The solution to your problems cannot be found in a bottle of moisturiser

25 Apr

*unless the only problem you have is skincare related. obvs.

Some of you might have seen the latest video from Dove doing the rounds. It features women who describe how they look to a professional forensic artist from behind a screen, who then draws them. The women then describe their fellow participants to the artist as he draws. Each woman then looks at the two sketches – one drawn from their own description of themselves, and one drawn from the perspective of a stranger. Each woman agrees that they look more beautiful when described by strangers than by themselves. Cue some general discussion about how beauty is important for happiness, how they are their own worst critics, and how everyone is more beautiful than they think they are.

I’d like to draw your attention to this  post by little drops, who provides an excellent critique of the video. Little drops first acknowledges the positives of the video, that it is useful in showing that sometimes we are our harshest critics. However, they go on to talk about how the video reinforces a narrow cultural perception of beauty by implying that descriptors such as “thin” are positive, and  freckles, fat, dark-skin, wrinkles are negative. The video specifically highlights white beauty standards, and people of colour are given minimal air-time. The video goes on to remind us how important it is to fit into standards of beauty, how it is essential for our happiness. Little drops talks about how they are angry at the ad for selling itself as challenging the idea that women’s self worth should be exclusively tied up with how they fit into a narrow beauty standard, but actually going on to reinforce those standards.

One of the things I find quite chilling about Dove’s latest video is that one participant says something along the lines of “I still have a long way to go in seeing myself as beautiful”. Whilst this is probably an accurate representation of how she feels, the position of that statement within an advert for Dove products sits with me really uneasily. It feeds into this whole “Love your body” rhetoric used by various advertising campaigns (see Dove’s real beauty campaign, Anne Summer’s “Love My Body”, The Body Shop, various other groups) which positions the blame for any self esteem problems on the individual for “not loving themselves enough” rather than the unrealistic representations and standards of beauty set by the media in service of selling more crap.

Sure, the message from companies like Dove and The Body Shop are marginally “better” in terms of body image issues, positioning themselves as radical alternatives to other cosmetic companies. However, its worth noting that these companies are part of a larger network of corporations who are guilty of the more problematic approach to advertising (The Body Shop is owned by Loreal, Dove by Unilever – hawkers of diet pills and Slimfast) and the “alternative” they offer is ultimately individualising; reinforcing of fucked up notions that a persons self-worth can be summed up by their attractiveness against a narrow sense of what is beautiful. This “love your body” rhetoric from big corporations isn’t the empowering message they position themselves as, just a niche in the market being filled. Empowerment cannot be found in a bottle of moisturizer.

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7 Responses to “The solution to your problems cannot be found in a bottle of moisturiser”

  1. Astro April 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Hello. I read this latest post and enjoyed what you had to express. I’d just like to add that the avocado, banana and cold-pressed olive oil are all skin beautifiers and moisturizers applied externally (particularly ripe banana) and also taken internally. Regular consumption of avocado over several months on a whole foods vegan diet actually completely changed my skin in the early 2000s. These foods are also more environmental alternatives than any packaged items corporations have to offer. Peace.

  2. Ron Harrelson April 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    I totally agree with you! The media portrays anyone (esp. women) who does not fit into their narrow image of the human body as less than perfect. The media feels its is their job to make us happy by “fixing our imperfections”. I think just the opposite. I think the fact that we are ALL different is what makes us wonderful! A quote from Star Trek comes to mind, ” Infinite possibilities in infinite diversity” The beauty of nature is a perfect example. Let’s celebrate the beautiful diversity of humankind!

  3. Iain Russell April 25, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Very True.

    My only question would be – Does anyone think that what Dove (or any other similar company for that matter) are driven by issues of accurate bodily awareness.

    They’re purpose it sell a product and the method they chose is through a two way hook; one health and bodily (i.e. skin) welfare and secondly insecurity.

    What they do is not about you, it is about them.

  4. Liz Marsden April 25, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Another post on body image – I wonder if this Dove campaign is the reason I’m seeing so many at the moment. I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with your judegments on this ad, and I’d like to add my own two-pennyworth to the body image debate:

  5. Erin April 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    ‘People of colour’? White is a colour.

  6. Me April 27, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    An excellent post, excellently articulated and conveyed. Much better than 95% of articles/ website posts and other detritus floating around I have sadly been exposed to in the various “media” mediums for many a month.

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