Women fighting back against unrealistic beauty pressures – report

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Appearance anxiety is still high among young women

More women and girls are fighting back against unrealistic beauty pressures they face in day-to-day life, says a new global report released on Tuesday in London by Dove. And this is despite the reported  rising levels of beauty and appearance anxiety.

The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which interviewed 10,500 females across 13 countries, found that women’s confidence in their bodies is on a steady decline, with low body esteem becoming a unifying challenge shared by women and girls around the world – regardless of age or geography. The study was conducted in two phases with the first phase taking place in late 2015 with 7 countries. The study was then further broadened with another 6 countries at the beginning of 2016. In total, Edelman Intelligence interviewed 6000 women aged 18 to 64 and 4500 girls aged 10 to 17 in thirteen countries: India, the US, UK, Brazil, China, Japan, Turkey, Canada, Germany, Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Australia.

Despite this, there is still a strong desire among females to challenge existing beauty norms, with 71% of women and 67% of girls calling for the media to do a better job portraying women of diverse physical appearance, age, race, shape and size.

The report is the third and most comprehensive study Dove has undertaken on the topic, building on two previous studies published in 2004 and 2010. It reveals the impact low body esteem has on a woman’s ability to realize her potential, with nearly all women (85%) and girls (79%) saying they opt out of important life activities – such as trying out for a team or club, and engaging with family or loved ones – when they don’t feel good about the way they look.

Additionally, 7 in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they won’t be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they aren’t happy with the way they look, while 9 out of 10 (87%) women will stop themselves from eating or will otherwise put their health at risk.

“This latest research shows that low body confidence is a global issue,” says Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Assistant Clinical Professor Harvard Medical School, Director of Program in Aesthetics and Wellbeing, MGH Department of Psychiatry. “Though troubling, these results are also unsurprising, given the increasing pressures women and girls face today. We need to help empower women and girls in many ways, including increasing body-confidence education, driving meaningful conversations around the pressures women and girls face, and advocating for change in how females and their appearance are talked about and portrayed in the media.”

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Self-esteem in today considered more importan. Pic: selfesteem.dove.com.

Women (69%) and girls (65%) cite increasing pressures from advertising and media to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty as a key force in driving appearance anxiety, while 56% of all women recognize the impact of an ‘always on’ social media culture in driving the pressure for perfection. Perhaps most worryingly, nearly 8 in 10 (78%) of both women and girls feel some pressure to never make mistakes or show weakness.

The report found that beauty and appearance anxiety is a global issue, but one that women are experiencing differently by culture and country – it allowed for a closer look at the nuanced and changing definitions of beauty defining and uniting women all over the world.

t’s not all bad news for women and girls. The report uncovers a unique tension, with 60% of women believing they need to meet certain beauty standards, while at the same time, 77% agreeing it is important to be their own person and not copy anyone else.

Even more telling is the belief expressed by the majority of women (83%) and girls (77%) who say they want to look their personal best rather than follow someone else’s definition of ‘beautiful’, and 83% of all women and 82% of girls who agree every woman has something about them that is beautiful.

Investing in personal time

For many women and girls, the key to breaking a cycle of beauty and appearance anxiety seems to be the experience of taking time to care for their minds, body and appearance. In fact, 7 in 10 women and 8 in 10 girls report feeling more confident or positive when they invest time in caring for themselves.

“Taking time for care – whether it’s body or mind – is an important step in improving the confidence of women and girls,” says Victoria Sjardin, Senior Global Director, Dove Masterbrand. “For over 50 years, Dove has been committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. With this new research, we hope to inspire women and girls everywhere to develop a positive relationship with the way they look.”

Dove has long used real women in all its advertising and marketing campaigns, and has adhered to a strict no airbrushing policy. With the Dove Self-Esteem Project, launched in 2004, Dove has positively impacted the lives of more than 19 million young people across 128 countries through self-esteem education and training.

To coincide with the launch of The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, the brand recently announced a new goal of doubling its social impact by 2020 – committing to positively impacting an additional 20 million young lives over the next four years. – PRNewswire

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