Is Dove leading us through the right door?

Pauline Baudry Women 0 Comments

While we easily rate the looks of acquaintances and friends, we seem to struggle with putting such labels on our own appearances. Dove’s most recent video, “Dove choose beautiful”, part of the “Real Beauty” campaign, succeeds once again in revealing women’s everyday struggle in embracing their own beauty. Two separate doors to enter stores were installed around the world with the inscriptions “beautiful” and “average”. Seeing most of the women hesitating and often disappointingly choosing the latter option, when walking into the building, makes us realize how self-conscious beauty standards make us. Cosmetic and clothing brands seem to be the leading advocates of too often unrealistic and unreachable standards of beauty, inculcated through our shops, phones and TV screens. Isn’t it inspiring to witness one of the biggest beauty brands support the actual wellbeing of women? Some would have hoped a louder cheer, as many did not seem to draw such positive feelings from this video.

Cosmetic and clothing brands seem to be the leading advocates of too often unrealistic and unreachable standards of beauty, inculcated through our shops, phones and TV screens.

 

“Dove Choose Beautiful. Women all over the world make a choice” 

 

As always when letting a video with only a slight possibility of controversy into the wild, counter opinions will be found. Nonetheless, Dove’s 10-year-old campaign has recurrently been accused of hypocritically conveying so-called empowering values for women. Its launcher’s reputation, Unilever, is undoubtedly the main cause for this. Its other brands, which the majority are known for actively objectifying women for selling their products, have weakened the credibility of Dove’s involvement in the cause supported by the campaign. It is not surprising that these videos produced such reactions, when seeing that the money coming out of the same pocket goes into mediatising advertisements such as the “Axe effect”, an imagined Pavlov classical conditioning between the smell of masculine Axe perfumes and the lust of overly sexualized bikini-model women. Even Youtube deemed one of the ads for the “Touch” range (involving close-up shots on a woman’s deep cleavage and not-so-subtle sexual connotations) “inappropriate” by censoring it. Overall, Unilever’s double-faced values lead to a bitter sense of passive activism, as Dove’s campaign is undermined by other macho advertisements such as the aforementioned.

 

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“The Axe Effect”, from Apokalips, the web comic

 

The tremendous gap between women presented in such patronizing commercials and the ones on Dove’s billboard campaign, showing off their curves in underwear and defying the size 0 model standard, is nearly too big for “Real Beauty” to be real. Nonetheless, it remains uplifting to see different shapes of women on big posters, who are for once not posing (or excessively so, with gorgeous careless laughs). The message is further completed in the video entitled “Evolution”, revealing how Photoshop distorts standards of beauty. It gives an overview of the transformations that a magazine-type picture goes through, from the makeup to the digital touching up. It is an honest exposure to the public of how you get from one real person to an ideal image of one. This is extremely powerful, as we rarely come about brands, which generally operate these kinds of changes, actually pointing the finger on such manipulative practises.

 

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Dove’s Real Beauty campaign advertisement

 

Although these films remain eye-openers for some, they still make us feel slightly underestimated and taken for granted.

These videos and adverts may result in a couple of inspiring minutes dedicated in questioning the pressure that is put on women’s appearance, but at the end of the day, nobody could help but feel a bit more saddened than empowered. Although these films remain eye-openers for some, they still make us feel slightly underestimated and taken for granted. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what the campaign is supposed to tell us? What the “Dove choose beautiful” video effectively shows is that women undermine their real beauty. However, it feels a bit strange to put women on the spot in that way; it only reinforces the social pressure of physical appearance and self-consciousness. They ironically don’t seem to have much of a choice. Why using such arbitrary adjectives, and not real descriptions identifying real women? Of course, putting up these two labels is simply a way of provokingly showing that many women don’t know how to value themselves. Nonetheless, it seems that the mere process of imposing these appearance-based categories reveals that Dove actively participates in perpetuating the traditional association of women with physical appearance. Putting up these two doors did not open any new ones for women in society. I am sure the “average” as much as the “beautiful” women would have benefitted more from walking through a “strong” or “confident” door, rather than one reducing themselves to their reflection in the mirror.

If there is one person’s judgement of our appearance that we can control, it is our own.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of this video is seeing one of the women reading the two signs and refusing to choose either of them, by turning around and leaving. This makes a pretty good statement of refusing to fit into the moulds that are presented to you. All these critiques of hypocritical feminism make sense when judging the Dove campaign, as it should be 100% faultless regarding women’s empowerment, but we must not forget the simple message. Women need to be more confident, and understand that beauty is subjective. If there is one person’s judgement of our appearance that we can control, it is ourselves. Women are more than just beautiful, but it does not mean they are not that either. What we should take in from this video, and the campaign in general, is that the real issue is women’s lack of confidence in everyday life, on several aspects, and that walking through the “beautiful” door is nothing but a good place to start.

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