We’ve all seen the Dove “Real Beauty” advertisements, women of all sizes and colors posing cheerily in bright white underwear, touting body wash, lotion, deodorant, shampoo, and other products from Dove. I never paid much attention to their Real Beauty campaign or to their advertising in general until I saw the “Real Beauty Sketches” video, the latest brainchild of their campaign.
I was supposed to feel “you go, girl”, all touchy-feely and teary and on an estrogen high after viewing the video, presumably. Essentially, the video is about women describing themselves to a sketch artist, and then the artist doing a sketch of the same woman but using descriptions provided by other people. Compare the two, and voila, instant evidence that women judge their own appearances harshly and harbor deep-seated, pathological doubt about their own beauty.
Oh, brother. How much time and money was sunk into yet another production portraying women as attention-starved, self-esteem-depleted, simpering, sniveling creatures desperate for a nod of approval and an “atta-girl” from society? Well, ladies, don’t worry, because Dove is here to slip a nurturing arm about our shoulders and tell us not to worry our pretty little heads about anything, because damnit, we are all beautiful!
Pardon me if I find it condescending, grating, and gag-inducing. Instead of such a concerted drive to proclaim to women that we are more beautiful than we think we are, why not embrace the radical and more empowering attitude that we as women are valuable for far more than our appearances? Hey, Dove, I am pretty damn smart, talented, independent, articulate, hard-working, and rather kick-ass at Tae Bo. Or does that not count for anything?
Does focusing on my abilities and accomplishments instead of my appearance discourage me from buying lotions, potions, and creams that just happen to be sold by Dove?
Maybe the magic wand and band-aid to fix females’ apparently flailing self-worth is actually not to fixate even more on their looks and beauty. Maybe “you’re beautiful” is not the cure-all to what ails us. Maybe a media campaign scrutinizing whether women feel beautiful or not is actually feeding the long-held notion that a female’s appearance is the limit of her worth and should absorb and drain all of her attention.
I am not slinking around with my tail between my legs, desperate for a thumbs-up from others that I am pretty or beautiful. I am not reduced to a grateful, weepy mess if someone assures me I am, in fact, acceptable by their standards. I am not a quivering mess waiting for others to lift me up with their exigent approval. Believe it or not, I have more important things with which to concern myself and to occupy my energy and attention.
I watched the video and then pictured my two stepdaughters. Their father and I teach them that yes, they are beautiful young ladies, but they are also smart, funny, strong, talented, athletic, capable. We remind them what they are good at, what sets them apart from the pack, that their minds and hearts are dearly important. To just tell them “you’re beautiful” is not even half the equation. It’s the very tip of the iceberg of what makes them uniquely them. (I feel the same way about the boys, too, but I haven’t seen a video yet telling them they are beautiful as if those are the soothing, magical worlds that fix everything.)
So, Dove, please keep your sketch artists, your teary videos, your superficial and artificial proclamations of society’s almighty approval of my appearance, and keep your archaic, die-hard focus on what I look like instead of who I am. I value myself most for the person I am, how I treat others, what I do, not by my reflection in the mirror or the opinions of others.
I realize that won’t sell your products, but after watching this patronizing video, I had no intention of buying any of them anyway.