Dove’s real beauty ad campaign officially launched in 2013 proclaims the idea that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of respect. Some would argue this isn’t entirely true – that there are certain women who just aren’t beautiful to most people, and they have to either accept it or attempt to make a change. Attraction and beauty are both subjective, though many would say beauty trends provide a more objective guide to the rules.
But is Dove’s “real beauty” subjective? Is a girl who cuts herself still beautiful, even though she damages her skin? Let me ask you this: Is her skin still lovely, still okay to touch, even with the long, thin scars? Or are the tired forearms of a heroin addict still beautiful, even when they’re being stabbed with a miserable poison?
Or is my body still beautiful – even on the days where I sit with a massive mountain of Friendly’s ice cream in front of the television, eating to the point of physical discomfort, and then rummaging through the chip cupboard ten minutes later? Is that body exemplifying real beauty then, with its bloating and stretch marks and heaviness? Is my voice beautiful when I lie to my brother that I didn’t eat the last pieces of pie?
I don’t think pain, the pain inflicted to oneself, is ever beautiful, or if it is, it’s the worst example of beauty to look at. It’s sad, disgusting, frustrating, compulsive, guilt-ridden, difficult to comprehend.
But beauty inside is a natural conglomerate of one’s quirks, one’s flaws. A portrait of all the detailed aspirations. And sometimes, what is pain – what is self-harm, what is a lowered self-esteem, what is a catalyst to regrettable acts – is what forms the frame.
If you ever see my own frame, think of it what you will. Wince at it, admire it, laugh at it, or gently caress it. You can gawk at my body when it’s sitting in class, or when it’s all dolled up in a plus-size dress. You can think of my body as a wonderful piece of flesh, or as a ticking time bomb towards early death. But my frame, damaged as it is, is still there. Still supporting, still attempting to function. My body still wants to carry my mind and soul around, and it does. It still wants to exercise sometimes, and eat broccoli or steamed carrots. Maybe drink a bit of alcohol here and there, or do yoga. Or drink water or read books. Or help the homeless, or sit and do nothing. It’s just that sometimes, it feels pain. A pain that changes the way the frame looks.
But the portrait can still be seen.