Most of us know about the Dove campaign for real beauty, but many of us don’t realise quite how comprehensive it is. For many of us, hitting 40 was a time when we actually became more comfortable about our looks and our bodies, finally achieving that balance between the person we thought we’d be and the person we actually are.
But life is different for our daughters.
I’m not a parent myself, but I find some of the stastistics coming out about young girls and their self-image very worrying.
* 50 per cent of teenage girls say they view their bodies with ‘disgust’
* 90 per cent of women wish they could change an aspect of their appearance, with weight leading the list
* 67 per cent of women and girls withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks
* 91 per cent of all cosmetic surgery procedures are performed on women.
* Cosmetic surgery procedures have risen by 444 per cent in 10 years.
* In 1985, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average female. Now she weighs 23 per cent less.
* For the average woman to have the same proportions as Barbie, she would need to
– add two feet to her height
– add over three inches to her neck
– add over five inches to her bust, and
– take six inches off her waistline.
At the Dove site, www.campaignforrealbeauty.com you can download their full report "Beyond Stereotypes: Rebuilding the Foundation of Beauty Beliefs".
Of particular concern, Dove feels, is the fact that two-thirds of women and girls avoid taking part in activities because they don’t feel they’re good-looking enough. This includes activities such as meeting friends, exercising, voicing an opinion, going to school, going to work, dating or even seeking medical help. That is a very bad sign – I’m sure none of us wants to raise a generation of timid, unfit girls who are scared to speak up at school or even see their own doctor.
The malaise about body image was also once a western phenomenon, but is now afflicting other nations, including the South American countries (where the ‘westernisation rhinoplasty’ is so popular) and even Japan, where girls are increasingly turning to leg-lengthening surgery to imitate the image of the tall, leggy western model. The only country that seem comparatively immune is China, which is no doubt due to there being less advertising to keep women in a permanent state of discontent about their appearance.
"It is as though girls and women feel they must wear permanent masks approximating a current narrow ideal of beauty rather than face the world as they are, in their uniqueness and diversity," says the report.
This is all very gloomy, but the good news is that mothers can make a profound difference to how their daughters feel about themselves. Visit the Dove site and take a look at the interactive quizzes, short films and tips for helping your teenage daughter to be happy about her looks, as well as forums where you can have discussions with other mothers, and many other facilities.