How many of us get up in the morning look in the mirror and sigh? Skin not clear enough, body not trim enough, hair not silky smooth enough? How many of us try on clothes that don't fit our shape because they are made for skinny mannequin size? How many of us are commented on how 'good' we look when we walk in the room? Rather than on how clever/creative/brave/intuitive we are?
The answer is an alarming and increasing high number and if our generation feels the pressure to look perfect the future ones are in big trouble.
Female archetypes created many moons ago still surround us every day. Girls are given cutesie toys, lego made for girls only and stick thin dolls. Older the same stereotypes exist - skinny models, reworked celebs, pretty TV presenters. Yet men aren't judged by the same yard stick. When they are little they are told they are smart, strong, funny, they are told they can do and be whatever they want when they are older and so they are, politicians, businessmen, top doctors, academics. How many company boards are filled with women?
The good news is that the tiding is turning and last night in London at the heart of Westminster some real and powerful energy was channeled into the new #bebodyconfident movement.
The Girl Guides and Dove unveiled the new self-esteem badge and a whole program for Brownies and GG to help young girls believe in themselves. And the support was incredible. Director of policy for women's equality, ex Clothes Show Caryn Franklin who now drives diversity in models, doctors, psychotherapists, educators and mentors. Over 50 inspiring evangelists all ready to start the world body confidence revolution.
The stories that everyone had to tell were incredible and really moving. Three girl guides, peer educators, who go into schools and youth clubs were some of the most inspiring women I've ever met. Not all of us got to be a Girl Guide. I personally was one of the 6/10 girls (Dove research) that withdrew from activities as a teen. I was too embarrassed to wear sports kit and definitely too nervous to join a club. And yet team sport and organisations like the guides are proven to aid young girls in dealing with feelings of exclusion and low esteem.
These three girls are brilliant role models for young girls, outspoken, wise, courageous, smiley, generous and unique. They have contact with 1000s of young girls and if anyone can turn round the poor self-esteem issue they can. They talked about how 75% of girls want to look like images in media and that boys want that too. That almost all girls feel that are judged by their looks rather than their ability. Also worryingly one in five girls at primary school has been on a diet and one in four would cosmetic surgery. The head of cosmetic/plastic surgery association spoke about how the industry needs to do all it can to help girls seeking surgery to cure an inner problem. They are already extending the 'cooling off' period so that patients can't book procedures immediately. Also how for some surgery can cure a life time of complexes around sticky out ears or a big nose. But as many are now entrenched money-making businesses it is hard to stop them selling physical perfection. We need to change attitudes to change behaviours.
For this reason Caryn Franklin fashion expert and Dove are championing diversity in fashion, using models that reflect reality, not some airbrushed ideal. Indeed M&S has recently seen huge success with their real women campaign. Interestingly many fashion editors including Vogue UK Alexandra Shulman claim that readers don't want to see women like themselves - they want fantasy. This doesn't stack up in the recent government research that proved that women want to see healthy natural images rather than impossible ones that just make you feel bad. Nomorepage3 activist talked about how even slight photoshopping is detrimental, for it says loud and clear that just being you is not enough.
The industry is clearly on borrowed time and there is a rising group of people and organisations that are challenging the sexualised and objectified image of women that has been accepted for far too long.
Dove have championed the cause for many years and have been a lone voice, but now with support for one of the country's biggest movements and social barometers, the Girl Guides, things will have to change. It is time for us all to sign up to brighter future for our children, girls (and boys), where they are 'free to be me'.