dove wants you to love yourself – but only momentarily
On Monday, Dove posted an ad on Youtube that sought to demonstrate the fact that women don’t find themselves beautiful. The ad involves an artist sketching the women based on their description of themselves. He can’t see them. Then he asks another person to describe that same woman and he draws another sketch based on their description. The two sketches are then presented to the woman, where the differences between how she described herself and how someone else described her are apparent.
The ad is emotionally manipulative, and the women are visibly moved by the differences. And indeed, it’s hard not to feel moved when a relative stranger has described you in a way that is perceived as beautiful. Dove claims ‘only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful’ – a claim that is both dubious and inflammatory in the sense that I suspect it’s more like 4% of white, middle class women who have grown up surrounded by very narrow parameters as to what constitutes “beautiful”, and a beauty industry that is making billions of dollars from feeding female insecurities.
There are also questionable ethics given Dove is owned by Unilever, who also own Lynx (or Axe as it is known in America). Unilever is successfully using one part of its company to spruik female self-love and acceptance while using another arm to trade in on done-to-death gender stereotypes regarding men and women who are falling over themselves to fall onto his penis. On top of this, Unilever owns several household/cleaning brand names, nearly all of which are marketed to the female market segment using stereotypes of the eye-wateringly happy housewife who was never THIS excited until she found out how easily stains could be removed.
So, I find it hard to believe that Dove wants us to know that we’re beautiful. It’s much more likely that Dove wants us to think we’re beautiful so we feel familiarity and warmth towards their products and throw more money towards them. And at the end of the day, Dove is just another cog in the huge wheel of capitalism that makes a mint from exploiting how we feel about ourselves. If we all had the self-esteem we ought to have, it’s likely Dove would be out of business since we’d realise that we don’t need five different moisturisers and toners, or deodorants that work for 48 hours (because, showers).
So I call bullshit on you, Dove. I call bullshit on you and your marketing techniques that infer women are too laid up with self loathing to get anywhere. That all we are really worrying about is how we look and that it’s not good enough. Because women do sometimes worry about these things, and it gives us the shits. We don’t want to be standing around hating how our chin looks, or wishing our jeans fit differently, because we know we have better things to do and better things to worry about. In fact, Dove, do you know whose fault it is that those women described themselves like they did? Yours. Maybe not yours directly, but there are a million Doves out there who, everyday without fail, are coming up with new ways to tell women just how weird they look and that LOOK WE HAVE THE SOLUTION RIGHT HERE, MADE FROM UNICORN TEARS AND SWEAT HARVESTED FROM A STEP CLASS, ONLY $150 FOR 50ML!
Fair enough – appreciate the sentiment. Appreciate that Dove is making these kinds of ads at all, and that they do their best to create images of women that deviate from the norm (and to be fair, Dove does do more than most). But on the whole, companies like Dove created that norm and they are continuing to exploit that norm for all it’s worth. And so while we may watch that ad, and feel moved, and realise that there’s a good chance we’re far too hard on ourselves in terms of how we look, that feeling won’t last because there’s no escaping the messages that made us feel that way in the first place.