Women's Health Project

Advertising can be hazardous to your health. Learn about how to recognize and change these messages.

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It’s not my responsibility to be beautiful. I’m not alive for that purpose. My existence is not about how desirable you find me.

- Waran Shire

About Us

About

Every day the beauty industry and media tell women and girls that being admired, envied, and desired based on their looks is a primary function of true womanhood. They provide them with a beauty template that is narrow, unrealistic, and most importantly ingrained into their brains leaving any woman who does not fit this template feeling inadequate. The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman’s value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.

Where do these standards come from?+

Television shows and movies are guilty of casting mainly white, young, conventionally “beautiful”, thin women. Both industries also infrequently cast women of racial or ethnic diversity, or of the wrong ethnicity or race for their character. Often times the lead female character in a movie or television show will be significantly younger than her male co-star, and she will be casted to play a character who does not have the same variety of interests as her male counterpart.

Reality television shows are more often guilty of promoting the rating of women by appearance but even still it is rare that you see someone who does not fit the media’s definition of beautiful in a lead role on a television show. Another major offense of the media is the sexualization of women and young girls. Because the media presents girls as sexual objects at younger and younger ages, society in turn expects young girls to be sexualized which often results in young girls acting older than they are.

The objectification of women can also been seen in advertisements in the media. Advertising companies are notorious for their use of retouching programs like Photoshop to “edit”, “fix”, or “perfect” images of women. There is an overwhelming amount of beauty ads in society. There are advertisements for makeup, cover up, hair products, wrinkle creams, cellulite products and correctors to help women battle nature and conform to the beauty expectations of the media. Millions of dollars are not only spent on the creation of these advertisements but by women in their attempts to fit society’s warped version of “beautiful”.

What’s wrong with all that?+

The problem is that the media is everywhere. Advertisements are in magazines, newspapers, and commercials, and television shows are one of the most popular forms of entertainment which means that it is almost impossible to ignore the influence of the media on your ideas of beauty and body image.

What can we do?+

Together we can combat the influence of the media by exposing it’s ideal and narrow frame work as unrealistic and often unhealthy. As women we can educate each other on what healthy really is, discuss and expose the media’s use of retouching and altering of photos, and remind each other that every body is beautiful. We can speak out through social media, in class or in letters to the editor against negative portrayal of women. We can be models of self-acceptance and love in front of young children and each other, support television shows and advertisements that show diversity and realistic versions of women, and take action using the many ideas on the Love Your Body Site.

Get Involved

Teachers

Tools For Teachers

Discussing negative advertising with your class.

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Watch!

Elementary school: Show your students the “Redefining Liberation” or “Hollywood Smoke” and Mirrors” video in class and then talk about the ads they see on TV or in magazines. Discuss things like: What could advertisements say? and What could the class do to change the way advertisers talk to children?

Middle/High School: Plan a viewing! Get a group of friends and classmates together to watch a “Redefining Liberation” or “Hollywood Smoke” or another thought-provoking film during lunchtime or after school. After viewing the video of film get together and discuss your thoughts and opinions.

Write!

Elementary School: Make your own advertisements! After discussing what you think makes a good advertisement, work in groups to create an ad for print or TV and then share them with the class.

Middle/High School: Write an article for your school newspaper on the Love Your Body campaign and send it to your local or city newspaper too. You can write letters to the editor about offensive billboards, radio, and TV ads in your city and offer a solution.

Celebrate Love Your Body Day!

Elementary School: Get your students together to make art projects, watch videos, eat healthy snacks, play fun games and listen to music that celebrates growing up happy and healthy!

Middle/High School: Work with your students and hold a poster contest, have a dance party with women-friendly music, hand out stickers and petition for healthy vending machines in honor of living a happy and healthy life!

Talk!

Elementary School: Have the school nurse talk to your class about healthy eating and daily exercise, bring healthy snacks and plan fun games or exercises to try together!

Middle/High School: Discuss the importance of exercise and eating healthy, and the dangers and warning signs of eating disorders with your students. Have the class get into groups and talk about positive female role models they look up to and why. Have your class try a fun workout like yoga or Zumba or hold a cooking class about learning how to make healthy meals.

Campus

Campus Activities

Check out what you can do on your campus.

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Watch!

Host a campus screening of a movie depicting women who are comfortable in their own bodies. After the showing hold a panel discussion about the themes the movie raises and your ideas/opinions about them.

Write!

Does your campus have an obsession with diets and exercise? Does wearing designer clothes trump wearing sweats to your 8 a.m.? Do women feel like they have to submit to a certain dress code? Submit an op-ed to the campus newspaper to talk about how the Love Your Body Campaign can help women feel good as they are.

Celebrate Love Your Body Day!

Celebrate with the arts!

  • Perform or host a reading of a play with a positive message about women’s bodies like “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Good Body”.
  • Make a campus-wide art project by having students take a photo or draw a picture of their favorite body part and hang the completed project in a well-trafficked area on campus.
  • Organize a dance showcase by having campus cultural groups present traditional dances or host a dance-a-thon!
  • Make a short movie by interviewing people around campus about why they love their body and share it on social media.
  • Make T-shirts about positive body image and wear them around campus.

Other ways to celebrate LYB:

  • Display Love Your Body posters on campus.
  • Organize a rally with music, food, and information.

Talk!

Host a forum on women’s health issues with student health physicians or local doctors to talk about what good health means for women. Propose a class discussion on stereotypes and how they impact women’s lives and show the NOW foundations Sex, Stereotypes, and Beauty. Hold a panel discussion with professors, activists, and community leaders to speak on a variety of issues. Get your fellow organizations involved to bring different voices and help widen your audience.

Other

Other Actions

Learn about other ways to get involved.

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Picket beauty pageants

Despite the arguments made in favor of them. Beauty pageants do not provide scholarships for women, they award monetary prizes to women based on how they look in a bathing suit and heels.

Get together with friends and…

  • Throw away or burn things like: bathroom scales, diet books, tapes or videos, calorie counters, tape measures, make-up, one-size-fits-all clothing, advertising that objectifies women etc.
  • Celebrate national No-Diet Day on May 6th and spread the word to friends via social media like facebook, twitter and instagram.
  • Take all of the foods you feel guilty about eating like chocolate, cake, candy, and chips and eat them with no shame.
  • Stop dieting all together. Make a pact to avoid participating in diet culture. Instead eat healthy together by having meals with one another, take a yoga class or try crossfit, make a team and join a league to play ultimate frisbee. There is a difference between dieting and living a healthy lifestyle help remind one another of that.

Speak Out Against Size Discrimination

  • Put pressure on companies that discriminate against fat people or force employees into weight-loss programs.
  • Advocate against size discrimination in schools for children, teens, and young adults.
  • Challenge attitudes –speak up when fat jokes are made in your presence.

Let's Talk About It

If you’re tired of being bombarded by retouched pictures telling you how women should look, if you’re done with advertisers portraying women as objects to be consumed, if you’re ready to talk back, then join us.

Make a video telling the world why you’re embracing the real you. Help us spread the word, and you might even be featured on this website. YOU are the expert. YOU know what it’s like to be a woman or girl in our looks-obsessed culture. So get talking!

Here are some of our video submittions. Click on these beautiful women to watch their videos about their stories and struggles.

Dr. Kayann Short’s Women’s Lit Course at CU-Boulder

From the creators:

This collaborative digital story was created by the Spring 2011 Women’s Wellness service learning practicum of my “Coming of Age in Multicultural Women’s Literature” course at the University of Colorado-Boulder. We wanted to make a digital story that challenged unrealistic and degrading images of women found in advertising and media today. We began with the question “How can I feel good about myself when everybody else tells me to feel bad?” and then brainstormed what a story in response to that question might look like. The students each wrote a scene from their own life that illustrated an answer to the question and I recorded their voice-overs into one script with a musical soundtrack. Our story begins by exposing the negative social messages we see and hear every day and then challenges those thoughts with the students’ strategies for valuing themselves as women. For each scene, the students created a “note to self” that illustrated their own positive messages. I then compiled images of these “notes” with personal photos from the students’ lives, joined by thematic photos shot at Rock Your Body Day, a fabulous event organized by CU Community Health that celebrates real bodies accomplishing real goals. As part of RYBD, the students were photographed holding signs stating what they love about their bodies and these black and white images appear in the final sequence of our piece.

My class is thrilled to have their story included in “Let’s Talk About It: A Project of NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign.” I loved working with my students on this project and I applaud the honesty with which they shared their stories. We hope that Note to Self: This Is What Beautiful Looks Like will inspire all of us to create messages reminding each other that beauty is not what we don’t have, but rather what already exists in our own hearts and minds.

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