Are you feeling ugly today? Maybe all you need is some Dove cucumber conditioner to make your hair a little tamer. Or maybe you need a reality check.
As part of its ongoing Real Beauty campaign (perhaps you remember the ads with full-figured women posing in underwear), Dove posted a YouTube video last week that has over 19 million views. In the clip, an FBI-trained forensic artist with his back to his subject sketches women based on personal descriptions of themselves. He inquires about various facial features, to which they reply things like “I kind of have a fat, rounder face.” He then sketches the same women based on descriptions given by strangers who have spent a few moments with the subjects. The artist then reveals the two sketches side-by-side — cue emotional music.
Not surprisingly, the women present hypercritical views of themselves, so the sketch based on their self-description is significantly less attractive than the drawing based on the stranger’s comments. Upon seeing the disparity, one woman tears up, another looks ashamed and then — spoiler alert — the Dove logo appears on the screen for four seconds.
I find the overwhelmingly positive response to this video troubling — especially the praise from within the Penn community.
Of course, the commercial has faced some criticism. Women have attacked it on the grounds that Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns AXE, whose commercials feature — to put it nicely — skinny, sultry, string-bikini-clad women. Others take issue with Dove’s hypocrisy — selling women “intensive firming cream” (to all of the men reading this, it makes your skin smooth and reduces the appearance of cellulite) while telling us to love and embrace our already perfect bodacious bodies.
Generally, however, the response has been positive. Countless women across the country have blogged, tweeted and commented that the video “made me cry” and that “every woman needs to watch this!” Naturally the video was sent through my sorority listserv, and I’ve heard it chatted about on Locust Walk incessantly. The 40th Street CVS better stock up on Dove products because it appears that Penn women are enamored with this campaign.
But if it were up to me, we’d all be switching to Neutrogena.
You don’t need to have taken Marketing 101 to realize this is nothing more than an advertisement produced by a profit-driven company trying to sell you something. If Dove truly cared about female self-perception, it could have produced the same commercial without its logo or donated the money it spent to a nonprofit with the same goal. Dove doesn’t care if you think you’re a six, but it does care if you spend $6 on its shampoo.
Even worse is the fact that once again, beauty is the yardstick by which women are being measured. We get so angry when men judge us by superficial standards like waist size and hair shininess, but with an impetus from Dove, we are judging ourselves by these same criteria.
Forget whether or not you think you’re kind, funny or intelligent. Apparently what matters is whether or not you think you have big pores or too many freckles. As one woman in the video says, “[Beauty] impacts the choices and friends we make, the jobs we apply for … It couldn’t be more critical to our happiness.”
So to recap, beauty equals happiness.
Dove is a cosmetics company, so obviously it’s going to underscore the importance of external appearances. But instead of, say, showing us dull hair versus shiny hair, they invoke something as integral as our self-worth and shackle it to an iron ball labeled “beauty.” In doing so, Dove overlooks the possibility that these women value themselves for something other than their looks.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s OK to think you’re heinously ugly. Here, Dove has a point. But especially at Penn — where we pride ourselves on our intellect, our career prospects, our social lives and interpersonal relationships and our extracurricular involvement — we should be more concerned about our self-worth evaluated through non-aesthetic lenses. I would be concerned if these women felt they had subpar reasoning skills or overarching incompetence. But noticing our split ends is not something to fret about.
Caroline Brand is a College junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. You can email her at email@example.com or follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” appears every other Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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