Before I launch into my version/interpretation of this recent Dove ad, I would like to give props to Jazzylittledrops on Tumblr and her take. She is one of the reasons that I’m writing my own (which will heavily borrow from hers with a twist of Leanna-ness added in).
My second shout out is to a grumpy, finger stomping commenter on Upworthy in response to the heading “Controversy Over Dove ad”. Some of your “insightful” rants propelled me onto my own blog, so thank you for informing me that the only reason I wouldn’t like this ad is because I’m insecure and ugly and don’t want anyone else to feel good about themselves. And while that does sound a lot like me, Scott somebody-or-other, I would also like to suggest that my objections go beyond my hideousness into the recesses of this thing I like to call my brain. This thing called a brain is a device I use to critically analyze things before speaking rashly on them; not something that is done with any regularity on comment boards, home of the hyper-angry and grammatically stunted. I am hardly one to click clack on and on about this, as I too suffer reactionitis from time to time–thusly it is a touch hypocritical of me to pick on you, internet Scott.
In case you have been living in a social media cave, you can watch this ad here and now.
I will say, my first reaction to this video was, “It’s true, we are far too critical of ourselves. Others generally do see us in a better light than we see ourselves.” But then another part of my brain said, “Hey, hold up–stop the touching music for a minute. What do you mean by “better” light?”
What struck me first were the absences–this ad doesn’t represent a swath of women. These are attractive women, as defined by our societal parameters(they don’t feel they are attractive, you may not think they are–but arguably, they meet the “beauty” criteria). So what about those women who resemble the drawings the forensic artist made based on the descriptions the women gave of themselves? How are they supposed to feel when they see their faces on the screen staring back at them? Are they to then feel they are lacking in some way?
What else is missing?
1. Overweight women
2. Women with disabilities
3. Elderly women (let’s hope by the time we are elders, we aren’t still caught up in our physical imagery–the world needs more real faces)
4.Women with evident scars or birth differences (I say this rather than defect, because that implies a problem where there wouldn’t be one if it weren’t imposed onto the person–the same could be said of the word disability)
5. Women who aren’t Caucasian are present, but they speak very little. This absence of voice is a significant part of the media culture–a long enduring trend that seems to continue unabated and barely challenged in the West.
I could go on, but you get the picture..
So we have a woman who thinks her face is fat (bad) whose face is actually thought to be thin (good). Blue eyes are ideal. Check. Nice smile, meaning the correct teeth to lip proportion. Check. Unnoticeable/minimized wrinkles, freckles, spots (super good). Check. (This was probably achieved via usage of Dove products, so go get them quickly).
What it comes down to, the lowdown and the nitty with the gritty of it all–our obsession with the eye of the beholder. A beauty that pertains only to the physical shell that we rely so heavily upon to make impressions. We waste energy in endless pursuit of the “right” look. This is not to say that the physical, the aesthetic have no value, but the supremacy, the dominance of this physical beauty ideal is disproportionate to our overall worth as beings. We need to change the conversation; we need to take the kind of dollars sucked into these campaigns and feed them into projects that build a holistic circle-one that celebrates the capacity of beauty possessed in mind, in spirit, in kind deed, in intelligence, in heart. I know that marketers that sell, companies that produce, and consumers that crave solution to their ills by rubbing creams upon them wouldn’t leap up and down at the suggestion. I get the economic constraints, but our confused approach to money is a whole other diatribe.
For now, let us pause, and let us understand that we are all more than we can imagine, in all of our capacities. We must settle into our heart of hearts, listen, follow our inner guide and know that happiness is far deeper than skin, and beauty is so much bigger than looks. It is not only to be viewed through the eye of a needle, but to be known as the expanse of the sky and all that is beneath it. You may hear these messages, but you do not need to heed them as an all-encompassing truth. Hold the gift of your whole self in reverence, and be grateful. This, my friends, is a challenge for all of us, not only as women, but as a species in general as we are the only ones who fret about improving and changing our appearance beyond what is natural(imagine any other beast so preoccupied with such a pursuit). There is nothing more lovely than the imperfection of nature, with which we are one.