What Dove could learn from a nursery class
As a matter of course, I generally don’t watch adverts, there’s normally something better to do in those crucial 10 minutes between whatever trashy TV I’m currently watching, however when the new Dove advert came on TV, I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice…then get annoyed.
Within the next couple of minutes I had opened my laptop and found a blog post also berating the new Dove advert. I didn’t set out looking for the post, it was the first thing that happened to pop up in my blog reader. Maybe on a subconscious level I wanted to connect with people who had similar thoughts, or maybe it was just a massive coincidence. Either way, it only inflamed my rage as I read on about the contradictions behind the company (Unilever) that tells us to love ourselves in our own unique way (or whatever the official spew is), while also selling skin lightening cream to Asian women, and telling men that the ‘Lynx effect‘ will get floods of women chasing after them; coincidentally women that look nothing like the ‘real’ women they use in the Dove adverts.
The Dove advert being critiqued in the post I found was the US version of the advert, which made me feel kind of lucky I’m not subjected to such drivel – I thought the UK advert was bad – but the US one is almost doubly cringe-worthy. The main premise of the US advert is that women enter a room, sit down on a therapist-style sofa, and describe themselves to this guy who draws people for a living, but the catch is – he can’t see them. The women are so annoying, all of them say ‘I have a big chin’ or ‘my forehead is huge’, then someone who has only just met them also comes in and describes that same woman, but lo and behold describes them in a much more complimentary manner. Don’t these women see how beautiful they are in the opinion of someone else? Isn’t that what’s important – how we’re judged in the eyes of other people? According to Dove, yes. Never mind if YOU don’t like your face, these other people’s opinions should be valued more.
If these women who have described themselves as being wrinkly or something along those lines do hate themselves, or feel like they would progress better in life if they looked more beautiful, as one of the women in the ad says, that is genuinely sad, but I can’t help think there are more sad things in life. Apparently this advert has moved lots of people to tears, but it just doesn’t move me – these people aren’t actually deformed in some way as the melancholic music tries to suggest, they are simply healthy women who point out aspects of themselves they’re not keen on. If something is actually sad, it probably doesn’t need the dramatic music, the words alone should move us.
The UK advert had the same message behind it – ‘can you believe these women can’t see how beautiful they are?’. What, you mean, after making Lynx adverts that depict the most desirable women in the world as being slim, tall, tanned with long hair, these ‘real’ women don’t think they’re beautiful – it truly is amazing, hey Dove?
That wasn’t my main annoyance with the advert, it was that they stopped pairs of women in the street and asked them what part of their friend’s body they envy – the ‘Beauty Spot’ campaign apparently. I just thought it was quite creepy – one woman out of a pair answered ‘I really like your bum’. Why should we have to be envious of each other’s bodies? I know that the message is ‘these women don’t realise they have really lovely body parts’, but I don’t like that we’re supposed to be envious of each other, or that we can’t just appreciate our own bodies. If I was stopped in the street, I’d be stumped to answer, not because my friends aren’t beautiful, but I’d find it easier to say I like her sense of humour or we have similar interests, not that I like her bum!
So what could Dove learn from a nursery class? Well, that there is no need to encourage people to compare themselves to other people (wanting to have someone else’s life is a sign of depression, stop it!) and that we should be happy being ourselves. But telling women to love ourselves – throw caution to the wind and stop obsessing over our bodies, wouldn’t make the beauty industry into the multi-billion machine that it is today – the notion that there’s always something we could and should be doing to make ourselves more beautiful, and henceforth a better person is what keeps the industry alive.
If Dove truly cared about women and their self-image, they would take note of this nursery song my four year-old niece likes to sing, and stop trying to get us to compare our bodies (whether they’re counted as ‘real’ or otherwise):
‘1,2,3 it’s good to be me and I want the world to know it’s good to be me
I’m a special person and there’s only one of me
And no-one else is prouder of the person that is me!’