Challenging social media expectations and norms for beauty

Heads up to all our readers who may be triggered by discussions of eating disorders, diet culture, and white beauty norms: Dove has released another entry in its self-esteem project. I won’t embed the video here in case it autoplays, but you can see it and read more about it here.

I do want to talk about the campaign as this short film is tied to an American legislative lobby to limit youth exposure to toxic beauty content. Dove’s parent company Unilever is partnering with Lizzo, a musician, undergarment clothing designer and body positive influencer.

I’ve written about Lizzo and her work to challenge white beauty standards. The film profiles a young white woman Mary and the influences on her self image. The end of the film features a number of youth and their mothers of different ethnicities and also different shapes and sizes.

Dove has not been without its detractors for its series of commercials focusing on self image. It’s always good to question the assumptions on which these are based. However, I did take a look through the resources Dove has pulled together to bolster their campaign for change and I was pleased to see how the campaigns have evolved including addressing non binary and androgynous representations of body image and beauty. You can find the resources here on the Dove site. They include resources for parents, teachers, and youth leaders/mentors.

Too often body image is inextricably linked with size and social expectations (largely unrealistic, and frequently white-dominant). Aiming to achieve these unrealistic goals is tied to limited and restrictive food consumption and exercise.

It’s disheartening to see how fitness is tied to a physical beauty standard throughout multiple social media networks/platforms. It is important to eat well to fuel our bodies, howsoever they present, and it is really important to enjoy moving our bodies as much as we are able to work our hearts, build our bones and muscles for long-term physical health and boost our mental health and wellbeing.

More media literacy in school curriculums, more attention paid to what teens are consuming, and more understanding of the risks and dangers idealized and manipulated imagery can pose to impressionable minds. I really like Dove’s link to community legislative action as it’s a shift away from the individualized focus where women once again hold responsibility for changing their responses rather than the sources of those negative and harmful ideals changing their approaches to weight, diet and exercise.

If we really want to help our youth grow and thrive physically and mentally, we need to build a culture of inclusive fitness based on diversity of experience, background and ability. We would love to hear your recommendations for resources parents, teachers and youth leaders can use. Share your favourites in the comments.


MarthaFitat55 enjoys powerlifting, swimming and yoga.

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