Last Friday I was invited to watch Dove's International Day of the Girl event. To tell you the truth I am not very big on this kind of events usually. It clashes with my innate cynicism. But I love Dove. I love their Real Beauty campaign, I loved their last commercial with the sketches. I think there should be more companies out there just like them - companies that use their power and influence and marketing budget for good. So when the opportunity came to be (a small) part of an event that is targeting raising awareness to the fact that 47% of young girls (ages 11-14) are opting out of daily activities because of poor body confidence, and making sure we stop it, I jumped at it. The event hosted 150 young girls aged 11-16, and was divided into three main parts - a speed mentoring session where the girls got to meet one on one with some very impressive women, and which I wasn't invited to participate in (any Dove people reading it, I am free any day next year if you also want unimpressive women), a workshop session about body-image which what I was invited to, and a discussion part which I wasn't in because although I can do anything I want, I still have to take the kids out of school first.
My sad answer to myself was, probably not. The sad truth is that we, the parents, the adults, don't really believe it ourselves, so how can we make sure our daughters do? The event was at the Southbank Centre in London, and for me it meant I had to go through Waterloo Station. Which has a Krispy Kreame stand. With lots of doughnuts. I love doughnuts, especially the ones that have cream inside and chocolate on the outside. But as I went past it on my way back I couldn't make up my mind if to stop there or not, because I am supposed to be on a pre-holidays diet, but on the other hand I just returned from a "love yourself as you are" seminar, so what do I do??? In the end I didn't stop, mostly because there was a queue and I was in a hurry, but I kept asking myself the whole tube ride home - should I have stopped? What did it say about me that I didn't? The truth is I have been fat, skinny and everything in-between, and have never really loved my body anyway, so who am I to tell anyone to accept themselves? I am old enough and wise enough to know that it is a waste of time to chase the impossible standards that we see in magazines, to want to yell at the screen "eat something!" every time I see Posh, and to know that every single photo I see in a magazine has been photoshoped to death. And still I want to lose those 4 kilos I gained, I hate my hair and I have spent half my life wanting to be short and delicate. As if any of that would somehow, magically, change my life.
Choices, it seems to me (and to the people at Dove), are about self-belief.
Maybe you don't find it as offensive as me, but I hope you see the ridiculousness of it, the chauvinism, and the lack of choice it advocates for women. That guide is for mature women, mums, career women, and tells them that the base assumption is that they have no control or choices in the progress of their lives. To be honest it made my blood boil. I am still finding it hard to write about it without using profanities. And it made the event on Friday all the more important.
I hope each of those girls, I hope everyone who reads this post, believe that she has a choice. That she could be and do whatever she sat her mind to.
Because we all can.