The need for ads that don’t limit beauty to physical appearances

There have been lots of campaigns over the past year designed to help build women’s self esteem and combat media messages that equate low body weight with beauty.

These campaigns — which have played out in ads, social media, and on news sites — have gained widespread praise, and rightfully so; they’re helping to redefine what it means to be beautiful by showing young women that their self-worth isn’t determined by the number on a scale, or the color of their skin or hair, or the clothes on their back.

But filmmaker and author Michelle Cove recently raised an interesting question: “Are body-positive ads part of the problem?” Cove is executive director of MediaGirls, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that helps middle-school girls critique the media’s portrayal of women and create new content that empowers girls and women. (Disclosure: I know Michelle personally and am a fan of her work.)

In a Huffington Post piece published last week, Cove writes:

“It’s true that for far too long, mainstream media has presented us with the one vision of ideal beauty described above, which less than 5 percent of females possess. Photoshop and airbrushing have made it seem like it’s highly achievable — leaving too many girls feeling insecure at best with their bodies. So, this is good news.

“But here’s what worries me for ourselves and for our kids: We are still too hyper-focused on girls and women’s bodies. Even if we see a variety of shapes, we are still talking about their bodies. When celebrities show themselves sans Photoshop on magazine covers or ads feature plus-size women… it still keeps us talking about their bodies.

“What about focusing on who we are within our bodies, and what we bring to the world?”

As Cove points out, there are some social media and advertising campaigns that have done just this, including #ILookLikeAnEngineer, in which women have been trying to break stereotypes about engineers, and Always’ #LikeAGirl, which encourages girls to embrace the term “like a girl” rather than being ashamed of it.

There’s something to be said for ads and social media campaigns that empower women to not only think more positively about their external beauty, but their internal beauty and strengths as well.


Related content: Changing the Face of Beauty campaign helps advertisers feature more children with disabilities | Dove campaign shows moms how they influence their daughters’ body image | Dove’s new ‘Selfie’ film shows how social media is redefining beauty | Dove’s ‘Love Your Curls’ ad encourages women to embrace their natural waves | Girls Inc. ad campaign raises awareness about challenges girls face, makes call for action | Female empowerment becomes prevalent theme in photography, journalism, advertising

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