Here's an interesting thing - an advert from Dove (part of their 'campaign for real beauty') with the message 'talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does' and some strong images of how damaging the quest for 'beauty' can be: plastic surgery, extreme weight fluctuations, eating disorders. Of course, Dove are part of the beauty industry, and this is an advert, designed to sell a range of products, which women use not because they need to but because they feel they need to, thanks to the exact same images that Dove is criticising here.
I guess I mainly think this is a good thing - I also like a previous advert showing exactly how unreal pictures of models can be - and I like Dove putting out pictures of bigger and older women saying that they are beautiful and feel happy about themselves, although it's kind of an annoying reminder that mainstream media images of women are so very limited: we all know beautiful women who don't fit the very limited model of beauty, so 'fat (and old) women are pretty too - shock, horror' ought to be redundant.
What I'd really like, in an ideal world, is for looks to be just one of the qualities that women (and men!) have, and that physical appearance should fall back in importance compared to kindness, intelligence, courage, and wit. I think this is already, to a certain extent, the case for men: if you read a women's magazine 'Top 100 sexy men', you're sure to find less physically beautiful specimens: writers, comedians, sportsmen and politicians, as well as the Brad Pitts and George Clooneys. Of course, I don't really think you can draw very important conclusions from observing glossy magazines, but a men's magazine list will be very different, featuring only pretty women, mostly young women, and plenty who are models or socialites and in the list purely for their looks alone.
Of course, as always, there's a radical divide between what the media shows and how people actually behave: I don't know a man (well, maybe one or two) who could go out with a woman for her looks alone; and of course looks are things that women consider in men. But the media is given to commenting disproportionately on women's looks; so is it better to say 'well, there are more beautiful women than you think, and most of them aren't a size 10', or to say 'fuck beauty - what about my achievements'? Of course, it's foolish to imagine that Dove could make that last statement, but wouldn't it be great if someone did?