I’ve written about the Dove Real Beauty campaigns before as well as their Patches ad. So when they came out with a new, allegedly empowering advertisement, I was not at all surprised to find out via feminist websites that they were ripping it to shreds. Again, Dove seems to be trying, but they’re still missing the mark. At the end of the day, it seems that they’re catering to people that don’t think critically about beauty or culture and don’t realize just how disempowering these ads are.
The first thing I want to discuss is the idea of being average. These days the word “average” is used like an insult. Everyone wants to be above average, but due to sheer numbers, not everyone can be. There has to be a middle for there to be a top and a bottom. And there’s nothing wrong with wherever you fall on this spectrum. Not every woman is physically attractive by conventional standards. And that’s okay. Beauty is not the be all, end of of who women are. But Dove doesn’t see it like that.
Dove acts like beauty is something that all women need aspire to and need to feel in order to be whole and complete. After the #ChooseBeautiful video finishes it asks to decide if you’re average or beautiful. I clicked “average” to see what would happen. It took me to a page with doctors giving self-esteem lectures. Because the only reason I would possibly rate myself as physically average would be low self-esteem, right? At the bottom of the page were the words, “Still think you’re average? You’re not.”
Really, Dove? Really? You know me that well? You know how I want to identify and what I want to be and my wishes regarding this issue? Because if you did, I’m pretty sure that you would realize that I don’t consider beauty to be my highest calling. If someone wants to compliment me, they can call me smart or tell me that they liked my writing. Hearing that I’m beautiful just doesn’t do anything for me. I am so much more than a physical form and I want that recognized.
Spending time on OkCupid has been one long experiment in seeing how much of being treated like a sex object I can possible handle. Men routinely comment on nothing on my profile, questions, or my blog, which I link twice. They talk about my pictures. They like my breasts, my legs, my curves, my smile. It’s to the point where a man informing me that he’s going to masturbate to my photos doesn’t even shock me. I mean, this is regular occurrence. Nothing out of the ordinary.
So when an ad campaign that tells me to, once again, focus on my physical form and not who I am as a person pops up, you can imagine how thrilled I am to once again be told that beauty is my first, second, last, and only concern. Telling women that they’re beautiful still tries to put beauty on the top of their priority list and this campaign in particular says that if you don’t feel beautiful then there’s something wrong with you that you can fix through self-esteem talks. And that is just bullshit. There is no requirement that you have to feel beautiful in order to be a woman and there certainly shouldn’t be a major brand like Dove telling us there is.
In the end, women need other things to focus on besides beauty. Yes, body positivity is a big problem in the world, but is that all there really is to women? Their bodies? If you want to empower women, then give them more options than beautiful or low self-esteem. Let women be unconventionally attractive, let women be ugly, let women not care at all how they look. Send a message that women are people and people are made up of more than the carbon that keeps them together.
Side note: I am happy to see that this ad incorporated not only women of color but a disabled woman and women from other countries. Usually these ads are rather whitewashed and this one had women speaking different languages, women from different cultures, and was far more inclusive than previous attempts.