When Dove’s latest tear-jerking advert hit the web, I was strangely one of the few people that found it empowering and uplifting.
Almost as quickly as the advert became viral, a deluge of criticism washed over the web,with people frothing at the mouth at how “un-feminist” and “toxic” the company’s Real Beauty campaign is, and that behind the muzak and softly focused lenses the company is nothing more than a bunch of soap and deodorant peddlers looking to make a quick buck out of female insecurities.
Even worse, one friend spewed out on Facebook that “underneath the Dove’s campaign is the reinforcement of the same old messages about how beauty is the most important asset for a woman to have. I'd just rather people weren't hoodwinked by the messages out there, which are getting more cunning as we wise up.”
For those few that have not seen the advert yet (or short documentary as Time Magazine describes it), it centres around the notion of women are our own worst enemy and it is time, goddammit, to change this self-doubt and hatred.
We are all beautiful. Yes, really.
In the three minute advert, an FBI trained forensic artist sits behind a curtain and draws a portrait from the subject’s self-description, which remarkably results in skewed caricature-esque sketches. One woman’s perception of herself resulted in a picture that resembled a sprouting and perturbed potato.
However, the artist then draws a second portrait of the same women using only the descriptions of strangers, which of course results in a much softer and realistic picture of the person.
Well, let’s be clear- Dove is a company and of course they want to make a profit. Their schtick is Real Beauty and to become a trusted brand that cares.
But what seems to be unclear to many of the angry and outraged is that while they rake in the cash, as all companies are try to do, they are also providing a significant change in redefining the standards of advertising and the unrealistic ideals for the way women look.
For decades we have gone around in circles, crying out for a change from the emaciated waifs on the catwalk, the impact advertising has on children at impressionable ages, the lack of “real women” advertising our clothes, or the glossy glamourzonians who are all heels, boobs and orange skin.
When a company like Dove (and increasingly others) try to use more real women in adverts we still complain that they are not representative enough (this person actually takes the time to count and list how many seconds certain ethnicities feature in the film for) or that they are still too “beautiful” or still “not fat enough”.
I asked several people that oppose the campaign about what their solution would be. I have yet to get a response other than “shut up” or “goodbye”.
What I took away from the advert, documentary, or whatever you want to call it, was not just another great leap for the transformation of the unrealistic ideals of standard advertising and fashion but that dissidence only emphasises the life changing message that Dove tries to promote.
The self-described portraits look utterly ridiculous because the point is that the women obsess over what they perceive as flaws and blow it out of proportion.
It also highlights that what we see as negative attributes are actually positive and beautiful qualities, and that we have got to stop putting this pressure on ourselves to look like one of the airbrushed beauties we see in our magazines every day.
It doesn’t say that being beautiful is an important asset to have, it is saying being happy in yourself and not worrying about conforming to an idealised beauty is the key to enjoying your life.
I may not actually buy Dove products but what the company gives to me and wider society is so much more important. The Real Beauty campaign is a gamechanger for advertising and more should follow in their footsteps.