Ah, the Dove ads. This one is good, and certainly terrifying. But, a few things:

-The ad is by Unilever, one of the biggest beauty-product companies in the world. They made Dove products, including “tightening” creams and deodorants that claim to make your armpits silky and soft. They also make Axe body spray, which is advertised using commercials like this. And they make skin-lightening cream.

-It puts the onus on parents to protect their children from harmful advertising, when that’s impossible. It takes a very wide-spread problem and individualizes it, instead of pushing the people in power (advertisers, big corporations) to make more socially conscious decisions.

-Dove is in the business to sell shit. At the end of the day, their message seems to be, “The beauty industry holds up an unrealistic standard of beauty in order to sell you shit. We, however, realize that you look like a normal person, and so we think you should buy our shit in order to make yourself feel good.” Better? I’m not so sure.

I will take this ad over yet another that promotes an airbrushed, impossible-to-achieve and incredibly narrow image of femaleness. But the uncritical embrace of it (and the broader Dove campaign) makes me cringe.

via Jezebel.

29 comments for “Onslaught

  1. October 2, 2007 at 7:23 am

    Good post. Those have been my problems with the Dove ads too.

  2. RenegadeEvolution
    October 2, 2007 at 8:12 am

    dove sells the same cellulite creams, moisturizers, self tanners, skin lighteners, wrinkle creams, hair products and everything else that every other company sells. Then they do their natural beauty/talk to your kids adds, which I do applaud for using more diverse models in, but they are still selling youth and beauty in a bottle, wrapped up in “girl friendly/empowering adds”…and making a hefty profit.

    Call me cynical, but I think I prefer the over the top vanity driven bullshit of the “honest” beauty industry.

    Dove, the Disney of Skin Care…kid friendly on top, ruthless capitalists at heart.

  3. October 2, 2007 at 9:39 am

    I too have issue with the conflict between “love yourself as you are” and “buy our products to make you better than you are on your own, you smelly, hairy, rough-skinned, wrinkly woman”

  4. October 2, 2007 at 9:39 am

    It’s like the Italian clothing company trying to provide a PSA about anorexia when all they really want to do is sell clothes.

  5. kali
    October 2, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I think that ad is absolutely brilliantly done. Like reading the Beauty Myth in 30 seconds. I love the message of it. And of course they only want to sell stuff, but I really like the fact that they have found that it is profitable to appeal to women’s anger about all of this, and their questioning of it, rather than just reaching directly to the insecurity button. It’s much better to have that ad being produced by an evil multinational than by some feminist group; it’s a sign that some of what feminists have been saying for decades is in the mainstream now.

    Of course it’s a bit like McDonalds trying to advertise healthy nutrition, but as in that case, just the fact that they’re doing it is a sign that campaigners have made some progress on the issue.

  6. the15th
    October 2, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Is there really an uncritical embrace of the Dove campaign? All the feminist sites I’ve read about it accused Dove of hypocrisy and maybe grudgingly conceded that it might have some good aspects. As for the mainstream media, they’re mostly concerned that it will either fuel the “obesity epidemic” or fail to provide Richard Roeper with enough boners.

  7. Spatterdash
    October 2, 2007 at 10:53 am

    The message is good, but insincere. The advertisers aren’t doing this because they’ve realised the damaging nature of the beauty myth, they’re doing it because it sells products to the multitudes who are sick of the normal stuff they’re fed. Companies will say anything as long as it moves good; it’s better than nothing, but it’s hardly revolutionary.

  8. mom
    October 2, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I know those critiques are fair, and that Dove is in it to make $$$, but I embrace the ads anyway, because they are one less ad of the other variety. I could care less if it’s financially motivated, in fact, I support Dove by buying their products, because I WANT Madison Avenue to recognize that this type of advertising registers with people. That we would rather have the “real beauty” campaign than it’s alternative.

    As I say in my blog, I basically take the stance that in a world “where “great” often doesn’t exist, and “good” is hard to find, that “better” is still an improvement on “awful.” I’m cool with better. Thank God, or I’d need to be hospitalized.”

    Seriously, I would.

  9. the15th
    October 2, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    But you could also say, “Well, we shouldn’t take sexism in advertising very seriously — they don’t really mean it, they’re just selling a product.”

  10. the15th
    October 2, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    (I mean, in response to “The message is good, but insincere.”)

  11. October 2, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I love the ad. It’s powerful and disturbing and anything but quotidian. I was only made aware this morning that the same company owns Dove that is responsible for those cringe-inducing Axe Body Spray ads, but I think it’s like Dodai said at Jezebel earlier, “It is fair to assume that each tentacle of this many-headed, multinational monster even know what the 399 other tentacles are doing? (Unilever employs more than 223,000.)”

    Here’s the thing about Dove products, and your mileage may vary, but they’re cheap and they work, at least with regards to the stuff that I’ve used, eg. soap, shampoo, lotion. I can’t really speak to the cellulite creams and tanners and stuff, but my dermatologist told me years ago that Dove is the best soap for the money.

    If you price their stuff at the grocery store and bear in mind that people will pay $15 and up for a single cake of luxury soap, a single bar of Dove still comes out under $2. In a world where people will spend thousands of dollars a year in Very Special Expensive Beauty Products, I think there is something mighty and democratizing about a $2 bar of soap that’s good to my (highly sensitive, break-out prone) skin.

    You can keep your Aveda, your L’Occitane, your Kiehl’s and your Body Shop. Give me Liberty and give me Dove.

    I’ve just been wanting to say that. Thanks for letting me share.

  12. roses
    October 2, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Well, yeah, they’re trying to sell a product. But as long as we have beauty companies (and they’re certainly not going away anytime soon) don’t you think it’s more positive for women and society if they sell their product using the message: “You’re beautiful the way you are” rather than the message: “You’re disgusting and hideous the way you are, so buy our product to make yourself beautiful and acceptable”?

  13. October 2, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    more like “you’re beautiful the way you are, but we can IMPROVE you or KEEP you that way”…

  14. October 2, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Like I said at Feministing, on the one hand, I see a company doing a nice thing, they’re donating money, they’re sending a good message; on the other hand, I see basically a branding strategy. While I think the various “real beauty” ads are smart, I can’t help but think of someone in a boardroom saying “This will distinguish us from all those other low-cost companies! We will get to the cynical ladies this way!” I don’t know that I like being the target market, even if I think the actual content of their message isn’t all bad.

  15. Nicki
    October 2, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    But you could also say, “Well, we shouldn’t take sexism in advertising very seriously — they don’t really mean it, they’re just selling a product.”

    Agreed. We already know that images and advertising make a huge impact on society – at least this one is a relatively positive message.

    I don’t blame them at all for making a profit, that’s what businesses do. It doesn’t automatically make them evil. I like the fact that they’re trying a different, more positive approach. I like that they show women with curly hair, with freckles, or who actually look old. I’ll take that any day over the generic crap that gets shoved down our throats, and yes, I’ll support it by buying their products. Money talks, and I’d rather spend mine on products and a company which is doing a nice thing. Also, I know Dove is owned by Unilever, but I’m sure each of its subsidiaries are very different from one another.

  16. October 2, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    What Kali said.

    It’s good that they’re finding it in their best interests to appeal to reason, but I don’t think it’s enough to vindicate the rest of their sins; especially since they’re still committing them. It’s like McDonald’s. Token efforts to look like you have the public’s best interests at heart when you’ll still do anything to make a few extra bucks off us isn’t the same as realising your social responsibility as an organisation that serves the public.

    And much as a parent might try to tell a girl she shouldn’t kill herself dieting and undergoing surgery to attain an unrealistic ideal of beauty, social pressures are omnipresent and inescapable. A girl will learn to hate herself if her friends don’t think she’s beautiful, or if she doesn’t measure up to the women on billboards… no matter what you tell her.

    Also, that commercial was really painful to watch.

  17. Mercurial Georgia
    October 3, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Beauty fades, beauty fades

    It’s not something to strive for, though I do like looking.

    I rather that dove try to advertise their products as /healthy/ to men and women, instead of defining beauty again, if their products is indeed good. I don’t wear make up, but I do try to take care of my skin, especially my hands. Our skin is our first line of defense against infections after all. I frequently get my hands dirty, and if I let my skin crack there, I could risk ending up like that aquarist Wilma Duncan; http://www.uniquaria.com/articles/snails.html

  18. October 3, 2007 at 4:18 am

    the message “You’re beautiful the way you are”

    Various “anti-ageing” products.
    Cellulite cream.
    “Fair & Lovely” skin whitener
    Pond’s skin lightening cream, actually branded “White Beauty” and in the Asian market.

    “Our campaign message is “Dengan Pond’s, Putih dan Bersinar itu Mudah”, which conveys dual benefit: both physical and emotional as we emphasize that fairer skin gives you more chances to shine in life.”

    from here.

  19. House of Mayhem
    October 3, 2007 at 10:30 am


    As if I don’t have enough stuff to stress over, now:


    Dammit. Again, I’m not reaching my full potential as a woman.


  20. October 5, 2007 at 7:52 am

    I love this ad, I love that feminist parenting is becoming part of the mainstream.

    Great post too. I think this ad should come under the same scrutiny of that which it attempts to emulate. It’s an ad and so its credentials are not perfect and we should be a bit cynical.. but I still love it. I could handle more profit-maximising corporations with a bit more feminist rhetoric.

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