“Our mission is to ensure the next generation grows up enjoying a positive relationship with the way they look—helping girls to raise their self-esteem and realize their full potential.” Since its launching on 2004, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached 17 million people in 112 countries, teaching girls ages 7 to 17 about issues such as body confidence and self-esteem.
As a part of the Self-Esteem Project and self-esteem research being conducted, Dove has found that “9 out of 10 girls want to change at least one thing about their physical appearance.”
As seen in this commercial, there is a wide range of things that girls would like to change about themselves, and often times what one girl thinks makes her ugly, another girl thinks will make her more beautiful. We see this in the comparison of skin color, height, hair style, etc. One girl wants lighter skin, another wants darker skin, one girl wants straight hair, another wants curly, one girl wants to be taller, another wants to be shorter. This commercial prompts viewers to realize that beauty is defined in a lot of different ways so instead of asking our children what one thing they would change about themselves, we should instead change the way they view the person they see in the mirror.
At one point in the commercial, a young girl says she would like to have blue eyes, an idea we are all too familiar with from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In the final chapter of the novel we observe Pecola in conversation with her imaginary friend, in desperate search of validation of the beauty of her brand new blue eyes. We have watched Pecola struggle with her yearning for blue eyes the entire length of the story, so when we finally see her wish come true at the conclusion of the novel, it is especially disturbing that she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Now that she has these beautiful blue eyes, she only feels in greater competition with her blue-eyed counterparts, and thus doesn’t feel as gratified as we and she thought she would be.
In the Keywords of Children’s Literature essay on Body, Kelly Hager points out that “children’s literature concerns itself with the ‘material frame’ of the child as much as with that child’s intellectual, spiritual, and moral coming of age.” (19) It is the emphasis on our physical appearances from such a young age that creates such an immense need for campaigns like Dove’s Self-Esteem Project. We are learning earlier and earlier in life to put emphasis our appearances more so than “what’s on the inside”.
The way we view our own physical appearances is having a greater impact on girls now more than ever. According to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, 60 percent of girls are so concerned about the way they look that they opt out of important activities. The project has also found that 60 percent of girls feel most influenced by their friends and peers in comparison to 0 percent who felt influenced by celebrities (34 percent felt influenced by their parents). This is incredibly telling of how influential the people that we surround ourselves with are. We think that the people we see in the media serve as the greatest source of comparison, but in reality, it is the people we see every single day and spend our time with that make us either feel beautiful or not.
Instead of changing one thing about the way we look, we need to start changing the way we see ourselves. Beauty is not skin deep and it does not need to define us or tear us down anymore. Telling someone they are beautiful can mean the world.