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In 2003, Dove soap commissioned a global study in which only 2% of women described themselves as beautiful. Dove followed this with an advertising campaign called “Campaign for Real Beauty”, which defied the fashion and beauty industries by promoting “real women” as beautiful. Their ads contrasted the “tighter… firmer… younger…” media messages with messages such as “beauty has no age limit”. Dove criticized the popular anti-aging movement and put pro-aging on the map. Unfortunately, the company that owns Dove, Unilever, was later criticized for the digital photographic touch-ups of their “real” women models, and for the absolute contradictory message promoted in their women-objectifying Axe Body Spray ads (available on youtube). Marketing analysts suggest that Dove didn’t really believe that a truly pro-aging approach could work.
Beauty, youth, and “anti-aging” are often central concerns for women transitioning through hormone changes known as menopause. Misguided cultural and medical perspectives categorize menopause as a disease state characterized by hormone deficiency, which can be “fixed” with treatment. In her book The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Christiane Northrup outlines our “cultural inheritance”, in which Hormone Replacement Therapy was advertised by doctors in the 1960s as “the pill that would keep your husband from understandably leaving you for a younger, more beautiful woman”. Decades later, facets of this perspective still affect our culture, our medicine, and the women currently experiencing menopause. Some geographers believe that this negative cultural definition of menopause is exactly the reason why we experience significantly more serious menopausal symptoms than most cultures.
Though menopausal symptoms are common and sometimes severe, menopause is a normal and healthy part of growing older that can be symptom-free.