More Beautiful Than You Think

I first encountered Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty a few years ago with this striking video showing the (tenuous) relationship between a billboard photo of a woman and her face without the hours of work on her and her photograph. The neck-stretching is particularly astonishing.

Dove’s recent addition to this series is doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment, and it, too, is arresting:

I share the reservations of this blogger. Let’s remember that Dove is owned by an enormous multinational (Unilever) that makes piles of money out of how bad women feel about their bodies. Let’s remember that Dove is making these ads because it will help them sell their products to women.

Still, thanks to Dove for a powerful piece of social commentary that may well make you cry, and making an ad like this is at least better than making a conventional ad. (You can see more of the pairs of sketches here.)

The question, I think, is what to do about this situation. I have two initial thoughts and I’m keen to hear your responses to the video and your ideas about practical ways we can try and think differently about ourselves.

I recommend blue milk’s experiment in breaking out of this critical attitude. She found that after a while of choosing to admire something about the bodies of strangers she felt better about her own body.

I really like the analysis of Annie Leonard, in The Story of Stuff (accessible for older kids, too), that consumerism generally works by telling us what’s wrong with us. Being able to recognise this is helpful. If you can name something, you can make more conscious decisions. This is the kind of media criticism I’m keen to make sure SBJ gets proficient at as he grows.

What about you? Ideas for us to consider?

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0 comments on “More Beautiful Than You Think”

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Right, now I have two-handed typing time to respond!

      That’s a great analysis (do check it out, folks). The two main things i think it contributes are a) in depth analysis of who gets what screentime in the ad and what that says about ethnicity, age, etc and the subtle racism and ageism of the beauty narrative and b) the big point which is – why does beauty matter at all?

      For me, there are two separate issues: if beauty matters (as it does to most of us), isn’t it a shame we all feel ‘more ugly’ than we ‘are’ and then the much bigger question the blogger raises: why do we care so much about beauty in the first place? In which case the solution to all of the questions is to get to the point of not caring about social and cultural standards of beauty.

      I recommend, again, the blue milk link above, for her idea about this.

  1. andrew Reply

    interesting and helpful way of viewing media. much like if you can identify an emotion or a trigger you can (as it were) hold the thought or feeling at arm’s length and evaluate it more objectively than just letting it wash over you unquestioned.

    simiarly, we can examine the choices of words, and when they get redefined to suit what someone is trying to achieve.

  2. Frank Reply

    I’ve used this ad campaign quite a few times in my classes, and the kids are always outraged (in that righteous way that only adolescents can manage) that Dove’s parent company also makes Lynx, skin whiteners and diet pills. We compared the Dove evolution ad with an Axe one (what Lynx is called in the States) where thousands of buxom women in bikinis are chasing a man through the forest because he sprayed himself with deodorant. More than one kid went home and threw out any Dove products in their house because they were so angry!
    It makes for fascinating discussion into not taking ad campaigns at face value and how companies may make good decisions for financial reasons rather than for moral or ethical ones.

    • andrew Reply

      I’m going to have to find a copy of Grudem’s “business for the glory of God” to find out where he lands on business ethics. He’s in the thick of a general ethics series, but it’d be interesting to see how he applies this to business.

      I enjoyed him on politics (american flavours notwithstanding re nuclear weapons and capital punishment), so it’ be interesting to hear him on this.

  3. Pingback: The Beauty Myth | sacraparental

  4. Alex Reply

    I came across this letter yesterday. It made me sob. I’m very grateful that my mother never said anything so crass or idiotic – so I can’t pin my body hatred on her! But it came as a timely reminder that I do need to watch how I talk about myself in front of the kids. And how I think about myself generally. Not sure if this is the best place to share it, but thought some of you might also be interested in having a read, if you haven’t seen it already.

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