Advertising is the activity or process of producing advertisements for commercial products and services – this is the definition you can find in dictionaries. The real definition, to put it bluntly, is that advertising is just a fancy way to persuade people to buy. But is that all advertising does? There’s a very remarkable saying that advertising sells more than just products. It can influence us to make perceptions, help us to carve boundaries – and, in some, cases might even prompt us to break some of them.

If you’ll look closely at the advertisements around you, you will see a pattern; a pattern of objectifying and sexualizing women, which is both insulting and demeaning. Tall, petite, perfect looking models are usually seen in the advertisements for cooking oil, washing powders and even motor bikes. The influence of these ads is quick, cumulative and – for most part – even subconscious. And the ones who are most affected by this are young women and girls.

Take fairness cream ads as an example, which pop onto your TV screens after every 15 minutes. They show a dusky girl whose life is miserable because of her skin color. But after using the said cream her life magically transforms. She gets good grades and does remarkably in interviews. By connecting success with skin color they are actually giving the impression that if you are fair, you have nothing to worry about. This makes me sick.

It is important to note here that the women we see in TV commercials and on billboards have the luxury of perfect lighting, makeup and professional photography. And, not to forget, Photoshop. Thus the message girls receive from a young age is to measure up to this impossible ideal. What kinds of thoughts surface in a young woman’s mind when she looks at her reflection in the mirror? She’ll only say “My figure isn’t perfect enough”.

Or “My complexion isn’t fair enough” or “I am not tall enough.” Girls start to hate their very bodies. They start to suffer from depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem. The gap between what a woman is and what she wants to be widens. They start investing more time and money trying to modify themselves. Breast augmentation, nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid surgery and facelift are the most popular kinds of surgeries nowadays.

When she goes outside, instead of seeing the world, she will only concentrate on how the world sees her. This is so because the commercials, humongous billboards and the society keeps on reminding her that she is not perfect and it is not at all OK to be anything less than perfect.  They imply only one message that the most important thing a girl can be is beautiful, and mock at her inability to reach this unrealistic standard. Not only that, but this also affects the way men feel about the real women in their lives.

I cannot help but condemn such a behavior. It is not wrong to try to improve yourself. It is not wrong to desire to be desired. But it is wrong when this is the only thing you can think about. When instead of thinking about their career, studies and ways to make a difference, talented girls only ponder on how to make their imperfect bodies perfect. Investing only in this, is wrong.

However, merely condemning this behavior isn’t enough – we’ll have to take practical steps, you and I. Next time you see a girl, try to look beyond her appearance. The next time you want to compliment a girl don’t just tell her she is pretty, but admire her other traits. Tell her you think she is kind, hardworking, generous, and persistent. Why is ‘pretty’ the highest compliment you can give a girl? It is time that girls come out of their cocoons of insecurity and start using their resources to do what they do best. It is time women stopped obsessing over their looks and started obsessing over making a difference, changing the world or trying to conquer it.

Because there is so much more a girl can be than just beautiful.