In 2004, the Dove soap company launched an ad campaign ostensibly meant to challenge the beauty standard in modern culture.
The Real Beauty campaign supposedly works by offering new perspectives to women, reassuring them that their body type is normal, and they shouldn’t compare themselves to photo-shopped models.
A couple problems arise, however, when we look at how Dove presents its campaign.
First off, the whole campaign seems a tad too profit-minded. One must ask what business a soap company has using photos of women in their underwear to sell its products.
Despite whatever front it puts up, Dove’s use of nearly naked women in its advertisements is no better than Carl’s Jr.’s using Paris Hilton’s sex appeal to sell hamburgers.
The lucrativeness of Dove’s campaign comes more into light as we take a look at the faces of Dove’s idea of “real beauty.”
Dove’s presentation of women is extremely one-sided and is more harmful than helpful. It only serves to help women by putting other women down.
The women Dove presents as the faces of real beauty are not, by any means, unattractive. In fact, they are all traditionally attractive.
Most of the women in its ads are white, young and blue-eyed. They are all of about an average weight. Only a handful of the women are black. Even then, most of the black women are light-skinned. Very few are old. None are skinny. All are able-bodied. The so-called “fat” women are, at most, 200 pounds.
The fact that all of the women have smooth skin is the only excusable fault, seeing as it could reflect on the effectiveness of the company’s skincare products.
Is there no way to promote self-confidence without excluding other women?
And no, that is not to say that skinny women are underrepresented in society. But when a company enters the 10th year of an ad campaign, each year a little more self-righteous about how seemingly progressive it is (going so far as to create a fake Photoshop program that shames its users for altering photos of women), it is fair to expect a little bit of inclusion.
As it exists right now, the Dove Real Beauty campaign is seriously lacking representation of women of color, as well as differently abled, skinny, obese and old women.
One promotional video has an FBI sketch artist draw several women twice. He bases the first drawing off of a woman’s description of herself. The second comes from another woman’s description of the first woman.
At the end of the video, the women are marched into a room decorated with hanging pairs of sketches. The sketch artist leads the women to their drawings, where they see how warped their views of themselves are. Wonderful.
This gets a little problematic when we see that, of the women interviewed, two white women do most of the talking. Women of color appear in video for about 10 seconds, total.
Not only does the video emphasize whiteness, but it also seems to work against the campaign’s supposed mantra of self-acceptance and seeing beauty in the self. The two portraits were presented as attractive and unattractive. More often, the unattractive portraits were dubbed so because of a conspicuous mole, big jaws or age lines. So what about the women with these supposed flaws? Are they not beautiful?
Something should also be said about the fact that the “attractive” portraits were more often lighter in tone, which makes the underrepresentation of black women all the more concerning.
These are only a few of Dove’s problems and only touch on the inherent racism in the campaign. Hopefully, Dove’s campaign will take on a more intersectionalist perspective. Either that or the soap company could simply stop exploiting media-induced rates of low confidence.