By Guest Blogger Kylie VanBuren
I forwarded the video to a friend after I watched it, with this note, “It’s nothing complicated, pretty much what you would expect, but maybe it’s expected because it is this simple. Anyways I found it powerful.”
The video touched me, yet even in this emotional state, I found the ending to be very obvious. I expected the women to say bad things about themselves, and I expected them to have their opinions changed and to realize that they were actually beautiful after all.
The next day the conversation came up with another friend who had just seen the video, and I mentioned that I guessed the theme of the video. She pointed out that it was a little weird that I could figure it out so easily, and her comment got me thinking.
I began to question why the theme was so clear to me. And why did it affect me so much to see other women tear themselves down so easily, realize they were beautiful all along, and that they had work to do on their self-esteem. This is the question I come back to again. What is Dove doing and why does the company continually want us to realize our outer beauty? Who defines beauty? I mean, instead of just being happy with ourselves (something I still think is really important). Shouldn’t we also be questioning the whole beauty industrial complex, of which Dove is a part, and how they make us feel bad if we don’t feel good about how we look?
I think so. I found myself thinking about the Dove campaign more thoroughly, reading critiques of it, and watching this spoof video, and I realized that Dove is still pushing the idea of physical, outer beauty above all else. They are selling Dove; associating being happy with your body and finding your own, “natural” beauty, with the products they are selling.
This is bad enough, but do you know that Dove’s parent company is Unilever? What other beauty product company does Unilever own? AXE. AXE is marketed in clearly sexist ways that degrade and objectify women. AXE sells women to men. Dove sells beauty to women.
What kind of beauty? Physical beauty. The kind of outer beauty that women must be obsessed with and reduced to. It does not matter how many advances we make in the corporate world, or how smart we are, or how powerful we are. We must still achieve the unattainable happiness of our own perfection; and Dove will help get us there because Dove is different. Except that it’s not, it’s just another marketing campaign. It’s just trying to tear us down.
Guest Blog By Grace Dickinson
The absolute most important thing to know about feminism is that I can define it for myself. For so long I struggled with adopting the label feminist—The F-word. While at the end of the day I knew I believed in most of the ideals feminism supports, the notion of being a feminist always sparked worry that I would be seen as a bitchy, power hungry, angry woman—something I knew I wasn’t. I know a lot of people share this image, and, while there are definitely those types of people out there, it is important, no, vital to know that they do not define feminism. What I have come to realize is that feminism, activism, all of those words that seem to encompass feminist work and ideals, can actually be embodied in small, individual, personal actions and decisions.
What I mean to say is that feminism is not a burn your bra belief that women should rule the world. Feminism can be as easy as sticking up for another girl being sexually or racially harassed, even if you aren’t friends with her. Feminism can be as simple as deciding not to use derogatory words about other girls such as fat, dyke (used as an insult), or slut. I used to fear the feminist label because I thought boys and other girls would call me a bitch, but since when did it become bitchy to want equality? To paraphrase of the incomparable feminist Audre Lorde, if we don’t speak up now, for ourselves, no one will speak for us. If we don’t act now, will we later regret our silence?
This doesn’t mean every girl everywhere needs to start calling herself a feminist, but it is important to know that in it’s truth, the movement calls for equality. And while we don’t all need to take on big causes or march in protest to be heard, we cannot be silent. The facts tell us that girls are too often afraid to speak up in class for fear of being called bossy; that by middle school, girls worry that participating in sports will mean others see them as lesbian, like that’s somehow a bad thing. Challenging these limited conceptions doesn’t have to mean arranging sit-ins and waving flags of protest. I’m learning that it can be as simple as sticking up for other girls’ right to be who they are and want to be without labels.
At the end of the day, no matter what your beliefs and actions, it is essential that we don’t shy away from feminism simply because of it’s misconceptions; because whether I decide to organize a conversation on sexual assault or simply support those girls and women around me, that’s feminism, and I’m damn proud of it.
By Kara Chyung
Did anyone else grow up thumbing through American Girl’s guides to health, friends, and manners, or poring through their quiz books with your friends? I certainly did. Funnily enough, The Care of Keeping You, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friends, A Girl’s Guide to Money, and a few others still have a place on my bookshelf, although they remained untouched until recently.
The other day, as I was rummaging through my room, I came across A Girl’s Guide to Manners. I smiled as I looked through its pages, remembering fondly how well-informed I felt after reading about which foods should and shouldn’t be eaten with your fingers. I then went and found The Care of Keeping You (this seems to be by far the most popular American Girl book), and as I read, I was amazed at how different it felt to read it when I was no longer a scared eleven-year-old, when my friends and I combined had experienced the eating disorders, the hormonal moodiness, and the acne described in its pages.
At first, you may not think that any sort of girl-empowerment would be found in a product of American Girl, whose dolls are often criticized for their exorbitant prices. But as I looked through my other American Girl guides, I realized that many of the basic messages about self-respect, self-esteem, kindness, and empathy were first imparted to me through these books. It’s nice to know that there is a company out there that seeks to nourish young girls physical, mental, and emotional health and help guide them through difficult situations.
I wish that there was an equivalent series for boys. Perhaps one exists, but if so, it isn’t nearly as prominent. Should boys and girls be educated differently about how to approach difficult topics? How different would A Boy’s Guide to Manners be from the female equivalent? Does the fact that these types of guidance books are more available girls than to boys girls indicate anything?
They may seem like silly books full of trite advice, but it’s important to be aware of the messages that we are imparting to children. These are the ideas that they will carry with them into their adulthood.
Guest Blog by Molly Nash
Football is one of our favorite national past times. Whether it’s Friday night under the lights, Sunday afternoon at a tailgate, or Monday evening curled up next to the fireplace, football defines autumn for many Americans. And you can’t have football without cheerleaders. While little boys grow up dreaming of playing in the NFL, young girls idolize the beautiful smiles, sculpted bodies, and feminine curls that outwardly define the women on the sidelines. Cheering in the NFL is the ultimate pipe dream for millions of girls involved in the sport. Whether you find cheerleading a credible aspiration or not (in reality, it is a pretty demanding combination of gymnastics and dance), you’ll be astonished to know that NFL cheerleaders are routinely paid below minimum wage, if compensated at all. While their male counterparts on the football field are racking up millions, cheerleaders are literally sidelined by the $1,000-2,500 they take home at the end of each season.
This has been the case for decades, but Lacy T, an Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader, is finally bringing change to the crisp autumn air with the lawsuit she filed against the team last January, citing a take home pay of less than minimum wage for the hours she worked. The $1,250 salary initially agreed upon in her contract in no way covered the hours she spent on the field, in practice, or at press events. Furthermore, she was required to maintain nearly perfect hair (dyed and styled with 1.5 inch diameter curls at a team mandated salon!), painted toes and nails, bronzed skin, make up, tights, and a body weight of no more than four pounds over 103 lbs, at all times and on her own dime. The team paid for none of this and her salary, which she received at the end of the season, hardly covered the beauty regime, much less the hours she worked.
Interestingly enough, this is pretty much the status quo for NFL cheerleaders. Teams throughout the league have maintained these practices by framing cheerleading as a sisterhood going back generations; women on the team, it seems, should be privileged just to be included. Cheerleaders are repeatedly reminded that they are dispensable and that thousands of girls will line up to take their place. In a strikingly cult-like manner, cheerleaders remain silent and loyal to the team. Needless to say, Lacy’s lawsuit rattled the Raiders and the entire industry. ESPN wrote a lengthy article about it, entitled ‘Just Cheer, Baby,’ and news media such as The Guardian and The LA Times have followed the case.
Still, the Raiders are doing everything in their power to combat the lawsuit and have shown no signs of remorse. This begs the question: How does such wage inequality still exists in our so-called ‘post feminist’ society. Oh, that’s right. We’re not there yet. Because if we were, it would not be acceptable for a whole industry of women to be paid below minimum wage. Especially when they bring in millions of dollars for the teams they cheer for.
What do we tell young girls who dream of cheering professionally? Did someone say to little Lacy, “Keep at it, and after years of practices, private coaches, competitions, and workouts, you’ll grow up to earn less than a hundredth of what the professional football players make?” Probably not. And while this crazy disparity in salary doesn’t exist in most careers, the young Lacys of the world need to know that women still only make 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. If they knew this, maybe more Lacys would file suit and maybe more of her ‘sisters’ would stand with her.