Author: has written 5289 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

189 Responses

  1. Max
    Max May 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    …wow.

  2. sarah
    sarah May 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    so many facepalms.

  3. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    This why you need a large, diverse group to pre-view advertising. The imagery *may* have been unintentional, but that no one noticed or had the authority to put the breaks on is indicative of the pervasiveness of institutional racism. Sad since I like this product, but since the corporate response was “is not” rather than “oops” and a quick photoshop swap, I guess I’ll be finding a new body wash.

  4. Michelle Beltano Curtis
    Michelle Beltano Curtis May 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    Oh the stupidity! How could anyone look at this for more than two seconds and not see that it appears that they are making the before and after comparisons not only of the skin patches, but of the models?

    Maybe I’m naive, but in this case I want to believe it’s simply stupidity. I’m probably giving them way too much credit though. Either way, advertiser HAVE to work to be more conscious of the connotations of their advertising!

    This will be a great ad to use in class to get my students thinking about the representation of women and race. I wish they’d stop making so many great examples, though!

  5. Aydan
    Aydan May 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm |

    I had to stare at that for a while before I figured out what they were even going for. The difference between the models is much more eye-catching than the difference between the two brown backdrops.

    … echoing the “wow.” And the facepalms.

  6. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin May 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    Still Killing Us Softly, I see.

  7. Denise
    Denise May 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    *wincing*

  8. Mizz Alice
    Mizz Alice May 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    Now that is some freaky soap. It’ll wash the skin right off your skin! This is disturbing. It reminds me of that movie Gattaca where the guy is literally scrubbing his skin cells off because he’s a biological “Invalid”.

  9. PG
    PG May 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |

    I didn’t get that “this will give you white skin” implication from the image, I admit — I was staring at the two skin patches, wondering if there was something wrong with my screen that I couldn’t discern the one on the right was lighter than the one on the left.

    As for whitening stuff sold by Unilever outside the U.S., yeah, but so does everyone in those markets. They even sell it to men. I was trying to find some replacement roll-on deodorant for an already-very-pale white dude when we were in Hong Kong recently, and couldn’t find anything that *didn’t* promise to lighten the color of his armpits. What puzzles me most is when they use Caucasian people on the packaging. Aishwarya Rai I’d understand as an aspirational skin tone, but I KNOW that I could bleach myself with Clorox and I’d still never look like a white lady.

  10. Ashley
    Ashley May 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    I don’t notice a difference in the color of the skin examples. Or were you referring to the fact that the black lady is standing underneath the before and the white lady is underneath the after, because I doubt they did that intentionally. To me they all look like three women showing off their beautiful skin because they used the product.

  11. silentbeep
    silentbeep May 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    It’s really heartening, as a WOC, seeing people defend this ad. Lovely.

  12. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    “The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit.”

    Thanks, Captain Obvious. Way to completely refuse to acknowledge the other messages, intentional or not, communicated within the image. I have to wonder if any designers or executives involved in the creation and approval of this advertisement pointed out the obvious problem, and if so how those criticisms were received.

    I dread the denials and cries of “political correctness run amok!” that are likely to be made in response to the criticism. All of the masters thesis-grade attempts to explain the legitimacy and importance of the issue won’t matter to someone hell-bent on willfully denying the problem, though I do think thorough dismantling of indefensible garbage is useful for the audience that may not have considered such arguments and perspectives beforehand. Whether I personally have the energy to fill tha gap today is a whole other issue.

    Oh, and a big “fuck you too” to the PR specialist who took the time to repeat a ridiculous marketing claim in the midst of that… well, it didn’t apologize for anything, so it’s not really an apology, even of the non-apology apology variety… response? Piss-poor damage control statement?

    I’ll stop typing before I launch into a screed about the negative externalities of financial profit as an overriding motive and the use of propaganda techniques to that end. It won’t do a damned thing to make the entire decision-making structure at Unilever realize that this was a poorly-designed ad communicating an insulting, offensive, racist message. I can only hope a few people over there are able to at least get the ad pulled from future publication along with a public acknowledgement of why the ad is offensive, but that’s all damage control – there is still the problem with how this image, with that message, managed to go all the way to publication without someone raising enough of an objection to block it.

  13. marle
    marle May 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    I don’t believe any large company would have an ad department create an ad with unintentional messages. Ok, maybe if the symbolism you’re talking about is really obscure, but not putting a black woman under “before” and a white woman under “after”. Do we really believe that professional marketers, whose job it is to get us to buy things we don’t need, are incredibly stupid at seeing how their ad might come across to people? No, the ones who designed this knew exactly how it looked. And they put in just enough details in for stupid racist denialists to point to and “prove” that it’s not racist. There is nothing accidental about this.

  14. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 24, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

    PG:
    I didn’t get that “this will give you white skin” implication from the image, I admit — I was staring at the two skin patches, wondering if there was something wrong with my screen that I couldn’t discern the one on the right was lighter than the one on the left.

    I spotted the problem instantly. The same layout is used in those atrocious diet ads – the word “BEFORE” associated with the person on the left, “AFTER” with the manipulated image on the right. The message being sent is that you (the audience) want to be like the person on the right, beside the “AFTER” label. Intentional or not, this should have been noticed and caught before it could get outside the company.

    Incidentally, good catch on the sizism Jill. Layers upon layers of institutional prejudices and assumptions in this one.

  15. Pidgey
    Pidgey May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    Wow that is some incredibly troubling advertising. A comedian named Hari Kondabolu has a video blog which discusses his own experiences with advertising promoting the message that “fairer” skin is more attractive skin. A lot of his comedy involves pointing out white privilege.

  16. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    Yeah, this.

    Aydan:
    I had to stare at that for a while before I figured out what they were even going for. The difference between the models is much more eye-catching than the difference between the two brown backdrops.

    … echoing the “wow.” And the facepalms.

  17. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    WOW, this ad is certainly a propos of today’s discussions around race! yeesh!

  18. Tori
    Tori May 24, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    … but since the corporate response was “is not” rather than “oops” and a quick photoshop swap…

    This especially. When one effs up, intentionally or not, a good response involves going, “You’re right. We effed up. Sorry and we’ll fix it.” (I mean maybe in more professional language, but with that basic content.)

    Providing a statement that basically says, “We don’t condone this thing we did right here, right now”? *Not* the way to unfuck oneself.

  19. L
    L May 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    Unilever is also the umbrella corporation overseeing Axe, maker of terrible smelling “cologne” and misogynistic ads featuring chocolate/PMS crazed women. Soooo I was already calling BS on all of Dove’s “love your body!” marketing; I especially am now. Pfff

    It actually took me a minute to realize what the ad was really trying to say…

  20. Dove, you’ve failed me again | Thrice Illegitimate

    […] I’ve come across this article on the advertisement (linked from this awesome blog). […]

  21. Catherine
    Catherine May 24, 2011 at 6:01 pm |

    riiiiiiiiiiiidiculous.

  22. Berryfresh
    Berryfresh May 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    I’m a white woman who works in marketing. I once worked for Unilever even.

    It’s probably not ‘intentional’ as in ‘God I hate WOC and wish they were white’ but it IS something that happens regularly because the imagery makers are, 9 times out of 10, blind with privilege.

  23. Lottie
    Lottie May 24, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    I was genuinely confused when people started talking about skin patches because I read it as the before being the black woman and the after being the white blonde woman and didn’t even notice the skin patches.

  24. Katie
    Katie May 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    I hate to be in the minority here, but I think I believe them. I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens. I look at that image and see three happy beautiful women with great skin. I think it is sad others don’t see that as well.

  25. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    I always wonder if those who seem so inclined toward apologia, ever notice how much time, about how many things, and in how many ways they are so engaged?

    I am pretty sure that they’ve never considered what logical conclusion is screaming to be made from the fact that they are apologizing for phenomena that are not in anomalous, but pervasive.

  26. Katie
    Katie May 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    IrishUp
    “I always wonder if those who seem so inclined toward apologia, ever notice how much time, about how many things, and in how many ways they are so engaged?”

    If, as I suspect, that comment was directed at me, I’m not really sure to what you are refering as this is my first time ever commenting. Thanks for making me feel so welcome.

  27. Nahida
    Nahida May 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

    Why would you even have the women standing there? They’re not doing anything. Like, the two patches are enough to communicate that the product has moisturized dry skin. I guess they’re supposed to tell us that they’re SUPER HAPPY now that they have moisturized skin!

    I doubt it was an accident. Advertisers sit around for hours and days cross analyzing every possibility. They MUST have thought about the placement and order.

  28. Nimue
    Nimue May 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

    Gross. Way to be complete jerks, Dove/Unilever.

  29. Ashley
    Ashley May 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

    This reminds me of that South Park episode where Chef wants the South Park flag changed because he sees it as racist, but the kids don’t see it as racist at all.

  30. Ashley
    Ashley May 24, 2011 at 6:49 pm |

    Katie:
    I hate to be in the minority here, but I think I believe them.I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens.I look at that image and see three happy beautiful women with great skin.I think it is sad others don’t see that as well.

    That’s what I’m saying. Yes, I’m going to say it, I think people are making this out to be something that is simply is not.

  31. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 24, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens.

    Ahem.

    If you want to disagree then disagree, but don’t patronize people with that tired meme.

  32. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm |

    Ashley: This reminds me of that South Park episode where Chef wants the South Park flag changed because he sees it as racist, but the kids don’t see it as racist at all.

    Are you really comparing this to a scene where White kids tell a Black man that something isn’t racist?

  33. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm |

    Ashley: This reminds me of that South Park episode where Chef wants the South Park flag changed because he sees it as racist, but the kids don’t see it as racist at all.

    You mean the flag that depicts a black person being lynched while a bunch of white people cheer? That flag?

  34. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 24, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    Katie: I hate to be in the minority here, but I think I believe them. I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens. I look at that image and see three happy beautiful women with great skin. I think it is sad others don’t see that as well.

    It really doesn’t matter whether you believe them or not — it’s a messed up image, and it should never have run. Whether or not it was intentional, it’s an excruciatingly inappropriate ad, and if you can’t see that, even when it’s been pointed out to you, I find that kinda sad too.

  35. Katie
    Katie May 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm |

    Angel H.
    “If you want to disagree then disagree, but don’t patronize people with that tired meme.”

    Angel, I wasn’t attempting to be patronizing, I was explaining my basis for my opinion. I work for a non-profit and because I think about work so much, I can see or think about even unrelated things through the lens of what I do every day. I just don’t think there is anything to this picture beyond trying to sell body wash.

  36. Tori
    Tori May 24, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

    Ashley: That’s what I’m saying. Yes, I’m going to say it, I think people are making this out to be something that is simply is not.

    It’s not an advertisement that depicts a larger, darker-skinned woman under the text “before” and a thinner, lighter-skinned woman under the text “after”? While the intention behind the decision to run this ad might be unclear (either way, intent isn’t magic), the actual pics and text used are pretty apparent.

  37. V.E.
    V.E. May 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    This ad was mentioned on Sociological Images a while back and one of the commenters there had this to say, in part:

    These companies have psychologist and sociologists working on these ads that specialize in people’s – and in particular the white upper class women this ad is aimed at – reactions to advertisement. If it were an accident, they would catch it. Period. Not only is that their job but they have incredible amounts of formal education to make them qualified. I think, however, that they are intending to call on exactly those “existing or historical cultural representations that may provide a background for the interpretation of images or phrases in the advertising” – they understand that we as a society tend to view “White skin…as inherently “more beautiful” than non-White skin” and “thinner bodies as more beautiful than larger ones” and try to call on these cultural understanding unconsciously so that the ad seems to makes more sense on first glance as it fits with our understandings about women.

    The original author of that post found the comment important enough to add to the bottom of the said post.

  38. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm |

    Hey, you know what…surprisingly the “badness” of this image is not predicated on whether or not the people who constructed it are racist! Assume they are all decent, anti-racist progressive wonderkins – their vetting system (or perhaps their ethics) allows images like this to be made. If their vetting system included more thoughtful (or ethical) human beings, then this image would not have been released. If their company had more ethical managers, the image would be edited.

    And, not “seeing” the racism doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I didn’t recognize this problem was when I saw the image either. The text didn’t register. My first thought was that my skin looks that dry, since I was just looking at my leg. Then, I noticed the odd posing differences and thought the post was going to be about the stereotypical posing. But no! There was another layer I missed. Our own frame changes how we interpret the world around us.

    If we want to be allies with people who are oppressed we have to accept their explanation of how (when viewing the world from their, sometimes different frame) an action furthers their oppression.

  39. AVS
    AVS May 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm |

    @Katie and @Ashley, have either of you considered why neither of you find this image offensive considering that every other person commenting does? Why seeing a classic before/after set up featuring a larger black woman on the before side and a thinner white woman on the after side doesn’t make you stop and think “hmm, maybe this here is an example of that institutionalized racism that I keep hearing about”?

    Questioning motives where racism or sexism or ableism or homophobia or sizeism or any other oppressed group is concerned doesn’t mean that we automatically assume the worst, it means that we are aware those things exist and thus are in a better position to take action.

    Deeming an advertisement inoffensive by *your* standards and any reaction to it as over-reaction is patronizing and privileged, particularly if every other person on a thread, including the author, is saying that to them it reeks of racism and sizeism. This might be a situation that calls for listening and some introspection.

  40. alynn
    alynn May 24, 2011 at 8:50 pm |

    Somewhere in Dove’s marketing department someone is saying “I told you so.” There’s no way this went un-discussed. Someone probably was told they too were too “sensitive” and now they’ve feeling a helluva lot of vindication as the rest of us say, hell yes, that ad’s a problem.

  41. Ashley
    Ashley May 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    AVS:
    @Katie and @Ashley, have either of you considered why neither of you find this image offensive considering that every other person commenting does? Why seeing a classic before/after set up featuring a larger black woman on the before side and a thinner white woman on the after side doesn’t make you stop and think “hmm, maybe this here is an example of that institutionalized racism that I keep hearing about”?

    Questioning motives where racism or sexism or ableism or homophobia or sizeism or any other oppressed group is concerned doesn’t mean that we automatically assume the worst, it means that we are aware those things exist and thus are in a better position to take action.

    Deeming an advertisement inoffensive by *your* standards and any reaction to it as over-reaction is patronizing and privileged, particularly if every other person on a thread, including the author, is saying that to them it reeks of racism and sizeism. This might be a situation that calls for listening and some introspection.

    Are you trying to say that because I didn’t see this as racist means that I am not aware that it exists or that I am not in a good position to take action? Are you trying to say I am privileged because I happen to be a thin white girl so *of course* I didn’t see it offensively?

    Am I supposed to care how many people on *Feministe* take offense to this as opposed to the number of people on here who don’t? Because I have read about this issue more than twice today in other blogs and I know one one in particular where the vast majority of commenters think it’s a bit radical for this to be thought of as racist.

  42. Katie
    Katie May 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    AVS
    “@Katie and @Ashley, have either of you considered why neither of you find this image offensive considering that every other person commenting does?”

    I don’t find it offensive because there is no part of me that associates a bigger black woman is being less than a thin white woman. And I don’t have so little faith in others that I think they would make that intentional correlation either.

    AVS
    “This might be a situation that calls for listening and some introspection.”

    Talk about being patronizing AVS.

  43. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm |

    @Katie,

    That’s nice for you, but if you live in the US, you live in a society that disagrees. Welcome to the idea that you are not the arbiter of reality. See above re: framing.

  44. Max
    Max May 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm |

    Ashley: Are you trying to say I am privileged because I happen to be a thin white girl so *of course* I didn’t see it offensively?

    Well, being thin would give you thin privilege, being white would give you white privilege, and together both can make you miss offensive messages.

    Katie: I don’t find it offensive because there is no part of me that associates a bigger black woman is being less than a thin white woman. And I don’t have so little faith in others that I think they would make that intentional correlation either.

    *facepalm*
    I don’t even know how to respond to this. That’s like about one degree away from the old “It is the people who point out racism who are the real racists” argument. Come on.

    Yeah, you could both do with some “listening and some introspection”.

  45. David
    David May 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    Considering all three appear beautiful and happy, I believe that this was accidental.

    Or mainstream culture could have been taken in by its own twisted ideas of beauty.

  46. alynn
    alynn May 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    I honestly fail to see how because some people don’t find it offensive think it’s a case of oversensitivity, Dove shouldn’t apologize and/or take a step back and reconsider the ad.

    I mean, there’s always going to be a contingent of people who say that every racist/sexist/homophobic/abelist/rape/etc joke isn’t *that* bad, “lighten up.” That does not change the fact that jokes and advertisements can and do perpetuate tired stereotypes and bigotry.

    It’s undeniable; a large number of people have seen an implicitly racist and sizeist message in the ad. Even if we pretend for a moment that Dove had the purest of intentions, why shouldn’t we discuss the aforementioned tired stereotypes? And it is in no way whatsoever racist to call that out.

  47. Bonn
    Bonn May 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm |

    Count me in on the, “Didn’t even notice the women until I realized that’s what people were in a snit about.” I just kept staring at the before and after images trying to figure out how one was being racist. I didn’t associate the women with the before/after … because they don’t have anything to do with it and that was obvious to me.

  48. vanessa
    vanessa May 24, 2011 at 10:53 pm |

    seriously? SERIOUSLY? On what planet is this image NOT racist? I just…I mean, god knows I have white privilege and I am quite sure I do not catch every instance of institutional racism that I see, but this is just so mind numbingly obvious that I fail to see how anyone could NOT catch it.
    And even if you don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Plus, big fat WORD to the comment about Dove having tons of highly trained specialists on hand…there’s NO WAY someone didn’t spot this. MAYBE they didn’t put the message out there on purpose,but someone saw it.

  49. felixbc
    felixbc May 24, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    I produced an ad once that featured a bowl of red bean soup, from a Chinese company. I found these cool red and gold papers at a Chinese import store, and used them as a background. The final shot looked great, and got good reviews. Then a friend of mine from Hong Kong explained that the papers I’d used were traditionally burnt as offerings to recently deceased people. My complete ignorance did not let me off the hook for a completely inappropriate image, one that should never run as an ad.

    Every ad goes out into a culture that reads it by the history it knows. In fact, that’s what advertising does: it appeals to culture and history to sell its product. Every message in it is there to be read. If the maker of the image is clueless, then we can let them off the hook for being deliberately grossly offensive, racist, or sexist. But the ad still shouldn’t run, and a company that puts it out should apologize.

  50. Archie
    Archie May 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm |

    Notions of white supremacy are insidious and profound, as this nauseating photo of Sammy Sosa reveals:

    http://www.thefrisky.com/post/246-did-sammy-sosa-bleach-his-skin/

    Why would someone want to lighten their skin?

  51. Li
    Li May 24, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    A few years ago one of our health NGOs ran a safe sex campaign that included images of people engaged in sexy times. In every single image including non-white people they were in the submissive pose out of the partners. This, by the way, I know to have been repeatedly pointed out by people within the org before the ads went to production. And, inevitably, they still all got printed as-is. Do you know who didn’t directly notice this when looking at the images? White people. Because, oddly enough, when you benefit from a system of racial oppression you’re far less likely actively identify when that system is propagating itself.

  52. Person.
    Person. May 24, 2011 at 11:41 pm |

    I think the before and after is from the scratchy looking skin to the fresh smooth looking skin. I think the racism was unintentional, but really…someone should have noticed it before print. Not racist, just dumb.

  53. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 25, 2011 at 12:53 am |

    White Privilege= Looking more like the woman under the word ‘After’ than like the woman under the word ‘Before’

    And also: being able not to see this image as disturbing or symptomatic of racist constructions of ‘beauty’ because after all – it’s just bodywash amirite???! and anyway BW so are beautiful!! who would ever deny that??!

    Come on, people. Let’s get our 101 on here.

  54. Natalia
    Natalia May 25, 2011 at 1:25 am |

    I don’t find it offensive because there is no part of me that associates a bigger black woman is being less than a thin white woman.

    But you forget the context within which such ads are produced. The overall market for black women in the US is still seen as “low class” or, at the very best, “niche.” Thin white ladies are mostly the so-called default everyone strives to capture – I say this as a thin white lady.

    Remember Tommy Hilfiger? There was a persistent rumour that he was dismayed that many black folks were into his label, because it made it less desirable for the white folks. Tommy Hilfiger has always denied that this was the case (the clothes *do* sell well, so if you step back and look at the profit you’re making, you really may not give a crap about who is buying them after all), but I remember working on a fashion magazine *years later*, and hearing people complain about how “zomg Hilfiger was ruined back in the day” because of various nonwhite undesirables.

    Whether we like it or not, it’s still often the case that white = awesome, everything else = in need of correction or erasure in the fashion and beauty business.

  55. p.b.
    p.b. May 25, 2011 at 3:12 am |

    Really, there are people defending this ad? Really!? My goodness.

  56. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 3:54 am |

    Look, I’m glad that some of you are such super-special fucking snowflakes that you are above cultural messages and conditioning about what is an acceptable body, skin color, facial features, and hair texture to have and what isn’t. Congratu-fucking-lations! But kindly don’t wallow in denial that such messages don’t exist. And don’t go whining that people are making you feel unwelcome when you dismiss what a lot of us saw as so much hypsersensitivity–including, by the way, the people of color who live with this shit every day. Fuck right off with that nonsense.

    If Dove/Unilever truly did not mean to create the message that others here–including this very oblvious when it comes to race issues white woman–one would think they’d offer an embarrased mea culpa and do a quick photoshop job. I mean, they do want to sell their product and they don’t want to alienate their demographic, no? It’s telling that even the supposedly money-driven corporate culture is so mired in privilege that they get defensive and refuse to oh, I don’t know, appeal to their customer base.

    Unless, of course, their customer base is White women who want to feel good about the Campaign for Real Beauty but would be repulsed at the idea of a larger dark-skinned Black woman as the ideal for “after.” FFS.

    Christ. This reminds me of a similar brouhaha over a Method ad that really offended the hell out of women–and the women got a similar response (and a very Kos-like “sanctimonious women studies set” and “hypersensitive” bit of whining from some people in the ad industry, who forgot about the canard they often push about doing what sells to the demographic they’re targeting).

  57. Laurie S.
    Laurie S. May 25, 2011 at 3:55 am |

    I see before (dry) and after (moisturized) skin patches with three lovely women in front of them representing healthy skin. The message I got is that Dove will give you healthy skin like all those three women, not one of them. Sure, in hindsight they probably should have had the order of the women different to avoid this comparison. Still, the poses don’t look at all to me like the skinny blonde is the “best” — she’s fine, but the black woman is cuter, sexier and more vibrant. I also love that women who wear sizes larger than a 3 are being shown like this.

  58. diogenes
    diogenes May 25, 2011 at 4:11 am |

    V.E.: These companies have psychologist and sociologists working on these ads that specialize in people’s – and in particular the white upper class women this ad is aimed at – reactions to advertisement. If it were an accident, they would catch it.

    But why aim such an ad at “white upper class women” who already have white skin? It would make more sense to say the ad is aimed at black women who might want whiter skin.

  59. diogenes
    diogenes May 25, 2011 at 4:17 am |

    Yes, the ad is confusing and looks racist.

  60. Ashley
    Ashley May 25, 2011 at 6:58 am |

    Sheelzebub, thank you for that lovely point of view, but would it have killed you to not be so incredibly condescending? We get it that racism is bad and that you think the ad is racist, but apparently being judgmental against anyone who holds a different opinion than yours is A OK round here. Some people just will not see it your way, please just let well enough alone.

  61. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 7:12 am |

    Sheelzebub, thank you for that lovely point of view, but would it have killed you to not be so incredibly condescending?

    Ashley, could you take your own advice? Because when you say shit like this:

    Am I supposed to care how many people on *Feministe* take offense to this as opposed to the number of people on here who don’t? Because I have read about this issue more than twice today in other blogs and I know one one in particular where the vast majority of commenters think it’s a bit radical for this to be thought of as racist.

    (Because, you know, POC commenting on a Feministe thread are so unimportant! Unimportant enough to inspire you to continue your lectures about how this is no big deal.)

    And when you let shit like this go and agree with it:

    I don’t find it offensive because there is no part of me that associates a bigger black woman is being less than a thin white woman. And I don’t have so little faith in others that I think they would make that intentional correlation either.

    and

    I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens.

    You’ve got no authority to lecture anyone about being condescending. But thanks for playing.

    Oh, also? When you dismiss the lived experiences of people who do not have the privilege you have, when you agree with a poster who basically calls the women of color here paranoid and calls herself above cultural conditioning, you’ve got some nerve giving anyone the tone argument.

    Also: other people won’t agree with you. And will voice their disagreements quite strongly. Deal with it and stop your fucking whining.

  62. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 7:13 am |

    Oh, and Katie? Those last two comments I quoted in my last comment were yours. Thanks for playing, but perhaps you could stop with the patronizing bullshit and listen to what other women of color have to say on this.

  63. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 25, 2011 at 7:21 am |

    Are you trying to say that because I didn’t see this as racist means that I am not aware that it exists or that I am not in a good position to take action? Are you trying to say I am privileged because I happen to be a thin white girl so *of course* I didn’t see it offensively?

    YES! Yes we are!

  64. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 7:22 am |

    Well, just read your blog post about this, Ashley. You really have no right to tell anyone they’re being condescending considering how dismissive you were in that post. You don’t have to agree but POC aren’t being paranoid, nor are they looking for racism in everything because they see things differently from you.

  65. Sara
    Sara May 25, 2011 at 7:30 am |

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was probably an accident, and they got defensive when accused of racism (rather than fixing it) because people in general get defensive when accused of racism.

    I’m not saying racism didn’t unconsciously motivate the model placement – I’m saying the designers probably were not aware of that motivation.

    That doesn’t mean the end product isn’t racist, or that they shouldn’t have changed it — but I do think it’s obvious *why* they didn’t change it. It would mean admitting they were wrong.

  66. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl May 25, 2011 at 7:59 am |

    Ashley and Katie:

    Have you ever watched this video?

    http://www.understandingrace.org/lived/video/index.html

  67. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 25, 2011 at 8:06 am |

    Ashley:
    This reminds me of that South Park episode where Chef wantsthe South Park flag changed because he sees it as racist, but the kids don’t see it as racist at all.

    Oh good grief, Ashley. I managed to miss this? You really didn’t get the point of that episode too good did you? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  68. PG
    PG May 25, 2011 at 8:09 am |

    For those ganging up on Ashley and Kate on the basis of “EVERYONE who’s a decent human being thinks this is racist,” please note that several websites specifically for and about POC (which Feministe is not), have taken the view that the advertisement is not racist.
    See, e.g., http://www.theroot.com/buzz/dove-ad-racist

    ‘There are a lot of racist things in the world, and a lot of messages that demean black women’s beauty. Is this one of them? Not in our opinion. Is it one of the more unfortunately (stupidly, even) designed ads we’ve seen in some time? Definitely. But we just can’t believe that the placement of the models of different complexions in relation to the “before” and “after” labels is actually meant to imply that the product has skin-lightening properties or that white is more beautiful than black. (It doesn’t even add up. Seriously, who would actually believe that body wash would transform their face and hair?)’

    Obviously, those websites don’t speak for all POC. But if we’re claiming to care about what POC say, perhaps views that dissent from our own should be noted as well, especially when they’re not coming from Herman Cain types seeking white approval, but rather from folks who are very much taking a black-centric perspective.

  69. Katie
    Katie May 25, 2011 at 8:22 am |

    Thank you PG.

  70. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 8:25 am |

    For those ganging up on Ashley and Kate on the basis of “EVERYONE who’s a decent human being thinks this is racist,”

    No one said that. We said we thought it was racist and why, and were greeted with dismissals from Ashley and Kate. We were told we were being paranoid, looking for racism in everything, not beyond racial classifications (nice blog post, Ashley!) and that we obviously must be gullible since Katie doesn’t buy into popular marketing and is a super-special snowflake compared to everyone else.

    They’re acting like patronizing, dismissive assholes to people who have actually lived this shit. That’s why they’re getting blowback. It’s all-too-predictable that this is turning into a narrative about how they’re being martyred, though. FFS.

  71. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 25, 2011 at 8:27 am |

    But if we’re claiming to care about what POC say, perhaps views that dissent from our own should be noted as well, especially when they’re not coming from Herman Cain types seeking white approval, but rather from folks who are very much taking a black-centric perspective.

    First of all, you’re talking about a website where one of the most articles is “The Blackest White Fols We Know.” Second of all, by whose standards do you have to be Black enough in order to speak from a black-centric perspective? As a Black woman who does find this ad offensive, I just want to make sure I’m not coming across as a “Herman Cain type seeking white approval”.

    /angry negress

  72. Jadey
    Jadey May 25, 2011 at 8:40 am |

    You know, I can’t remember the last time that the validity my opinion on race issues hinged upon whether or not every other White person in the world agreed with me.

  73. AVS
    AVS May 25, 2011 at 8:46 am |

    @Ashley and @Katie The two of you came onto this thread and decided that everyone else was wrong in our analysis of the image. You decided that we were all oversensitive and that we wanted(!) to see racist imagery where there was none. That is kinda an asshole thing to do in any situation let alone on a feminist blog.

    What I was suggesting is that usually when I cannot see something, or have a difference of opinion, I listen so I can try to see it from the other person’s point of view in case my own privilege is getting in the way (btw, Ashley, I had no idea you were thin and white so…). Again, this is why listening could come in handy because while you might colour-blindly look at the ad and see three beautiful women happy with their skin (they are still models, not actual Dove users) there could also be more sinister undertones. Or, you could go back to trying to erase everyone else’s reactions and feelings.

    Oh, and Ashley, comparing racism (and saying that you get that it’s “bad”) to people challenging your opinion on a thread ABOUT RACISM is just beyond ignorant and offensive.

  74. AVS
    AVS May 25, 2011 at 8:50 am |

    The whole set-up of the ad is really weird. It kind of looks like they’re in an art gallery and the giant skin flaps are on the walls as art and the women are in their finest evening towels ready for the opening…

  75. andrea
    andrea May 25, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    I don’t know why people insist that just because something may not be intentional that we shouldn’t talk about it and analyze it. I think the fact that something is NOT intentional is ALL THE MORE reason to talk about it.

    If someone is being an ass, you don’t just go ‘oh well ze doesn’t know that they’re being an ass, so we’re just going to let it slide.’ because then they just keep going on as they always were. We correct children when they are doing things they shouldn’t be, so why not adults?

    Unintentional rascism (and other isms) can be just as damaging as blatant intentional racist messages.. if not more, based on the fact that unintentional messages are MORE likely to get a pass based on “oh, well I’m sure they didn’t MEAN it.” Well, if we point it out, maybe ‘they’ will be more careful next time and think about what they’re putting out there.

  76. Katie
    Katie May 25, 2011 at 8:52 am |

    AVS
    “What I was suggesting is that usually when I cannot see something, or have a difference of opinion, I listen so I can try to see it from the other person’s point of view…”

    Right, because so many of you have tried to see this from my point of view. All I have gotten from this discussion is that that unless you have the same opinion as everyone else, you are clearly wrong, have no right to an opinion and are a “special snowflake.” FFS. I’m done.

  77. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 9:00 am |

    Jesus, Katie. For someone who is quite willing to dish it out, you sure can’t take it.

    You acted like a condescending, arrogant little shit. You didn’t just say, “I didn’t see that/I don’t see it,” you basically said that people spend their lives “looking for examples of racism or sexism or sizeism” and congratulated yourself on how you’re immune to cultural messaging about race and size.

    Apparently, in your world, we’re supposed to eat the shit you dole out while we kiss your feet. Have fun there.

  78. AVS
    AVS May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    @Katie What is your point of view? That there is nothing wrong with the ad? Because I’ve tried but I just can’t see it as anything other than racist. There are many other ways they could have positioned the women: they could have not had them transitioning in weight and skin tone; they could have not had the black woman in the ‘sassy’ pose; they could have not had the women under the before/after headers…

    I get that it’s too late because you’re “done” but the way you originally voiced your opinion was dismissive to everyone else who found the ad objectionable and racist. Then when people challenged you on it you’re flouncing off rather than dialing it back and engaging in a constructive discussion. This is on you, not on the other commenters.

  79. chava
    chava May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    Seriously? Who would believe it? Have you SEEN the claims made by the beauty industry? Someone must believe their outrageous claims, to the tune of a whole lot of cash.

    ‘ Seriously, who would actually believe that body wash would transform their face and hair?)’

  80. Mechelle
    Mechelle May 25, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    Ashley:
    Sheelzebub, thank you for that lovely point of view, but would it have killed you to not be so incredibly condescending? We get it that racism is bad and that you think the ad is racist, but apparently being judgmental against anyone who holds a different opinion than yours is A OK round here.Some people just will not see it your way, please just let well enough alone.

    As a Black woman I find your blog post absolutely disgusting and it upsets me to actually know people like you exist, even though I can’t deny it. You’re basically exhibiting a bunch of excuses shown on this site:

    http://derailingfordummies.com/#overemotional

    I really think you should read it:

  81. AVS
    AVS May 25, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    It’s impossible to know what Dove/Unilever’s intentions actually were, they probably weren’t blatantly racist (not to say that there wouldn’t necessarily have been internalized racism at work) although they would have had enough focus groups and people working on the project to know that the image was problematic, they just didn’t care.

    The thing is that now that it’s been pointed out as being offensive, what are they going to do? By not taking it down, which would seem to be the PR thing to do, they are condoning their unintentional racism. Are they just going to play the “you just can’t win” card? Does anyone here work in advertising or know anything about the politics about pulling an ad campaign?

  82. Attackfish
    Attackfish May 25, 2011 at 10:02 am |

    Speaking of half-hidden racism in commercials, has anybody seen this Truvia ad?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-QxDh8Y4-A

    Transcript:

    Song start’s playing in the background: “I loved you sweetness, but you’re not sweet, you made my butt fat.
    You drove me insane, self-control down the drain. We’re over I’m so done with that.

    While the song plays a thin, conventionally attractive black woman with natural hair in a tank top and flannel pants eyes a chocolate bunny on the table. She rotates around the chocolate guiltily, and finally gives in at the last lyrics and in thee next frame, the bunny’s ears are broken off.

    The scene changes to water dripping off a leaf, coffee, and other food items, on a white background as these lyrics play in the background: I found a new love, a natural true love that comes from a little green leaf.

    A conventionally attractive, thin, casually but well dressed white woman with styled hair is shown enjoying the sweetener as the commercial ends with the last of the lyrics: Zero calorie guilt free no artificiality, my skinny jeans zipped in relief.
    It’s name is truvia I had no idea no more sprinkling my coffee with grief.
    Truvia: Honestly Sweet.”

  83. felixbc
    felixbc May 25, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    Ashley’s blog is an educational read. Especially her responses in the comments.

  84. gretel
    gretel May 25, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    I wonder if anyone has been able to track down the models and see if they had any knowledge about how they would be depicted in this ad (I imagine not, but I am very ignorant about models and advertising).

    I would be absolutely livid if I was one of the women in this ad.

  85. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 10:39 am |

    Jill: I would also like to think it’s simple stupidity,

    Less stupid would have been putting the black woman over on the “after” side”, you know, as the desired end state, but only slighlty less stupid. But the context of Unilever’s other products pretty much spikes even that.

  86. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    felixbc: My complete ignorance did not let me off the hook for a completely inappropriate image, one that should never run as an ad.

    This on par with that proverbial dud, the Chevy Nova, that they tried to sell in Spanish-speaking countries.

    It reminds me of that horrible Bennetton ad years ago, united colors of Bentton or some shit, where they had a young black woman holding a white baby. Ignorant Europeans who think they’re so hip.

    Sheelzebub: Look, I’m glad that some of you are such super-special fucking snowflakes that you are above cultural messages and conditioning about what is an acceptable body, skin color, facial features, and hair texture to have and what isn’t.

    This gets to the nub of it. The issue is not what one or another of us here finds offensive. This ad exists in a conversation across the entire market it’s aimed at. It’s the same with any communication; it is never simply between the speaker and the listener; the entire speech community shapes the language of the conversation. I know that “communications theory” says thet the listener shapes the meaning of an utterance; sorry that is bullshit.

    This image does not stand alone, and the context it stands in makes it an example of a racist meme. It’s that simple.

  87. Sheera
    Sheera May 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |

    Don’t you think they made up this add for controversy? Do you really think rich/upper middle class woman of any background use something like Dove body wash? Yea….

  88. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    Attackfish-

    That ad is awful! Even worse is that the song sounds EXACTLY like Kimya Dawson, an amazing, fat, black singer, but it’s actually a thin white woman! WTF!

  89. vanessa
    vanessa May 25, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    Sheelzebub, I love you. So perfectly said.

    @Ashley and @Katie…seriously? do you really think that being incredibly demeaning and dismissive is going to, what? HELP you on a feminist blog? wow.

  90. becky
    becky May 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    Ashley:
    This reminds me of that South Park episode where Chef wantsthe South Park flag changed because he sees it as racist, but the kids don’t see it as racist at all.

    Are you serious…? This debate is like the one in the South Park episode where everyone thought the flag was fine (i.e., people were not overly sensitive, unlike most of the commenters here, right?!) except for the only African American main character? Because chef was *wrong* and the flag was not racist at all (only depicting an African American being lynched)? I don’t even… So much fail… So not funny… And this might be the first time I say this to another person on the internet: FUCK YOU.

  91. felixbc
    felixbc May 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    I thought that comment of Ashley’s meant that she got it, but no?

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/152149/racist-flag

    But Chef, I respect you very much, but you have to understand…

    Video won’t play outside the US, so: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chef_Goes_Nanners

    Flag: Yellow ground, black line drawing of lynched person, 4 cheering people in white. New flag: the cheering people are in different colours.

  92. andrea
    andrea May 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

    felixbc:
    I thought that comment of Ashley’s meant that she got it, but no?

    I don’t think she gets it, but that doesn’t mean her comment isn’t bang-on.

    Underprivileged person takes issue with something they perceive as racist? Check.

    Privileged group member is unaware of possible racist message and thus decides it doesn’t exist? Check.

    Privileged group member dismisses concerns of underprivileged group? Check.

  93. andrea
    andrea May 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    Okay.. I read the synopsis..I could be wrong. Sorry.

  94. felixbc
    felixbc May 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    Yeah, I finished reading the synopsis. It goes horribly* awry: “Chef and the rest of the adults find out that the children had not even perceived that the flag was racist, instead thinking that the issue at hand was capital punishment. Chef realizes that when the children looked at the flag, they only saw five people, with no regard to their colors, and is touched: he realizes that, in believing the whole town racist while throwing the slur “cracker” around, he was being the racist one.”

    *Or, from a Southpark creators’ point of view, horribly right: they get to satirize everyone and everything in one episode. Lots of toes to tromp on, hard.

  95. car
    car May 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    Less stupid would have been putting the black woman over on the “after” side”, you know, as the desired end state, but only slighlty less stupid.

    I would not be surprised to find that they tested photos of several versions of the photo with the models in different orders, and this one polled the best with the middle class white demographic. Not for any reason, of course! They just seemed to like the one with the white woman under the “after” sign better. It just felt more “right” to them in some unfathomable way…

  96. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm | *

    Okay, between this thread and the other, the mod queue (to say nothing of the spam filter) looks like white privilege vomited all over the living room after white supremacism threw a nasty house party.

    Some renewed effort at focus and basic decency would not go amiss.

  97. vanessa
    vanessa May 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    Sigh. You poor mods.

  98. andrea
    andrea May 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    felixbc:
    Yeah, I finished reading the synopsis. It goes horribly* awry: “Chef and the rest of the adults find out that the children had not even perceived that the flag was racist, instead thinking that the issue at hand was capital punishment. Chef realizes that when the children looked at the flag, they only saw five people, with no regard to their colors, and is touched: he realizes that, in believing the whole town racist while throwing the slur “cracker” around, he was being the racist one.”

    *Or, from a Southpark creators’ point of view, horribly right: they get to satirize everyone and everything in one episode. Lots of toes to tromp on, hard.

    Yeah, although I like that whole ‘kids don’t see colour’ thing, the episode (or the synopsis) doesn’t address that Chef wasn’t exactly WRONG about the flag.

  99. Read Around The Web « wild/precious

    […] let’s play Spot the Institutional Racism! (the comments on this post are mostly good…until you get to “Ashley” and “Katie” who are all, well we are colorblind and you all suck since you SEE RACISM OMG. ::headdesk:: […]

  100. felixbc
    felixbc May 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    I would not be surprised to find that they tested photos of several versions of the photo with the models in different orders, and this one polled the best with the middle class white demographic. Not for any reason, of course! They just seemed to like the one with the white woman under the “after” sign better. It just felt more “right” to them in some unfathomable way…

    Exactly what I imagined, too. Darn, and I liked Dove.

  101. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    car: I would not be surprised to find that they tested photos of several versions of the photo with the models in different orders, and this one polled the best with the middle class white demographic. Not for any reason, of course! They just seemed to like the one with the white woman under the “after” sign better. It just felt more “right” to them in some unfathomable way…

    Of course that’s exactly what happened; they go after the biggest profit. Corporations have no other purpose. Protests against their venality and amorality are never aimed really at them but at the customers they pander to.

  102. gretel
    gretel May 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    vanessa: Sigh. You poor mods.

    Seconded.

  103. Keep Your Bleach. « stop! talking.

    […] is debate going on many blogs whether or not this advertisement is racist. And you might have guessed what I think: Hell yes it […]

  104. BHuesca
    BHuesca May 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm |

    I love how this pile-on comes right after a renewed declaration/agreement/sense of civility after the calling-out post and Chally’s departure.

    Just because Chally, or Ashley, or Katie, has a different view on a particular subject than the (mostly White, cis-female-identified, feminist-identified, middle-to-upper-class, temporarily able-bodied and able-minded, and well-versed in terminology and issues [not that Chally or Ashley or Katie are/were none of these things of course]) commentariat here, doesn’t mean we should all dogpile on.

    Didn’t we just agree to be civil and not such a, well, circle-jerk?

    Note: not endorsing any of the aforementioned or non-aforementioned commenters.

  105. becky
    becky May 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    BHuesca:
    I love how this pile-on comes right after a renewed declaration/agreement/sense of civility after the calling-out post and Chally’s departure.

    Just because Chally, or Ashley, or Katie, has a different view on a particular subject than the (mostly White, cis-female-identified, feminist-identified, middle-to-upper-class, temporarily able-bodied and able-minded, and well-versed in terminology and issues [not that Chally or Ashley or Katie are/were none of these things of course]) commentariat here, doesn’t mean we should all dogpile on.

    Didn’t we just agree to be civil and not such a, well, circle-jerk?

    Note: not endorsing any of the aforementioned or non-aforementioned commenters.

    Oh FFS. I will most certainly not be civil to people commenting why no one should step on their white privilege toes and crying “y’all calm down, you’re being too sensitive.” And it’s funny that you should mention Chally regarding these commenters, since she was one of the people fighting exactly their attitude with many posts. For crying out loud…

  106. Li
    Li May 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    BHuesca, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the issues that Chally was facing (a bunch of white people consistently derailing any thread that discussed racism) are very different to those faced by Ashley or Katie (a bunch of people getting pissed at their derailing of a thread that discussed racism). Being civil, among other things, involves not telling people of colour that they are just being over sensitive, that they are just looking for racism, or any of the extra-bonus quotes Ashley’s added to the conversation over on her blog. Like, being civil to Chally involves NOT BEING RACIST, and being “civil” to Ashley and Katie seems to mean not calling them on their racist derailment tactics.

  107. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren May 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    For Ashley and Katie, on the extreme off chance that either of you is still reading this thread:

    I speak here a person who is only beginning to realize the degree of privilege she’s enjoyed for her entire life.

    Saying “I don’t have a problem with that image” is not necessarily emblematic of a privileged outlook.

    Saying “I don’t understand why you do have a problem with it” is a stronger sign. (Especially, as pointed out at “Derailing for Dummies”, when that sentence is coupled with “It is therefore your duty to explain it to me.”)

    But the unquestionable emblem of a privileged outlook is saying, “That image is not problematic, and if you think it is you are wrong and oversensitive and just looking for something to get offended about.”

  108. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    I saw no civility or respect for other’s views in either Katie’s or Ashley’s posts. I’m not going to be nice to people who say that those who disagree with them are paranoid, not beyond racial classifications, looking for reasons to get offended, etc. I’m really not going to be nice to them when they throw temper tantrums over disrespect after treating people with disrespect, when they lecture people about being condescending after being pretty fucking condescending themselves.

    Here’s a ticket to the clue train: People don’t have to agree with you. I know that you and Ashley and Katie have been happy to inform us of this fact–yet you all seem to think that “respect” means “agree with Ashley and Katie you big meanie-butts, no matter how shitty and patronizing they are to you.”

  109. Brett K
    Brett K May 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    Seeing as I first saw this ad posted as a FAIL on Imgur, which is far from a bastion of anti-racism and/or feminism, I think it’s clear that this is not a case of social justice types being too sensitive to certain imagery.

    Personally, I doubt that it was intentional, but unintentional does not = okay. There has to be a LOT of privilege going around at Dove for no one to have taken a moment to think about what is going on in the ad. And their failure to address criticism… yeah. Fail, fail, fail.

  110. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm |

    I would not be surprised to find that they tested photos of several versions of the photo with the models in different orders, and this one polled the best with the middle class white demographic. Not for any reason, of course! They just seemed to like the one with the white woman under the “after” sign better. It just felt more “right” to them in some unfathomable way…

    To be honest, I kind of doubt it. I work in the ad industry, and for something like this, they probably wouldn’t have the budget to do that kind of testing. This is some knucklehead creative director not realizing the implications of how he’s arranged his cast of models — Dove almost certainly has creative guidelines that say you need to show a racially diverse set of models in any ad that includes more than one woman.

  111. Ellie
    Ellie May 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    The question I have to ask myself is this: Do I, regardless of my size and race, want to be the person listed under the “before” header? Absolutely not. Even if the “intention” is not to label me as less, I don’t want to be on that side of the before-and-after picture.

    The fact that the photo appears to be a spectrum of privilege just adds another layer. Even if race and body shape were not a factor here, I wouldn’t want to be the one on the left side of the picture. The racial component is what takes this from pretty unfortunate to horrifying, but it’s bad either way.

  112. Ellie
    Ellie May 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm |

    Also, worth noting the statistical unlikelihood of this mistake being accidental. This is the one offensive configuration I can imagine of these three women, out of six possible. 16.7% chance that the three women, placed in a completely random order, will appear as a spectrum of black to white, before to after. Simply swapping the place of two of the women, any two, would entirely change this ad.

  113. Ashley
    Ashley May 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm |

    Wow. You know what? This isn’t even about the ad anymore. So I get home from work and I am subjected to several blog comments and emails of pure hate, disrespect, and even threats from the readers of Feministe. Katie and I came here originally voicing our opinions meaning no disrespect to those of you who believe different than us and we were immediately attacked and harassed cruelly. I am disappointed and just plain appalled that some people here who claim to be about feminism, equality for all people and respect can be so hypocritical.

  114. becky
    becky May 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Ashley, I quote this from your blog:

    Really? I mean, really???? When I first saw this ad, I did NOT see anything racist with it until I started reading comments as to why it *could* be interpreted that way. I saw it as three young women with different ethnicities all modeling as the “after” photo, since all of them seem to have smooth skin. So did I see it as racist? Nope. In fact, it kinda pisses me off that people are freaking out about this because some people seriously seem to look for racism in everything.

    So you call that “voicing our opinions meaning no disrespect”? Because you see it as not racist, does not mean it actually isn’t. A lot of people here have given analyses as to why this advertisement is racist. That’s their right. Also, it’s their right not to be convinced by what you say. Tone arguments, saying we’re being too sensitive and looking “for racism in everything” is not a respectful way to react either. And you have gotten worse and more defensive with every post. So no, I am not sorry for telling you to go fuck yourself, I happily reiterate it – and I will keep that up for every person that claims that people (of colour) just look for racism in everything and are just too easily offended. not noticing racism, especially when it is rather blatant as it is here, is a form of white privilege. well done for showing that again.

  115. Ashley
    Ashley May 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm |

    So just because I happen to think that some people are a little sensitive you really think that warrants you to tell me to go fuck myself???

    .

  116. becky
    becky May 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    *head desk* – done.

  117. Ashley
    Ashley May 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    Tripe.

  118. vanessa
    vanessa May 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |

    @Ashley

    Yup. That’s exactly what I think. Go fuck yourself.

    Jill–I meant to say, thank you for posting this ad in the first place. I am going to use it as an object lesson on white privilege and institutional racism with my 10-12 graders in the fall.

  119. Debbie
    Debbie May 25, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    @Ashley: Yeah, it’s warranted. You got back what you dished out.

  120. Ellie
    Ellie May 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Ashley: Katie and I came here originally voicing our opinions meaning no disrespect to those of you who believe different than us and we were immediately attacked and harassed cruelly. I am disappointed and just plain appalled that some people here who claim to be about feminism, equality for all people and respect can be so hypocritical.

    Ashley, oh Ashley…

    As a thin, privileged white person I feel your pain. Learning to respect and understand the point of view of a person of color can be difficult when you haven’t grown up having to face discrimination based on race in your own life. Saying “I don’t see race, I see all those women as equal” really doesn’t help soothe the sting of discrimination they have experienced their whole lives. Maybe you wouldn’t personally pick one of those women over the other to be your friend, and that’s great; that doesn’t change the fact that a very large percentage of Americans probably would, or that they are all trying to look like the woman on the right.

    I’ve had a fair few flounces and flails on blogs like this before; and after some quiet contemplation I much prefer to learn what I can about others’ points of view rather than pit myself against them. We all have privileges of one sort or another, and it can be very hard to recognize the experience of someone without those privileges.

    The difference between them (the other commenters) trying to understand you and you trying to understand them is that they weren’t trying to discredit your personal reaction to the ad. Had you said “I don’t find it offensive” that would be one thing; but to say that others shouldn’t either is where you cross the line.

    As someone who’s been in your shoes, please; please try to see this as a learning experience. Please try to understand. Many of the people who are mad at you are people who have been stung their whole lives by very real racism, and now you’re coming here to tell them they shouldn’t be bothered by this ad and to get over it because race isn’t real.

  121. felixbc
    felixbc May 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    Ashley, what exactly would cause you to reconsider your point of view on this? Is there any voice out there that could say “You know, given the history and culture of racism in this country, this ad could be perceived as racist,” that you would believe and take seriously?
    Who speaks with enough authority in your world (IRL, online, or in your journalism classes) that you would respect them enough to pause and reconsider your views?
    Apparently it’s not women on this board. Hence the reaction you’re getting.

  122. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    As I have been told when I make a thoughtless statement, my intentions do not matter; how the person I’ve hurt feels matters. When you tell someone who displays offence toward an image that they’re being oversensitive, and continue to do so after they and others explain in great detail why they find the image offensive, then there is little left to say beyond profanity since you have communicated that their opinions, analysis, and status as equal citizens worthy of respect and consideration don’t matter and have no influence upon your own opinion. I mean, goodness, a number of people coming from a variety of backgrounds and life histories all picked up on the offensive message being communicated by the ad, intentional or not, and yet that’s being “too sensitive” what’s wrong with being sensitive to messages and memes that communicate messages that promote negative, unjustifiable forms of social superiority? And then displaying great offence at being told, in profane fashion, to stop if you weren’t even going to acknowledge the possible validity of those analyses?

    I don’t know why I’m dumping so much energy into this (there’s a project in front of me that I should make some progress on, for one thing), but even if you don’t get it, maybe a casual reader will.

  123. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    Katie and I came here originally voicing our opinions meaning no disrespect to those of you who believe different than us and we were immediately attacked and harassed cruelly.

    You mean when you made snide comments about how you’d evolved past race (and sneered at POC who hadn’t reached your level of enlightenment)? You mean when you and Katie called POC paranoid and seeing racism in everything? Yeah, that wasn’t cruel or dismissive.

    I find it telling that you lecture us about being nasty and disrespectful, not to mention patronizing, but you’ve done the exact same thing. You got exactly what you dished out.

    And you know? The POC who deal with this shit every day did NOT deserve your dismissal, your derision, and your patronizing attitude. I find it telling that you whine at the way people treated you but you don’t reflect on the way YOU treated people here.

    And I’m not at all surprised to find that the conversation’s been derailed by some asshole who’s happy to throw verbal punches but squeals when she gets some in return. Odd how you’re all ready to declare yourselves martyrs after acting like arrogant, condescending little shits. Rather amusing how you want to give ettiquite lectures but think you’re above those rules yourself.

  124. Kristen J.'s Husband
    Kristen J.'s Husband May 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm |

    FYI – not *seeing* race is a privilege. You don’t experience the world through the lens of race because society does not constantly use your race as a reason to dehumanize and devalue you. Others are not afforded that same luxury.

  125. groggette
    groggette May 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    I had a couple different snarky comments lined up after seeing how this thread devolved but I ended up deleting each one. It’s not fucking worth it. It would be awesome if once, just once we could have a serious discussion about race here without being derailed by clueless white people (full disclosure: I’m one too sometimes) who refuse to realize that just maybe they’re not the experts on race they think they are.

  126. Ashley
    Ashley May 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    Jill: I think you’re being a little sensitive here.

    Yes I am, you are right. Now I am all out of fucks to give.

  127. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 6:21 pm |

    Ashley: So I get home from work and I am subjected to several blog comments and emails of pure hate, disrespect, and even threats from the readers of Feministe. Katie and I came here originally voicing our opinions meaning no disrespect to those of you who believe different than us and we were immediately attacked and harassed cruelly.

    Ashley, take it from a
    1) white,
    2) middle-aged
    3) man

    that you are showing that you are quite an
    1) ignorant
    2) spoiled
    3) white woman.

    You came in here and quite unintentionally and unknowingly said something offensively stupid. No biggee, we all fuck up now and then. But when others pointed that out, that hurt your feelings. Here’s where the spoiled part comes in – you think someone hurting your feelings is being horrible, horrible, horrible, and that your hurt feelings can suddenly become the focus of your attention, as you show by the comment I quote. That shows how pampered and sheltered you must be. Maybe your Patrarich or Daddy thinks you can do no wrong, and has indoctrintated you to that, but where is he now? He can’t protect you here.

    Ashley, have you ever heard of “white woman’s tears”? Because that is exactly what you are doing.

  128. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm |

    hahahahaha…… cue WWT?

  129. PG
    PG May 25, 2011 at 6:38 pm |

    Why is it derailing the conversation about this advertisement and racism to say that one didn’t see it as racist? That kind of implies that derailment=disagreement. So long as the conversation is still about racism and the ad, I don’t understand why the person dissenting from the view stated in the OP and most of comments is automatically derailing. Also, I’m confused by the dismissing and ignoring of the perspectives stated on websites like The Root. Why not discuss the reasons *other than white privilege* someone might reach a different conclusion about this ad than the OP does?

    And before the “white privilege” accusations come out against me, I’ll hand over my WOC card and note that my parents are from a country where bleaching is offered at most salons. I was there a few months ago and my mom wanted to treat me to a facial — I couldn’t get one because every single one was marketed as “whitening” and I didn’t want that. My wedding planner, from the same ethnic group, told me I needed to buy a hat or parasol so I wouldn’t get too dark before The Big Day (TM). As those two anecdotes may indicate, the problem of the existence of whitening products — as opposed to the deep-seated color hierarchy that those products respond to in a capitalist system, and that affects everyone in the culture, including in the diaspora — is one that matters mainly only for people wealthy enough to afford such products, which is a small minority of that country’s population.

    It’s entirely possible I didn’t get the “This will turn you whiter & better” message off this ad that folks are saying is Totally Obvious and Probably Intentional because I’m used to ads that are Totally Obvious and *Definitely* Intentional about their products’ whitening power. Where whiter just means “fair” (and that totally means “prettier”) and not racially white.

  130. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 25, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    PG- I don’t think the issue is whether or not you think the ad is racist. I think the issue is being dismissive towards people who think that it is. While The Root disagrees with this post and thinks that the ad is not racist, it does acknowledge that it is problematic and is not disrespectful towards people who are offended by it. If you’ll notice, people didn’t really pounce on Ashley until she agreed with Katie’s sentiment that people are just oversensitive and looking for something to offend them. That’s pretty insulting and classic derailing.

  131. Arkady
    Arkady May 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    Heh, reminds me of the last time someone told me I was ‘being too sensitive’. The arsehole in question was continually cracking personal jokes about my sex life until he brought me to tears, despite my having asked him to lay off the subject (since this is the joy of the anonymous internet, it’s a sensitive subject for me as i have dysfunction issues. Being asked if i like to ‘pleasure myself’ when the truthful answer is ‘no, because it doesn’t fucking work!’ is something I damn well have a right to be sensitive about and not have to cause a scene at work just to get some peace).

    So Ashley, when you tell people not to be sensitive on an issue that affects them, and that they have far more experience with than you, take the hint from the pile-on and listen. We all have our different privileges. I’m white, middle-class and geeky, and the biggest privilege I have to check on a day-to-day basis is living with a friend in poverty (minimum wage job + debts) and remembering that he runs out of money for food before payday most months.

    So… vaguely back on topic. Was anyone else vaguely reminded of the race!fail in the first ad featured in the ‘Your Garden’ ep of Sarah Haskins ‘Target Women’? Sadly can’t link as it no longer seems to be available in the UK, but should be findable in the US I think.

  132. David
    David May 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Jim: Ashley, take it from a
    1) white,
    2) middle-aged
    3) man

    that you are showing that you are quite an
    1) ignorant
    2) spoiled
    3) white woman.

    You came in here and quite unintentionally and unknowingly said something offensively stupid. No biggee, we all fuck up now and then. But when others pointed that out, that hurt your feelings. Here’s where the spoiled part comes in – you think someone hurting your feelings is being horrible, horrible, horrible, and that your hurt feelings can suddenly become the focus of your attention, as you show by the comment I quote. That shows how pampered and sheltered you must be. Maybe your Patrarich or Daddy thinks you can do no wrong, and has indoctrintated you to that, but where is he now? He can’t protect you here.

    Ashley, have you ever heard of “white woman’s tears”? Because that is exactly what you are doing.

    Dang, I didn’t know that people actually used the term “Patriarch” in colloquial english. The way you used it made it seem like something you’d pull out of a science fiction or fantasy novel.

    “The patriarch of the Xgrizzit clan advanced upon the wailing human refugees with his chitinous claws”.

    Anyway, I take issue with a couple of things in your post Jim: One, your assumption that the person you’re talking to is pampered or sheltered. Two, that just because you’re being a valiant defender of black people (who can defend themselves, by the way) , that you have the right to say a bunch of stupid sexist-sounding shit about “white women’s tears” and “daddy’s spoiled brat”.

    In short: You’re exactly the kind of middle-aged, white, bottomfeeding pisspuppet that I’d expect to act arrogantly toward your “inferior”, “spoiled brat” white woman. Wow, you’re probably a great dude to know in real life.

  133. Attackfish
    Attackfish May 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvFSgXpyhoM I don’t know if it can be viewed outside the US. I have no spoons left for a transcript, anyone want to take it up?

  134. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm |

    Oh, and I also want to reiterate that telling Katie and Ashley that their privileged bullshit is unwelcome is WAY different from the type of bullshit that makes this comment section toxic to marginalized folks and drives them away. And it’s way different from the problem of assuming bad faith from regular commentors (and bloggers) when they screw up. In fact, it seems like people were fairly understanding and gentle with Katie and Ashley at first, providing fairly civil responses and 101 links. Just sayin’.

  135. PG
    PG May 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm |

    Shoshie,

    silentbeep 5.24.2011 at 4:08 pm
    It’s really heartening, as a WOC, seeing people defend this ad. Lovely.

    — That was presumably in response to either my comment or Ashley’s first one (the only ones at that point that didn’t immediately agree with the OP). While sarcasm is certainly less nasty than telling people to f*** off, it’s still not understanding, gentle or even very civil.

    AVS 5.24.2011 at 8:38 pm
    @Katie and @Ashley, have either of you considered why neither of you find this image offensive considering that every other person commenting does? … Deeming an advertisement inoffensive by *your* standards and any reaction to it as over-reaction is patronizing and privileged, particularly if every other person on a thread, including the author, is saying that to them it reeks of racism and sizeism. This might be a situation that calls for listening and some introspection.

    — This type of comment ignored that in fact, NOT every commenter up to that point had stated that she immediately thought “How racist!” on seeing the ad.

    Telling people they’re patronizing, derailing, failing to abide by a (not actually) universal opinion is not effective in educating them. Of course, no one is obliged to educate the ignorant, but one ought not pretend to be doing so while actually unloading insults at them. If they’re trolls, don’t feed and let the moderators handle it.

    My favorite moments of Feministe community are when people have real debates about things (e.g. whether to use Walgreen’s as a site of protest against ridiculous Republican claims about reproductive care) because they are assuming each other to be people of good will even when they’re disagreeing very strongly.

  136. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    PG- I agree that debates at Feministe can be awesome, but we’ve already debated the whole “you’re being too sensitive with your cultural critique” thing. Over and over. I know that I’d like to move past that and into some more interesting dialogue.

    And, while, sure, people weren’t OMG-super-nice-let-me-hold-your-hand-and-walk-you-through-racism-101 to Katie and Ashley, people weren’t swearing at first and the majority of responses were not sarcastic. Annoyed, sure. But rightly so, IMHO.

    I dunno, do you think it’s OK for privileged folks to tell marginalized folks that they’re just being oversensitive when they point out things that are oppressive? I agree that frequently people feel differently about what is oppressive and what isn’t (makes sense since marginalized folks aren’t a monolith), but I don’t think it’s a privileged person’s prerogative to tell a marginalized person that they’re mistaken about what’s oppressive.

  137. Kai
    Kai May 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    For a white person to say that people of color are oversensitive, and looking for racism where none exists, isn’t just some benign opinion. It’s a tired racist meme, designed to gloss over (and thus uphold) white supremacism, because white supremacism is as natural and invisible to most white folks as the air they breathe. Such an opinion, like other racist opinions, deserves not one iota of respect.

  138. AVS
    AVS May 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm |

    @PG Alright, I amend my previous comment from “every other” to most other/a lot of other. The rest stands.

  139. Lenoxus
    Lenoxus May 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    My first reaction was “Photoshopped”. Which, of course, it probably was, but only in the same way all ads are.

    Seriously, the hell…? The hell?

  140. Jim
    Jim May 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm |

    David: Anyway, I take issue with a couple of things in your post Jim: One, your assumption that the person you’re talking to is pampered or sheltered. Two, that just because you’re being a valiant defender of black people (who can defend themselves, by the way) , that you have the right to say a bunch of stupid sexist-sounding shit about “white women’s tears” and “daddy’s spoiled brat”.
    In short: You’re exactly the kind of middle-aged, white, bottomfeeding pisspuppet that I’d expect to act arrogantly toward your “inferior”, “spoiled brat” white woman. Wow, you’re probably a great dude to know in real life

    Well lookee here, we got us a real life White Knight defending his trembling dainty damsel.

    “Your “inferior”, “spoiled brat” etc”? WTF? I don’t have any of those. They aren’t mine. Project much?

    And speaking of projecting, in what way am I defending any black people? in what way does anything I said benefit any black woman really in any? That sounds like more projection, that sounds like what a Protector of the Weak imagines his exploits to be. Guess what David, we don’t all imagine ourselves God’s gift to womankind, their mighty defenders and protectors. I don’t protect or defend any woman who doesn’t do the same for me. Maybe you could learn something from an old fart.

    That assumption about her being pampered and sheltered? That’s plain Englsih for privilege, and I hadn’t thought there would be much controversy here about white privilege, which was clearly the point of my rant, however much you may like to deflect that.

    And by the way, you must have missed the thread about Andrea’s post at Racialicious, where she used exactly the term she used about someone else crying about being called out for racist shit.

    So that “sounds sexist” to you? “Daddy’s spoiled brat” sound sexist to you? There you go projecting again.

    Oh, and you puerile name-calling was a final flourish, almost as puerile as you quip about my using the word Patriarch. can’t catch a reference very well, can you?

  141. Ellie
    Ellie May 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |

    Jim, need I remind you that white privilege does not equal class privilege? Though the two often come as a package deal, that’s not a very fair assumption to make. There are plenty of people with white privilege who are nowhere near spoiled or pampered.

    Nor is it fair to assume that any part of either of their opinions has anything to do with a father or male figure. I understand your intent but think you crossed a line with your assumptions.

  142. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho May 26, 2011 at 3:14 am |

    This shit is hard. It can be hard to spot subversive racist messages if you’ve never had to face the not always blatant racist messages that some people face all too frequently: if your boss has never asked you if you got into college because of your race; if no one has ever attributed some personality trait in a negative way back to your ethnicity; if you’ve never had a complete stranger ask you “what are you?”; if you’ve never had a well meaning friend offer you helpful make-up tips to make your facial features seem less like your own ethnicity (“You can make your eyes look bigger by applying your eyeliner like this…”); if no one, upon your mentioning any of these types of subtle racist messages, has ever thought it was a good time to point to you that they think you “just look White”. A black woman standing beneath the heading “Before” can seem so innocuous, if what and who you are has never ever been treated like anything other than the “After”. If what you were born into was the Ideal (for a lack of a better term), how can you ever know what it is like to be born Not Ideal without a lot of work and reflection?

    As a Mixed person, I am often handed privilege, so I know how easy it is to bury a head in the sand, and not only not see what’s right there in front of you, but refuse to hear the voices that seek to break through that privilege.

    But at some point, there was probably a moment, where as a woman, you felt like there was a force that was pushing you down, or that made you feel like you didn’t stand a chance to participate equally in our society. Maybe you felt like there was some resistance to your ability to control over your own existence, but you couldn’t point to one easy, unarguable source of that resistance. And that lead you to feminism or activism, and you wanted to fight and wanted to point out to the world all the little ways that society goes about teaching women their place and keeping them in it. And that is probably what brought you to Feministe.

    And how are those pressures on women any different than those pressures on POC? How can you possibly say that we are being oversensitive and seeing something that’s not there in regards to race, if you’ve ever thought to fight the not always explicit misogyny that women face?

    I just don’t understand.

    @Jill, Sheelzebub, Angel H., AVS, Kristen J, Kristen J’s Husband, and others – Thank you for saying, about this ad and the thread about this ad, exactly what I was thinking, and what I wish I had the eloquence to express.

    @Katie and Ashley – Reach around, grab hold of your ears, and pull your heads out of your asses. Please.

  143. Blacky
    Blacky May 26, 2011 at 5:03 am |

    Katie:
    I hate to be in the minority here, but I think I believe them.I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens.

    Yes. If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  144. Justine Baily
    Justine Baily May 26, 2011 at 6:52 am |

    Blacky: Yes. If all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Or “when all you think about are nails, everything looks like a hammer.” Not to say there might not be some value in avoiding the unfair/unreasonable “you’re too sensitive to x” arguments that pop up (sometimes racist memes, perhaps sometimes not?), but if you always dismiss outright the idea that something might just be a tempest in a teapot, well, that’s a bit of a positive feedback loop, isn’t it?

  145. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 26, 2011 at 7:14 am |

    Cosign to what Kai said at #139, and highly recommend clicking on that link.

    There is no way in hell that Dove didn’t discuss race and the implications of this ad before releasing it. Why do you think the skintone of the backdrops is what it is? Do you think Dove would have released an ad for the general market (read: white market) with two patches of dark brown skin? And an ethnic range of models where the “before” and “after” led from the white woman to the black woman? Please.

    I’ll bet at least one person sitting in that discussion room noted the implication of the arrangement and how it would be offensive to people of color. And the larger response was: “so?” So what? “They” should be glad they’re in any ads at all. Because that’s how it was, back in the day. I’m old enough to remember when it was rare to see a woman with the complexion in the middle in mainstream media (I noticed because….that’s what I look like. As a kid, I was always checking for images of women who looked like me…). It was extraordinarily rare to see ads with black women anywhere but black magazines.

    So, I can easily imagine some exec saying something dismissive about “at least they’re in the ad”. Back in the day, it would have been three unambiguously white women, all with the same skin tone as the blonde, and would have moved in the direction of brown hair, red hair, blonde hair.

    And the skintone of the backdrops is as dark as it could be without alienating white customers. Which isn’t very dark, is it? I’d really like the “racism? where?” folks to think on that one.

  146. umami
    umami May 26, 2011 at 8:47 am |

    The bit I don’t understand is how Dove didn’t get that it would harm their brand. Someone has to have noticed it as everyone keeps saying. I actually found it impossible to see the non-racist interpretation of the ad for one whole headwrecking minute because my brain focused on the words and the women as the salient points of the image, then kind of went on strike for a bit while I tried to figure out what the hell my eyes had just looked at.

    But you’d think that given the fuss they make in their brand about self-esteem and their obvious efforts to hire racially diverse models and their general attempt to promote themselves as the antithesis of this kind of crap… they would have thought “hey, let’s not pull this kind of crap, it’s inconsistent with our brand messaging and will make us look bad!”

    But apparently not. I guess it’s a function of my privilege that I find this very startling.

    Also,

    “Daddy’s spoiled brat” sound sexist to you? There you go projecting again.

    what the fucking fuck. Yes, you’re sexist, that poster. Ew.

  147. AVS
    AVS May 26, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    @umami I guess it depends on who their target market is. If it’s youngish middle/upper-middle class white women then I don’t really see it as harming their brand (not to say that demographic doesn’t care about racism — I’m a youngish white woman who’s super poor but from a middle class background and I’m disgusted by this kind of imagery, intentional or not and I know there are tonnes of others like me — they might be less likely to notice/boycott products that don’t discriminate/offend them personally). They probably have an army of PR people and who would have advised them whether or not to pull the ad based on if it would hurt sales/the brand.

    Ultimately, Dove doesn’t give a shit about body image or self-esteem; this is the same company that brings us such delightful products as Axe body spray after all.

  148. Jim
    Jim May 26, 2011 at 10:00 am |

    Ellie: Jim, need I remind you that white privilege does not equal class privilege? Though the two often come as a package deal, that’s not a very fair assumption to make. There are plenty of people with white privilege who are nowhere near spoiled or pampered.

    I am quite aware of that, Ellie. But someone, a specific person, who considers a few adverse remarks on a blog as “harrassment” clearly has no idea of what harrassment is, and given the world we live in, that kind of naivete can come only from having been protected and sheltered from real harrassment. And that is pampering.

    And since you bring up the question of class, the formerly male name “Ashley” on a woman is a class-marker – middle class, probably suburban. It is rather new, only in the last 30-20 years, and it is a white middle class naming convention. And that’s fine.

    umami: “Daddy’s spoiled brat” sound sexist to you? There you go projecting again.
    what the fucking fuck. Yes, you’re sexist, that poster. Ew.

    Yeah, right, umami, because brats can never be male, right? Spolied brats are people who have been fed and protected by someone all their lives by someone else, and who display her kind of innocence and naivete, umani. Why are you defending that?

  149. Orodemniades
    Orodemniades May 26, 2011 at 10:24 am |

    Holy. Shit.

  150. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    PeggyLuWho, I’ve had every experience you noted except the one of a boss asking if I’d gotten into college through affirmative action, probably because all of my post-collegiate work has been at places where people had been trained better than that. Yet I still didn’t get the same read off this advertisement that Jill — who to my knowledge is white and not racially marginalized, so why all the comments about how Katie’s & Ashley’s comments disagreeing with her were denigrating *POC* as oversensitive? — and most commenters here did. No one wants to acknowledge that it’s possible to be a WOC (like me, like the author of TheRoot piece I linked) and perceive this differently than some other non-white and some white people did.

    Colorism is not merely a subset of white supremacism; it is a related but distinct phenomenon. It’s how you get African-American communities that have a “paper bag” test but object to their members’ marrying whites; it’s how you get my grandmother despairing over how tan my sisters and I are when we need to find a husband — and that husband is presumptively in our ethnic group and therefore valuing fair skin.

    La Lubu,
    ‘And the skintone of the backdrops is as dark as it could be without alienating white customers. Which isn’t very dark, is it? I’d really like the “racism? where?” folks to think on that one.’

    This is actually an interesting point to think about. If you look at http://www.dovecloseup.com, the before-after skin panel appears to be reused in all advertising, whether presented by itself or with other images. The three women are typical of Dove’s signature “Real Beauty” campaign; these photos are generally shot by the same fashion photographer and then get reused in various contexts.

    However, let’s pretend that the advertisement was actually created by first picking the women to be in the ad, then selecting a skin sample from one of them. By my eye and computer monitor, the before-after skin tone looks closest to the less-tanned parts of the woman in the middle and the most-tanned parts of the woman on the right. It’s very likely that this has been found to be the median skin tone of Dove’s U.S./Canadian/UK customer base, as these are still majority white countries. So far as I’ve seen in a lot of recent travel in majority non-white countries (South America, East, Southeast and South Asia, North Africa), Dove isn’t running the Campaign for Real Beauty in those places. In India, for example, their big slogans were “Feel the Difference” and something like “Dove shampoo is the most recommended for Indian women’s hair.”

  151. groggette
    groggette May 26, 2011 at 12:23 pm |

    PG: so why all the comments about how Katie’s & Ashley’s comments disagreeing with her were denigrating *POC* as oversensitive?

    Because there are/were poc on this thread who were offended by the ad and offended by Katie & Ashley. You quoted one of them yourself at 137.

  152. groggette
    groggette May 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    *”offended by Katie & Ashley’s comments” that should say.

  153. groggette
    groggette May 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    Also, Katie and Ashley weren’t just disagreeing with Jill, they were disagreeing with everyone who thought that ad was (intentionally or not) offensive. And it’s disingenous of you to pretend otherwise.

  154. Comrade PhysioProf
    Comrade PhysioProf May 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    Aveeno body washes are awesome, especially the ones with colloidal oatmeal in them.

  155. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    Jim: Yeah, right, umami, because brats can never be male, right?

    How many men are called “Daddy’s spoiled brats”?

  156. becky
    becky May 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    Kai:
    For a white person to say that people of color are oversensitive, and looking for racism where none exists, isn’t just some benign opinion. It’s a tired racist meme, designed to gloss over (and thus uphold) white supremacism, because white supremacism is as natural and invisible to most white folks as the air they breathe. Such an opinion, like other racist opinions, deserves not one iota of respect.

    This. So much. Thank you, Kai! I am so tired of hearing that I have the responsibility to educate people who have no clue about race/white privilege/feminism, etc. and keep insulting everyone. Uhm, no… Also: Thanks for the link!

  157. Ellie
    Ellie May 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

    Jim:
    Yeah, right, umami, because brats can never be male, right? Spolied brats are people who have been fed and protected by someone all their lives by someone else, and who display her kind of innocence and naivete, umani. Why are you defending that?

    I have never, never, never heard this. The whole daddy’s girl thing made me sick to my stomach.

  158. Ellie
    Ellie May 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    Not applied to adults, anyway.

  159. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm |

    You know, most people managed to object to Katie and Ashley without using sexist dogwhistles. I don’t hear the same rhetoric about a daddy protecting their little boy nearly as much as I hear it about little girls/women.

    I also think it’s sad, and sickening, that this rhetoric–made on a feminist blog–is derailing the overall conversation about race. We’ve got two instances of relatively privileged people using rhetoric that reinforces harmful stereotypes about specific groups and dismisses their humanity. Not cool. Not cool at all.

  160. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm |

    PG, Katie and Ashley made snotty-ass comments about POC looking for reasons to be offended, seeing racism in everything, being silly, and not being evolved enough to be over the whole race thing. They then threw temper tantrums when they got pushback for expressing those dismissive attitudes, insisted that we thought they should agree with us (no, but some respect for the views of POC who don’t agree with them would be nice–if they don’t give it they’re not going to get it), and complained that we were mean to them when “all [they] said was that [we] were being silly.”

    I mean, really, this is getting to be a study in deliberate obtuseness at this point. They act insulting and nasty to the people here and then are terribly shocked that they got some in return? Puleeze.

  161. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm |

    Sheelzebub: I also think it’s sad, and sickening, that this rhetoric–made on a feminist blog–is derailing the overall conversation about race.

    You’re right. Sorry to all for contributing to the derail.

  162. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm |

    “You’re right. Sorry to all for contributing to the derail.”

    PA, I don’t think you contributed to it. I think people who use dogwhistles that refer to a group with less privilege than them are derailing. In Jim’s case, he caused a minor shitstorm and diminished the argument he was trying to make by using those dogwhistles.

  163. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    “PG, Katie and Ashley made snotty-ass comments about POC looking for reasons to be offended, seeing racism in everything, being silly, and not being evolved enough to be over the whole race thing.”

    Please point out where either of them referred to POC (using either that term or any synonym or subset). I saw comments that said “you” (which if it refers to anyone in particular, presumably refers to Jill, the author of the post) and that said “people,” a term that generally refers to more than POC. To say that people [of all colors] who thought this advertisement racist are being oversensitive, is not the same as saying POC qua POC are oversensitive. Until someone points out where Katie or Ashley said anything about POC in particular being oversensitive, I consider that putting words in their mouths.

    Judging by some discussions on Feministe that I saw regarding the Middle East, I hadn’t been under the impression that because someone is a minority (e.g. Jewish), that means any negative statement directed toward him and people who think like him is about Teh Jews rather than about Him and People Who Think Like Him.

  164. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm |

    Please point out where either of them referred to POC (using either that term or any synonym or subset). I saw comments that said “you” (which if it refers to anyone in particular, presumably refers to Jill, the author of the post) and that said “people,” a term that generally refers to more than POC.

    It’s also a term that *includes* POC, though. POC, like me, who do happen to find the ad offensive.

    Personally, whether or not you don’t find the ad offensive is your own prerogative. But to demean and derail as Katie and Ashley did by saying that people were looking for racism where there isn’t any and as you did by saying that the POC who did agree with the OP were “Herman Cain types seeking white approval” was rude and uncalled for.

  165. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    “as you did by saying that the POC who did agree with the OP were “Herman Cain types seeking white approval” was rude and uncalled for.”

    And here we go again with putting words into people’s mouths once they’ve committed the unpardonable sin of dissent from the overwhelming majority. Here’s the sentence in question:

    “But if we’re claiming to care about what POC say, perhaps views that dissent from our own should be noted as well, especially when they’re not coming from Herman Cain types seeking white approval, but rather from folks who are very much taking a black-centric perspective.”

    My kindest guess as to how you misunderstood what I was saying is that you thought “they’re” referred to POC. Instead, the “they’re” in that statement is a pronoun referring back to the noun “views.” Views can come from Herman Cain types. POC can’t come from Herman Cain types; Herman Cain types are a tiny subset of POC.

    So with that clarified, try re-reading the sentence and see if you still believe that I was referring to POC who agree with the OP. Hopefully you now understand that by name-checking Herman Cain, I was referring to POC who disagree with the OP but do so not from a POC-centric perspective but because they wish to gain white approval by denying the existence of racism.

  166. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    First of all, PG, don’t talk down to me. I know how to read and I know what you wrote. Secondly, don’t pretend you know anything about me because if you did, you would know that I do not hesistate to call out Feministe or Jill herself when I think there’s been a fuck-up, so this isn’t about some “majority rules” bullshit. What it is about, however, is respect, plain and simple. Most importantly, the respect that Dove/Unilever failed to show Women of Color in considering this ad campaign, and secondly, the respect that Katie and Ashley failed to show (and Ashley still continues to fail to show on her blog) when they were called on their White privilege.

    If you don’t see it that way, then fine. Whatever. You do you. But do not talk down to me and do not disrespect me.

  167. peggyluwho
    peggyluwho May 26, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    PG:
    PeggyLuWho, I’ve had every experience you noted except the one of a boss asking if I’d gotten into college through affirmative action, probably because all of my post-collegiate work has been at places where people had been trained better than that. Yet I still didn’t get the same read off this advertisement that Jill — who to my knowledge is white and not racially marginalized, so why all the comments about how Katie’s & Ashley’s comments disagreeing with her were denigrating *POC* as oversensitive? — and most commenters here did. No one wants to acknowledge that it’s possible to be a WOC (like me, like the author of TheRoot piece I linked) and perceive this differently than some other non-white and some white people did.

    Late night comment post fail. You’re right, and I didn’t express myself well. I wasn’t trying to say that my take on it was the only take. I left out a paragraph there where I was going to bring it all back to the dismissal. That is what was driving me bonkers. I don’t expect everyone to see it the same way I do, but in an environment like a feminist blog, I just don’t understand not being open to hearing why people see it that way, and making a lot of privilege based statements about why they didn’t see it and/or are above it somehow. I was trying to say that it’s a lot easier to not see race when your own isn’t being crammed down your throat constantly.

    Anyway, sorry I just kind of went off half-cocked in the middle of the night, but I stand behind saying A & K have there heads up their asses, not because they disagree with my take on the ad, but because they really were being jerks.

  168. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm |

    peggyluwho,

    Thanks for the follow-up post and acknowledgement. I seriously appreciate it, and I agree that treating people’s concerns dismissively is problematic even if you don’t share those concerns.

    Angel H,

    How did I talk down to or disrespect you? First, you put words in my mouth that I never said. Next, I made a good faith effort to discern how you might have misunderstood what I wrote due to my having had a fuzzy antecedent for a crucial pronoun, and asked you to reconsider in light of my clarification. Then, you say “I know how to read and I know what you wrote,” strongly implying that despite my clarifications, you’re going to stick by your original false claims.

    If you want to talk disrespect, that’s it right there. In your view, what I say I meant does not matter, even when I go step-by-step to show how the original statement read carefully does mean what I say it does, because you read it the way you want and that’s all that counts. Instead, you accuse me of “talking down” because I said you had misconstrued what I said. I don’t get to defend myself from a totally false claim in the clearest language I could find, because if I do, I’m the one being disrespectful. The person who didn’t care enough about my words, to read them carefully and in a spirit of good faith before misstating what I’d said, is the victim of disrespect.

    And the sarcasm that got slung at Ashley and/or me from the get-go, as soon as we said that we hadn’t perceived the ad the same way others did? Also disrespectful.

  169. Nanette
    Nanette May 26, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    Interesting ad. It would have been a pretty nice one, too, I think, were it not for the wording. I don’t think they, in any way, meant to literally imply that using Dove body wash would turn your skin white — but I think the placement of the models was definitely intentional. Otherwise, why go by body size and coloring? They are all about the same height, so if there was any other intention, the mixture could have been any other way. Instead it goes from larger to smallest, and darker to lightest. Not a mistake.

    Some companies erase POC from ads completely, you know, for the overseas market, replacing them with white people – I wonder if this ad looks the same in another country’s market?

    Anyway, I think it’s interesting that a number of sites didn’t believe it was real at first, and were waiting for conformation that someone would really make an ad like this, lol.

    Ashley and Katie… wowza. But anyway…

    PG, I just wanted to say that… well, The Root, for one thing, is a corporate publication. Sure, anyone anywhere is entitled to their opinions, but I don’t give a whole lot of credence to opinions of sites that are owned by large corporations. Very reluctant, many are, to bite any hands that may be feeding them.

    In addition to that, though, I have to object to your bringing them up in this thread, and particularly in conversation with Angel H, who has already self-identified on this thread as a Black woman. If you disagree, fine – go for it. But referring to The Root when you are in conversation with a Black person right in front of you is just another version of “See? Black Person said.” It’s far more polite to converse with the Black person in front of you, and address what *they* are saying, instead of pointing to some Black person “over there” who may agree with you, and using their words to make whatever point you are attempting to make in the conversation.

  170. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 27, 2011 at 7:47 am |

    Fine, PG. They included POC in their denigration. They were still acting like assholes and not arguing in good faith.

    Why is it that you’re so concerned with people reacting negatively to THEIR disrespect, dismissal and derision? Why is it only a problem when people react to their behavior, but Ashley and Kate’s bad behavior is apparently not an issue for you?

  171. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 27, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    I’ve seen this dynamic play out in other threads–someone derails, acts (deliberately?) obtuse, and does the exact thing they know will piss people off. (“All I said is that you were being silly!” “I know the post was about how X isn’t true, but actually X is true–strawperson strawperson strawperson.”)

    People react negatively to this and get frustrated when the commenter continues the bullshit and derides people using the same old dogwhistles used for a specific group in the process.

    And then someone comes on to the thread and lectures everyone about being mean to the troll.

    It’s as if someone calls you an asshole, you tell them to fuck off, and a passer-by lectures you about using the F-word and being mean. Well, fuck that noise.

  172. S.
    S. May 27, 2011 at 8:28 am |

    First, I thought this ad wasn’t real. Then I realized it was real and was even more amazed. It was only because of reading the comments that I noticed that there were some skin patches in the background… How can anyone not see how absurd this ad is?!?

  173. Jackie
    Jackie May 27, 2011 at 8:29 am |

    My jaw hit the floor.

  174. groggette
    groggette May 27, 2011 at 8:42 am |

    Nanette, I agree with you point about saying “well this black person over here said…” but fyi, PG has self identified in this thread as a POC, so zie’s (sorry PG, I don’t think I’ve picked up on what pronouns you use and don’t want to misgender you) also arguing for hir own interpretation and I thought just brought in The Root for additional backup to hir view.

  175. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl May 27, 2011 at 8:51 am |

    To say that people [of all colors] who thought this advertisement racist are being oversensitive, is not the same as saying POC qua POC are oversensitive. Until someone points out where Katie or Ashley said anything about POC in particular being oversensitive, I consider that putting words in their mouths.

    The fact that they didn’t say anything “about POC in particular” is part of the problem with their rather sloppy critique of the sensitivity of Feministe’s readership.

    Regarding the “POC qua POC” concept — can you point out instances where POC are ever *not* “qua POC”? That’s the standard that racism tends to place on POC; that every thought, opinion, action, choice, etc., is placed under the lens of “C”. What is upsetting to a lot of the readers here is that several white women are posting without also realizing that they very neatly have avoided any critique that places them as White qua White. Most white people never do this because they simply substitute “normal” or “status quo” for “White qua White”.

    I firmly believe that these women don’t see the racism and *are* tired of constantly having to hear about racism, racism, racism, because, not being able to see racism, there is the concern that they might themselves be labeled racist, which in turn breeds a certain defensiveness.

    Do I care to cater to that defensiveness? No. Because no one benefits from supporting it; it doesn’t create tangible social growth to coddle this defensiveness and it tends to harbor the racist underpinnings of our society. Who wants that?

  176. groggette
    groggette May 27, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    Q Grrl: Do I care to cater to that defensiveness? No. Because no one benefits from supporting it; it doesn’t create tangible social growth to coddle this defensiveness and it tends to harbor the racist underpinnings of our society. Who wants that?

    That last question is rhetorical, right? ;)

  177. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl May 27, 2011 at 9:07 am |

    LOL. Yes.

  178. sonia
    sonia May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    This is a very tame ad by whitening industry standards. e.g., see

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=fair+and+lovely+ad

    You cannot watch TV in India for more than 30 mins without being hit by a few whitening cream ads. There are also ones marketed for men with ‘more power’ (whatever that means).

    Interestingly, I learned today that the active ingredient in many whitening creams comes from the substance that leads to discoloration in the pellagra disease.

  179. Nanette
    Nanette May 27, 2011 at 10:54 am |

    groggette:
    Nanette, I agree with you point about saying “well this black person over here said…” but fyi, PG has self identified in this thread as a POC, so zie’s (sorry PG, I don’t think I’ve picked up on what pronouns you use and don’t want to misgender you) also arguing for hir own interpretation and I thought just brought in The Root for additional backup to hir view.

    grogette, thanks. I should not comment or blog when I am tired, because I miss things. I know this, but I do it anyway! I have read the thread again, pretty much, and I see where I went wrong.

    Still, a couple of things. I think my “Black person over there says” point still stands, I’m afraid. PG led with “The Root” piece in her defense of Ashley and Katie (or in her objection to their perceived mistreatment, whatever.) At that point there were already Black women on the thread giving their opinions and also engaging with Katie and Ashley to let them know where they felt they went wrong. PG has, as far as I can tell, identified as a non-Black WOC, by the way.

    Again, disagreement is fine, among WOC, POC in general, women in general, so on, so forth. And there is certainly no law against bringing in the views of people outside a conversation to buttress one’s own views, but I still think its… well, impolite not to engage, even as a WOC, the views of the WOC right in front of you. Especially when one is using “Black people over there say” to, in effect, stand with “white people here” in opposition to the views “black people here.”

    It is not the end of the world, and I am not attempting to engage in any sort of “WOC oppression olympics”, etc, or say anyone is evil or bad or anything, but it is entirely possible for people of one marginalized culture to completely miss something that has historically affected a different one. I know I do all the time, because I don’t have the day-to-day knowledge of anything besides being a Black woman.

    PG has said that she is far more used to the blatant, in-your-face skin whitening advertising that is marketed to people in her ethnic group. When considered in the light of that history and experience, something like the Dove ad might seem to be small beer and, indeed, not really racist at all. After all, all the women are beautiful, and more than that, presented as beautiful. None are being blatantly denigrated or anything like that – they are just there, and if not for the “before” and “after” no one would have said a thing about the ad, I imagine.

    Many at least U.S. Black women though, while used to blatant racism, are also very used to getting the subtle messages that we are… less than. That’s a pretty relentless message that is often sent through advertising of one sort or another, as well as other means of course. The insidious nature of this type of thing is that, of course, not everyone sees the same thing, has the same feelings about this sort of thing, or even gets the message. It’s almost impossible to point it out to white people who can’t see it, as we’ve seen on this thread. Even now, I disagree with some in that I don’t think that the message in the ad has anything to do with skin whitening, just that whiter and thinner is better, more where you want to be, and all that.

    Anyway, I’m mostly just thinking out loud. I’ll stop. I think the placement of the models in the ad was deliberate and certainly there to send a message. I guess what message you get sort of depends on personal and historical experience.

  180. Nanette
    Nanette May 27, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    PG, sorry for misunderstanding or misstating your conversation with Angel H. Some of my objections still stand, but my initial impressions of the conversation and its trajectory were off base.

  181. Kai
    Kai May 27, 2011 at 11:13 am |

    Hi Nanette! Just like old times around here, huh? ;-) Totally agree about The Root.

    When a white person says “some people are so sensitive about racism and seem to look for excuses to cry omg that’s racist everywhere they look”, they don’t need to explicitly mention people of color for the point to be understood. A lot of racism and racial dialogue among white people, especially in public, is coded or thinly veiled for plausible deniability (“I didn’t mean it that way!”) — as seen in this thread. (One of these days there will be no need to repeatedly revisit Racism 101 terrain in a Feministe thread. Dare to dream!)

  182. Nanette
    Nanette May 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    Hi Kai! *waves wildly* . I visit you every day but haven’t quite gotten into Tumblr commenting and stuff yet. And yep, just like old times, lol. Very true about the coding of the language, a great point to bring out.

    As for the dream… well, maybe one day! For now, well… I just keep imagining the grains of sand on a beach somewhere. Neverending! lol

  183. PG
    PG May 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |

    Q Grrl,

    ‘Regarding the “POC qua POC” concept — can you point out instances where POC are ever *not* “qua POC”?’

    Sure. I blogged for years without writing an ‘About Me’ that noted anything except where I’d gone to school. I would mention other personal facts if they were relevant, but casual readers knew very little about me. Some people believed me to be of a race, sex, sexual orientation, even cis/trans status different from the real one, because they assumed people who thought what I did must be white/male/gay/trans. Thus there’s no way their criticisms were of me as a POC qua POC because they didn’t even know I was a POC. (And I’m not post-modern enough to think that because they didn’t know, I somehow ceased to be a POC.) In contrast, if someone says I shouldn’t reference The Root in a discussion that includes black women because I’m not a POC, or because I’m a non-black POC, that’s totally making a criticism of me as a (believed) white person qua white person.

    grogette,

    Thanks for your comment, and you’re right that I didn’t reference The Root to say that the WOC on this thread must be wrong about the ad because Some black person, Somewhere, disagreed. My point was only that people who claimed *all* POC must feel the same about about the ad were obviously wrong because I disagreed and so did some other POC.

    Nanette,

    I appreciate your apology and even more so, your taking seriously what I was saying about how my perspective might differ from those of people whose experience has been entirely within the U.S. Your remarks on that at 181 are very interesting and worth my thinking about before I address the substantive point of the post any further (although note that many immigrant West African and West Indian communities in the U.S. get blatant skin-whitening messages, so this is part of some black women’s experience as well). I’d just add that my referencing The Root was not intended to avoid engaging the other WOC on this thread, but simply to highlight that some WOC disagreed with Jill’s take. The Root may be owned by a corporation rather than by natural persons, but I don’t think that means the people writing there should be assumed to be lying about their views in order to keep ads running.

    Kai,

    ‘When a white person says “some people are so sensitive about racism and seem to look for excuses to cry omg that’s racist everywhere they look”, they don’t need to explicitly mention people of color for the point to be understood.’

    Even if they’re responding to a self-declared white person’s finding something racist? I 100% would agree with this point from you and many other commenters if the post had been written by a POC. But since it wasn’t, and unless otherwise addressed, any comment presumably is addressed to the post author (or Feministe readership at large), I’m sincerely befuddled as to why Katie and Ashley must have been talking to/about POC instead of to/about the white post author. The dynamic I saw play out was:

    White lady says she finds something racist.
    Several people, none of them identifying their race in their comments, agree.
    Two people (PG, then Ashley), also not racially identified, say they didn’t see what those folks saw — without denigrating the validity of the majority opinion.
    silentbeep says, “It’s really heartening, as a WOC, seeing people defend this ad. Lovely.”
    White post author clarifies what she saw in the ad, probably in response to Ashley’s stating confusion.
    Several more posts of agreement with the post, in which only Berryfresh racially identifies (as white).
    Katie then says, “I think it is possible that when you spend all of your life looking for examples ofr racism or sexism or sizeism, you see even innocuous images through that lens.”

    And it goes very badly from there, because Katie’s comment *does* denigrate the perspectives of other commenters — but not specifically POC.

    Now why, when only one person in the discussion had identified as being a WOC (in order to make a sarcastic comment, presumably targeted at me or Ashley), must Katie’s comment about “looking for examples of racism or sexism or sizeism” have been targeted at a POC instead of the two identified white women or several non-racially-identified commenters? To me the most obvious target of Katie’s remark was Jill, who is after all running a blog — not just occasionally dropping a comment — that addresses issues like sexism, sizeism and racism. Why am I wrong about this?

  184. Larkin
    Larkin May 31, 2011 at 10:38 pm |

    I just graduated high school, but it seems I’m right back there with all this bickering.

    I get that because many differing opinions are being aired, it can be hard not to get offended, but the way to having a sustainable and productive conversation is through being receptive to differing ideas and dismissing them politely if you so choose.

    Also, if someone is being mean, or is patronizing you, responding in like isn’t going to help. Take the high road. As Gandhi said “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” Or in this case, “A patronizing comment for a patronizing comment will make the whole blogisphere unreadable.”

  185. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub June 2, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  186. llama
    llama June 2, 2011 at 9:05 am |

    Surely this is a good advert. It uses deeply ingrained beliefs to help sell the product.

    It works like this (I know you know this, I just want you to know I do too), a lot of women have been led to believe thinner and white is more attractive, by placing the “before” wording next to the heavier built black model and the “after” wording next to the thinner white model, the advert gives the message (at some level) that the product will make you thinner and/or whiter.

    As long as the advert manages to keep hit the demographic of the product it really doesn’t matter to the company about upsetting a handful of people.

    If it was your product to sell and you could make yourself stinking rich from using techniques like this, would you use them ? It may be immoral but money buys people from both sexes.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.