Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk
I know I will be seeing at least one Dove commercial during “Operation Beautiful,” a week dedicated to affirming the beauty and boosting the confidence of the girls. But thinking about these commercials has gotten me reflecting on the difference between a 23-year-old’s idea of beauty and a 16-year-old’s.
Each of the Dove commercials affirms natural beauty, but also reinforces the idea of surface level beauty. A woman in a Dove commercial describes to a sketch artist a portrait of herself that is less attractive than one that a stranger describes…but what if there is another woman out there who actually looks like the sketch the first woman envisioned? Is she not beautiful too? The targets of these commercials (particularly my students) might be learning that there is more to beauty than perfect makeup, but do they convey that beauty involves more than appreciating your best facial features?
The girls at Regis have determined that Kristin and I are “cute” (RE: we are short and accessorize well). While their compliments do make me smile, I occasionally wonder if I’m imparting more to these girls than how to pick tights that match your outfit. And when I look around at mass and see so many girls in incredibly short skirts, I question even the effectiveness of our style lessons. How is it that at 23 Kristin and I understand something that the seniors, who are not that much younger than us, do not yet seem to have grasped?
During orientation, the Vice Principal told us that even though we look young, we will demonstrate our age by how we comport ourselves, and that thought has stuck with me. I feel different as I walk through the halls than I did in high school, and that goes beyond the fact that I’ve learned how to tame my hair.
So during this week of Operation Beautiful, I find myself wanting to turn off the Dove Commercials. I want to tell the girls to wear what makes them feel comfortable and scale back on the makeup—but more than that I want to tell them that seven years from now they’ll believe that confidence and finding passions in life are most attractive. That the good guys will like you more for your obsession with racquetball, your love of French New Wave film, your obnoxiously loud laugh, than the height of your heels. That exclusion is ugly and kindness is more becoming than anything.
But telling them these things is much like telling them John Donne’s “Sun Rising” is the most beautiful poem ever. They’ll have to figure it out own their own. So I will stick to a classic teaching strategy: modeling. I will go on attempting to comport myself like a beautiful (or cute) woman, drawing my confidence from the meaningful work I do and not the clothes I wear. And maybe one day they’ll understand that there is more to it than the earrings.