Kathryn Lindsay
Updated Jul 07, 2015 @ 12:44 pm
screen shot 2015-07-06 at 2.32.34 pm

File under ‘things we learned’: if you create a movement designed to combat body shaming, you better make sure it doesn’t, well, body shame. That’s what happened with the #dontjudgechallenge. The gist of the challenge is simple: teens have been giving themselves make-unders designed to create the most “unattractive” versions of themselves, and then taking it all off to reveal how they really look. I guess I kind of get it? Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that. But it backfired pretty quickly, and it’s easy to see why.

With a quick scroll through the hashtag, you start to notice some of the same things. These make-unders overwhelmingly feature things like acne, body hair and glasses…all traits that are not only not unattractive, but also pretty normal when it comes to being a teenager (or even, human!). They’re crudely drawn, exaggerated and very clearly supposed to be funny. But is that actually helping? It’s hard to be your “true” self if your true self is exactly what this movement seems to be making fun of.

Now, let’s hang back a moment. I don’t think the teens who are participating are doing it with the intention of making fun of their peers, but they are causing a bit of stir. What was intended to be poignant social media outreach comes across a lot more like, “Don’t worry, I’m not actually ugly.” In other words, there’s an implicit suggestion that certain features are unattractive, rather than uniquely beautiful—which they really are.

This is a learning moment for all of us, and users have been taking to Twitter and Vine to improve upon a well-meaning concept that missed its mark. They created the #BeautyInAllChallenge as a way to spark a more respectful discussion. For instance, some teens have been going from made-up to make-up-less to show that they still look just as awesome. Others have been highlighting how the features the original hashtag makes fun of are actually super cool:

Let’s take note of this, and next time not put down others in an attempt to make some feel better. There really is beauty in all, and that’s something worth trending.

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