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This is a must read post from our friends over at Beauty Redefined on ways people are silenced and how to respond. If you don’t know much about Beauty Redefined, their mission is to literally redefine beauty, aiming to help ”girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like”. They are out there talking about body image, using media literacy to help improve body image in women, and challenging our ideas of beauty.
A lot of the issues they address, and obstacles they face, are ones we face here at HollabackPHILLY. Specifically, they recently posted about ways people attempt to shut them down with comments “you’re just trying to make yourself feel better for being fat or ugly”, or “you’re so pretty, how would you know what it’s like”? At HollabackPHILLY, what we hear are “you’re too ugly to be harassed”, or “you’re beautiful, enjoy the attention, it’s a compliment”. What comments like those do are shut down the very real, necessary discussion that needs to happen about street harassment, why people harass, and the lasting effects the harassment has on the people being harassed. And, also, how the continued, unchallenged behavior of the harasser empowers him to continue harassing.
An excerpt from the piece is below, but we encourage you to check out the entire piece!
My automatic first response is the same as many girls and women: shut down the compliment. Dismiss it as an exaggeration or untrue (“No, really, I swear I’m not thin.”). … That derails the discussion and again, keeps it focused on my looks. Instead, I thanked her for the compliments and told her everyone’s perception of our looks is different, and we face both sides of that coin, which leads me to sharing with her (and everyone) my most important point of all: When we dismiss someone’s words due to our assessment of their appearance, we’re minimizing them to their body. We have got to stop that. One of Beauty Redefined’s most important mottos is “You are capable of much more than being looked at.” We focus on teaching women that they are not defined by what they look like, and teaching everyone to view and value women as more than a collection of body parts.
What we do is SO unbelievably far from telling people, “It’s OK if you’re ugly.” We’re showing people how their ideas of “ugly” and “beautiful” are distorted by profit-driven messages that are holding us all back from health, happiness and fulfilling relationships, and then teaching people how to redefine those ideas for themselves.
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