Dove Does Not Give A Shit About Whether Or Not You Feel Beautiful

22 Apr

Sometimes I feel like social media turns me into some kind of awful, gruesome caricature of a feminist. I spend waayyyy too much time jumping in on Facebook posts or tweets or blogs to explain why this specific thing, whatever it happens to be, is actually problematic. And I try not to do this, honest I do. I know that it’s annoying as fuck. I know that I come off like I’m Lisa Simpson except ten times worse and with more swears. I know that. I promise I do.

All of this is to explain why I have been so quiet and patient about Dove’s latest marketing campaign, Dove Real Beauty Sketches. I haven’t said anything about it. Nada. Zilch. Haven’t commented on anyone’s links, haven’t tweeted about it, haven’t even whispered darkly about it to myself when I’m alone at night and unlikely to offend anyone.

But then my friend Shannon wrote this brilliant piece about it, and after seeing the reactions to her post in the comments on her blog and from people on Facebook, I’ve realized that I have to say something. I’m not going to talk about how their recent campaign continues to perpetuate the idea that a woman’s most important asset is her appearance. I’m not going to tear apart their youtube video, with its beautiful sadly hopeful background music and its tear-jerking content. Other people have done that better than I ever could, and I’m not going to step on their toes.

I do want to tell you one thing, though:

Dove does not give a shit about whether or not you feel beautiful.

They don’t. At all. Full stop.

All that Dove wants is for women to buy their products. And they’ve discovered that the best way to manipulate women in the Western world is to tell them that they’re beautiful. And you know what? This is a really fucking effective advertising strategy. Part of this success is because it goes against just about every marketing rule out there. Traditional advertising wisdom says that we should tell people that they’re lacking in something in order to make them buy it. Tell women that they’ll be more attractive if they use your makeup or skin cream or expensive shampoo. As Margaret Atwood explains in her short story Hairball, advertising to women is simple:

“You bombard them with images of what they ought to be, and you make them feel grotty for being the way they are. You’re working with the gap between reality and perception. That’s why you have to hit them with something new, something they’ve never seen before, something they aren’t. Nothing sells like anxiety.”

This has been the way that advertising has worked, more or less, for at least the last sixty or so years.

And then Dove came and seemed to flip the whole thing on its head in a way that seemed to be totally new and brave and laudable. They’ve taken the formula described above and are using it backwards – for instance, they’re looking at the gap between perception and reality and saying that, in fact, the perception that you are an ugly, worthless person is wrong, so let’s bridge the gap back to reality where you are actually incredibly beautiful and worthy. Instead of bombarding women with images of what they ought to be, they’re bombarding them with images of how they feel that they already are – curvy, wrinkled, imperfect – and telling them that this is real beauty. Instead of hitting people with something new, they’re hitting them with the so-called truth about themselves, full of platitudes and love and golly-gee niceness.

And all of this has been incredibly, insanely effective. Women are now buying Dove products not because they feel that these products will improve them, but because they’re loyal to a brand that sees them as truly, uniquely beautiful.

All of which would be fine, I guess, if that was actually what Dove thought.

But Dove does not give a shit about how you feel about yourself. Dove just wants to manipulate you into buying their products.

How do I know this? Well, setting my general cynicism about large corporations aside, I know this because Dove is owned by Unilever. And while Unilever uses Dove to sell warm, fuzzy, watered-down feminism to Western women, it uses several of its other companies to do the exact opposite.

Unilever also owns Axe, which is well-known for creating advertising campaigns that are, well, the opposite of empowering to women. A typical example of their preferred style of advertising is the that one I’ve posted below, in which a young man spraying himself liberally with Axe is suddenly surrounded by a mob of thin, bikini-clad super models. These commercials are not only degrading to women (by putting forth the idea that men are only attracted one specific body type, and that for women to fail to attain that body type means to fail to be beautiful), but they’re also degrading to men (by perpetuating the stereotype that men are all sex-crazed beasts who just want to go to booty town with as many hot, sexy ladies as possible).

It is seriously such a fucking joke that Dove makes videos about how many unattainable images of beauty a young girl will be subjected to as she grows up and how this will warp her self-perception, while at the SAME FUCKING TIME Axe is creating those unattainable images of beauty.

Even worse, Unilever owns Indian brand Fair and Lovely, a skin-bleaching cream marketed especially to girls from lower-class families. This cream, which is part sunscreen, part moisturizer, and part skin-lightener, promises women with darker skin that they will be able to find better, higher-paying jobs by having fairer skin. It’s even marketed as being “empowering” to women because having lighter skin gives them more “choices” in life.

Yeah, that’s right. The same company that, in North America, tells you to own and love your body the way it is, tells Indian women that they need to be whiter in order to be successful.

Like I said, Unilever and, by extension, Dove do not give a shit about whether or not you feel beautiful. The only thing that they’re interested in doing is manipulating women into buying their products. For North American women, they do this by telling them that they are beautiful, no matter what they look like. For North American men, they do this by promising that their products will attract droves of hot babes. And for Indian women, they do this by telling them that if only they looked more like white people, they could achieve all of their dreams.

Dove described their Campaign for Real Beauty as “a global effort is intended to serve as a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty.”

They’ve used the tagline, “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

Their website is full of criticisms of the beauty industry, self-esteem builders, and gushing comments from loyal Dove users.

All of this is bullshit. 

And you know what? I feel really bad saying that because I know a lot of women who have been inspired by this campaign. I know women who feel that this campaign has helped remind them that they, too are beautiful. I know so many women who really, really love this campaign. And I don’t want to tell them that they’re wrong! I just want them to know that, at the end of the day, Dove doesn’t care.

Dove doesn’t care, but I do. And lots of other people do. There are even organizations out there, organizations that are not owned by giant corporations, that care. We think you’re beautiful, and we’re not standing to make any kind of profit off of that thought. More than that, we think you’re smart, capable, funny, kind, all-around great people. We love everything about you.

And you know what? When I tell you that, I am not making a fucking cent off of it.


Here are a few videos of advertising campaigns from Dove, Axe and Fair and Lovely, in case you want to compare:

126 Responses to “Dove Does Not Give A Shit About Whether Or Not You Feel Beautiful”

  1. Julie Gillis April 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    You are marvelous.

    • bellejarblog April 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm #


      Marvellously ANGRY!

      • adhesiveslipper April 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

        Smaaaaaash! ❤

      • Marjie Solmundson April 23, 2013 at 12:11 am #

        This how I feel about Bounty towels too. The commercials are so chauvinist, it’s sickening.

    • bellejarblog April 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      p.s. so are you. My husband is constantly like, “DID YOU SEE THIS SMART/FUNNY/WHATEVER THING THAT JULIE GILLIS JUST POSTED?”

    • Elizabeth Fields April 23, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      So what? I’m sorry but why does it matter. Of COURSE Dove is trying to make money, come on, it is a company. EVERY company out there is trying to make money off of you, that is what they do, if you don’t understand that by now, you are either under a rock or lacking in something. The fact remains that it IS an important message.

      • B April 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

        1. arguably positive, since they mostly include conventionally pretty white women, women without disabilities, and “fat” and “thin” women who barely begin to cover the range of sizes and shapes. So the message is basically “if you already look good, you should feel good about that and buy our crap.”

        2. if someone compliments you and they don’t mean it then they are a shithead. possibly more so if they’re making money off it.

  2. Rosie April 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Hey Anne? I think (nay, I KNOW) that you are thoroughly beautiful inside and out and I love everything you write and say and do.

    PS: I’m totes jelly bc I can’t even get Matt to follow me on Twitter! 😛


  3. Rosie April 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on Make Me a Sammich and commented:
    There are times when I want to reblog everything The Belle Jar posts, but really you ought to just follow her. This is awesome and true. You are beautiful, and Dove doesn’t care, but I do. Anne does. Real people care and want you to know that you are amazing and unique and the best possible you that could ever exist. ❤

  4. Karen Power April 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    I am so sorry to have to say this, but the second commercial is for glasses, not for Axe body spray. But you have everything else spot on. I couldn’t agree with what you are saying more. I’ve often felt uneasy about the “new” way that Dove is advertising, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Now I know. Thank you for bringing this information to light!

    • bellejarblog April 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Oh DAMNIT haha I accidentally linked to one of the parodies instead of the original. Fixed now!

  5. Mac Léinn April 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    Love the passion!

  6. Erin Frederic (@erinfrederic) April 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    love this post. does anyone have any companies they could recommend? if i’m going to spend my money on products, i would love to feel good about where that money is going.

    • Vicki Randle April 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      First of all, thank you. you are smartsmartsmart and i wish more people, especially women, would understand that advertisements are trying to figure out a way to sell you their products, not to save the world, make you feel better about yourself, promote goodness or kindness or anything of value. except money. for themselves.
      Secondly to answer Erin Frederic: i am a longtime resident of Berkeley, from whence originated the original Body Shop (they sold their name to the London behemoth years ago. They are now Body Time, but still ply their natural, largely plant based, personal care line, as they have done since 1970. I don’t work there, i just use their products

  7. Bridget (@twinisms) April 22, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    Wow! Great post, thanks so much for writing it. I read a while back that they air brushed the bigger girls in the first “Campaign for real beauty” ads. I lost faith in them then & haven’t gained it back.

  8. Le Clown April 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Belle Jar,
    I haven’t had anything positive to say about the Dove newest ad since it came out. Like you pointed out, I enjoy repeating to whoever wants to hear it that Unilever also owns Axe, which is so hypocritical. There might want to give the impression that they are conveying a message of empowerment, but it’s total BS. They are selling an emotion to increase their bottom line.
    Le Clown

  9. katalina4 April 22, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    Haha! So many of us writing about this Dove piece now – just did a post myself, but only a bit about the Dove thingy – I couldn’t quite articulate what was bugging me – your piece comes a lot closer to nailing it. Well done. And great links too.

  10. mandaray April 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Thank you so much for this. I was already unimpressed by Dove’s “real beauty campaign” and when their sketch ad came out I was deeply suspicious. I remember my first thought being that I would have loved to see the results of that test without all of the stupid music and “emotional” close-ups–I wanted something more scientific. Because that ad is entirely about stirring your emotions, which is generally the first thing marketers try to do just before they tell you what product you should be buying. But, like you, I felt like such an asshole for pointing that out. I, too felt like a caricature of an angry feminist, shouting at everything and trying to guilt-trip or irritate people over the smallest of things. Doubly so when people on my Facebook or Twitter feeds felt genuinely uplifted or moved by this message. So I’m really happy you took the time to stand up and say something about this…it makes me realize that I should have done the same.

  11. Life in the 50's and beyond... April 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Wow… I am reposting on my facebook page.

  12. theresapr April 22, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Reblogged this on lemieuxprblog.

  13. erinorange April 22, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    I literally just saw the newest Dove advert and was so enraged, then came on here and saw a post about it! It’s a different advert as I’m in the UK – but it has the same bullshit premise – they ask a couple of friends in the street what part of their friend’s bodies they’re really envious of. The answers – their fucking bum, or their fucking nose! I like my friend’s sense humour, I’m not checking out their arse! Fuck off Dove, just fuck off!

  14. Bree April 22, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    This is totally brilliant!…People wouldn’t normally think about Unilever and the other “awesome” things they’re doing in comparison to Dove, way cool for pointing this out

  15. Laura Goodwin (@ToolPackinMama) April 22, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

    It’s still all about beauty, no matter how it’s defined. Even liberal guidelines of beauty catch us in the beauty trap.

  16. Ellen Schwarz April 22, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    this is more like it.

  17. Chris April 22, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    This was a really well written article, and what you say makes a lot of sense about the motivations of the company. The point of any company, no matter what(unless they are non profit) is to make money. What are positive ways a company can sell a product without infuriating their customer base by saying they are not beautiful(so buy our products) or you are beautiful(I don’t really believe it, but I want your money, so buy our products). What is the happy medium? And just so we are on the same page, I ask out of a real lack of understanding on this, not to create an argument. I simply wish to be more informed.

    • jennie1ofmany April 23, 2013 at 2:53 am #

      I buy my soap from a lady who says “My soap has x, y, and z ingredients in it! Smell how lovely it smells! It has these properties! Want to buy my soap?

      Usually, because I like the way her soap smells, I like the ingredients that she uses, and I like her way of doing business, I buy her soap. Beauty doesn’t really enter into it.

      It’s really nice soap, though!

      • Amber April 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

        That’s the best!

  18. tracey April 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Thank you. I feel less like a grumpy outsider after reading this. And a little sorry that I kept silent when brave and thoughtful women like you were waving from the barricades

  19. charlotterowanscott April 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    This is just so sad because, although I don’t buy Dove products, I really respected the fact that they were trying to empower women. But of course it’s just a part of a marketing ploy…And the fact that the company produces all those other, frankly quite disgusting, ads..*sigh* Thank you for enlightening me!

  20. Lysa April 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    yah, I know Dove and all of them are full of crap but still like the campagn. 😀
    You are an amazing writer.

  21. Marian April 22, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    YES! Thanks. Just thanks.

  22. Julie Goldberg April 22, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    I’m going to read against the grain of your argument a little bit here, Belle Jar.

    What I find peculiar about this piece is that underlying assumption is that the average woman isn’t very bright.

    Women understand that this is an advertising campaign. Whether they are aware that Unilever owns Dove or not, they know that the kind people of Dove aren’t sitting around their conference room wondering, “Gosh, what can we do to get women to really see their own beauty?” Even women who aren’t feminists understand that the purpose of the campaign is to sell soap. Even women aren’t involved in the conversation about body image and representation understand that they are being sold a bill of goods every single day about who and what we are supposed to be and look like. Even if they’re not deeply versed in the terms of the debate, they get it. Not all, of course, but most.

    The 10 million views of this campaign are not evidence that Unilever is fooling women, but that women have found a message in the campaign that they connect to,that their friends can connect to. It has taken on meaning among the social networks with whom they share the video. They’re not sharing to say, “OMG, you guys! We’re so beautiful! We never knew! Let’s buy Dove!” They are claiming it for their own reasons. Insidious? Probably. Exclusive to a narrow definition of beauty? Absolutely. The ad exists in the culture that created it. Fiendishly brilliant marketing? You betcha. But I think your essay doesn’t give women enough credit.

    If the message of the ad is, once we unpack it, oppressive, it does not follow that what women are getting from it can’t be liberating. Feminist theologians find the message of liberation in the very patriarchal texts that lay the groundwork for women’s oppression. The average woman sharing this with her friends on Facebook is, I believe, doing something very similar.

    • Loring Manley April 23, 2013 at 1:07 am #

      I think there IS something real about the contrast between the critical view a person may have of themselves and what others may see.

      Also, I think most people looking at the original video understand Dove didn’t create this reality, that they just attempted to stick their name on it.

      I remember forwarding this a week or so ago, but I have to admit I had to be reminded that Dove was somehow associated with it.

      The video avoids the discussing the fact that both views contain elements of truth and beauty (as well as distortions) contributed by the subject, the new acquaintance, and the artist and that neither view is likely to be intrinsically more beautiful or accurate.

      So what do you do with this information? I think you keep growing and look for honest ways to improve. You pull the weeds, but you don’t forget to enjoy the garden.

      I usually buy soap from local artists or I make my own.

    • Katerina Protopsaltis April 23, 2013 at 1:17 am #

      You sound incredibly patronizing when you say that you really don’t want to spill the beans on Dove because so many women love this or that campaign-you presume that your influence is so powerful but your manner of address to fellow women-whom you do not know and should not presume you are superior to-really puts me off.

      • bellejarblog April 23, 2013 at 1:39 am #

        No, I just don’t want to be a dick to my friends who liked this campaign by being all BUT DID YOU KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT UNILEVER every time they share this video. I don’t think my influence is powerful at all, I just didn’t want to be an asshole on Facebook. But then I got tired of not being an asshole and, well, here we are.

      • lovise mills April 23, 2013 at 3:01 am #


      • lovise mills April 23, 2013 at 3:03 am #

        that’s an amen for you Katerina, not belljarblog

      • jennie1ofmany April 23, 2013 at 3:05 am #

        Well, gosh, if you don’t like what you’re reading there are a zillion other blogs on the internet. Some of them presumably address their readers in ways that you will find less off-putting.

        You could have offered substantive criticism. You could have engaged with the author’s arguments. You could have given an example of how she sounded patronizing, or explained why you think she considers herself so all powerful. Instead, you drove by, shot vague generalizations, and made a comment about “tone.”

        Thanks for your contribution for the discussion. You’ve totally enlightened me.

      • Cynthia French (@onegirlTO) April 23, 2013 at 4:29 am #

        Amen. That’s an amen for you, jennie1ofmany. Not lovise mills.

    • Farley Finster April 23, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      Skin complexion in India is demanded by the entrenched caste system. You can slam them for a lot of things, but Unilever is only one of many companies fulfilling the demand for whitening products.


      • bellejarblog April 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

        Oh for sure! But I think that you can choose what you do and don’t want to sell. Unilever doesn’t have to buy companies that market skin-lightener, but they do, you know? The system was there looooong before they arrived, but that doesn’t mean they have to participate in it!

  23. vjstracener April 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    This was amazing. Thank you for putting that out there. I wanted to but did not have the words. You did an amazing job with this.

  24. vjstracener April 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm #

    Reblogged this on From the Tree and commented:
    This lady has some amazing points

  25. susieq777 April 23, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    This makes me want to jump off this insane version of what-could-be just that little bit less

  26. Celeste April 23, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    I said this on Shannon’s original FB post about this, and I’ll say it here. The issue I have with Dove’s commercial is that the women weren’t asked to compare the sketches created from their descriptions to what they saw in the mirror. They were asked to compare the sketches made from their descriptions to sketches made from *other people’s* descriptions. So the underlying message isn’t “see you’re beautiful” but rathter “see, other people think you’re beautiful.” A very big difference.

    I thought it was a well made commercial and I respect the team behind its creation. But this commercial does not make me feel better about using Dove, nor does it make me think about my own beauty.

    (For the record, I just so happen to use Dove products because they agree with my body, etc. Their marketing has never affected my decisions. Probably never will. I just want a product that works for me personally and is easily accessible at my local grocery.)

  27. denmother April 23, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    And it’s a man doing the sketches and endowing these lucky women with more beautiful, desirable versions of themselves in sketch #2. What, are there no female sketch artists out there?

    • lovise mills April 23, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      oh boo hoo:(

  28. kate April 23, 2013 at 1:59 am #


  29. vevacha April 23, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    Had to repost that Fair and Lovely ad to facebook – I haven’t seen anything so insidious and repugnant for some time. I didn’t even know that Dove and Axe were owned by the same company until about a week ago, and this Fair and Lovely thing only just now. Thank you for calling out this co-opting corporate crap.

  30. Ashley Austrew April 23, 2013 at 2:28 am #

    Love this. I wrote a post about Dove and how much I hate the new ad, and I felt really bad when people started telling me the commercial affected them so much. I think it’s great if you feel empowered or whatever, but seriously: Dove doesn’t give a shit. Thanks for writing this.

  31. AmazingSusan April 23, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    Seven years ago I started building a website ( to inspire women to recognize their own amazingness (and beauty). My friends thought I was crazy. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars and basically seven years of my life in the website and associated media with essentially no return. I was crazy. I still am crazy. But slowly slowly women are beginning to see themselves more clearly: as creatures of value and worth. Not because of me and my site. Because of a mounting tide of voices like mine. Every little bit counts. I don’t care that Dove doesn’t care. In the whole scheme of things it doesn’t matter if Dove cares or not. What matters is that each individual woman cares at her core. And if the Dove ads and campaigns help make that happen, great. Also, I think it’s important to note that making money is not inherently evil. If one can make money and do good at the same time, brava! That said, I recognize the irony in the juxtapositions you point out. Clearly they are problematic. However, I think your pillory of Uniliver with respect to this particular issue is perhaps slightly OTT. But only slightly 😉

  32. aydenclare April 23, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    I gasped out loud once I hit the part about Unilever owning Axe because I have seen quite enough of their ad campaigns to last me a lifetime. This is upsetting for the obvious reasons but even more so because once we think we have a business that’s promoting positivity, it turns out they’re just like the rest. But then again, it is possible that those at the core of Dove truly do care to some extent even if their parent company doesn’t.

  33. borkyperida April 23, 2013 at 2:57 am #

    I would like you to know that I am an associate creative director at an advertising company, and as much as I would be shooting myself on my head, I love this article.

    • bellejarblog April 23, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      Whoa! Thank you! Also, please don’t shoot yourself in the head!

  34. Jen Donohue April 23, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    Oh, I’m a definite fan of this. I’m also apparently never the person advertisers think of when coming up with campaigns, because most of them cause me to feel irritable and want to throw rocks on a J.D. Salinger sort of way. If he was an angry woman, that is.

  35. violetwisp April 23, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    I’m a bit confused by all this. It seems I was born missing a bit of what it is to be essentially ‘female’ – I’m not entirely sure what the fuss is about wanting to feel beautiful. Whether it’s Dove with a successful marketing ploy or the more traditional ‘this is beautiful approach’, why do so many women care so much? I don’t think overcoming irrational insecurity is about presenting ‘alternative’ role models for beauty, or even questioning if this is done in a sincere way, but about realising that physical appearance is rather irrelevant.

    • jennie1ofmany April 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      You’re entirely correct that the focus on beauty is the source of insecurity, but I don’t think there’s any mystery as to why women “care so much.”

      Maybe you’ve managed to escape the lifetime of cultural inculcation that many women receive from the society in which we all exist—the one that tells us that “beauty” is the primary purpose for which women exist, and that our worth will be judged only insofar as we are beautiful—not clever, not brave, not wise, not kind, not witty—but beautiful. (Society seems to deem it okay for women to have other attributes, indeed, but values these more if they are accompanied by beauty. If beauty is absent, we’re told that cleverness, kindness, whathaveyou are somehow compensatory). You’ve managed to miss internalizing a lifetime of stories about the princess whose only attributes are being beautiful and a princess. You’ve managed to miss internalizing the idea that in order to deliver the weather report, the news, or apparently a sales pitch about soap, a woman must conform to certain standards of beauty. You’ve managed not to internalize the messages bombarding us in music (how many songs, popular and otherwise, extol the appearances of a woman—from “My Nut-Brown Lass,” to “Fat-bottomed Girls”?) Well done! You’re a cultural prodigy!

      Most of us, even those of us who have read The Beauty Myth, who pay attention to and deconstruct the messages that society sends us, who question why stories about women inevitably mention the woman’s appearance, most of us, I say, have not managed to entirely avoid internalizing the idea that beauty is the somehow important for women to have. If we feel we lack beauty (and most women feel they lack beauty, because they’ve been steeping in a gazillion dollar industry whose entire goal is to make them insecure about their appearances), we feel like we need to fix that.

      So an ad campaign that comes along and tells us “Oh, you’re actually not lacking in beauty!” hits us in that aching insecurity like aloe on a sunburn: all of the sudden the ache is dulled. It’s okay! You’re really more beautiful than you think you are!

      Yes, ideally, we’d stop going out into the sun. We’d stop burning and scarring our psyches with the notion that beauty is the main offering we have for the world. We’d gleefully switch metaphors and detoxify our self-images, ridding ourselves of decades and centuries of toxic messaging. But most women aren’t there yet. Most women are, in fact, products of our toxic culture, which makes them pretty receptive to any messaging that comes along and purports to tell them that yes, they do meet these arbitrary standards.

      And that, my fully enlightened interlocutor, is what all the fuss is about.

      • violetwisp April 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

        @jennie1ofmany Thank you, that was very eloquently put. I understand what you are saying theoretically, if not personally. Acknowledging it is irrational insecurity (meaning it has no logical basis, rather than there is no reason for it) I would think is the first step in attempting to change attitudes. I’m simply concerned that such a thoughtful rant on the subject didn’t seem to touch on this. Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps the first step is widening the beauty ideal, in which case I would view the motivations of an advertising campaign, which successfully does this, to be irrelevant.

  36. mathilde915 April 23, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    You’re so right and so smart! I love Lisa Simpson and Dove soap stinks like chemicals to me.

  37. MELewis April 23, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    Brilliant rant. Brava!

  38. crunch April 23, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    It’s unbelievable how the same company is selling the traditional message to India while selling a ‘progressive’ message to the US, isn’t it? I just recently moved from California to Bangalore, India and came across this and ranted on my own blog:

    Apparently, I’ve been under a rock somewhere not knowing about these ads in India. Check out the vaginal fairness creams by the same company in the comments section. It’s unfortunate that their biggest customers here are Indian girls and women from the lower and lower middle classes of income here that don’t have enough money to put their siblings and children in school, but just enough to keep trying to make them fair!

    Back there, we at least have organic options or people making soaps at home. Here, our alternatives are as bad as Dove or Fair N Lovely creams. I might as well make a trip to the US and back instead of finding the ingredients to make my own soap here – it’s that difficult.

    Loved the article.

  39. setinmotion April 23, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    “We think you’re beautiful, and we’re not standing to make any kind of profit off of that thought.” Truer words never said!

    Fantastic blog post! I couldn’t agree with you more. At the end of the day, Dove is going to say what it needs to say to sell products. If this ad hadn’t worked from day one, they would of very quickly reverted back to telling us we need to be smarter/prettier/thinner.

  40. Tyler Smith April 23, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    I love it when feminists jump in on this. You make a lot of fair points I wouldn’t have thought of. I just saw the ad today and even reblogged it not thinking, not doing the research, and then I find your lovely blog that throws my world upside down. You gotta love the internet. I had no idea they did Axe. Granted, I am a fan of Axe, I do love the smells, and I find the bottles absolutely hilarious.

    I will say I knew about the whitening cream, but if you’ve ever been to an Asian country that is pretty much all you can find. If Dove did try to do the same ad they did here as they did in Asia they’d have the country in an uproar, women burning their bottles, and screaming obscenities, I imagine.

    Fantastic blog though. And great, great, catch.

    Black and White Copies

  41. Wanderer April 23, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Ah! I love you Anne. I’ve been exhausting the archives since a couple of days now. I’m that hooked. And the Dove ad does make one feel good. As you said that is their marketing strategy. I don’t buy too many Dove products except a conditioner. Not because of their marketing but because it suits me. I still liked the message the ad seemed to send across. Of course I know ads are there to help product make money and I bet many people do. And it is shitty that the brand itself doesn’t believe in inner beauty and stuff like that. But I think it doesn’t matter as long as people feel good and change their perception towards themselves and not be so damn critical.
    All said, I still love what you’ve written and yes, I agree that Dove doesn’t give a damn to your inner beauty.

  42. Hergen April 23, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I wonder if all the beautyproduct (even the name beautyproduct) campaigns would stop today, for how many years I still have to wait for my girlfriend before we can leave the house.. Every mirror she passes she looks into and of course she has her own in her purse, lipglossstickshit at least every hour, asking me: do i look all right, how are my eyes, I want new hair, does this dress make me look fat?
    For sure my girlfriend is one of the most beautiful persons ever on the out and inside, and everybody will agree. I first noticed her for her outside, I fell for the inside. Now I cannot care less about the way she looks, cause every part is perfect. I try to make her go abroad on her own for a while, to a difficult country, travel, experience, find out that it doesn’t fucking matter what you look like if you can safe children of a rainforest or stuff and she needs to become independent and strong and confident and believe in herself. It is so weird, everybody keeps telling me how beautiful she is and I like that, but she keeps asking me if she is beautiful… I feel good having her by my side, people think: How does he do it? Must be rich! Cause I really don’t care what I look like, old clothes, shave occasionally when I wash my hair, but I make shit happen, so she must have fallen for my inside somehow..
    Anyway, thanks for pointing out the Dove campaign, I really liked it with the drawings and stuff, well done Unilever. More important I find the microplastics in the Dove products which fuck up nature, cause I couldn’t care less about the human race.
    I am a man, a sex-crazed beasts who just wants to go to booty town with as many hot, sexy ladies as possible, we all are, truly, it’s nature, and all of you want to be a hot sexy lady, naturally.

  43. Ann April 23, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Dove ads lost me long ago when they asked ‘real women’ to turn their shirts inside out to check for deoderant marks.

  44. Sarah April 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

    Ya! Thank you for saying what i’ve been thinking…also, i’m glad i’m not the only one who whispers in the dark angrily.

  45. zeudytigre April 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Great post as usual Bellejar. I haven’t seen the ads and don’t wish to. I don’t consider myself beautiful but that’s okay too; beauty is not that important to me. Some friends have been sharing this on Facebook and it seems to have made them feel good which is a positive. Their looks matter to them.

    Lets say we want people to accept themselves as they are. Lots of people put a great amount of time and money into changing the way they look. I try really hard to improve my knowledge. Who am I to say that the changes I want to make to me are more valid?

    In the world we live in, is trying to look better less worthy than trying to think better? It is possible to be a good person without being a deep thinker. It is possible to accept everyone for what they are but still consider some beautiful and others not so. What varies is what we choose to strive for. Is striving to look good so bad?

    Dove is out to make money and their parent company is giving out conflicting messages to maximise profit. I am more concerned that people may be so gullible as to believe that a product can change their lives.

  46. rgillettpr April 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    You can appreciate something, even be inspired by it, and yet be aware that it is marketing and not be duped by a brand or its parent organization.


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