What’s not so great about that Dove video

For starters…

When it comes to the diversity of the main participants: all four are Caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest appears to be 40). The majority of the non-featured participants are thin, young white women as well. Hmm… probably a little limiting, wouldn’t you say? We see in the video that at least three black women were in fact drawn for the project. Two are briefly shown describing themselves in a negative light (one says she has a fat, round face, and one says she’s getting freckles as she ages). Both women are lighter skinned. A black man is shown as one of the people describing someone else, and he comments that she has “pretty blue eyes”. One Asian woman is briefly shown looking at the completed drawings of herself and you see the back of a black woman’s head; neither are shown speaking. Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.

Then there’s this…

At the end of the experiment, one of the featured participants shares what I find to be the most disturbing quote in the video and what Dove seems to think is the moral of the story as she reflects upon what she’s learned, and how problematic it is that she hasn’t been acknowledging her physical beauty: It’s troubling,” she says as uplifting music swells in the background. “I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, they way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

Read all about it here.

(Thanks, R!)

6 thoughts on “What’s not so great about that Dove video

  1. I’m going to keep shouting this from the rooftops until I die: Beauty is an oppressive concept when applied to human beings. Men don’t have to earn their place in the world by being sufficiently decorative; only women do.

    Let’s decouple “beauty” from our ideas of what is good, lovable, or worthwhile.

  2. So I actually want to get a little nerdy and philosophical for a moment: maybe it’s precisely “beauty” as a specific concept with a particular set of philosophical/cultural baggage that is the problem? I get really worried that anti-“beauty” arguments are anti-aesthetic-pleasure (why care about taking pleasure in your appearance at all?). I think it is OK and perhaps even good to take pleasure in one’s appearance, in one’s body, and in the appearance and bodies of others. But when pleasure is limited to *beauty*, problems emerge. Feminist aestheticians have written lots about this: “beauty” is a feminized concept, a subordinate type of aesthetic pleasure…it is ‘charming’ (which is to say, good but not really great), and so on. So it’s not that our bodies and appearances shouldn’t matter, it’s the WAY that they currently matter that’s the problem?

  3. i’m seriously saddened that so many educated women still buy into commercially sourced surveys that pretend to be interested in improving women’s self image.

    it’s only too clear to me the ‘image’ the crew nurture is their employer’s, the money-centered production company. all the employee’s focus is on pleasing their bosses who hold their financial security hostage here.

    such a pity…..so much creativity and talent is wasted on the one-dimensional goal of increasing sales for the ‘company’. ALL else remains secondary in importance…… thus the quality of the video you discuss here.

  4. It’s nice that some people like the ad, but seriously, this is ad for soap. I would put at the top of my list of problems with the video that it’s trying to make you buy more soap. I guess this is less pernicious than a lot of the other popular ads people spread after the Super Bowl, but let’s not lose sight of what it is.

    As for the racial component of the ad: in the US, white women’s beauty culture is uniquely oppressive. Don’t let it infect other cultures! More or less every white woman I know with some intimacy has had an eating disorder or other self-image related crisis at some point in her life. I would hate for this to spread to the African American community or Asian community (although my outsider’s understanding is that these have unique and oppressive beauty codes of their own).

  5. To use an outdated phrase: “Gag me with a spoon”. I find this add distressing and sickening and discouraging in oh so many ways….

  6. Yet another aspect of this particular series that I find problematic is the way the individual women take responsibility for their self-images. “I have a lot of work to do,” at least one of them said. This echoes the “love your body” imperative that I often find cruel, as places the burden on the individual to ignore all the ways in which their body is being represented as lacking, wanting, un-beautiful. To suggest that individuals should have the strength to counter all those messages masks the politics of beauty and the way it intersects with racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and so on.

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