"Hearing that I don't look Arab is so hard, because I identify as Arab. To be ostracised for my look – for not being 'Arab enough' – that sucks," says an emotional Ascia Al Faraj in her I Will Not Be Deleted video story for Rimmel London.
The 134-year-old cosmetics brand has launched a campaign with the same name to coincide with Anti-Bullying Week, roping in the Kuwaiti model and fashion blogger alongside global ambassadors Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne.
Unlike the bullies that many of us come across in the playground or indeed the boardroom, cyberbullying is another animal altogether. Once posted, the harsh and judgemental words, sometimes threats, employed by largely faceless individuals are forever out there for the world to see, read and comment on. Young women are particularly vulnerable, and often face one of the worst kinds of shaming – for their looks and the way they dress. Rimmel estimates that 55 million women have experienced beauty cyberbullying (see below for more statistics).
“The message I have for young people who are being affected is that you are enough. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. And you are not alone. We have to stand by each other and think twice before we comment. The comments I have read are heartbreaking and it's terrifying to see what words can do to someone,” says Delevingne. “We really just want to shine a light on the fact that cyberbullying is not okay,” adds Ora.
In addition to narrating her own experience with digital intimidators, Al Faraj sends out an important message to her 2.5 million followers. “Give yourself the okay to not be okay. I gave myself a full day and let myself cry. And I told myself that this is the only day that I was to allow people to get to me and that was the last day… now you can leave a comment but I am not going to delete what I put up. I am not going to be deleted… just because you don’t like something.”
For #IWillNotBeDeleted, Rimmel has partnered with The Cybersmile Foundation to tackle all forms of digital abuse. Importantly, the campaign aims to spark a global conversation surrounding beauty cyberbullying by teaming with influencers who have dealt with the issue first-hand, as well as to promote the concept of individual beauty.
As Sara Wolverson, vice president of Rimmel global marketing at Coty, puts it: “[The] purpose is to inspire people to experiment and express themselves... to be their authentic self. We are against narrow definitions of beauty, and people being shamed, judged and criticised because of their looks.”
Key findings from the Rimmel's cyberbullying study
Sample size: 11,000 women
- 1 in 4 women worldwide have experienced cyberbullying about their looks
- 115 million images are deleted each year
- 65% said their confidence has been affected by the bullying
- 11% of those bullied have experienced it once a month or more.
- 46% (or around 16.6 million) young women go through eating, alcohol or self-harm issues after being bullied online about their looks
- Only 44% of women report bullying
- 57% of those who've been bullied don't tell anyone about their experience
- 51% say bullying has stopped them experimenting with their look or the way they dress