Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dove campaign for real beauty

Have any of you seen this before? I was introduced to it on good ole facebook.

Dove also has a "pro-age" commercial campaign for their pro-age products:

The pro-age commercial was banned in the US for showing too much skin.

Yes, Dove is a large corporation in the beauty industry, which is an industry that survives by encouraging and playing off of low self-esteem of consumers, but they seem to be making an effort.  I could spend a long time going back and forth between applauding their effort and dismissing it as "too little, too late", or still unrealistic- the women in the pro-age commercial look pretty damn perfect for ladies supposed to be representing how "real" women look- but it is still a commercial.

But on the whole, I appreciate the effort that Dove is making- especially with the "evolution" commercial, to make it clear how much the beauty industry distorts images of women.  It makes me think about a section in the memoir "She's Not There" by Jennifer Boylan that I read for Sexuality and Sexual Outlaws in WB 2008 about the author's M to F transition.   I quoted this chunk in my reflection paper for the book for class:

…[T]he culture had its hooks in me; like it or not. In no time at all I’d internalized many of the things I’d spent years imploring my students to fight against. I worried that I was too fat. I apologized when someone else stepped on my foot, as if it were my fault. My sentences often ended with a question, as if I were unsure of myself. All of these changes transpired without any conscious thought, and if I became aware of them, I felt ashamed.
Partially, I think what I wanted was to belong. If being female—to others, at any rate—seemed to include self-doubt, insecurity, and anorexia, then some part of me felt, Okay, well, let’s do all that, then.
(Boylan, 2003, p. 156)

The ideology of beauty is as pervasive and destructive as any other power structure, telling everyone how they are supposed to be, to look, to act, to be successful and accepted.  It's in the air and in everyone's head, no matter what- Jennifer Boylan had only been taking hormones for a couple months before she noticed the effect of a lifetime of pressure towards women to look a certain way boiling up from her subconscious.  One of the things I love most about Prescott College is that I see so many genuinely beautiful individuals all over campus that don't conform to mainstream image standards. 

What do you think are some good ways to fight against mainstream image standards? How can we bring the philosophy "look real, not good"   (or "look real AND good") to people whose lives are fenced in and tied down by media's dictates?



  1. I think feminist studies for all would take beauty ideals into the light of critical thought. When individuals cannot critically think about what their culture is dictating at them, they will remain rather passive consumers without realizing their internalized assumptions surrounding beauty and femininity. So, as always, I think education is the key, here!
    Also, the corporation Unilever that owns Dove, also owns Axe. Axe commercials pander to young men, giving them a fantasy world where if you use their "manly"-smelling products women will flock in great numbers to sleep with them!

  2. -The first comment was from me, Emily

  3. hahaha: "look real AND good" yesss
    awesome post... I agree with emily in that education/consciousness-raising is crucial.
    I also see that many women do recognize that media standards of looks are damn near impossible to embody, and are ridiculous, and are problematic, but they are still gripped by it. I think many women know that they have unhealthy relationships with their bodies, but feel compelled to control and perfect them nonetheless...
    I wonder if it is the lifelong saturation of these ideals that does the trick...if it sticks because its been literally ingrained in our brains' neural networks? Or because women's power and agency in our culture is so often contingent on how pretty and desirable they are? or a combination of many complex factors....

    Back to your question, though, how do we find beauty in our real selves, & make peace with our bodies? we are so trained to see our bodies as something to evaluate based on image, rather than as the vehicle through which we experience the world... we've developed lenses of critique around our bodies rather than lenses of wonder.
    I love the idea of seeing your body as a map of your life story... here's an excerpt from a crimethinc poster:

    "...the scars and tattoos and lines cut into it painted a picture together, telling a life of wild adventures and undreamable extremes, a story more poignant and thrilling than any other. I was beautiful--beauty itself was incarnated in me, as a vessel of a world of struggles and longing and triumphs bigger than anything that could fit in any book."

    i hope we can create new ways of relating to our bodies, and forge & solidify new pathways in our brains by feeding positive lenses and gently catching ourselves when we fall into patterns of negativity and critique... and keep telling each other we're gloriously beautiful human beings :)