Over on Facebook someone posted a link to a very thoughtful critique of Dove's Real Beauty campaign
I get the writer's point, but I'm not with her 100%. Not that I disagree with her critique so much as I see the good far outweighing the bad. This is not to say that criticism is not necessary and welcome but that it sets up a conundrum of how do we encourage the best of what we have without neutralizing the good?
The writer had several specific things she was critical of and I want to take them one by one. Dove’s parent company Unilever also owns brands such as SlimFast, Axe and Fair and Lovely (the last is a skin lightening cream sold overseas)
A corporate portfolio often has little to do with ad campaigns by the companies within that portfolio. As incongruous as it is, you can find wildly different companies under the same umbrella. I don't think that shows hypocrisy, it's just a quirk of business. The people behind the Dove ads who work on ads the employ the same illusions the Real Beauty ads criticize
Well it's the ad business and if we've learned nothing from Mad Men is the the ad business is amoral. Just because they might do an ad for Victoria Secret it doesn't mean that they can't do an outstanding job for the Real Woman campaign. I think this type of argument is not an argument at all because that's what ad companies do: create ad campaigns for whomever pays for them. The Dove Real Beauty print ads are Photoshopped
I wish that weren't true but I'm not surprised and it still doesn't change the message of the ad campaign. I don't know the extent of the photoshopping, but we can be sure that it's nothing like what is normally done to women's pictures in the media. While the writer talks about discussing this with someone involved in the campaign, she doesn't tell us if it's simple changes to account for things like excessive shine or looking washed out for bright lights or if they are making whole cloth changes in how a woman looks.
Whatever they do the women in these ads and commercials they still look like the women I see on the street. Their faces might be a bit more symmetric but hey, it's an ad, they're going to look for a certain amount of conventional facial beauty. Every society has a standard of beauty, they always have an always will. It's when they become unrealistic and should sucking that it becomes an issue and that is where we are today. Why I think these ads are so important, and why I think they are strong despite anything amiss is that they push some very serious conversations into the mainstream. Getting anything this important into the mainstream dialogue is always more important than ideas tossed around in academia and feminist think-tanks.
There are things that those of us who might consider ourselves enlightened or progressive might know or think about but how deceptive and sexist advertising shapes the way we see what's in the mirror. However, these Dove ads aren't for us. They are for the other 99.8% of the women out there looking in the mirror and see themselves as old, ugly and/or fat. Spend some time in a dressing room before swimsuit season and it can break your heart how hyper critical women are about their own bodies. How much they hate the skin they live in.
The sight of a bunch of women of all different shapes and sizes standing proudly in their underwear with smiles on their faces is not an image that many women have ever seen. And certainly never in a mainstream ad for a popular beauty oriented product.
I think the writer may have missed an important point about the new Real Beauty Sketches Ad. We can quibble about the ad labeling things like lines or double chins as a negative. But to reduce that ad to "this is reinforcing stereotypes of beauty" is an oversimplification and I would posit, elitist. The message behind this ad is almost the opposite: We are overly critical about our looks.
If you look carefully, the pictures dictated to the artist by others looked more like the women than the pictures they dictated to him themselves. If we cannot see ourselves as we really are, how can we begin to dismantle the infrastructure of false expectations that entrap us. See your self the way you are and *then* I can teach you to love who you are. See yourself as something less than what you imagine "attractive" looks like and it becomes an impossible task.
Sometimes when I read articles like this I can see the point, but I also feel that sometimes he bulge of the curve get left behind while those of us who may be ahead of the curve pat ourselves on the back.
For all its worth, I support you Dove, keep up the good work.