A 2004 study sponsored by Dove, one of Unilever’s beauty brands, uncovered some sobering statistics. Dove’s mission in commissioning The Real Truth About Beauty study was to explore what beauty means to women, and why. They also wanted to assess whether it was possible to talk and think about female beauty in ways that are more “authentic, satisfying and empowering.”
First and foremost, women want to see the idea of beauty expanded to include emotional qualities, character and individuality, as opposed to the narrow physical aspects of beauty which currently dominate popular culture.
75% want to see greater diversity in the images of beauty too — women of different shapes and varying sizes. And they want a broader range of ages in the pictures of women than those who, at present, saturate our visual field.29.
Unfortunately, according to the study, “beautiful” is not a word women readily associate with themselves.
By an overwhelming majority, the study found women were most comfortable using the words natural (31%) or average (29%). In fact, only 2% of women around the world elected to describe their appearance as beautiful. Two percent, ladies. That’s it!
9% chose attractive; 8% feminine; and just 7% chose good-looking or cute. Further, this lack of identification with beautiful held true across all age groups, with only 4% of 18 - 29 year olds choosing beautiful to describe their looks.
Now, let’s remember that this study was conducted in 2004. In Web years, that’s practically ancient history.
When we learned about it, we couldn’t help thinking about that woman strutting down the avenue in South Beach. We're sure that none of the men who were ogling and whistling at her were thinking about statistical self-analyses of beauty.