I can’t think of one single aspect of my blogging life that wouldn’t be a whole lot easier if I loved everything. But, as it is, I don’t, and I really can’t see how it would be of use to anyone if I pretended that I did.
I’ve spoken out about Dove Campaigns in the past, which is a case in point – Jesus, I’ve stood in front of 200 people at a brand conference, whipped off my top and showed them my armpits in a general state of hairiness and unkemptness to prove that I don’t think being ashamed of your armpits is a brand message anyone should be giving out. To my mind, Dove is wolf in sheep’s clothing – they just keep on ‘positive messaging’ in an attempt to make us buy more Dove.
The current campaign, #SpeakBeautiful, running on Twitter, uses research that found women are negative about their bodies on Twitter. So, Dove decided to send affirmation messages to everyone posting negative comments about their bodies. In the UK, we are notoriously self-deprecating about ourselves, and as women, we see every single flaw – we look at ourselves with the same intensity as the magnified side of the mirror, when absolutely nobody else looks at us that way.
We view every crease, every hair, every spot and every curve as something wrong with us. We are our own worst enemies. But, if we look at why we do this, it’s largely attributed to unattainable beauty ideals from the beauty industry in the first place. So, a flawless face is the best face, a skinny body is the best body, legs up to our armpits are the best legs – and so on. Anything less than the ideals that we’re served up is taken on by us as our flaw. It must be us that there’s something wrong with, right? Because it couldn’t be airbrushing or digital enhancements or brand concepts of what is beautiful and what is not, could it?
Cindy Crawford did a stellar photo-shoot recently that let us see her body as it really is and I love her a bit for that (NB: update – looks like that photo may not be real – but either way, it’s a good example of what real bodies actually look like). She is quoted as saying, “if women would treat themselves with the same kind of love they give to their friends, that would be a great gift…” And there, she’s bang-on. We would never say to our friends what we say to ourselves regarding our faces and bodies. Never. Just have a go in your head at saying to your best friend what you feel about your own body as though you were saying it about hers.
“You’re too fat, and your nose is wrong for your face.” “Your skin looks awful today.” “It’s a shame your hair is so thin – otherwise you’d be quite pretty.” See – unthinkable.
So, what business it is of Dove’s to wade in on Twitter with some cringe-making ‘positivity’ messages when they’re so much a part of the problem in the first place, I really don’t know. “Try to say something nice about yourself today. You are beautiful,” “It can feel like culture has one definition of beauty, but it’s our unique qualities that make us beautiful,” and “Surround yourself with people who make you feel confident. You are wonderful”. It’s also worth noting that self-esteem issues can’t be resolved with verbal candy floss – they can be serious and part of a bigger picture.
Dove would have more legs to stand on if it wasn’t part of the same corporation (Unilever) that makes Lynx (we’ve never seen an ‘imperfect body on those ads), and Axe (see feature by Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post here). On their corporate website, their message is “On any given day, two billion people use Unilever products to look good, feel good and get more out of life. That message clearly says, if you look good your life is better. You know what, Dove, life does not belong to the pretty people! I very rarely use ‘face of’ pictures because they’re re-enforcing the unattainable. And, mostly, I don’t even know who they are – nor do I care. I don’t follow celebrities very much at all (sat next to Liam Gallagher without a clue) and to be honest, they’re under the same pressures as the rest of us, only amplified.
Bloggers have a unique insight into how women feel about themselves – it’s not gained by Twitter research or hours spent in a lab – it’s gained by intuition, talking to and noticing other women just like us, watching conversation, news and opinion on social channels, understanding reactions, having a diverse audience that we listen to – I could go on for the next whole page! One thing I have spotted about the Dove Twitter campaign is that there’s no real conversation going on. There’s a format to it – they’re not being ‘social’ as such – but more getting their stock answers out so they’re heard, but you aren’t. There’s no re-tweeting or empathetic human aspect to this. I’m pretty sure there’s a sheet of standard answers because it’s not intuitive at all. I’m imagining a team of interns tweeting from a crib sheet.
Bloggers don’t need an agency to formulate standard responses – we talk in real time, with real feeling and real empathy with women just like us. We don’t talk ‘at’ anyone.. we talk with. Bloggers are, and have been for years, doing that ‘thing’ that all brands want to be able to do – but because they’ve got something to sell, and we haven’t, will probably never, ever be able to do it in the way that we can. Dove needs to untangle its messages (you’re beautiful just as you are – but you’d be better with even skin tone under your arms), stop using agencies that can only provide them with some standard (no doubt psychologist approved) platitudes to fling out at unsuspecting Twitter followers and understand what it is to truly respect real beauty.
Until that’s done, I don’t think any woman having a bad hair day is going to feel remotely better because a Dove-Bot tweeted them.
I always wonder why brands go to agencies who clearly aren’t bloggers or vloggers and ask them to replicate what we’re doing instead of asking us.
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Jane, you nailed it… I love you for writing this. Thank you!
Someone I know was part of one of their ‘natural beauty’ campaigns. She was INDEED beautiful, well known in the media areas she works in for being such, and her proportions and beauty was absolutely unattainable. It was a campaign where apparently ‘normal’ people sent in pictures to be part of it. Ahem, that clearly didn’t happen. Rdiculous.
Jane you just keep inspiring me lately, I think you are such an amazing role model for women! You are absolutely right about the armpits, seriously, how can an armpit be beautiful? I have never known anybody say ‘wow you have amazing armpits!’ crazy right?
Thanks so much Kat!
Bang on, Jane. I love love love this post.
So beyond true! Love this post a lot, Dove gets on my nerves a lot “your best beautiful”? What does that even mean?!! Hope to see more fab posts like there 🙂
my husband loves my armpits and it has nothing to do with the feel, smell or any extra products I use! I feel like I have normal(!) pits and I found it ODD at first but I get it! It’s a sensitive area for EVERYONE, not just women, and one that you don’t see so easily. I totally do not need Dove telling me to think about the appearance of my armpits! Their messages reach out to us subliminally even if we choose to avoid them! Just talk about YOUR PRODUCTS, Dove, and not OUR BODIES!
You are so right, and OMG, my deep respect and admiration for what you did at that Dove press event! I don’t know if you have already written about that before to be honest, but anyway – very well done!
And interesting to learn about this Cindy Crawford picture! I just saw it without any background information, and doubted its authenticity. Just because I really couldn’t imagine, this would truly be herself and / or be authorized by her for unretouched publication. But now that I learn it was, I am really happy about and thankful for the example she gives!!! I remember a pair of photographs of Jamie Lee Curtis – the first one showing her wearing a showstopping evening gown, and the second one showing her in the exact same pose – but only wearing underwear and “exposing” her what is called non-flawless body. I exactly remember how deeply impressed and also surprised I was by that, as I still was a young girl back then. And I do hope, this image of Cindy Crawford might me of similar impact on the young girls now; maybe of even higher impact, as she is much more famous, and much more of a beauty icon than Jamie Lee Curtis had ever been.
Well said! Who wants a randomly generated empty compliment. That whole ‘life affirming’ stuff makes me want to puke anyway.
I just read last night that Cindy C is suing the guy that released that photo as apparently her stomach was photoshopped to make it look less firm than it actually is and her hubby posted an Instagram shot of her in a bikini with taut stomach, Which kind of takes away from the point! I roll my eyes when I see those kind of messages from Dove.
You know, I did look at her picture and think that possibly was the case – it seemed to be too unkempt a body for someone who is so focussed on fitness.
Sadly apparently the Cindy Crawford picture is not real – it’s from an old shoot and her people are claiming it was photoshopped to make her look ‘bad’. She didn’t authorise that it be released and days later her husband was showing on Instagram how actually she *is* perfect……so many damaging mixed messages in there.
Dove I give up on though I understand that as a conglomerate selling product rather than making women feel better about themselves will always be their main objective.
*Meryl Streep style air-punch*
I don’t comment very often but just wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you for all the hard work you do on this blog. I read it everyday and think that you have an integrity that is unparalleled. You give honest reviews and call brands out when they do silly marketing stunts like this. As a 26 year old woman with a very full on job, reading your blog gives me a lovely tea break moment in the morning and I always want to know your opinions on the latest ‘must-have’ product, as I trust your opinions. This article is particularly wonderful. I’m so tired of these campaigns that celebrate ‘real’ beauty, but just show a different sort of ideal. I love beauty and am a true consumer but I’m sick of being patronised by brands who offer solutions to things I never even considered a problem. Who has the time to worry about their underarms? I certainly don’t.
Women are more than how they look. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to look our best, but some appreciation for the reality of most women’s lives would be a breath of fresh air.
Thank you for your wonderful content Jane, you inspire me. Ladies, your armpits are not a priority.
Thank you so much Alex.. what a lovely email to receive!
Jane, I f*cking love you for that armpit flashing incident alone, let alone all the other wonderful things you do. (Armpitgate?!)
A few months ago Dove tweeted me out of the blue with a link to a previous blog post of mine (I mainly blog about plus size fashion but about beauty also) and asked for my address. They sent me *drumroll* a tin of deodorant, and I’m pretty sure it was a cynical move in the hope I’d blog about it. Nope.
I think they’ve cottoned onto how normal people are waking up to the beauty industry being a thing which robs you of your self esteem then sells it back to you at great cost and are keen to distance themselves from the herd. But as you’ve pointed out it comes across as being very cynical. Dove will forever be getting side eyes from me. X
D’oh, I’ve just realised you used Armpit-gate in the title of this post. No wonder it sprang to mind in my comment. 😉