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Where The Beauty Madness Stops

beauty madness

Posted By Robin Rice

For the past two weeks, I’ve watched a small campaign on a new website have a reach beyond any expectation. In that short time, the 28 ads of the #stopthebeautymadness social change campaign were picked up by hundreds of websites and shared in at least 27 countries (we stopped counting exact numbers after page 11 of a Google search).

Two thousand people signed up for our free audio series and five thousand for our new Facebook page. We had 500 Instagram followers before we had all of the ads shared. I have not even tried to assess the number of #stopthebeautymadness hashtags that have been tweeted. 

I’ve given dozens of interviews, including two that were taped, Huffington Post Live and the Today Show (yet to be aired), and our Community Relations Coordinator, Lisa Meade, has been just as busy. Four different progressive companies in the fashion industry have asked to collaborate with us and I have heard from women living half way around the world who want – no, need - me to understand what it is like for women where they live.

I have to say, I thought I knew what I was creating. I didn’t.

Women are not only ready to stop the beauty madness - they are desperate to. So desperate, they barely know how to talk about it without revealing their deep rage, poignant hurt and ongoing depression.

By the time the reporters and bloggers asked me the common question “What’s next for your campaign?” at the end of almost every interview, it became obvious that they were not only asking about the campaign. They were asking what THEY should do and how THEY could change. They also asked, both directly and indirectly, if it might be too much to hope that this idea could break through the narrow iron wall of conformity that beauty has become.

Soon enough, I realized that these were not only reporters and bloggers. These were women. Sisters. Mothers. Daughters. Best friends. The Size 2 and the Size 20 were equally desperate to find a new way.

Given this, I believe it is worth responding again to the most important ideas that came through those interviews. I did not prepare for any of them. I just spoke, and heard my own ideas coming to greater clarity as the time went on. Though you may have read them in bits and pieces here and there, let me put them in one place. If not for you, at least for me, so that I never forget.

1. They asked… Who is to blame? Men? The fashion industry? The media?

I could point to any number of sources of blame, but this will not help us. When an outside source is to blame, we are the mercy of that source to change things. Whatever or whomever started this terrible game with women and beauty, it is only the women themselves who can stop it. It has gone from an outside theme to ideas stuck firmly inside our own psyches.

Only we can change our minds about what beauty is; what it looks and feels like, and what is means to us. The hurt we carry for being found collectively and individually less than "beautiful” is immense, true enough. But no apology can reach it. It can only be healed by our own bravery—our own standing up and saying “no more.” Our own commitment to change what we can no longer tolerate.

I often added that I love men. I love my husband and my sons. They are as much a product of our beauty-hyped socialization as I am. Yet I believe it is women who can and will change this. If we wait on men to change first, we will continue to wait. At this, I often heard a sigh or an outright “amen.”

2. They asked … Are you against beauty?

I love beauty. I love the sunrise and the wild flower, and a great book or sculpture or other piece of art. I love beauty as a feeling. I love it as a sense of wonderment. I love to fall into awe over something, or someone, I find beautiful.

So no, I am not and could never be against beauty.

What I am saying is that by narrowly defining beauty, squeezing it in to a woman’s tiny waistline and facial type, we cut ourselves off from all these other forms of beauty.

Truth be told, I believe we are beauty-starved. As a result, we starve ourselves for beauty. That I am against.

3. They asked… What’s next? How, exactly, do we do this?

While the easy answer was our 10-week free audio series with some amazing FrontLine Voices in this conversation, I felt an urgency with these questions. It seemed something between having a kid on a carnival ride asking “Can we please, please, please go again?” and a person down on their luck hoping to get the last bed in a shelter at night. Equal parts eager and desperate.

I felt the pull in their voices… Can we do more? Can we create more? Can we keep this idea going so that it does not fade into the background like so many other good ideas? Please, tell me it doesn’t stop here.

Not only can we continue on, we have to.

This is an oppression that we’ve taken upon ourselves. It is enslavement, but without a lock on the door.

That may sound extreme, but is it?

If you are not standard-issue beauty by current cultural definitions, how many times a day do you look in the mirror with self-disgust? If you fit the societal trends, how many times a day do you check to be sure you are not doing something that risks gaining five pounds—or even two? How many times a day do you think about and talk about and make plans for your next diet or buy a new bottle of miracle cream?

I repeat…. #stopthebeautymadness.

4. They asked me… Why did you create this?

No one asked me to create this campaign. No one paid me—in fact, I paid to create it. No one gave me permission or opened any doors. I had a few volunteers, but otherwise very few even knew it existed before two weeks ago. What compelled me to do it? 

I created it because women who are worried about their weight (or skin color or age) are not contributing to the (yes, daunting) task of making our world a better one to live in. I believe our world is in crisis at virtually every level that matters. The authentic voices of our women are still remarkably absent in the critical conversations needed to create a better world. In short, I need ALL of my sisters to stand up, speak up, and bring everything they have to the community table. 

5. They asked me… Is it possible?

It’s not only possible, it is happening. Every single time a woman says “Here I am, AS IS” you find another woman with the courage to do the same.

Every musician who puts out a song (from Born This Way to Try), every campaign that celebrates real beauty (from the biggie Dove to the small but potent fashion designer Micaela Bubola Passeri), and every creative video that goes viral (from Dear Ursula to the ROAR tap dancer) is proving it.

What I Know Now 

I often say you can’t uneducate a person. What I’ve realized in these past two weeks is that women are ready to be educated in our own beauty oppression. We are ready to wake up and get on with things. We are ready to say “Enough… Just…. Enough.” And we are ready to encourage our sisters, mothers, friends, and daughters to say the same.

As for the how… we will continue turn our work toward this in the days to come. But for now, let’s start with a short but powerful few words. Say them out loud or simply inside your own head (should you happen to want to record yourself, feel free, I’d love to see it—this is the power of social media after all):

The beauty madness stops here.

The beauty madness stops now.

The beauty madness stops with me.

Have YOU signed up for our 10-week audio series (link below)? Listen any time or even download- It's free!  I learned so much from these amazing and brave women. Join all 2,000+ of us and let's #stopthebeautymadness.