This is me. Don't think for one second that posting a picture of myself with dirty hair, no makeup, and in unflattering lighting didn't take some ovaries! Like many women, I've struggled with not feeling pretty enough, thin enough, perfect enough. I'll be the first to admit that I think I look the best in the photo on the right. It's the photo I use on the back of my book and on the About Me page of this website. I am definitely a product of our beauty-obsessed culture. But this is also me sacrificing my vanity for the greater good. How can I talk about body acceptance and the need to fight against sexist and oppressive imagery if I'm not being real with myself? It takes courage to be real. So everyone, this is what I look like in the morning. Deal with it.
The media manufacture female insecurity for profit. They invent flaws in our appearance and pressure us to fix them. They segment the female body as if it were a bucket of chicken -- we're just legs and breasts and thighs. They convince us that our bodies are too meaty and fatty, our skin is too greasy, and our hair is too fried. They manipulate us with idealized images of hot chicks who were perfected by plastic surgeons, injectable facial fillers and paralyzers, professional photographers, makeup artists, special lighting, hair stylists, fashion designers, and finally photoshopping. And then we compare our real selves with this illusion. It's not a fair fight.
A woman's appearance is always treated as relevant. Tabloids critique female celebrities for gaining weight or having the "worst beach body". The Playmate of the Year is featured on the evening news. Political commentators assess female candidates' appearance almost as much as their political beliefs. We're trained to think that our sexuality is our primary source of power. I discuss this in my upcoming book, If Beauty Is Inside, Why Do We Hate Our Guts?: Pop Culture, Sexism, & Power. In the recent documentary Miss Representation, the filmmaker also examines how our culture's sexualization of women actually minimizes our power in society. Just think about it -- if the most powerful women in the country are reduced to their looks, how can any of us expect to be treated with respect?
It starts with respecting ourselves and having the courage to be real. We have to stop allowing the media to define us in such a superficial and demeaning way. When we pull back the curtain, we see that the sculpted and perfected illusion is just a real woman who has more in common with us than we think.
I wasn't exactly excited to share my naked face with the Internet, but I put together the above image so that you could see the reality behind the special effects. I'd love to see models and celebrities do the same, but their careers depend on them maintaining the illusion. So for now, maybe it'll just be up to us regular women. And that brings us to Beauty Is Inside's new "Courage to be Real" Campaign!
The "Courage to be Real" Campaign is about cracking the illusion of perfection that makes us hate our bodies and compete with each other. I challenge you to be courageous and send in "before and after" photos of yourselves, along with what was manipulated in the "after" photo. Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll collect them all in a photo gallery on this site, and I'll also post them on the Beauty Is Inside Facebook page and on Twitter @_BeautyIsInside.
Come on -- if I did it, so can you! Together, we can inspire other women and girls to have the courage to be real themselves.