Shame on the Anti-Body-Shaming Campaign

Every now and then we see a new campaign crop up and take social media by storm. We become flooded with images and videos of the latest craze as hundreds, possibly even thousands, of people participate in them with good intentions at heart. The latest campaign that seems to have taken over all of my social media feeds is the ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ campaign which was started in a bid to draw attention to and combat the problem that is body-shaming.
As far as I can tell, this campaign seems to consist of young people posting videos of themselves with red and brown marker pen scrawled over their faces so that they look to have acne and a monobrow. I have seen videos in which people with perfect vision are wearing glasses and have even seen one where someone has got some kind of metal strip, possibly a straightened out paper clip, and put it in their mouth to look like a brace. After a couple of seconds of them prancing around the screen will go black and they then reappear having removed the pen from their faces to show how they usually look, complete with flawless skin, gorgeous hair and a perfectly made up face.
While I am all for a campaign against body-shaming, I must say that I’m a little bit confused about what this particular campaign is achieving. These videos, in my opinion, are doing relatively little to combat this problem. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that they are contributing to it. I, for one, love that there has recently been a broader spectrum of what is accepted as beautiful, rather than the definition of beautiful just being reserved for those who conform to the image of beauty that is advocated by the media. Isn’t that essentially the message that a campaign against body-shaming should be sending out? That everybody is beautiful? I thought it was, so you can understand my confusion when I see anti-body-shaming campaigns pin pointing certain features and replicating them when trying to portray an image of someone who is meant to be ‘unattractive.’
The people featured in these videos have used the stereotypical features that society has deemed as ‘unattractive’. However, my problem with this is that it simply shames those people who actually have these ‘unattractive’ features through no fault of their own. There are thousands of people in the world who have bad skin or excessive facial hair, these videos are essentially sending out the message that these people are ugly. Those with glasses or braces are also shamed and labelled as ‘unattractive’ by the very existence of these videos because they are also utilised by the ‘ugly’ versions of the people starring in them. The videos highlight how we have been taught a version of what is ‘unattractive’ by TV shows and films. They reiterate the story of the geeky bespectacled girl who receives a glamorous makeover and turns into the most popular girl in school that we see in films such as ‘She’s all That,’ ‘Never Been Kissed,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ and ‘The Princess Diaries.’ Seriously, I could go on all day. These videos start by showing someone with drawn on acne and excessive facial hair, directly inferring that people with these features are ugly, and then finishes by showing the same person looking absolutely flawless, pouting and preening themselves as they show off how successfully they have conformed to the standardised ideal of beauty that society has created. To me, these videos come across as less ‘let’s fight body-shaming’ and more ‘look at how pretty my new MAC foundation makes me.’


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