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Pressure To Look Perfect Drives Girls To Destructive Behavior

Armen Hareyan's picture

Girls today are fixating on their flaws, causing them to belittle themselves and even take destructive action. The onslaught of messages and images they constantly receive sets an unrealistic standard of beauty. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ispartnering with the entertainment industry to address this issue by giving girls a reality check educating them about what images are real versus Hollywood magic. This global program is especially relevant as girls today are measuring themselves against impossible beauty ideals.

The new campaign was developed to help girls realize what they see in movies and magazines represents an unrealistic standard of beauty, not an everyday achievable look. As part of its commitment to build self-esteem in girls, the Dove Self-Esteem Fund is sponsoring self-esteem building workshops with inspirational celebrities and new online tools in an effort to educate moms, mentors and girls. The program also features "Onslaught,"an attention- grabbing viral film that dramatizes the barrage of images and messages girls constantly face. As with all Dove Campaigns, the impetus for the program is grounded in startling new research about the factors that influence girls' body image.

Girls Fixate on Flaws, Self-Esteem Suffers

According to a recent survey conducted by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and Seventeen magazine, more than four in 10 girls and young women only see their flaws when they look in the mirror. This is not surprising considering more than half of girls and young women say they get ideas for the way they want their bodies to look from celebrities and media, and 56 percent of girls and young women believe celebrities tend to have perfect bodies.

"Girls are increasingly looking to celebrities as their role models because they are widely celebrated in media and society," commented Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and distinguished scholar for the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia University. "Girls take away the message that these images represent a societal norm, and as a result punish themselves for not living up to impossible beauty ideals. The cycle continues to intensify as these perceived flawless images further inundate their world in overwhelming quantities."

Images Surround Girls

Girls are being besieged with all types of media in nearly every corner of their lives:

* The average person sees between 400 and 600 advertisements per day - equivalent to more than one message for every waking minute.

* The average US girl has the opportunity to see an estimated 77,546 commercials by the time she is 12 years old.

This growing phenomenon is having a direct impact on girls' self-image and even causing some to engage in destructive behavior. The Dove Self-Esteem Fund/Seventeen Body Image Survey also revealed:

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* 93 percent of girls and young women report feeling anxiety or stress about some aspect of their looks when getting ready in the morning

* This could explain why more than 70 percent of girls and young women avoid activities when they feel bad about their looks including giving their opinion, attending school and even going to the doctor.

* 76 percent of girls and young women admit to partaking in unhealthy activities when they feel badly about their bodies

* 58 percent of girls describe themselves in negative terms, including words like "disgusting" and "ugly," when feeling badly about themselves.

* Nearly four out of 10 engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, such as anorexia or bulimia.

* More than one out of 10 girls has used cutting or self-inflicted injury as a coping mechanism.

"Girls today are exposed to more messages from Hollywood and the media than past generations which can impact their self-esteem," said Jessica Weiner, self-esteem expert and global ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. "Mothers, mentors and friends can help change girls' perceptions with positive, self-esteem building discussions and activities."

Hollywood Takes Action

The Dove Self-Esteem Fund is partnering with Step Up Women's Network, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls, to help girls recognize their own unique beauty. Together, they will conduct self-esteem building workshops giving girls a reality check to distinguish what is real versus Hollywood magic and hopefully inspiring girls to think about their beauty role models in a new way.

During these events, celebrities and self-esteem experts reveal secrets about the armies of stylists, makeup artists, photographers, and staging and computer technicians behind-the-scenes who produce the big screen and cover shots. Jessica Weiner will lead each session and offer advice about interpreting the multitude of messages. Notable female celebrities are volunteering their time with the Dove Self-Esteem Fund to speak with girls and share their personal perspectives.

"We all have a responsibility as marketers, educators, mentors and role models, to change the way we communicate with girls. The entertainment industry can be a powerful partner in educating girls," said Kathy O'Brien, marketing director for Dove. "We may not be able to decrease the number of messages girls receive, but we can educate girls about how they perceive them."

The Dove Self-Esteem Fund set a new goal to reach 5 million girls globally by 2010 with self-esteem building programming. It has several online resources that educate girls about Hollywood and media imagery as well as foster the development of self-esteem. Moms, mentors and girls should visit campaign for real beauty.com to utilize new self-esteem buildingtools, view behind-the-scenes footage from the Dove Self-Esteem Fund/Step Up workshops, talk to experts and watch "Onslaught." Visitors will also soon have the opportunity to get an inside look at how real girls deal with self-esteem issues in their daily lives.



I think that if the television people would quite showing half-naked girls who look almost perfect then young girls wouldn't have to feel the way they do. Julia Farmer Hardin, Mt.
THANK YOU! this is the story of my life! everyday i see an ad for porn or a movie with naked women everywhere and my insecurities are becoming extremely out of control. Especially sitting in a theater with my boyfriend or trying to watch a movie together and then it turns out to be a porn movie(because now every movie has a sex scene or half naked women or a lesbian scene in it). Honestly, why can;t it just be kept on the internet for people who search for it. That way people can choose to see a nude person or not... instead of it being shoved in our faces every single second of our lives. It's annoying not to be able to watch a decent movie with my family because every movie has a sex scene or nudity,
Remember when Marilyn Monroe was the epitope of beauty? By today's standards she would be considered fat. She wore a size 8, which today would be numbered a size 14. These skinny girls on television and in the movies are hurting everyone.
The problem is not that the standard has changed, it is that there is one standard and one size to fit all. If I was living in the fifties I would probably be worrying about my figure for different reasons. I'm tall, naturally slim and no matter what I do I will never have Marilyn Monroe's breasts or figure. I just don't have that build. Instead of my weight I many other issues with my appearance. It's nearly impossible for one woman to have everything according to the standard of the day, no matter what that standard is. What we need is some more variation in the natural builds and facial features of those in prominence.
I think that what Dove is doing is great! So many girls will see that it is okay to be themselves instead of trying to be someone else all the time. The way they portray "beauty" in the media is rediculous more things should be done to change it Ariel, PA
Dove is doing a really good thing and it has helped me because i suffer from not wanting to be fat i have been called fat by my dad and it really hurt me so i started using supplements to loose weight and i got to stressed and my doctor said i needed to stop trying to lose weight because im already healthy for my age and height but i really don't think i am.