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Again with the Dove

October 23rd, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

I admit I have been a part of the “at least Dove is doing something” camp for a long time now. I always felt that even if marketers were using less than typical images of women just to sell product, at least those images were challenging and changing the current media climate. Even with my awareness of the other brands Unilever represented, I was optimistic about the effect the Dove ads could have on the wider industry as a whole.

Now I’m not so sure. I just read this fantastic, thorough piece over at The Situationist called “Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!” that really fleshes out the hypocricy of the campaign. The “onslaught” Dove critiques (and tells parents to “talk to their kids about”) is one they’ve created. The author of this piece makes a great point that despite the fact that the “onslaught” ad is a powerful one, it shifts blame off of the beauty industry by pointing a finger at parents for not talking to their kids about the imagery that saturates their lives:

It seems peculiar, therefore, that Dove would offer a film demonstrating the ubiquitous attack of the beauty industry that ends with the suggestion to parents that they are the ones to make a difference by simply talking to their kids. If the industry is the problem, it strikes me as odd that the parents are supposed to be the solution.

But the thing that struck me the most about the article was what it said in regards to Axe and Lynx, two products that perpetuate these unrealistic, sexualized images of women in the most demeaning of ways, and what Dove (and not parents) should do about it:

But if the problem is sexualized stereotypes and unhealthy body types, then why is Dove telling parents to “talk to their kids before the beauty industry does”? Shouldn’t Dove be talking to its parent about not talking to our kids? Why would we applaud the arsonist when he passes out pamphlets on how to fight fires? Why buy mousetraps from the same person who dumped rodents into our basement? Should we not judge Dr. Jekyll in part by the sins Mr. Hyde? If Dove cares about “real beauty,” it should start at home. If Unilever doesn’t care about “real beauty” it should stop getting rich off the illusion that it does. And if the beauty industry is the source of the onslaught then Unilever, through Dove advertising, should not be permitted to blame the victims for its own contribution to that attack.

The most offensive of these “body spray” ads are those that seem to liken the product to a date rape drug: “Use it, impair a woman’s judgment, get laid” is a frightening message to endorse, but it’s hugely apparent in this particular video.

There’s a great piece over at The New York Times about Unilever’s gendered messages if you want even more Dove.

Tags: media savvy

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