I saw this poster and was worried my initial response was just too "PC." But here it is: Why should girls care so much about being beautiful?
The poster is part of the NYC Girls Project. The website states the campaign's goal:
This fall, New York City becomes the first major city in the nation to tackle the issue of girl's’ self-esteem and body image. Recognizing that girls as young as 6 and 7 are struggling with body image and self-esteem, New York City is launching a self-esteem initiative to help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes – not appearance.
It's a noble goal, but does telling a young girl that certain attributes make her beautiful really help? Why is being beautiful so important?
I asked my wife about the campaign and she explained that girls struggle with beauty issues, and this poster is for them, not me. They want to be beautiful and this message tells them they are -- just as they are.
Still, I couldn't stop the question rattling around in my brain: would anybody ask a boy to be "beautiful?"
I have a similar response to this line of campaigning as I do to the message that a person can't help being gay. The idea is that being gay is a natural state and therefore homesexuals should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals. It is an intelligent line of reasoning.
However, what if somebody chose to be gay? Is there no value or right to choose homsexuality? The tacit message is that being gay is wrong and nobody should choose same sex relationships. The only valid gay person is one who has no choice. Therefore, being gay is wrong, but some people simply can't help it. Is that really a progressive message?
I felt the same about this approach to beauty campaining, but I was prepared to let it go. That is until an Upworthy post popped up on my Facebook feed that said in complety Upworthy-terms:
The text that Upworthy's Luara Willard wrote with this read:
There is the reason that even when I was in really great shape, wore a size 4, and was healthy, it was never good enough for me. All of my logic and intelligence have trouble combatting what I've seen as "perfect" day after day for my entire life.
Well, I want to see more of this. I want to show my daughter, over and over, why the images of so many women she sees aren't realistic. And what I really want is for us to stop turning beautiful women into drawings and passing them off as real.
This is the moment it crossed the line for me. In the poster from the NYC campaign the girl is "a leader, friendly, caring, curious, funny, brave, outoing, smart and hardworking." That alone is not enough. The value in all those traits is that they make her "Beautiful." Thus, the actual message is that beauty is the ultimate value for a girl. The liberalized statement is simply that sure, there are a lot of ways to achieve beauty, but you better be beautiful!
Nobody is telling boys to be beautiful. Boys can be brave, funny, curious, caring, outgoing, smart and hardworking and those alone make them great. They don't need those qualities to make them beautiful, because boys aren't told that being beautiful is the ultimate prize.
Here is my message to the young girls of the world:
Being beautiful is meaningless. Beauty is fleeting. Find confidnece in your character. Be funny, curious, compassionate, a strong leader and most of all...yourself. Who gives a fuck if any of that is "Beautiful."
There should be no more pressure on girls to be beautiful than boys. That is real equality. Some might even say that is beautiful.