The words of Öz | Don’t let the dust gather on them

A few weeks ago, we had International Women’s Day, on which the world celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Here in Denmark, of course, we have a female prime minister despite it only being 98 years ago that women earned the right to vote in Danish government elections. Gender equality has come a long way.

But this column will not be about the celebration of achievements, but rather about the damaging developments to the female image.

Often when I’m waiting for the bus, it is hard not to notice the advertising posters featuring half-naked women at the bus stop. When I get to the train station, I once again meet a half-naked woman, this time advertising electronic products. When I take a seat on the train and open the newspaper, once again a half-naked woman pops out at me. When I finally get home and turn on the TV, it is only to see a never ending parade of sensual women trying to sell me ice cream and chocolates.

The beauty of women is being (mis)used to sell a wide range of products, but it doesn’t stop there. Women’s beauty is also a goldmine in the entertainment industry.

When was the last time we saw a less attractive singer singing to the top of the charts? The commercial and entertainment industries dictate an ideal image to children and young adults of how a woman is supposed to look.

I wonder how it must feel for a young girl when she feels she cannot live up to the ideal slim image, because I’ve met several young girls who feel very unhappy with themselves and lack self-esteem and self-confidence. For boys, the problem is that they see women as a product that is made for them to satisfy their desires, which can be thrown out again when they are done, like a discontinued product.

That is the consequence of so much emphasis on female beauty. It has created an artificial scale that rates a woman’s value on her looks. It is an extremely superficial measure. Does a woman’s value really depend only on her beauty? What about the women who are not born as natural beauty queens? Have they no value?

No wonder so many young girls today are starving themselves half to death, or struggling with eating disorders, in order to live up to the ideal image.

Yes, women were created as the more beautiful sex, but a woman is so much more than a pretty face. A woman has many qualities and deserves respect, but that respect is taken from her by the images of women so prevalent on posters, commercials, music videos and so on.

It has even got so bad that girls at a very young age already start to lose self-respect because they feel like they cannot live up to the ideal image of women presented in the media. Young girls use tons of make-up and lip gloss in an effort to emulate their slim, beautiful role models. But what they are blind to is the fact that others don’t see them as beautiful young women, but rather silly kids with too much make-up.

It’s hard to respect people who do not respect themselves, but it is hard for girls and women to respect themselves when they don’t know their own value. It is therefore important that we teach girls, starting at a very young age, to know their value.

A girl’s smile is, after all, her most beautiful jewellery. One doesn’t need to be the mirror image of a slim fashion model to be beautiful.

In Danish, there is a phrase often said to women: “Kend din plads”, which translates as “Know your place”. But as a society we should be encouraging women to “Know your value!”

All women are diamonds, so don’t let the dust gather on them.

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