Keep Bodies Real, for the Sake of our Girls – Sponsored by Dove


When she was 7, my daughter came home and asked me if she could shave her legs. My heart sank, because I knew we were on the brink of a lifetime of concerns about her appearance. She had been teased at school, and in an afternoon, she’d gone from not caring two figs about her legs – beyond how fast they could carry her round the playground – to wanting them to conform to someone else’s expectations.

Over the next few years, a whole bunch of other perceived flaws found their way into her awareness of herself, from moles to eyebrows, thighs to hair colour, and more recently, an insulin pump. I sat with her and discussed why these things bothered her, and every single time it was something someone else had said about the way she looked. I asked her about these people, what she liked and disliked about them, and what was unusual about their appearance. And gradually we determined that they too had hair on their legs, eyebrows that strayed into the middle, moles, glasses, a kink in their nose, or a crazy hairstyle.

We talked about the fact that everyone has differences, that that’s normal, and that the way you look is just one part of who you are. The way you laugh, the things you love, the people around you, and how you treat them are all just as much a part of your beauty as the features of your face, or the hair on your legs.

I think those conversations and reassurances have given her a strong foundation to cope with the teenage years, and I know she’s going to need it, given the focus so many girls – and let’s be honest, grown women – put on their appearance. I see what some of her peers post on Instagram: the trout pout and Snapchat filter reign. You know the one I mean – the filter that makes everyone (including me) look like a Barbie doll who’s been under the sun lamp for too long.

With media so much more readily available to them now, young girls are so constantly bombarded with images of the perfect woman to aspire to, that they actually believe these representations of themselves look good. I see young girls wearing the make-up of much older women, and they’re good at it. It looks amazing, but it looks so wrong on them, at their age. Perceptions of beauty and body image need to change, and it needs to be soon, to avoid the next generation placing all their focus on how they look.

What’s really worrying is that although 67% of girls think that the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty, they still consume those images with a hungry anxiety over their own appearance.* And almost all of the girls who feel worried about their appearance say they opt out of social activities, clubs and sports because of how they look. That’s heart-breaking. This is why Dove is championing the launch of the Be Real Body Image Pledge on 17 November. The Pledge aims to change the way we think about body image in the UK, and to create a world where girls grow up surrounded by more realistic and diverse images they can relate to.

I pointed out to my daughter that Dove only use real women in their advertising, and have a strict policy against photoshopping and airbrushing. You know what she said? “Good. No one really looks like those women in fashion magazines. And eyebrows can always be plucked.” But whilst she does obsess about the perfect eyebrow, she couldn’t care less about the hair on her legs. She’ll deal with it – if she can be bothered – when she wants to, and in turn, she doesn’t judge her friends for their imperfections. I’m hoping it stays that way.

Take the Pledge to be Real


To support the campaign, I’ve made my pledge to be real, posting this picture of me on a family holiday. Because my swimsuit wasn’t there to make me look good. It was there so I could shriek with laughter on the water slide with my kids!

Why don’t you join in? All you need to do is post a picture of what real beauty means to you, and tag @DoveUK with the #PledgeToBeReal hashtag.

*Research commissioned by Dove. Post sponsored by Dove, and the #PledgeToBeReal campaign.

8 thoughts on “Keep Bodies Real, for the Sake of our Girls – Sponsored by Dove”

  1. I really liked this post as I am just venturing into the realm of body image with my daughter, who’s 8yo.
    It’s so important to give them a foundation of confidence in their body image which, I can only hope, carries them positively thru to adulthood. You look like you’re enjoying yourself in this photo, which is all that matters, right?!

    • Exactly. This is what I try to teach her. Though I remember my Mum doing the same. ‘Beauty’s on the inside,’ and all that. I never did believe her! I think the Dove campaign is a lot more realistic though, acknowledging that girls do feel strongly about how they look, but impressing on them that what they have already is beautiful, and they shouldn’t feel anxious about it because of what they see in the media.

  2. What a great campaign. It makes me sad that your daughter was worrying about hairy legs at 7. My daughter is 10 and a half, has worn glasses since she was 3 and has a large birthmark on her face. She has never worried about any of this – or being too fat, too thin or having hairy legs. Maybe it’s because I’m one of the unusual women that doesn’t worry at all about my appearance?! All the same, I’m aware my daughter could change and start worrying at any time – especially as she is going to a girls’ school in September.

    • I don’t know Sarah. She’s a pretty level-headed girl, but they all seem to be caught up in the online world. She loves to experiment with make-up and hairstyles, and I think that’s ok. It’s just keeping things real that’s the challenge. She’s ok for now. I hope girls are getting the message and bigging each other up, no matter what their body looks like.

  3. I love this and absolutely salute Dove for taking a stand against photo shop and unrealistic models. As a mother of a young daughter who obsesses over Disney princesses and Barbie, I am already so aware of raising a self confident young lady who loves herself. I remember my own Mam constantly being on a diet, rivitas and branston pickle. How grim? I recently had an incident where my Son was afraid to walk past a fellow Mum at the swimming pool because she was a dwarf. It horrified me that he would be affected by a difference of appearance so we have since had long chats about how everybody looks different but we’re all the same on the inside. All we can do is try our best to encourage our children to accept themselves and everyone else, warts and all, ha! x

    • Definitely, and so much of what defines a person physically goes unnoticed by the casual observer anyway, so putting the focus so much on physical appearance makes no sense at all. I knew a few people who were constantly dieting when I was young, and I always felt so sorry for them!

  4. What a great initiative – I’ve always liked Dove because of their emphasis on natural beauty. It’s heartbreaking when girls so young feel inadequate because of the messages they get from the world around them. Hopefully this will soon be a thing of the past!

    • I don’t know, I think it’s a long slog, but Dove are definitely leading that initiative, and I love the images they use, and their ethos. Someone has to take a stand! Let’s hope it works.


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