#DontJudgeChallenge gives beauty a bad name


By Risa Askerooth
[email protected]

There can be something said for reserving judgement for personality instead of appearance. This message, the goal of the #DontJudgeChallenge campaign, which has flooded Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr, has been lost in translation. Participants, whether knowingly or unknowingly, are propagating judgement. Instead of promoting body positivity and self-love, its good intentions have worsened body shaming.

The short videos of the challenge that users post involve drawing acne, unibrows, exaggerated lips, makeup and other features on the face that are considered “flawed.” Then, undergoing a transformation, the drawn-on characteristics are removed to reveal the person beneath: someone that is conventionally beautiful, without any of these previous flaws. The videos are also set to an upbeat pop song, giving the clips a light-hearted tone. The point that is trying and failing to be conveyed is clear: Nobody should be judged by first appearances and should embrace their true selves.

There are multiple problems with this. Instead of glorifying one’s “true self,” the #DontJudgeChallenge further stigmatizes aspects of the body that already are the targets of body shaming, such as scars, body hair and imperfect skin. They act as if it is a relief to simply wipe off these features to reveal the face underneath that they admire; those who have these features and hate them do not have such a luxury. By communicating their definition of beauty, which excludes the flaws that society deems unattractive, they call those with such flaws “unattractive.”

Another flaw of the challenge is that, for the most part, the only participants are those who are considered attractive in society’s view. Although they vary in race and ethnicity, almost everyone that posts these videos would be considered beautiful. This eye-catching attractiveness is the reason that the challenge went viral in the first place; America loves to look at beautiful things. However, true beauty should not be arbitrary nor exclusive. This challenge would be much less problematic if there was a greater representation of the human race, and if flaws were celebrated instead of abhorred.

Social media trends such as these are a gateway to even further body shaming. Instead of simply implying the ugliness of certain features, the challenge enables people to actually comment on them. Commenting on each other’s bodies is something that the challenge helps to propagate, as it firmly sets the line between what society considers beauty and ugliness. Even offhand comments can be incredibly damaging and hurtful, drawing out an insecurity that the commenter could never have guessed.

In order to see the deeply distorted message that is being conveyed through these videos, it needs to be understood that ugliness is defined more by the individual than societal conventions. Pimples, glasses and facial hair are not ugly, but acting as if they are is. Only when these features lose their stigma will the appeal of challenges such as this fade. If it’s not your body, it’s not your job to judge it. Young people are particularly impressionable when it comes to media, making the challenge even more harmful.

The double standards between those who are attractive and unattractive are blatant and overwhelming. Beauty helps procure jobs, enter into relationships and pass through life with greater social ease. That’s not to say that beauty shouldn’t be appreciated; it should. The whole point is that its definition should grow beyond societal standards.

Another hashtag, the #BeautyInAllChallenge, has developed in response to the backlash of the #DontJudgeChallenge. It has less than a fraction of the thousands who have participated in the first challenge, but it is the one that communicates the right message. People discuss their physical appearance, including the features that society both does and doesn’t deem acceptable. Bodies are embraced whether America approves of them or not. There are no negative repercussions of this campaign, which is perhaps its most valuable asset. And this self-respect should be the message preached by every body-positive campaign. Body shaming that is disguised as body positivity is uglier than any of the flaws dictated by society.

Once the stigma fades, faces and bodies can be seen and not judged. There are so many people in the world that it is wrong to set certain standards of beauty and apply them universally. America needs to redefine their definition of beauty and realize that the standards they have set are unattainable, as well as hurtful to many.  Not everyone looks like the movie stars and models of today, but they should be considered just as beautiful by society. Beauty is more than skin deep, no matter what the #DontJudgeChallenge insinuates.