MY SISTER phoned me on Monday night to tell me about an ad that is currently airing on TV. (Sadly, no, we don't have more exciting things to talk about in our family).
She said the new ad for Dove, of all things, was really moving. Well, in the interest of journalistic investigation of course I sat down in front of the TV and flicked the channels until I found out what she was going on about.
Dove, who make very lovely soaps and shampoos, have launched a 'Self Esteem Fund' for young girls. While Cyndi Lauper (or someone trying to sound like Cyndi Lauper) sang about letting your true colours come shining through, images of young girls flash on the screen. One hates her freckles. One thinks she isn't smart enough and then an impossibly skinny girl lets us know she thinks she is fat.
Then Dove announce they are going all out to show every little girl just how beautiful she really is. It's a lovely sentiment and I admit feeling all warm and glow-y as the ad ended.
The cynics out there will no doubt write this whole escapade off as a cynical marketing ploy by a company who, by dint of their very existence, are more interested in selling products to stop you smelling like a back end of a donkey than changing the world.
But I, for one, have to commend them. I like that a company isn't afraid to use real women in their ads. I like that they feature ladies over a certain age and women with real, saggy boobs and wobbly cellulitey thighs in their campaigns.
And I really like a company who has made it their mission statement to make little girls feel like the most special and beautiful little creatures on the planet.
I visited Dove's website (www.campaignforrealbeauty.co.uk) and discovered that 92% of girls aged between 8 and 12 would change one or more aspects of their appearance.
Sindy and Barbie
My God, when I was eight all I cared about was Sindy and Barbie and which was the cooler. I remember being vaguely aware that I had a wee touch of a pot belly and what my mother lovingly referred to as a "duck arse", but this was, in my mind, just the normal S bend shape of a child.
I never thought about getting rid of my freckles, nor did I really contemplate my weight or long for bluer eyes or a smaller nose. I never thought I was stupid, even when long division baffled me beyond words.
It saddens me to think that young girls can doubt themselves in this way- and it angers me that we have allowed them to believe they are anything less than perfect and beautiful and that up until now no one has really deemed it an important enough issue to do anything about it.
Sure, we had the Spice Girls, with their "Zig a Zig Ahs" and shouts of "Girl Power" but in reality were they role models for us to aspire to? Erm, there was the skinny one who married a footballer and lives off his money. Then there was the chubby ginger one, who became skinny, the chubby, then normal, then had a baby she called Bluebell. I'm sure there were a couple of others too, but they didn't really amount to much in the grand scheme of things.
Looking around today it's hard to know who young girls aspire to be. The charts offer little inspiration. I mean there is that stupid Fergie woman singing about her humps and her lady lumps or there are the Pussycat Dolls (or is that Dollz, with a z? I'm so not with it) encouraging young girls to be freaks like them.
The best selling toy for the 8-12 year olds are dolls (with an s) called Bratz (with a z). Now I know I'm nearly 30 so hurtling towards old age at lightning speed now but surely things haven't moved on so much that we no longer regard being a brat as a bad thing? Next thing you know there will be a range of dolls on the market called "Wee Feckers" and no one will bat an eyelid.
If our toys and our heroes aren't there championing our self esteem and letting us know it is ok to be nice, polite and non freakish young ladies then how are our young girls supposed to accept themselves for the people they are?
I, for one, find it so sad to see young girls trying to conform to perceived notions of what being beautiful and cool is. It's a sad day when you see a seven year old wrestle her way into a boob tube and slip on a pair of heeled shoes. Similarly there is nothing as heartbreaking as seeing a child of the age of four point to her belly and tell you it is fat.
So I'm all for Dove and their Campaign for Real Beauty and I want to tell all the little girls out there with freckles, or pot bellies, duck arses, sticky out ears, you are beautiful, it's true!
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