Jazz Brice: "Why Dove's 'Real Beauty Sketches' Video Makes Me Uncomfortable... and Kind of Makes Me Angry"

This blog post by Jazz Brice was linked in an April 18 New York Times article about Dove’s recent video in their ongoing campaign for “real beauty.” Brice makes some excellent points regarding the lack of diversity among the featured participants, the language used to distinguish unattractive and beautiful features, and the emphasis on beauty as women’s ultimate source of happiness - all narrative devices that reveal Dove’s conformity with the same dominant ideals of femininity that it claims to subvert in its campaign. 

I’m also interested in this ad for the ways in which it aligns the opinions of strangers with objectivity (“more beautiful”), and represents the women’s self-descriptions as skewed (“than you think”). On the surface this is certainly a nod to Dove’s claim that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, but I am more concerned with the implication that women cannot “see” themselves properly. Mary Ann Doane’s and Griselda Pollock’s analyses of Doisneau’s photograph, “An Oblique Look”, come to mind. Is Dove’s ad a contemporary, maudlin adaptation of Doisneau, compelling women to cry for each other’s blindness instead of laugh at it?



What you look like should not affect the choices that you make. It should certainly not affect the friends you make—the friends that wouldn’t want to be in relationship with you if you did not meet a certain physical standard are not the friends that you want to have. Go out for jobs that you want, that you’re passionate about. Don’t let how good looking you feel like you are affect the way way that you treat your children. And certainly do not make how well you feel you align with the strict and narrow “standard” that the beauty industry and media push be critical to your happiness, because you will always be miserable. You will always feel like you fall short, because those standards are designed to keep you constantly pressured into buying things like make up and diet food and moisturizer to reach an unattainable goal. Don’t let your happiness be dependent on something so fickle and cruel and trivial. You should feel beautiful, and Dove was right about one thing: you are more beautiful than you know. But please, please hear me: you are so, so much more than beautiful. 

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Arden Sternnews, advertising