Many advertisements and articles use a form of shame to sell us products. This not only makes us feel bad about ourselves, it also makes it nearly impossible to behave sustainably: in order to be okay, we need to keep buying. This is the norm in commercial communication. It’s time to stop this. To stop feeling terrible – and treating the planet terribly at the same time. That is why we as forward-thinking people are uniting: this is #SustainabilityAgainstShame.
Deep down, we all recognise the pattern. We are being shamed into shopping. We are made to feel like we are not good enough, like we don’t belong, so we will spend money on the items that’ll solve this. At the same time, we are aware that people and the planet are in trouble, and that we need to change our consuming behaviour to get us out of this climate and social crisis. How come we have such a hard time actually doing this? Well, partly because of the shaming system. Because we are being brainwashed – kept hostage almost – by these norms and taboos, that teach us time and again we’re not okay until we spend more (and more and more and more). We need to actively recognise and resist the way shaming for profit works, to not only save ourselves, but the world too.
We are all perfect, just the way we are. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. We are all human, we all have a shape, a colour, and we all have flaws. Nothing we buy, can increase our self-worth and self-love. That is entirely ours. Generally, the fashion, accessories, beauty, gadgets, sports and diet industries beg to differ, and many media do too.
We are not good enough. You are not beautiful enough. Your skin isn’t smooth or the right shade. You are not skinny or fit enough, don’t wear the right clothes and are not on trend. You don’t look like the model, which is almost impossible anyway, as (even though things are changing in this area) they’re almost without exception very young, slim, tall and white. The ideal we have to live up to in the lifestyle business is ridiculously limited. Much of the messaging is specifically intended to make us feel bad about ourselves, to then offer the solution: their products. So we’re talked into having a problem, which makes that whole generations of us develop a negative self-image. And we’re tricked into incessantly buying more and more, which makes it nearly impossible to become truly sustainable. Businesses are getting rich thanks to our low self-esteem, doubts and insecurities, and the world suffers.
This commercialisation of our body and being lies at the heart of our struggle to change our behaviour. As long as you don’t like yourself, it’s okay, because then you remain vulnerable for the idea that you can fix this by shopping. The pressure on our looks doesn’t only affect our happiness, and our mental well-being, but also how sustainably we can act.
#SustainabilityAgainstShame addresses, but is not limited to:
– Our bodies: size, shape, colour, wrinkles/cellulite, sweat, body hair, hair colour, skin condition, discolouration/freckles, acne, ability, menstruation, etc.
– Our looks: outdated, not on-trend, not like everyone else or the celebs, not right for your body, not gender-conforming, too sexy/modest, etc.
– Our lifestyle: what we eat, how we work out, who we fall in love with, how we identify ourselves, our sustainable alternatives (bread / doggy bags, beverage / period cups), etc.
This movement is aimed at brands, stores and media. You can contribute by (please tag me so I can share! @mariekeeyskoot on Instagram):
– Sharing examples on social media of shaming advertisements or articles, with hashtag #SustainabilityAgainstShame.
– Sharing pictures of yourself defying these tactics: bring on the gorgeous body hair, wrinkles, cellulite and all you want to free (#SustainabilityAgainstShame)!
– Urging brands, shops and media to sign the #SustainabilityAgainstShame pledge, which you can find below. Also scroll down to discover who have already subscribed.
– Sharing examples of positive, inclusive ads or communication, so we can jointly learn to be better.
– Being very conscious of this way of communicating, resisting the message and spreading the word. And by all means does this go way beyond the internet. It really helps to start being conscious of this way of communicating, resist the message and spread the word. It can be such an eye-opening moment to hear someone talk about how this works. Every time we have these conversations, we grow stronger together. Imagine what would happen if we all decided to no longer be convinced to dislike (parts of) ourselves…
We are asking companies and media to sign this pledge. You can help by sending your favourites a message via socials: you can find downloadables below and on my Instagram-page.
We will aim to:
– Not use shame as a means to sell our product(s) or approach audiences; this includes but is not limited to body (size, shape, colour, wrinkles/cellulite, sweat, body hair, hair colour, skin condition, ability, etc.), looks (outdated, not on-trend, not cool, not like everyone else or the celebs, not right for your body, not gender-conforming, too sexy/modest, too colourful/weird, etc.) and lifestyle (food, work-out regime, choice of entertainment, social media, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, period products, sustainable alternatives etc.).
– Be inclusive in our visual messaging, and portray persons of various sizes, skin colours/conditions, age, ability, background, orientations, etc. We also strive to be inclusive in our text-based messaging, by being aware of how our possible privilege(s) and cultural position shape our (unconscious) bias, what we do and don’t write about and our choice of words.
– Not use design programmes (such as Photoshop) to enhance or change the look of the people in our messaging towards perceived ‘perfection’ – and if we do, we will be transparent about it in that same message.
– Not just be inclusive in how we portray people, but extend that in a credible way to our entire company, and make sure to the best of our ability that persons of various backgrounds, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities are represented on all levels of decision-making.
– No longer be part of a society and system that aims to structurally make people feel bad about themselves in order to get them to buy our products. We will actively strive for a new practice, where everyone is celebrated, included instead of excluded, and where (sustainable) products are offered that make people feel good about themselves, and they can buy when they actually need them.
Some amazing people and institutions have become supporter of #SustainabilityAgainstShame.
This is our gang:
Bureau Clara Wichmann
Nina Olsson – Nourish Atelier
Laura de Jong
– Watch my TEDxtalk ‘How the pressure to look good, prevents us from doing good’ (click on the image).
– Listen to this podcast with DAMN, HONEY (in Dutch).
– Read this article by me on the Eco Age website: Why The Commercialisation Of Our Body Image Is Putting The Planet At Risk.
– Products that declare natural skin processes suddenly problematic: to minimise pores, eliminate cellulite or combat laugh lines around the eyes.
– Ads for shape wear, fitness items, food regimes or pills and shakes that ridicule your body size (or tell you to lose corona-kilos).
– Articles reporting about the latest trends to cover your entire body in make-up to highlight good parts and shade away your problem areas.
– Limiting ways of portraying people in all sorts of communication: gender identity, age, colour and background, sexual orientation, ability and more.
– Commercials for hair removal products that don’t show any hair, or for period products that contain blue liquid instead of blood.
It’s called This is a Good Guide, is available in English and Dutch, and contains all you need to know about making more sustainable choices in fashion, beauty, food, home, work and leisure.
I’d love to come to your IRL or online event – there’s not much I enjoy talking about more, and I am an experienced (TEDx)speaker.
Then it would mean the world if you’d take off your virtual hat to me, and donated a small amount – either monthly or once-only. You can do that on the Dutch site Petje.af, but for international guests: the navigation is very simple. Thank you so much (such a hard thing to ask!).
Natural light and unretouched pictures of Marieke (wearing lipstick only) – taken by Nina Olsson
Picture of a young transgender woman looking at her reflection in a bathroom mirror / Picture of a non-binary femme using a make-up brush – part of The Gender Spectrum Collection
Movement style design – Angela Jansen of March Creative Design Studio