We all have them, well all use them, and far too many of us hate them. I’m talking, of course, about our bodies—one of the 21st century’s primary sources of stress for men and women around the globe. Body type and physical appearance are not only a source of internal anxiety, but often the principal weapon used against us by bullies. A bully, whether a child, adolescent, or adult, knows exactly how to isolate our greatest physical insecurities and use them to make us feel far less than beautiful. Young girls and women are particularly susceptible to this type of bullying, which is why events like the California Women’s Conference strive to inspire confidence and strength in women of all shapes and sizes.
The two-day Women’s Conference, which features over 250 vendors and an impressive 150 speakers, arrived in Long Beach this Sunday. The event includes participants from the BYOU program – Be Your Own You, because every girl deserves a healthy self-esteem – as well as from the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem. Dove has been promoting the importance of a healthy body image since the launch of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004. According to Dove’s website, “The campaign started a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after [The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report] study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable.”
It’s a sad truth that many media outlets support a definition of beauty that is both extremely narrow and based on unreasonable criteria. Not only are our most popular role models stick-thin and perfectly sculpted, their images are more often than not Photoshopped to reflect physiques more akin to Barbie products than actual human beings. Luckily, there are a few media platforms that have willingly featured stars both makeup and Photoshop free. The March/April 2011 cover of the Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine featured an un-Photoshopped image of actress Cate Blanchett, and People Magazine’s 2008 “100 Most Beautiful People” issue included a completely untouched photo of Taylor Swift, who was also sans makeup. Images like these function to prove that neither the perfect face nor the perfect body actually exists, and empower women of all shapes and sizes to accept themselves as beautiful despite society’s unreasonable expectations.
It is these very expectations that encourage bullies to trash others according to body type or physical appearance, and it is up to all of us to discourage such harmful and unnecessary behavior. Widening the definition of beauty will leave bullies bereft of this particular weapon and empower women (and men!) around the world to look in the mirror and love what they see. Don’t judge yourself according to the “popular” standard—love your body, and love yourself!