Relax, you’re beautiful!
Women love to obsess about their bodies, or let’s say, we love to concentrate on what’s not good about ourselves and subconsciously encourage cliches about beauty. But hold on, being beautiful is not that difficult. It’s all about relaxing and loving yourself for who you are. Juma Al Jou Jou, a games designer, has some advice and an interesting game for women and girls hoping to regain their self-confidence! Juma Al Jou Jou’s new game, Pretty Ugly, is about beauty contests which mimic the real-world beauty mania. Players can never reach the beauty ideal which keeps changing over time!
Women Talk Online: What inspired you to design this game?
Juma Al Jou Jou: I was raised in an orphanage and developed a strong sense of justice early on. At the age of nine, I fell in love with chess because it is so fair: power, money, age, gender and looks don’t matter, it’s only about the skills!
When I was about 18, I grew long hair and I could tell that many of my female peers liked me a lot more than earlier. So I tried a self-experiment: I got a Harekrishna haircut (similar to this one). This was quite a drastic change and not the most popular haircut for 18-year-old students in a rural Bavarian area. When I first looked into the mirror, I was shocked by my own image. I probably would not have talked to a guy who looked like I did! At the same time I noticed that I was still the same person. In this moment I realized how brainwashed I was myself and how much my own judgment was based on looks.
You are a man, so why think about women’s bodies in this very “ethical” manner?
I find it extremely unfair that women’s lives depend so much on their looks, in almost all contexts: job, love, friends etc. Despite my awareness of it, I sometimes catch myself judging people based on their looks. So I wanted to develop a game about this beauty craze. Awareness and empathy can help men to understand what women go through (check out how Dustin Hoffman admits in tears he was brainwashed).
In your personal interactions with women, you must have definitely heard them criticize their bodies, how they’re not fit enough, or they have rolls of fat on different parts of their bodies. How do you react to these?
I try to convince my girlfriend that she is beautiful as she is and that she should relax about her looks. She doesn’t always believe me though!
What do you, as a man, think how women should perceive their bodies? Are you quite happy with the way most women are presented in advertisements- I mean sexy with very “perfect” bodies, no fat and so on?
Sex sells, unfortunately. A paradigm change is needed. Advertisement for tobacco and alcohol becomes more and more regulated to prevent possible damage. Advertisements with women as sexual objects also create damage, perhaps in a less measurable way. 200,000 teenagers get cosmetic plastic surgeries in the US alone every year. Do you think 14-year-olds get a new nose just for fun? A lot of bullying in school circles around looks. Media and advertisements promote the idea that “looks are everything.”
Our game Pretty Ugly shows that beauty ideals are 1. time-dependent, 2. are pretty random and 3. often not-so healthy. So there is no objective definition of beauty, a person is “pretty” or “ugly” according to a certain beauty ideal, in a certain region, at a certain time. Someone who may not “fit” the current ideal may be very pretty according to most beauty ideals in history of mankind! So let’s all relax a bit about it.
Do you think women would be happier if they stopped thinking about how imperfect their bodies are? Do you think they’d be happier at work, relationships?
Definitely. 96 percent of women around the world don’t consider themselves beautiful. I think a lot of happiness results from accepting ourselves and our traits that may not fit the current ideal. Finally, such an inner strength and happiness can be very attractive, too!
Do you think men have an equal role to play when it comes to us women thinking negatively about our bodies? You know, we women think men like watching these manufactured sexy women in advertisements, even those for yoghurt.
Well, I don’t think one can blame only one demographic or gender for that beauty mania. It is a complex social phenomenon so we all are responsible for changing it. If we all try to overcome our prejudices and and don’t judge people by their looks we develop towards a more tolerant society in which women’s (and men’s) task to accept themselves becomes much easier.
Interview: Juma Al Jou Jou (via Email)
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Date27.11.2013 | 16:06