Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Dove ad discussion

Dove has sparked some controversy by running an ad campaign with larger women in underwear and calling them "real women" of something like that. Amanda has a post up about how media standards of beauty are harmful to men as well as women.

Luckily, my own standards for beauty were challenged several times early in life and basically ruined the painted-on heroin-addict look for me. I can think of three experiences that made the break:

First, working in a corn-canning factory 12 hours a day for four weeks straight. Back in the 70s, you could make enough money with the overtime to pay for a year of college. In that world, strength and stamina equalled desirability. We worked on quotas and good working partners could help each other increase our own quotas. The best partners to have: large, sturdy farm women in their 50s or young, plump women like myself.

Second, living and working in rural Mexico in 1974. Again, strength was valued, but also cleanliness and hair everywhere. I haven't touched a razor since. I learned to appreciate sturdy hand-made clothes and beautiful embroidery. No skinny white chicks there.

Third, attending a women-only music festival in the summer. Clothes were optional. The huge variety of women's bodies, once the clothes are off, is such an amazing thing to see and completely destroys the cookie-cutter images we are served up all the time.

Today, I work at the headquarters of a major corporation. I see hundreds of women a day. Yet, on any given day I can count on one hand the number of women my age who, like myself, are not wearing makeup. I think of us as a small secret society who know there is a much bigger world out there.

I think the commenters over at Amanda's don't understand how easy it is to break away from the images. Or maybe I was lucky that it happened to me when I was young.


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