Unless you’re somehow immune to viral videos, you’ve already seen Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video, but you should probably watch it again just because:
When I first watched the Dove video, I was moved. Me, the cynical, insensitive one was touched – and saddened. Only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful? I don’t care which orifice Dove pulled that statistic out of, that’s awful.
And you. What was your reaction? I’m asking because this video has ignited a controversy. Its authenticity and its motives are under fire. Didn’t the forensic artist’s knowledge of the desired outcome further distort his drawings? Doesn’t the experiment still emphasize the importance of outward beauty over intelligence, charisma, and kindness? Isn’t Dove a Unilever company seeking to sell product instead of inspire social change?
Unilever is the same company that tries to seduce women with chiseled male bodies doused in
ass Axe body spray, after all. The Unilever website boasts, “Axe is now giving guys the edge in the mating game in more than 60 countries.” Uh, doubtful. But “mating game” implies we are some sort of sexual conquest, presumably and expectedly as gorgeous on the outside as the overly-deodorized Axe men. The mixed messaging makes you wonder…
As a skeptical female marketing professional, do I think Dove is using the Real Beauty Campaign to sell us face lotion and body wash? Absolutely. But who cares? They aren’t soliciting underfed teenage girls to guilt me into a pair of jeans I can’t afford and will never feel comfortable in. It’s a brilliant marketing a) ploy or b) strategy (you pick) designed to get attention and project one very loud message: you are more beautiful than you think.
You don’t tell your best friend she shouldn’t wear her hair up because she has a weird shaped head or that she should always wear pants because her skin is pale and her ankles almost start with the letter “C.” You don’t make those comments because they’re mean, and more importantly, they’re irrelevant. Your love for her isn’t based on the relationship her calves have with her ankles, but the serendipitous intersection of her path and yours and the way you can communicate without even speaking.
You wouldn’t say those harsh words to your best friend, so what makes you think it’s okay to say them to the person in the mirror? Behind those eyes is someone who deserves all the praise in the world, but changing the perception of yourself might be the most difficult thing in the world.
When I was younger, I always thought I’d grow out of my insecurities – that being content with the shape of my head or the thickness of my ankles would come with maturity. Looks like I’m still immature. Or am I? Only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful! I’m obviously not the only one stuck in this teenage frame of mind. But now instead of being young and envious of all the older women who metamorphosed into beautiful, confident creatures, I covet the ignorance of that youth and the blindness toward the cellulite and fine lines that deepen over time.
So, do we ever get there? It may or may not be genuine, but the Real Beauty Campaign does beg the question of how to end this vicious cycle of self deprecation, how to love ourselves more wholly. I don’t really know where to start, but “you are more beautiful than you think” seems like a decent place to me.
Watch the full Real Beauty Sketch experiment on Dove’s website.