Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign is supposed to be an uplifting message that shows women that they are more beautiful than they think they are. In the viral video, an FBI sketch artist draws women first based on their own and then on strangers’ descriptions.
While many love the video, others found major flaws in the ad. A slew of articles have point out why the ad isn’t entirely on-message, with headlines including “Beauty Above All Else: The Problem With Dove’s New Viral Ad” and “What’s Wrong With Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches Campaign?”
These are some of the main complaints:
The video only focuses on a very small subset of women.
Kate Fridkis of Psychology Today describes the concept of the video: “Some lovely, thin, mostly white women who are all pretty young describe their appearances to a forensic artist.”
In fact, most of these “real” and “beautiful” women are white.
Blogger jazzylittledrops wrote a passionate blog about the video’s lack of diversity. She noted, “Of the main participants: all four are Caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest is 40). … 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”….Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of colour are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.”
The ad might teach what it preaches against — that beauty is paramount.
Ann Friedman at New York Magazine writes, “These ads still uphold the notion that, when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. The goal shouldn’t be to get women to focus on how we are all gorgeous in our own way. It should be to get women to do for ourselves what we wish the broader culture would do: judge each other based on intelligence and wit and ethical sensibility, not just our faces and bodies.”
Furthermore, it could even make women more self-conscious for having a real, as opposed to “imaginary” mole.
According to Kate Fridkis at Psychology Today, “Interestingly, even the sketches based on the self-descriptions weren’t actually particularly unattractive, and I was faintly annoyed with the idea that one sketch was supposed to represent unattractiveness and the other beauty, when the distinctions between the two seemed to lie in characteristics like a mole, shadows under the eyes, slight roundness in facial shape, or a few wrinkles.”
That implies that all women who age and get wrinkles (as opposed to imaginary ones), are less attractive.
Or that, as Fridkis continues, “The mole would be a problem if it were larger and darker. There it is, making the portrait on the left look ugly! But luckily it’s only larger and darker in our minds.”
The ad blames women, rather than society, for critiquing the smallest physical imperfection.
Erin Keane’s Salon article, claiming that the ad is “not feminist,” takes issue with Dove’s message that women are their own worst critics.
“Except we’re not — at least, not naturally,” Keane writes. “All of that body image baggage is internalized by growing up in a society that enforces rigid beauty standards, and since the target demographic for this ad is clearly women over 35 with access to library cards (which is to say, women who have had some time to figure this reality out), it is baffling that Dove can continue to garner raves for its pandering, soft-focus fake empowerment ads.”
Women don’t want to be seen as victims. It’s patronizing.
A woman commented on Dove’s Facebook page:
The sketch artist was a man
According to Psych Today, “There was the slight issue of the artist being a man. He got to be the one to gently suggest to the women, “Maybe you’re more beautiful than you thought.” He got to present their “true” beauty to them. That felt like it might be open to some discussion in an earnest gender studies class at a liberal arts college somewhere.”
It’s hypocritical for an ad aiming to instill healthy body images to come from Unilever, a company that makes a business of marginalizing women in Axe campaigns.
Jill Kilbourne, an author and critic, told the Guardian that “Dove is owned by Unilever, and some of the products being sold are really stupid like cellulite firming cream.” Although she notes, “Even so, I still think there’s such a paucity of images out there that in any way break away, raise issues or present women in a different way, even if you aren’t perfect.”
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