Not buying it
Thanks to our friends at ‘The Illusionist’ for this blog post on Dove. With the deluge of lovey-dovey isn’t Dove wonderful guff all over the social media stratosphere, it was refreshing to read this piece which sums up all that is wrong with the so-called ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. So what if they make cool videos? Does that justify everything else the company does? Collective Shout has had Dove in its sights since our inception four years ago, and its parent company Unilever continues to appear on our annual ‘Cross ‘em off your XMAS list’
This week my inbox was flooded with emails from friends and acquaintances – who had forwarded me the link to the latest Dove “Real Beauty” video, highlighting the disconnect between women’s perceptions of their own attractiveness and how outsiders see them. The point of the video is to show that women are often too critical of their looks. I was glad to see how this video sparked important conversations in the blogosphere and social media. But there’s a dark side to Dove that many people are unaware of.
I had written a blog post about some problematic aspects of Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign back in October 2008. Recently, while researching material for my feature-length documentary, I came across more evidence that supported my earlier points. Thing is – I’ve been reluctant to speak up about these issues for several reasons. The key ones:
Dove’s campaigns are the only ones that – at least on the surface – promote positive body image, in an ocean of toxic advertising set to make women feel insecure about their looks
I am acquainted with several people connected to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign – they’re good-intentioned people I deeply respect and admire.
I actually really like Dove’s videos
So, I considered these issues and thought about the latest email I received from my friend S. I wondered, would she feel that same way if she knew the other side of the story? My hunch: probably not. Staying quiet would be the easy thing to do. But is it the right thing to do?
So, without further ado, I am addressing the big elephant in the room. Below you will find my original post about Dove – with some tweaks and updates reflecting new evidence I recently discovered.
About three months ago, upon completing the first phase of research for my film, I held two slideshow presentations in front of an audience of friends, acquaintances, and a few people working in the TV/movie industry in Paris. Very much in the style of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
At the heart of the presentation is the assertion that the obsession over the pursuit of the perfect female body is one of the integral parts of the capitalist system. If women were suddenly content with their appearance – accepting their body size, skin tone, wrinkles, graying hair, and the size and shape of their breasts, amongst other things – entire industries would collapse. Indeed worldwide revenues for cosmetics, dieting products, and cosmetic surgery totaled almost 500 billion dollars in 2006. Thus the saturation of images in advertising and mass media promoting an idealized, surgically-enhanced beauty that is impossible to achieve.
Well, during my presentations I would invariably get asked about the company Dove and its campaign for “Real Beauty.” Wasn’t that refreshingly positive? People would ask. It is a question that comes up every time I talk about my project. The short answer? Yes and no.
The people at Dove have actually exploited a void in the marketplace. By introducing so-called women with “real” bodies, they distinguished themselves from their competitors. According to the New Yorker, after the introduction of their “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove’s sales shot up 700% in the U.K. Read more here.
And what about this, also brought to you by Unilever?
Germaine Greer has some great things to say on this in an article reprinted in this blog post: ‘Do we repeat meaningless platitudes about beauty or honour women for their achievements?’
Perfectly captured in this tweet!
Kezrah Of Kapitola (@wearemostamused)
17/04/13 7:41 PM
@MelTankardReist their lastest video emphasises that self-esteem should come from how I view my looks. What about how I view my brain?
See also ‘Girls still getting the wrong messages about their bodies’ in which I argued what we really need is a ‘Love your Mind campaign’.