How One Anti-Body Shaming Campaign Actually Reinforced Beauty Standards
I have a mole on my right cheek. As a child, it was the physical feature about which I felt the most insecure. For years, however, my mother insisted that what I considered a flaw was actually a "beauty mark." Thanks to her persistence, I eventually realized that my mole is not something to be ashamed of, but part of who I am. I slowly learned to love this beauty mark and ultimately discarded my life goal of getting it removed as an adult.
I recalled this experience when I learned about a recent social media trend called the #DontJudgeMe challenge. This challenge simply required that individuals post pictures of themselves appearing as ugly as possible — by drawing flaws onto their images or purposely applying grotesque makeup. Participants then contrasted that image with their "true," more beautiful, selves. This "grand reveal" was somehow meant to end body shaming.
And yet many pointed out that by explicitly labeling features like unibrows, moles or acne as “ugly,” the teens and young adults posting these pictures only reiterated that they are features about which people should feel ashamed. If my eleven-year-old self had seen these pictures, I am positive that my mission to remove my mole would have only grown stronger and my mother's words would have been less convincing.
It's impossible to end body shaming by reinforcing any kind of beauty-related dichotomy — no matter how exaggerated it is or if it's meant to be a joke. There is nothing inherently flawed about acne, unibrows or moles. Their "ugliness" is a social construct that has been reinforced by the mainstream media (and, now, through social media).
A campaign that truly seeksto end body shaming, therefore, shouldn't focus on appearance at all. It should reinforce the idea that beauty is about feeling comfortable in one's skin, and based on one's own standards — not the opinions of strangers on social media platforms.
Hopefully a campaign that enforces that idea will be the next to go viral.
More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Media, Science and tech
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