There’s a new media ideology sweeping America, and it’s all about being “comfortable in your own skin.” These self-assurance ads usually target young women, claiming you should “love who you are”. In the late 20th century, the cult of beauty reigned. The idea was that makeup and curls made the girl. That’s since been openly pinned as the misogynistic rhetoric that it truly is. However, now the sneaky subtext of American media has created the “Be Comfortable With Who You Are” campaign.
Sounds like a change for the better, right? Not necessarily. These ads accomplish the same goals in the exact same ways, just without appearing misogynistic. These ads are not telling girls that they can be comfortable in their own skin, but rather that they should be. They claim the natural state is for one to be comfortable with one’s own body.
What about the girls who aren’t comfortable with how they look? This dichotomy isn’t going to empower or help those people; it’s going to further alienate them from what they see as the standards of modern society. It’s establishing the ideal that feeling good about oneself is the norm, the standard for being a successful human.
It certainly isn’t.
Most people aren’t comfortable with themselves, and that’s fine. When those girls don’t feel comfortable, what do they do? They run out and buy junk. The advertising companies win, and those girls lose. The advertising business gets the same results without sounding misogynistic or appearing offensive. They are trying to fly under the radar. The media seems to think they’re doing a favor for these people by telling them to “get confident, stupid.” It’s waving what they may not have in their faces. It’s dangerous, and should be seen for how unproductive it is.
Now, don’t think I’m saying we should do anything to stop advertisements from doing whatever they want. It’s free speech, and it’s awesome. Even if what they say is dangerous, we’ve agreed that a free marketplace of ideas will encompass both good and bad, safe and dangerous. However, we should engage in a dialogue about what dangers these ads pose. It’s the same reason why the “It Gets Better” project is so beautiful and simple. It’s because it’s all about the prospect of a better future. It isn’t the “It Should Be Better Now” project, which would be irresponsible and dangerous. See the parallel? These current ads demanding self-acceptance set an impossible standard. Consequently, these ads are creating untold suffering. It is important that we engage in a dialogue to ensure that this ideal of self-acceptance never becomes a part of our subconscious. So let’s be the ones who say that perfection is not normal and we know it. We should strive for self-acceptance, but let’s all call bullshit on these impossible standards.
Ian Davis is a first-year English major.