Ever since we were little, we were taught not to judge a book by its cover. We are told that appearances can be misleading, that we should look beyond skin deep. These lessons are important, even necessary, for us to learn how to get along with each other and eventually appreciate each other for our differences. Thanks to the #dontjudgechallenge, however, it has become clear that a lot of today’s teens do not appreciate our differences.
Teenagers around the world have taken to social media with pictures and videos of themselves dressed up as “ugly,” wearing glasses, messing up their hair and painting acne and unibrows on their faces. Some even distort their faces so as to appear stereotypically mentally disabled, which is apparently another facet of this “ugly” aesthetic.
Midway through the videos, the subjects place their hands over the camera for just a moment to then reveal themselves as “pretty.” On one level, this fits perfectly with the ideal “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The teenager in the video at first appears unattractive, but that particular appearance turns out to be false. At its core, this trend could be seen as a body-positive challenge. However, it has rapidly become a body-shaming movement.
Many people have spoken out against the trend’s glaring issue: Only “pretty” people are able to participate. The video has to end with the subject emerging as shockingly beautiful, which can only happen if the person fits our society’s standards of beauty. So, the #dontjudgechallenge not only makes ruthless fun of certain appearances, but also reinforces unrealistic physical standards.
While a lot of people have shared their displeasure with this trend, especially since it disguises itself as body positive, other people have taken a more active approach. MTV’s Scream actress Bex Taylor-Klaus, a role model for many teenagers around the world, started her own campaign: #dontCHANGEchallenge. This trend encourages people not to change themselves for anyone else. If someone identifies or looks or even acts a certain way, then that is who they are, and they shouldn’t change because someone else wants something different.
When we asked Taylor-Klaus about the inspiration for the hashtag, she said: “Makeup just enhances the beauty that was there to begin with. There’s no need to mock naturally occurring things such as acne, unshaped eyebrows, freckles, moles or glasses. There should be no shame in being human, and those traits are what make us unique. It’s OK to feel beautiful wearing a lot of makeup. It’s also OK to feel beautiful wearing none at all.”
Taylor-Klaus does not change. She is still her infamously quirky self, and she wants all of us to feel confident doing the same thing. Dressing up as “ugly” denies who we are and shames other people for looking a certain way. Don’t create a book cover for yourself that you deem unattractive; appreciate every book cover for how it looks and what it holds inside. While there are certainly more significant dangers and land mines for kids on the internet, these are the kinds of discussions you need to have with them about what they tweet.