Dove has been pioneering "true beauty" for a while: the skincare brand's Real Beauty campaign was a success (I bought the bracelet!) and their Beauty Sketches was even more of a hit. As a former sufferer of eating disorders, I find in commendable that a brand that focuses on selling beauty products sends out a message that addresses self-esteem. One might comment on how, as a brand, Dove couldn't care less about how you feel about yourself: all they want is for you to buy their latest moisturising, beautifying concoction. And true as that may be, I still felt it was a nice move to even acknowledge the fact that body confidence is an issue. Plus, the Beauty Sketches video was just lovely and gorgeous.
But Dove's latest attempt to lift our self-esteem leaves me perplexed.
The video starts off by depicting several rather good-looking women talking about things that make them feel insecure and unconfident, which screams "fake" to me ("If I was more confident, I could do things like approach a guy"...who says things like that? Do your friends talk like this?), while a leading psychologist explains the experiment: a "beauty patch" that changes the way women feel about themselves and a video diary that the girls will keep during the time they're trying the RBX patch (12 hours...yeah, that seems like a reasonable time frame to change your ENTIRE SELF VIEW). The video diaries then show the women talking about receiving compliments and doing "daunting" things like going dress shopping (one might wonder where their clothes came from before the invention of the magical Dove patch). They finally sit down with the Dove representative, singing the praises of the patch: "I would actually buy this", only for the Dove lady to reveal (SPOILERSPOILER) that there is nothing in the patch. The video closes with a cliche like "I'm beautiful, I'm confident and I can be whatever I want to be". The end.
Just a few of the millions of problems I have with this whole concept:
This video portrays women like needy, whiny, babyish creatures that are almost unrealistically desperate for approval. At one point, one of the patch-wearers exclaims, "my coworker told me I looked pretty, I thought that was really cool!". Oh come on. I refuse to believe that the majority of women are this helpless and self-obsessed. I love my coworkers with all my heart, but I genuinely don't care if they find me pretty. Of course I'm flattered and will smile if they do, but it doesn't change my whole day. A compliment on a job well done, on the other hand, might.
It shows women as appearance-focused...thus worsening the problem.
It's hardly news that we all have appearance-based insecurities. Some of us dislike our hair, others aren't too happy with our thighs (hello), for someone else it's boobs...even supermodels have body hang-ups. But here's the thing: they don't rule our lives. This video makes it look like our body worries are the reason why we won't shop for clothes, approach men or generally enjoy our lives. I would love to think that I speak for most women when I say that this is not the case. For most of us, the truth is that we look in the mirror and think, "dammit, I really don't like my flabby arms" and then we just forget about it and go about our day. Sure, we all have days when we feel less sexy...but in most cases it's not as crippling as Dove makes it out to be. We're too busy running governments, raising children, starting our own companies, writing bestsellers, recording hit songs, buying houses, travelling the world and making our dreams come true to spend all day worrying about our butts and noses.
It's somewhat sexist.
Every time a campaign like this comes out, I'm always wondering why it only ever speaks to women. It's widely known by now that men are just as insecure about their looks as we are - but for some reason, women are the ones that get patted on the head and told "it's okay to like your chubby, flawed, imperfect self", while men are expected to either grow a six-pack or just get on with it. It may be the fact that women are just more open about their insecurities, but I'm still left feeling like this babying approach to women's confidence actually does more harm than good. Why not remove focus from women's looks and instead focus on their achievements? I know Dove is a company that mainly focuses on products aimed at women so it's not entirely their fault, but to me this still feels like part of a slightly anti-feminist bigger picture.
It's about trickery.
The big reveal where the patch turns out to be a placebo actually disappointed me even more. So, once again, we're being deceived? After being fooled for ages by Photoshop, retouching and twisted ideals, we're being lied to one more time? Isn't all this faking part of what originally started the problem? The worst part is, none of the women appears irritated at having been tricked, which makes me doubt the campaign's authenticity even more.
It's not revolutionary.
Of course our "issues" are only in our heads! DUH. Hands up who didn't know this already. Problem is, it is practically never as easy as "decide to love yourself". Changing your thinking takes years of hard work. Twelve hours of anything is very unlikely to be effective.
It's obviously not authentic.
I have touched on this throughout the post and I'll say it again: this isn't real. No way would modern smart, thinking women slap a patch on their arm without knowing what's in it. Once again, women are portrayed as weak, gullible idiots.
If Dove are so keen to portray themselves as this compassionate, emphatic brand that listens to their customers, then why don't they stop testing on animals? Listening to these saccharine "be yourself and conquer the world!" messages from a company that I know abuses animals and stands for infinite suffering feels about as real as a Playmate's H-cups. In order to be perceived as compassionate, you actually need to be compassionate all around.
What did you think of the ad?