I’m loving the focus on body confidence and empowerment on Freeform’s The Letter, but I have serious issues with the way this week’s show tried to boost one young woman’s self-esteem.
This week’s episode highlighted a group of four Valley Girls, who upon first glance seemed to fit all the stereotypes. The most stereotypical gal was arguably Anna, who was accused of spending all of her time on her phone. The other women mentioned how heavily Anna doctors all of her photos — and obsesses about all of the likes she receives on Instagram and Facebook.
Each woman was issued a challenge for the week, and the first part of Anna’s challenge was great — she was asked to lock up her phone. Some people just have to be forced to unplug, and for those who base all of their worth on social media, limited access is definitely a good thing.
The problematic part of Anna’s challenge was her selfie-taking session. She had to take two very different selfies: one in which she wore absolutely no makeup and another in which she was dolled up to her heart’s desire. Both photos were then blown up and put on display in public, with complete strangers asked to vote for which photo they liked better. To Anna’s surprise, more people liked her makeup-free look, although a few did admit to liking her better in makeup.
I’m all for makeup-free selfies. I think it’s great that so many women are willing to embrace the natural look on social media and in the real world. My issue is not that Anna was encouraged to take a makeup-free selfie, but rather that she was essentially told to continue measuring her self-worth in terms of likes and favorites, and not based on something a little more substantial. Also, what if this little experiment had gone the wrong way? What if more people had voted for the heavy makeup selfie? Anna would have taken away the wrong message. I don’t think there was ever any chance of that happening because this entire segment felt very contrived.
Makeup or no makeup, women should not make major decisions based on likes, even if those likes are recorded on little slips of paper and not on Facebook. I fear that this particular challenge taught both Anna and the show’s viewers the wrong lesson.