Why Dove’s « Real Beauty Sketches » Video Makes Me Uncomfortable... and Kind of Makes Me Angry - Little drops
When it comes to the diversity of the main participants: all four are Caucasian, three are blonde with blue eyes, all are thin, and all are young (the oldest appears to be 40). The majority of the non-featured participants are thin, young white women as well. Hmm… probably a little limiting, wouldn’t you say? We see in the video that at least three black women were in fact drawn for the project. Two are briefly shown describing themselves in a negative light (one says she has a fat, round face, and one says she’s getting freckles as she ages). Both women are lighter skinned. A black man is shown as one of the people describing someone else, and he comments that she has “pretty blue eyes”. One Asian woman is briefly shown looking at the completed drawings of herself and you see the back of a black woman’s head; neither are shown speaking. Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.
Cool. Except not so much.
Let’s look at which descriptors the editors chose to include. When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, fatter, 40— starting to get crows feet, moles, scars… Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by others were: thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes that lit up when she spoke and were very expressive (my actual favorite), short and cute nose, her face was fairly thin (this was said twice), and very nice blue eyes. So… I don’t know if anyone else is picking up on this, but it kinda seems to be enforcing our very narrow cultural perception of “beauty”: young, light-skinned, thin. No real diversity celebrated in race, age, or body shape. So you’re beautiful… if you’re thin, don’t have noticeable wrinkles or scars, and have blue eyes. If you’re fat or old… uh, maybe other people don’t think you look as fat and old as you do yourself? Great? Oh, and by the way, there are real women who look like the women on the left. What are you saying about them, exactly?
This reminds me of Winnie the Pooh…
No seriously, it does. Have you ever heard that quote, “Always remember: you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”? Well that quote is from Winnie the Pooh. It upsets me that lots of people share the quote without sourcing it, like they’re ashamed of Pooh Bear or something. But anyway, I digress. There’s something else that I’ve noticed: a popular version of the quote is making its way around tumblr, pinterest, and facebook. It’s the same at the start, but then add, “and twice as beautiful as you ever imagined”. That last part is usually written in the biggest text, or italicized for emphasis. It’s sort of like what this Dove video is saying, right? So… why is this so important? Why did girls feel like something was missing from that quote it its original form? Why are so many females I know having such a strong reaction to the sketches video, being moved to the point of tears?
Because the message that we constantly receive is that girls are not valuable without beauty.
Brave, strong, smart? Not enough. You have to be beautiful. And “beautiful” means something very specific, and very physical. Essentially every movie and tv show and commercial shows us that, right? It doesn’t matter what other merits a woman posses, if she is not conventionally attractive, she is essentially worthless (go watch Miss Representation for more thoughts on this).
(En plus du fait que Dove appartient à Unilever, dont la filiale indienne persuade les femmes qu’elles doivent
se blanchir la peau avec la crème Fair & Lovely pour réussir leur vie :)