The crime scheme sketch artist spot may have been incredibly problematic, but at least it worked to remind us that we are often much more harsh towards ourselves than we would ever be of someone else.
However, as the campaign has progressed, the ads are getting more and more ridiculous, to a point where the most recent one had me questioning whether what I was watching was an actual ad or a parody.
In its latest campaign, Dove sets up two doorways or entranceways in public places, and labels one ‘average’ and one ‘beautiful’. The ad then films women’s reactions as they approach the doors, consider the words written above them, and, more often than not, choose the one labeled ‘average’.
Just this set-up gave me uncontrollable rage.
I mean, give me a break. Those are our choices??? Where’s the door labeled ‘intelligent’? ‘Funny’? ‘Compassionate’, ‘successful’, ‘strong’, ‘honest’, or ‘talented’? In a single stroke, the ad is asking women to reduce their assessment of their entire being to their appearance, and only giving them two possible ways to identify.
Furthermore, it places all responsibility for feeling beautiful squarely on the shoulders of women and then makes them feel bad when they don’t.
If Dove really and truly wants to address the statistic that only 11% of girls are comfortable using the word ‘beautiful’ to describe themselves, maybe it should take a look at what’s MAKING those women feel crappy instead of shaming them for not owning their beauty.
(Side note: I actually think that it’s this focus on ‘beauty’ that is the problem with this campaign, and that the statistic of how many people would describe themselves this way shouldn’t be seen as more important than all of the other ways they could describe themselves, but we’re working within Dove’s parameters, so bear with me).
For instance, our society totally fetishizes the idea of women who don’t know that they’re ‘beautiful’ *cough* One Direction *cough*. Movies are rife with flawlessly beautiful teenaged girls who are completely unaware of the effect their beauty has on the male hero, and whose insecurity somehow makes them more desirable.
Because if there’s one thing the movies make perfectly clear, it’s that the only acceptable way to be a beautiful girl is to be (or at least act) as if you’re completely unaware of your beauty.
See, in our world, women are often punished when they act like they feel beautiful. Any woman who has spent time reading the comments under online articles about self-confident celebrities (ESPECIALLY if that celebrity isn’t considered conventionally ‘attractive’) knows that acting like you think you’re hot can be a kiss of death; there seems to be a cultural imperative to tear down that kind of confidence.
Some people have pointed out that Dove’s attempts to improve female self-esteem are even more hypocritical because Dove is owned by the same company that owns brands that are known for especially sexist advertising, such as Axe body spray, or problematic products, like skin-whitening creams.
Even more ridiculously, Dove also capitalizes on the statistic that 93% of women (apparently) think their underarms are unattractive by advertising a deodorant whose key selling point is not odor or wetness protection, but that it makes underarms look smooth and soft. Dove’s website also advertises a cream designed to fade ‘dark marks‘ from armpits.
I have to imagine that a majority of women had never actively felt self-conscious about their armpits’ appearance until Dove suggested that they should. And that’s how advertising works.
See, when it comes down to it, advertising is about selling stuff. It’s not about empowering us. It’s not about changing the world. It’s about making us feel like we’re missing something – something we could have if we just purchased a specific product.
Dove sells beauty products. Why would they want us to feel like we’re already beautiful?