Let’s Talk About…: Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” Campaign, “Real Beautiful” and Controversy

*Warning* This post is a long, ranting, anti-societal-views-of-beauty post.

In the past few years, Dove toiletries company has put out quite a few ad campaigns (keyword “ad”), aiming to “provoke discussion and encourage debate” (their words, not mine). These campaigns pertain to physical, outward beauty 100% of the time, they are aimed at women 100% of the time and they are all under the companies umbrella campaign, “Real Beauty”.

Most recently, Dove has released a campaign and corresponding video titled, “Choose Beautiful”.

It shows about a dozen women, from a few different countries, trying to decide which of two doors they should walk through to get into a building: the door labelled “Average” or the door labelled “Beautiful”.

I have so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to begin.

Issue #1: “Real Beauty

Let’s just step back and analyze this single page for a moment. (All of the quotes below were pulled directly from their Campaign for Real Beauty Official page.)

  • Dove claims to be, “…widening the definition of beauty…”. (Simply by naming their campaign “Real Beauty”, they did the complete opposite of that. Using that as a title says that there is a “real” way to be beautiful, which means that there is also a “fake” or “not really beautiful” way, as well. The use of “average” as an opposite for “beautiful”  insinuates that considering yourself average isn’t alright and also says that you cannot be beautiful unless you openly think you are beautiful. So, instead of widening the parameters, they’ve made them even smaller.)
  • Dove says it’s ads feature, “…real women whose appearances are outside the stereotypical norms of beauty.” (This insinuates women who meet the stereotypical bar are both not beautiful and not “real women”. What is this “real beauty” they speak of, anyway? And why do they get to decide what “real beauty” is?)
  • Dove created an ad that, “…asked viewers to judge the women’s looks (oversized or outstanding? and wrinkled or wonderful?), and invited them to cast their votes at campaignforrealbeauty.com.” (Excuse me? This is the EXACT formula used on websites like HotOrNot.com. Dove has been telling us that they’re trying to improve women’s perceptions of themselves and that it isn’t right for society to be judging women based on appearance, and yet they then turn around and asked viewers to judge each otherIs anyone else confused?)
  • Dove claims that it created another ad that was, “…featuring six real women with real bodies and real curves.” (What exactly is a real woman? A real body? Real curves? And why should Dove be allowed to decide what constitutes reality of a woman’s body?)

Issue #2: Beautiful vs. Average

Dove named their most recent ad campaign, “Choose Beautiful” but I think they should have named it, “Choose Beautiful: Choose Dove”, because that’s what they really mean. It’s an ad campaign. If they truly only wanted women to feel that they were beautiful, they wouldn’t feel the need to slip the Dove logo in at the last second. If they were truly the positive self-esteem/positive body-image advocates that they want you to believe they are, they wouldn’t be trying to make money off of being so. They’d just want women to be happy and comfortable being themselves. Instead, there’s the (not very) hidden message of “beautiful women use Dove and aren’t afraid to enter through the “beautiful” door”. Naming the campaign “Choose Beautiful”,  I’ll reiterate, also says that thinking you’re “average” isn’t good enough, even though having an “average” body-image is a lot healthier than having an “ugly” body-image. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to think you’re beautiful to be happy being yourself.

Issue #3: Censored Diversity

Diverse? Outside social norms? “Really beautiful”?

It might just be me but I don’t see “diversity” when I look at this picture. I also don’t see “outside societal norms”. All of these women have faces that could be considered beautiful in American society, clear/flawless/unblemished skin, proportional bodies, long legs: and if this is what “real beauty” looks like, I don’t fit the bill. With a 24 inch waist and a coke bottle figure, Dove has abandoned me and labeled me a “fake woman”.

Is it all bad? No. It’s true that these campaigns have forced women and society as a whole to recognise and contemplate what our media considers beautiful. It’s shown many women what they truly think of themselves and what our society tells them to think of themselves. It’s shined a light on the unhealthy practices often associated with being beautiful in this society and it’s opened the discussion of health vs. dress size.

But is that enough? Nowhere near it. Dove‘s approach is incredibly sexist (the brand as a whole is only aimed women ((Sorry, boys. Dove doesn’t think you can be beautiful)), frequently objectifies women and maintains that “real beauty” and “real womanhood” can only be found in people who are outside conventional ideas of beauty (similar to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”).

They’ve familiarized the discussion, and I thank them for that. But now, they have to stop drawing in extremes and exclusivity.

Mars, signing off. ◇

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About…: Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” Campaign, “Real Beautiful” and Controversy

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