Taking Back Beauty for Females Everywhere
Today’s Q&A is with Lexie Kite, PhD, and Lindsay Kite, PhD, who founded the website Beauty Redefined, dedicated to taking back beauty for females everywhere by teaching them to rethink the ideas of “beautiful” and “healthy” they’ve learned from for-profit media that thrive off female insecurity. As a non-diet health retreat for women, Green Mountain believes reducing body negativity that is often fed by media can help women stop yo-yo dieting, which only makes weight matters worse.
You talk about that moment in college you knew you found your calling. Why is how women are portrayed in the media so important to you?
The reason that class on media analysis in college resonated with us both so much was because we instantly recognized we had been affected by the way women were represented in media. We recognized a lifelong preoccupation with appearance and weight loss and believed that was the key to happiness, desirability, health and success. When the curtains were pulled back on the distorted nature of those images and messages, we felt a huge sense of relief – along with some healthy anger and energy to learn more!
We have long encouraged our participants to forgo reading women’s magazines. In your opinion, what impact can that action alone have?
Taking a break from media messages that are well-documented to push distorted images of women’s bodies in an attempt to sell products is a huge step toward improving one’s own body image. The steady stream of messages that centralize thinness and beauty as foremost in a woman’s life play a major role in keeping that focus in our minds even when we aren’t consciously seeking those messages. Cutting them out can free our minds and energies to focus on more empowering actions and ideas.
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When we make conscious efforts to minimize the number of profit-driven, beauty-focused messages we are exposed to, we decrease the pressures on ourselves to focus on those ideals. Out of sight, out of mind! It works. That’s why we always recommend a “media fast,” or taking a break from media for 2-3 days, or as long as you can possibly go. Doing so re-sensitizes you to what messages are unrealistic and harmful to your self-perception, and allows you to make more conscious and healthy media choices when you come back to media.
Obsession with weight/appearance seems like it’s at all-time high between airbrushing, photo-shopping and selfies. Do you agree or do you think things are improving?
We agree it is at an all-time high. Objectifying imagery is used to sell anything and everything, and girls grow up learning to view themselves from an outsider’s perspective (self-objectification), which influences every aspect of their lives. We are optimistic about improvement. It will likely come slowly, and indeed it is happening, but the culture of objectification has a strong, invisible hold on most of us.
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As more people start to recognize their own feelings of inadequacy and are exposed to messages like ours at Beauty Redefined that push back against those ideals and perpetual focus on female bodies, we see sparks of change. There is great demand for our work and others who do similar things, and that can only be attributed to the backlash that is spreading against these harmful ideals sold to girls and women. We believe media messages will continue to objectify and degrade, and change will not come from the top down, but that consumers and girls and women have power to change themselves and their own perceptions, regardless of what media does. The extreme nature of objectification in media may be a force for pushing people into body positivity and media literacy!
What has reaction been to the sticky pads? Any funny stories about how they’ve been used?
We’re grateful people love our sticky notes. We see photos from across the world where people have posted them in unexpected public places, and it’s so exciting for people to recognize our empowering slogans and believe them! The most interesting story would have to be last February 2013 when two young women (whom we’ve never met, but have supported us online) stuck our sticky notes on all the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues publicly displayed in Barnes & Noble and then were escorted out by an employee. That story was featured on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune, along with us, and got more attention than we could’ve ever imagined!
Can you think of one public figure who is making the biggest difference right now in body acceptance and “redefining beauty?”
There are great people making a difference in this realm, but the one that stands out to us the most at the moment is actress/writer Mindy Kaling, who currently stars in her own TV series, “The Mindy Project.” She represents a body type and race that are not normally featured positively, and almost never as the lead or the love interest of anyone. She represents an awesome woman who is pushing back against traditional beauty ideals by just being herself in a position of power, through fantastic writing, confidence, humor and wit. We’re big fans.
Questions for Lindsey and Lexie? Leave them in the comments below!
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