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Diversity Center’s #RethinkBeauty video invites teens to see themselves through the eyes, words of loved ones

November 30, 2018

Diversity Center’s #RethinkBeauty video invites teens to see themselves through the eyes, words of loved ones

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The teenagers gaze at their images in a darkened studio, quietly reflecting on how their identities are colored and shaped by other people’s perceptions.

When asked to describe what they see, one says, “I see someone who has gone through a lot but tries to stay strong.” Another adds: “I don’t fit into society’s social norms. I don’t look like the average female.”

“You can’t be too sporty, or you’re too much like a boy. Or you can’t be pretty ‘cause then you’re too much like a girl,” adds another. “You feel like you’re never ‘right’.”

“I’ve gotten picked on for not being able to live in the stereotypes that people wanted me to… I now identify as a non-binary person. Once I changed my identity, I also changed my pronouns [from he, him or his] to they, them, theirs, because at the end of the day, I’m not a man, I’m not a woman, I’m just ‘Mannie.’”

“Why am I less of a woman?” one girl asks. “Why can’t I just be me? Why can’t I go to the barbershop and get a haircut? Why can’t I just be free?”

The dramatic 5-minute black-and-white film, entitled #RethinkBeauty, invites viewers – especially young people – to reexamine and redefine their understanding of gender, femininity, masculinity, stereotypes and beauty. It is the third in the Diversity Center’s of Northeast Ohio’s educational video series conceived and produced by Goldfarb Weber Creative Media.

Nearly 900 people watched the video’s debut at the Diversity Center’s 64th Annual Humanitarian Award Dinner on Wednesday night, Nov. 28, at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, where community leader Enid Rosenberg and Oswald Companies Chairman Marc S. Byrnes were honored with its 2018 Humanitarian Awards. Wednesday’s gala, held the day after the FBI reported that hate crimes had jumped for the third straight year and just weeks after 11 worshippers were gunned down while praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, raised more than $600,000 toward the Diversity’s Center’s goals of fighting bias, bigotry and racism.

Peggy Zone Fisher, president and CEO of the Diversity Center, said “when we started the RethinkLabels video, we didn’t realize the impact we would have all over the world,” reaching thousands of students from Columbia University to the Human Rights Campaign, to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This past year, we’ve been hearing a lot about students’ self-worth, how they feel about themselves and how others perceive them.” She asked that the students’ last names be withheld for privacy.

Tony Weber, Goldfarb Weber’s CEO and a Diversity Center board member, hopes that the #RethinkBeauty video sparks the same global dialogue on race, immigration, LGBT issues and bullying on social media as the previous video. After interviewing the students in the video, all of whom attend Northeast Ohio schools, he said: “I was impressed by their candor and insight. And I was astonished at how hard they have to fight – every day – just to be themselves.” He said video editor Kim Sutton had to winnow several hours of video to create the five-minute spot.

The first video, released in 2015, offered a first-hand perspective on racism and bullying, from those who had been called names and judged on their appearances. Last year’s video focused on students who had been teased or harassed as immigrants, Muslims, and ethnic minorities. Each one is available with related curriculum materials to encourage classroom discussion.

“I want people to know the constant struggle that students in Northeast Ohio go through every day, and we need to support them as much as we can, especially in these times, so they can be successful,” Weber said.

“As these teens navigate their own journeys of self-discovery, their peers are constantly judging them. They face incredible pressure and discrimination related to appearance, gender roles and sexual orientation,” he said. “So what can we do to support these teens? We must listen. We must have open communication. And we must have non-judgmental acceptance. These teens just want to be heard and be themselves.”

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