All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Monday, April 22, 2013

'Real Beauty' - Dove and Body Image

As I'm sure many of you are aware, Dove has recently released a video that has been called the 'Real Beauty Campaign'. This video has sparked much discussion and controversy among women, feminists, and society. Its impact seems to be spreading quite rapidly thanks to social media outlets.

I'd like to explore this idea of what 'Real Beauty' is and how it can be applied in a positive way towards not only women but society. Lets start off by noting that this campaign isn't something new; its been developing since way back in 2004. There have been many adverts and events held in this campaign's name but this recent video has received some of the most attention.

The campaign's site has this to say for why it exists and about it's message:

"For too long, beauty has been defined by narrow, stifling stereotypes. Women have told us it's time to change all that. Dove agrees. We believe real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes and ages. That is why Dove is launching the Campaign for Real Beauty.

Dove's global Campaign for Real Beauty aims to change the status quo and offer in its place a broader, healthier, more democratic view of beauty. A view of beauty that all women can own and enjoy everyday."

The above is a great message and a great cause. It's true that ideals of beauty, especially for women, are highly constructed and controlled by men. It is also true that many women do not see themselves as beautiful or attractive and this has been seen as a major contributor to issues such as eating disorders. Dove states that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful; a saddening statistic.

Dove has also provided resources for self esteem directed towards youth, noting that this is when many socialized ideas become solidified and start taking root in a person's conception of beauty. Overall the campaign has made some great strides in, at the very least, making more public the debilitating effect our current perceptions on body image have on women of all ages.

I won't say that there isn't any room to criticize the campaign because there is plenty. Dove has started spreading a great message, but their mother company has not shared their commitment to said message. Unilever own not only Dove, but also brands like Lynx, and Axe. Both of these companies seem to do their best to reinforce stereotypical ideas of beauty and objectification of women. So while it is great that Dove is doing a good thing maybe they should try to get some of their sibling companies to adopt their message as well.

Another criticism I have is that it specifically is only addressing women. And while typically I don't find this problematic, in this case I think it is unfortunate. I think many would agree with me that men also have their fair share of body image issues. There may seem to be less pressure on men to fit ideals but its still there. Simply put body image is an issue that is, while admittedly dominated by women, relatable and relevant to people of all genders (not just men) and I think the campaign could be wise to broaden its scope. - I want to take a second to note here that I am not trying to trivialize women's issues  with body image (as I have seen many do with parody videos etc.) but rather trying to recognize that this doesn't seem to be solely a women's issue.

A third criticism I have heard, which seems to stem for the first one above, is that Dove is only doing this for profit. Its an interesting criticism, as I believe there is some merit to the question of 'is it doing the right thing if you are doing so for the wrong reasons?' The question this criticism revolves around seems to be if this is merely a marketing gimmick. Its important to note that even if this is just a marketing gimmick that it still seems to be having a positive effect and is facilitating dialoge about socialized ideals of beauty.

In the end I think its safe to say that Dove's Real Beauty Campaign has set some very good conversations in motion. These conversations rather than being mainly within feminist or psychologist circles are finally making there way out into public view. The attention this documentary has grabbed has helped facilitate that purpose, and I think that is, despite any criticisms, a very good thing.

You can see more from Dove here and here.

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