Thursday, January 21, 2010

Media Awareness: Dove

Dove has done a commendable thing in the past couple years: they have turned their advertising into something ... real looking. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty features women of different ethnicities, older women, and "average" sized women in advertisements that celebrate the beauty of how they look now, not how Dove says they should look. As part, they have released several short films(/advertisements) about the importance of self-esteem and the harmful effects of the beauty industry.
Notably, Dove released these short films, "Evolution" and "Onslaught."

Kind of interesting, right? Dove makes a good point. What is "real" beauty anyway? You certainly can't trust what you see in the media.

But if you go a little further with that last statement (You certainly can't trust what you see in the media), can you trust Dove?

Although I do like the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty for the unconventional and slightly more truthful advertising they have put out recently, I (and others who own televisions and have access to the internet and all the joys of American advertising) have to realize, that it is an ad campaign.

Andi Zeisler writes, "...[W]omen who supported the idea of including meatier women in beauty ads chafed at the fact that Dove's chipper ladies were marketing firming creams and lotions. Others noted that it was difficult to get behind the ads knowing that Dove's parent company (the global brand Unilever) also owned Axe body spray, a product known for its relentlessly sexist ads."

One intrepid youtuber remade "Onslaught," but instead of the milisecond clips used in Dove's version, used clips from Axe body spray commercials.

The content of the clips is similar to the original, except, this time, is critical of Unilever. How can a company espouse feminist values in one ad campaign and contradict them by degrading women in another? It is an insult to the customers who agree with the Campaign for Real Beauty for Unilever to expect them not to know about Dove's connection to (sexist) Axe. Unilever expects consumers to passively take in the information they put out, whatever message it may send.
(Greenpeace made a video based on "Onslaught" about Dove's deforestation practices in order to get palm oil. This video and Greenpeace's campaign were successful in getting Unilever to listen and change up some of their environmentally harmful practices.)

Lesson: Question the media. Question what you are seeing. Pop culture and the media do not have to have the final word. Zeisler says, "It's imperative that feminists continue to analyze [pop culture], create it, critique it--and ultimately, make it better."

Want to learn more? Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler offers a great overview of the last century of advertising from a feminist perspective. It's interesting and easy to read, and you'll learn a lot about what you're seeing when you turn on the TV.

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