“Real Beauty” is a Little Confusing

Almost anyone you ask would be familiar with the Campaign for Real Beauty launched by Dove. The advertisements featured women of different shapes, sizes,  ages, and ethnicities.


According to Dove’s website, “The campaign started a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable.”

Sounds great right? Not so quick….

After reading an article on Jezebel by Katie Baker, I became a little confused. Baker talks about how companies bemuse consumers into buying beauty products. She writes that “”Real Beauty” features and advertisements cleverly sell you products under the guise of body-positivity while actually reinforcing the idea that a woman’s worth is based on the way she looks to others.

Dove also falls under the parent company of Unilever, which according to the Huffpost Women writer Nina Bahadur, is also the parent company of Slimfast, Axe and Fair & Lovely skin-whitening cream. Companies that very clearly sell products to people who wish to alter their appearance more so than embrace it.

In this same article, Jennifer Pozner an executive director of Women In Media & News is quoted….

“If the stated goal of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign is for girls and women to understand that their power and their beauty does not come from a tube or an airbrush or a cream, but rather from their own personalities and power, then the company would not sell certain products that they sell, and their parent company would not run some of the most misogynistic ad campaigns in the past ten years.”

It is also suggested in the article that the campaign may have been a marketing ploy, which quite effectively boosted the brands sales. Bringing me back to the point made in Jezebel… a company can sell body-positivity while reinforcing that a woman should in fact buy the products in order to feel beautiful.

While there is no doubt I along with many others appreciate the representation of various body shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities in advertising… these conversations leave me slightly puzzled. While the campaigns are certainly more inclusive, they still place value on the physical appearance of a woman.

According to Pozner,

“Until we get to a point in the culture where the dominant messages about girls and women are not focused on their physical bodies, then we do need to actually reaffirm a broader and more innate, internal definition of what beauty is.”

Edit: This post was originally published unintentionally as a Page for a previous weeks post.


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