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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.

(Image Source)

12 thoughts on “dove wants you to love yourself – but only momentarily

  1. Woah, had no idea Dove and Lynx were connected!

    This is a pretty harsh take on the ad though. It’s true Dove as a brand has been trying really hard to make themselves seem like the skincare company that is on the side of ‘regular women’; it is fundamentally a marketing strategy, sure. But that doesn’t mean videos such as this, and others they have created won’t have a positive effect on those who watch them. They don’t try to push a specific product in the ad, it may be inferred gently, but I think this kind of strategy is something that we should hope to see more often, not shout down.

    Wouldn’t mind me some Unicorn Tear Solution though, haha.

    • I know, interesting isn’t it?

      Oh for sure, this ad isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s worth noting that most of the women in the ads are typically pretty, thin, white, young women – they weren’t going far beyond what is stereotypically ‘beautiful’ to make this ad. And Ash below is right, they’re not pushing a product, but they are pushing their brand.

      Haha wouldn’t we all?

  2. No, they don’t push a particular product but they are pushing their brand image and I 100% agree with the idea that this is manipulative!

    • Manipulation is the nature of all advertising. Dove’s approach is surely better than other companies that use the standard ‘blemishes and wrinkles are disgusting and the antithesis of happiness’ strategy. I think the backlash is unwarranted.

  3. I actually don’t mind Dove. I totally take your points about the ad being emotionally manipulative, and I know they’re trying to sell products with this strategy (obviously).

    But I think it’s a mistake to equate the beauty industry in whole with Dove in particular. For better or worse their brand positioning is overwhelmingly positive, woman-focused, and their products are not geared as “miracle cures” but more as having a practical purpose. Their decision to go down the “real beauty” route is of course because they want to make more money, and I think that’s OK, because they are a company and that’s what companies do. They are also one of the first and the highest-profile companies to take this route, and I think that can only be a good thing.

    I think the exercise depicted in the ad is interesting and it no doubt would have had a positive impact on those women’s lives. If it had been done by a psychologist we would not be sceptical, of course, but it would still be a worthy exercise.

    I don’t think it’s true that they selected women who were classically beautiful. It’s very well-lit and well-shot. But there are women in there who are overweight and women of colour and older and I think they deliberately chose a cross-section. They do all appear to be well-educated and reasonably wealthy though – but that’s Dove’s target audience.

    • I actually don’t mind Dove either – I should have put a disclaimer in saying I swear by their tinted moisturiser. What they’re doing is a good thing, I think that’s undeniable but I just find it hard to believe they’re trying to give us the cure while simultaneously giving us the disease.

      Was there more than one of the ads? I just went and watched what I assume was the only one – there was one woman of Asian ethnicity and a couple of sketches of what looked like African American women, and definitely no fat women. The bit at the end with the woman hugging her boyfriend too was a bit cis-centric also, but now I think I’m getting pedantic.

  4. Ah yes it looks like there are several ads!! The one you linked to is different to the one I saw. That explains a lot… :)

  5. Ruth, you are insightful, intelligent, witty and right.
    Unilever is one of the most unethical, evil companies in existence. They thrive of insecurity and complacency. Why does a rabbit need to have chemicals poured into its eyes so that I can use some overpriced crap products that don’t make me look any different? Our society is greedy and stupid.

  6. Pingback: Dove Wants To Know: ‘When Did You Stop Thinking You’re Beautiful?’ | Opinion | Lip Magazine

  7. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am experiencing troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t understand the reason why I can’t subscribe to it.
    Is there anybody else getting similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer can you
    kindly respond? Thanks!!

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