Like Them or Not, Dove's Real Beauty Ads Are a Step in the Right Direction

This past week, woman and advertising have come under the microscope. Dove released a new ad campaign telling women that they are more beautiful than they think.

The "Real Beauty Sketches" campaign features several women describing their appearance to a court artist without him seeing their actual looks. The same women are then described to the artist by another woman whom they have recently become acquainted with. What was discovered was that the women describe themselves much more harshly than another woman does, thus "proving" that women are their own worst critics. Only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful, Dove claims.

The video that Dove has produced for this campaign is certainly designed to tug at your heartstrings: low lighting, pretty music, the whole bit. I have to say, it got my eyes a bit watery.

In Brazil, a new ad campaign has been released by a modeling agency to fight anorexia. "You're Not a Sketch. Say No to Anorexia," Star Model agency declares. The print ads are sketches of über-skinny models placed against real women, Photoshopped to look hyper-thin, bones poking out through their skin. It's quite effective, albeit targeted towards a very niche industry.

Just a moment before you can say, "Wow, we are getting progressive," the news hits that a Swedish modeling agency has been accused of scouting women outside the Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders. A modeling agency is trying to hire girls who are starving themselves (or making themselves sick)! This news comes out only a week after Australian Fashion Week is slammed for overly thin models gracing its runways. "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

Given all of this attention to our bodies, you would think women would link arms in solidarity, but that is not the case. Dove's campaign has stirred up quite a lot of debate, good and bad. New York Magazine writer Ann Friedman says that the problem with the advertisements is that most of the women in the ads are actually pretty (and white), so it's almost obnoxious of Dove to pretend that they are not. The other issue being that beauty shouldn't be what women judge themselves on. We are much more than pretty faces to be depicted by court portrait artists.

Of course, women are more than their good or bad looks. We are people and Dove doesn't even acknowledge this! For shame! An advertising campaign for soap that focuses only on our exteriors and not our big, beautiful brains? I am being sarcastic, obviously.

Now let's take these Brazilian anti-anorexia ads. How can anyone see anything wrong with these? Well, this is the Internet we're talking about, so of course someone will find error with them. Jezebel.com complains that these ads place all the blame for anorexic models on the fashion designers and don't fault the fashion magazines or, better yet, society for forcing models to be stick thin.

But the Swedish agency that solicited sickly women is just as bad?

In thinking about all of these goings-on, there seems to be one question to ask: Is the media damned if they do and damned if they don't?

Perhaps neither of these ads is the correct approach in what women want or how we should be portrayed. We are not just faces or bodies; we are so much more than that. I don't know if Dove is arguing against that point. What they are saying is that women are their own worst enemies, and given the explosion from the blogosphere, I'd say that they are correct. I've stated this before (and got some flack) as to my perplexity over women's inability to "just get along." I was told that we couldn't.

Okay. But can we agree that women have been objectified and denigrated by the media and society for eons and perhaps this Dove ad, while certainly not being perfect at all, goes against the traditional depiction of women by society. Is it not better to highlight the wrongs of anorexic models than pretend they don't exist, whoever is really at fault?

I think these ads are a step in the right direction.

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