Before I begin, the reader must note this advertisement:
Touching, huh? I will come back to how nothing about this advertisement is nice (apart from that wonderful, catchy song).
Majority of Dove’s advertising campaign has been regarding how most women do not think they are beautiful and how they are over-critical of themselves. Not just this, after much digging, I found another advertisement from the Real Beauty campaign (former), which was later compared to the Victoria Secret’s advertisement (latter).
For one, how on earth is this “real beauty” advertisement supposed to make women feel better? None of the women in the former ad has any skin issues, or are even skinny (yes, guess what? That is a natural body type too). It is these kinds of advertisements that has instilled the stupid idea in people’s heads, “real women have curves” (attach photo of Marilyn Monroe beside this quote). No, there is nothing like “real women”, stop antagonizing women who are just a result of society’s vision of what beauty is.
Basically, the thought behind the campaign is that all women are gorgeous and beautiful, and that all shapes and sizes are perfect, and that the media has brainwashed women into believing they are not beautiful. Let us look at some typical ideas of beauty that exist in society today. Depending on the populace history, these ideas are very different in different regions. For example, some 150 years ago, the now first-world countries used to find plump women attractive since this was a sign of wealth (and hence being able to afford good food where most populations could not). Currently this mindset is different, because almost everyone can afford junk food, but very few people can afford nutritious, healthy food or a workout. This has led to skinnier women being considered attractive. In India, a major chunk of the population is till malnourished, and hence heftier women are considered attractive. Of course, India has a range of socio-economic statuses and we now see in the media what the urban populations will find attractive.
Taking another example, we can look into why dark complexion is considered in a country like India. Being dark is perceived to mean that the person belongs to the working class, and has to work outside for a prolonged amount of time whereas fair complexion means being able to stay in the comforts of the home (hence the conclusion that the person is well-off). This was true for current first-world countries as well, but it has recently turned to finding tanned skin attractive, since this shows the economic ability for the person to be able to vacation some place that has a strong sun.
This are only some of the features that are considered attractive but to put things in an umbrella term, most features that are considered attractive are blemish-free skin, flat bellies, an average to large bust, small noses, full lips, long and full hair, et al. Of course, these depend from person to person, but this conclusion was drawn by me looking into how most women are portrayed in popular media, except Dove, since they want to showcase, and don’t forget, cater to “real women”.
Now that it has been established that the society does find certain features to be more attractive than the others, let me go into anecdotal responses to fairness cream advertisements and such. Whenever there is some very deliberate effort to advertise fair women are being more beautiful, a lot of people will stand up for the rest by saying something like “Even dark women are pretty” or some other reassurance like that. Yes, they mean well, and this is not an accusation to any of those people. But this is where I start with what I am genuinely concerned about. For some reason, it is necessary to be pretty if you are a woman. Dark women are not considered pretty? Let us say they are pretty to make them feel better about their skin colour. Let me digress here and say that the whole reason why these fairness creams are working is because dark skin isn’t considered attractive, and that is why they are advertised and still on the market and selling like hot cakes. That is actually what society believes. Not everyone might, but the majorities do, and there is not much that can be done about it. There is a lot of truth in the words of Anna Lappe, author and educator,
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
Humans are wired to like attractive people better, and there have always been attributes (physical and emotional) that have been considered attractive. People cannot really do much to change that unless it is a mass effort. And I do not think that is ever possible in such a scenario.
Coming back to my initial concern, what the key point of writing this is the mere fact that women have to be made to feel pretty to make them feel good about themselves. The advertisements that I posted above showed women and how all shapes and sizes are beautiful. It is unfathomable to ever see an advertisement like that about men, where you see various men, balding and pot-bellied, hairy and hairless, standing in underwear and telling us that all men are handsome. Why not, you ask? Because it is not a requirement expected of men. Let me put here another advertisement, again, by Dove, to enhance my point further:
TL;DW for the lazy: The advertisement basically consists of several women describing other women that they just saw to a sketch artist, while the sketch artist, well… sketches. When women were shown the sketches that were made with the description of their faces by other women, and sketches made by their own descriptions, one can clearly see that the former is supposed to ‘prettier’ proving that women themselves are over-critical of themselves.
What does this tell you about the campaign in itself? It tells me that as a woman, it is very important that I be considered good-looking by everyone else around me. One thing that I understand is that Dove is doing what most beauty product companies are not, making women feel prettier. But this is the wrong way of approaching the self-esteem that women, and a lot of men, have about how they look. Even if one advertisement tells a person to feel prettier, there are thousands more that will make them feel uglier. Especially women. And these women cannot change existing beauty standards, but what we can do is to realize that being pretty isn’t something that needs to be a necessity for women, just like the way with men.
Yes, healthy body image issues are issues that are very concerning, but I do not think the solution to that is calling every woman beautiful. This just isn’t feasible, just like every person being called intelligent or clever is not. The solution is to stop this obsession with physical appearance, and if that doesn’t happen (which it most likely won’t), then for people to say this: “I am ugly and I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I am hygienic and living a happy, fulfilled life and that is all that matters to me.” This is similar to being able to admit that one is not very smart, which I see people admitting all the time. This is especially difficult for women because of society’s idea that women need to be able to groom themselves better, but there has to be a first step.
And now, I’d like to clarify why the advertisement that I opened with is not liked by me. Those little girls were not camera shy not because they thought they were beautiful, but because they gave these many number of fucks about how they looked like in a camera. And that is why one shouldn’t be afraid of the camera, not because someone is telling you that you actually look pretty. Because maybe when you wake up early in the morning, you so not look pretty. And guess what? That is all right.
Let me also ask you not to forget that Dove is using a marketing strategy and I am sure like most other corporations, they only care about how many purchasers they are acquiring by such advertisement tactics. Unilever is the company that owns Dove, and you know what else it owns? Axe, deodorant products. So is Dove still a company with a conscience? I leave the thinking to you. At least other companies are honest about what they do and do not find attractive. Let me leave this last image with you, which I found on a ‘feminist’ page that I am subscribed to, and I am going to leave you to ponder as to how wrong I could be about society’s expectation of women when it comes to being attractive.
Forgive me, well wishers of all the “real women”, but I don’t think a woman will like being described as an adjective that is also attributed to a fruit.