When the Dove Real Beauty campaign first came out, I was totally annoyed. I found it condescending, patronizing and hypocritical. The kindest thing I could say about it, was that is was politically correct.
Yet everyone seemed to love it.
I’ve tried to ignore Dove commercial since, with their real women (because apparently there are real women and unreal women out there, watch out), with their bunch of random chicks smiling in white underwear, and all the going on and on and on about feminine beauty.
Lately I couldn’t help noticing Dove is focusing on armpits a lot. The Italian translation makes me cringe so let’s focus on the Canadian version instead. Go sleeveless. Provided that you use Dove for five days, you’re going to have beautiful underarms. Not only clean, nicely scented underarms, but beautiful ones.
In case you’re wondering how beautiful underarms look like, here’s an example. Rocking sleeveless styles makes you feel powerful and feminine, no less.
Of course the fact that before engaging in this five-days project to make your underarms beautiful, first you must get rid of the hair, is not remotely mentioned. We have now reached a point where armpit hair has become taboo. I’m not really missing the Seventies when shaving was not contemplated or the early Eighties when it was kind of optional. Nevertheless.
It is interesting to note that if you’re a man and you use Dove for men, you’re going to have armpits that work really well, you can use them to perform a wave at the stadium, or to make farting noises (otherwise if you don’t use Dove for men your entire arms will just fall off in a cartoonish way)
Now. I understand you really enjoy going on and on and on and on about feminine beauty, which is truly boring when it comes from the usual sources, but when it comes from a self-declared ethical brand then it sounds definitely annoying. And seriously, honestly, beautiful armpits?
I shouldn’t be so surprised though. It’s no secret that Dove sells an armpit whitening product on the Asian market. And it was not that long ago that I was informed by an acquaintance that women over 35 should not wear sleeveless tops, unless at the beach. I was very surprised at the news, as I had never heard anything of the sort. So I asked why, why can’t you go around sleeveless if you’re over 35. Because women’s shoulders become flabby with age, came the reply. My shoulder are just fine, I said. Well, actually, was the answer, if you’re totally sure your shoulders are perfect then you may wear sleeves tops, but beware, they must be absolutely perfect, and anyway, your shoulders are quite toned because you exercise a lot, but most women don’t, so they are flabby.
So what, I asked.
Well, they’re ugly.
So what? Can’t you just avert your sight?
But it’s for decency. Decorum!
Anyway, I’m pretty confident my shoulders are all right, if they weren’t my ballet teachers would have informed me dutifully. Maybe some new defect might have been invented in the past couple of years, since I quit ballet. I can’t exclude that. Well, summer is nearly there, I’ll take the risk.
So, while I was trying hard to ignore the armpits commercial, the Real Beauty campaigned kicked back with Sketches.
Sketches is truly alarming. It shows a couple of sad, awkward women who sit down in the empty warehouse of their soul and unhappily describe themselves to a (male of course) forensic artist. Then the same women describe each other in an appreciative manner to the same forensic artist, and we also hear the favorable opinion of a few men we haven’t met before.
In the end we have two sketches for each women (not of the men), one based on the self-deprecating self-description, the other based on the kind comments of the other women and of some unspecified men. There’s more awkwardness. Much fidgeting. There’s some crying. Then there’s this woman who solemnly declares that she should be more grateful of her natural beauty, because it impacts everything, it couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.
Soothing music. Reassuring message follows: you’re more beautiful than you think.
So, according to Dove I, as a woman, automatically have a body image disorder and I need to be reassured, by a a forensic artist as well as by various passers-by, that I’m more beautiful than I think. Because it couldn’t be more critical to my happiness. Oh thank you so much, I really needed to hear a nice word from the tv, because you know, all day alone around the house, with all you hear nowadays about the Korean War, and about the communists, when my husband always says he wants only nice thoughts in my pretty little head. What would I do without you Unilever?
The rest of the new Real Beauty campaign is more cheery and it does not focus so much on beauty. Instead it slyly focuses on being cute. The women portrayed may not be beautiful under standard criteria, but they are indeed very cute. So ok, if you really really can’t be beautiful, despite all the lavish application of Dove products, because you’re too ugly, or too old or too weird, don’t despair, you can still be cute. Oh, everyone is going to find you just adorable.
Then there’s the creepy one, the one with the lovely little girl who will surely grow up to become the helpless victim of society unless you, the mother, talk to her about Dove products. I find it profoundly unethical. It uses a child to convey an indirect commercial message and it relies on morbid fears to get symbolically rid of the competitors.
Luckily, this time I’m not the only one thinking that something is wrong here, or at least something is ridiculously wrong here. As it happens, the Sketch commercial has earned itself a few interesting parodies.
This one goes directly to the point. Why the hell should women be supposed to worry about beauty all the time? Men are also self-conscious sometimes, but they don’t whine so much, and in general they find themselves quite gorgeous. And if someone does not agree, who cares. And if the forensic artist does not agree, well maybe he’s not so good at drawing after all.
This one is bit controversial, it’s been accused of being chauvinistic but I think it’s more harsh on men than on women. Any real or imaginary defect you might have, my dear girl, doesn’t matter because let’s face it, most men will just remember your boobs. Here is a milder version.
And this is my favourite one, the surreal one, which points out that all this going on and on and on about traditional feminine beauty is just boring and pathetic, let’s draw something else.