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“Real” Beauty?

August 16, 2012


In the past couple of weeks, this picture has been all over Facebook and Twitter.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I understand what the person who put this together is trying to say, and even how they’re trying to say it.  I applaud Dove in their attempts at changing how media portrays women and how we all think of beauty.  It’s great.  It’s lovely.  It still angers me to no end… for a number of reasons…

First, the women in the bottom photo are, just like the top photo, pretty much all the SAME.  Yes, some have larger legs or thinner arms, but they are all (I’m guessing) size 8-10 (give or take), relatively fit, body-hair free, sans physical disability, etc etc etc.  You get my point…


This is not what upsets me about these photos.  Yes, women come in all shapes and sizes.  We all know that.  Physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Yup, we know that, too.  Some people think that the women in the top photo are more beautiful than the ones in the bottom photo… some feel the opposite way.  Some think that the most beautiful women aren’t represented in either photo.  Ok.  Great.  We get it.  The issue that I have with this image is that we are STILL using the word “beauty” to mean PHYSICAL.  “Real Beauty Campaign”?? Really???  A bunch of women in their underwear is representative of real beauty?  Show me compassion, show me determination,  show me intelligence and spiritual health… that’s what makes someone really beautiful.

I know that sounds hokey.  I know that sounds unrealistic.  Maybe it is.  I understand that Dove is trying to sell creams and shampoos and things that are for the physical self – and they have great products!  I absolutely agree that they should be able to advertise their products, and I certainly do relate to their models far more than the “typical” model… but please… don’t tell me that this is “real beauty.”  We’re too smart for that.  We know that any focus on the physical only serves to detract from what is truly real.

As someone who has struggled with her weight for most of her life, and has had borderline eating disorders for at least half of her life, I know something about what it means to be impacted by images in the media.  I understand what Dove is trying to do – but I know that if I had seen their ads as a teenager, it would have been very hurtful to me.  I didn’t look like their “real beauty” models.  The message that I would have received was “you don’t have to be model thin, but if you’re any bigger than OUR models, you’re not beautiful, either.”  I know that’s not what they’re TRYING to say, but that’s what I would have heard.  I was a real beauty, inside and out, but I looked nothing like those women… and certainly never felt like a beauty.  I think that claiming to define “real” beauty is a dangerous road to walk down.  I wish that we could get the message across that REAL beauty has NOTHING to do with how we look.

Part of me feels like a hypocrite writing this… I like to look nice.  I like to work out.  I like to dress nicely and do my hair, and sometimes even wear makeup (gasp!)  I also feel great (for a moment) when someone compliments how I look (ok, it actually makes me uncomfortable, but it also feels nice).  However, I also read, go to therapy, meditate, and do a great deal of soul-work.  Am I beautiful to you?  I don’t know.  It would feel GREAT to know that I am, but what I’m working on is caring more about being a beautiful person, the “real” type of beautiful… and I have a feeling that the more we all work on being the “real” type of beautiful, the more we will be able to see that beauty in each other.

A nice thought…. here’s hoping.

May you be filled with light and love… and beauty.


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  1. *Applause*

    Well, I *could* look like the women in the Dove ad… if I waxed everything except my head, dieted aggressively, and… no, wait. I would never look like them – not a single one has stretchmarks. Darn. Add “motherhood (biological)” to the list of things that don’t make you beautiful.

    You are absolutely right. Some of the most beautiful people I know look nothing like anyone we’d see in the media. And you know what else? A genuine smile makes anyone beautiful. Hokey, but so true.

  2. Oh, did I forget to mention that I think you’re beautiful… and I haven’t even seen you since high school?

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