While it's a great concept, it made me a little uncomfortable and weary. Then I came across this article from little drops, Why Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches' Video Makes Me Uncomfortable... I won't post the whole article, because it's pretty long, but here are some things that stood out to me. I agree with this whole article.
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). 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. Out of 6:36 minutes of footage, people of color are onscreen for less than 10 seconds.
When the participants described themselves, these were some of the things that were implied as negatives: fat, rounder face, freckles, starting to get crows feet, moles, scars... Whereas some of the implied positive descriptors used by the others were thin face, nice thin chin, nice eyes, short and cute nose, 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.
This reminds me of Winnie the Pooh...
No seriously, it does. Have you ever heard the quote, 'Always remember: you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think'? That quote is from Winnie the Pooh. I've noticed a popular version of the quote is making it's way around Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest. 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. It's sort of what the Dove video is saying, right? So... why is this so important? Why did girls feel like something was missing from that quote in it's original form?
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 possesses, if she is not conventionally attractive, she is essentially worthless. My primary problem with this Dove ad is that it's not really challenging the message like it makes us feel like it is. It doesn't really tell us that the definition of beauty is broader than we have been trained to think it is, and it doesn't really tell us that fitting inside that definition isn't the most important thing. All it's really saying is that you're actually not quite as far off from the narrow definition as you might think that you are.
And actually, it almost seems to remind us of how vital it is to know that we fit society's standard of attractiveness. At the end of the experiment, one of the featured participants shares what I find to be the most disturbing quote in the video and what Dove seems to think is the moral of the story as she reflects upon what she's learned, and how problematic it is that she hasn't been acknowledging her physical beauty: 'It's troubling,' she says as uplifting music swells in the background. 'I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. it impacts the choices and friends we make, the jobs we go out for, the way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn't be more critical to your happiness.'
Did you hear that, ladies? How beautiful you are affects everything - from your personal relationships to your career. It could not be more critical to your happiness! And while it could be argued that the woman was actually talking about how you feel about yourself or something, it is clearly edited to suggest that the 'it' is beauty. I know we've been told it thousands upon thousands of times before, but I hope you heard that, girls: your physical, superficial beauty is the most significant part of who you are, and the most important determining factor in your life.
And now I want you to hear this: that is a lie. For you are so, so much more than beautiful.
Check out the whole article here.