge that it’s all fake. That what is inside us is what’s real and what’s beautiful.
And now Dove has struck up a partnership with the charity Girlguiding UK that they both hope will boost the body confidence of girls aged 7-14 all over the world.
The Perfect Woman list (pictured above) was actually created by a group of Girl Guide Peer Educators aged 14-25 in a bid to smash the Body Image Myth they all held before they descended upon Whitemoor Lakes in Staffordshire for their training weekend.
It was amazing for me to watch them provide the details for this list – they did it so easily.
And it was incredible to watch them come to the realisation – with the help of their own peer educator Laura Ede – that this perfect woman was absolutely and unutterably unattainable and that we are actually harming ourselves striving to be like her.
I watched the moment this recognition hit them, I watched as their faces lightened and brightened and their shoulders lifted a little. I saw hope flood their faces. And I heard the whole room exhale as they felt the freedom of their newfound understanding.
And I feel so privileged to have experienced such a liberating moment in these young girls lives.
These Peer Educators will take what they learned – their liberation from an unattainable myth – and spread that body confidence message across the UK. They will, through fun activities, unmask society’s beauty myths, expose airbrushing and challenge unhealthy body talk. They will give young Girl Guides the tools and encouragement to stand up and take action to stop unhealthy body ideals affecting the next generation of girls.
And the girls who take part in this huge empowering girls program will be working towards Girlguiding UK’s first body confidence badge – Free Being Me.
Laura Ede, 24, Chair of Girlguiding’s Peer Education National Co-ordination and Support Team said: “Free Being Me shows young people just how ridiculous this ‘Image Myth’ really is. Young people today are under constant pressure to conform to impossible and unattainable standards of beauty in a society obsessed with image and appearance.”
The brand new badge comes in direct response to separate research by both Girlguilding UK and Dove that shows our young girls are drowning under the pressure of trying to reach unreachable and ridiculous beauty ideals:
The alarming research shows:
- 87% of girls aged 11-21 think they are judged more on looks than ability
- 1 in 5 girls of primary school age say they’ve been on a diet
- 1 in 4 girls aged between 11-21 would consider cosmetic surgery
- 38% of girls aged 11-21 say they have sometimes skipped meals to lose weight
- 47% of girls are unhappy with their looks
- Because they don’t like how they look:
- 34% of girls miss out on swimming
- 23% miss out on joining team sports or activities
- 23% of girls won’t put their hands up in the classroom
These statistics are shocking and they’re describing your daughter, my daughter, your future daughter-in-law, your future granddaughter all suffering because of the Body Image Myth that we as adults, all too often, have bought into and perpetuate.
It’s time to stop it, to say no more: stop forcing your ideals down my daughter’s throat and stop making her feel bad for being a woman who doesn’t fit your unattainable idea of perfection.
I take my hat off to each and every Girlguiding Peer Educator in that room because they are going to help change our daughter’s worlds and give them the tools to challenge the norms, give them the body confidence to like themselves with all their flaws and the ability and give them the confidence to say “No More” to the body image myth perpetuated by our society.
This YouTube video, Evolution, was made by Dove and shows the unbelievable amount of photoshopping this gorgeous model’s picture is subjected to before it can be put in a magazine.