If you’re a woman and looking to feel bad about your body, a good way to go about it is to spend some time staring at beauty ads. After just a few minutes, you’ll learn about all the things that are wrong with you, things that seem both oddly specific and ill-defined: your short eyelashes, your lumpy midsection, your thin lips.
Naturally, it would feel like a godsend that a company that traffics in primarily female beauty products would provide such sympathetic advertisements.
Dove recently released another ad as a part of their Real Beauty campaign to show normal looking women, not models.
Granted, the women used are still traditionally beautiful, but it’s the thought that counts.
The ad shows how women describe themselves to a criminal sketch artist, versus how a stranger does. The differences are remarkable, with the self-described sketches looking not-so-cute. The ones described by a stranger, however, are more accurate and more flattering.
There’s no question that it’s a charming, impressive ad that will probably make a lot of women feel all warm and pretty about themselves.
And yet, there’s something so devious about it.
Dove is a company that makes strident attempts to subvert beauty norms, and yet is also a part of the machine that propagates those same standards.
It’s nice to think that Dove is the exception in the beauty industry, that they’re the ones who will market products based on working with women and not against them. It’s a clever marketing tactic, but that’s about as deep as it runs.
Dove’s deodorants in particular reveal some strange beauty standards. Some of their products are intended to reduce the “underarm dark marks” that happen with repeated shaving.
As not just a woman, but a dark-skinned woman with dark, thick, mean hair that requires prompt shaving, I had no idea that underarm discolouring was a problem I had to stay on top of.
You know what I’m actually worried about? Cancer. Cancer worries me. Not ugly armpits.
Or, wait, should I be worried about what my armpits look like? So, on top of my hair, skin, nails, teeth, eyelashes, eyebrows, and weight, I also have to worry about my armpit pigment?
Dove’s products are designed to make you look better. Naturally, that suggests that the way you are now, without Dove products, isn’t the best you can be.
What the Real Beauty Sketches highlights is how women have low self-esteem about the way they look. It showcases—in an admittedly clever light—the way women can be their worst enemies when it comes to criticism and always seeking perfection.
Dove is trying to ride that wave into the good graces of consumers, telling them that they’re all on the same side. Hey, you’re beautiful just the way you are! Your wrinkles and your sunspots are symbols of a life well lived. But if you want to be that extra inch better, maybe you should try our lotion?
Or our shampoo.
Or our body mists.
Or our deodorant.
Trust us: then you’ll be perfect.