Does ‘Dove Real Truth About Beauty’ Think Women Are Real Stupid?

March 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm  •  Posted in Useful, Useful and Funny by  •  6 Comments

On March 23rd, Dove Canada launched a media release & round-table event announcing the publication of a “Real Truth About Beauty” research study. Among their findings were insights like:

  • Globally 70% of girls, who feel pressure to be beautiful from ‘friends’, have avoided social activities.
  • Two thirds of women around the world strongly agree “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve.”

And this statistic:

Is this a serious question?

All of these things were presented as issues that Dove Canada hopes to address by engaging in a public dialogue with Canadian women.

As mentioned in Should your daughter sign the Dove Movement?, Dove is one of Unilever’s brands. Unilever is a global company of many beauty brands, including Axe, Pond’s & Slim-Fast.

In Asia and India, Unilever sells skin-lightening cream. In the UK, Slim-Fast ads tell women they need to lose weight to get into cute dresses. All around the world, Axe ads are notorious for objectifying women.

Today Unilever is engaging female bloggers and journalists to share the message of “global self-esteem” in Canada — at the same time that the company produces the type of international commercials that the campaign criticizes.

Canadian social media influencers star in the new Dove real beauty ad.

A portion will be donated to improve self-esteem that may be affected by ads for other products from this company.

Have savvy marketers figured out that signal-to-noise ratio on beauty messaging is so loud that a bold statement like: “You are pretty just the way you are” is what will sell in North America?

Is this okay with you?

It’s not okay with me. I have no problem with a company that wants to sell make-up, or produce advertisements about beauty products. I love companies that donate to charitable causes.

It doesn’t matter to me if super-models or real people appear in beauty ads.

What I find objectionable is a company telling us they care about our self-esteem … As long as we live in North America.

If raising “global self-esteem for women” was a genuinely important objective for Unilever, why do they run Sunsilk ads telling girls that if they have dry hair boys won’t want to touch them?

Do they think we won’t notice?

Canadians care about what happens to women around the world – one commenter put it:

That Ponds ad? Ugh. I was in Bali recently, and went into a supermarket while the driver and my husband waited in the car. I needed some deoderant, rounded the corner of the beauty aisle … and came across rows and rows and ROWS of skin-whitening products.

It made me feel sick. I got back in the car and ranted and raved at the unfairness … that darker-skinned women would feel inferior, that products liked this even EXIST.

There was silence in the car. After a while, the driver simply said, “Yes …. women want to have lighter skin here. Same as women want to have darker skin (tans) in other parts of the world. Is crazy, yes?”

Yes. Is very, very crazy.

What do you think?

Do you want a company to have such a huge voice in the debate on body image? Should Dove & Unilever shape this conversation? Should they be praised for it?

If Unilever was serious about international self-esteem they could always unpack their involvement in the media spin game and admit their overseas marketing targets the insecurities of girls and women. And then actually do something to reduce or eliminate it. It would be a bold and welcome move.

I signed up for the Dove Movement…

In June 2010 I asked: What happens when you sign the Dove Movement petition? I signed up to find out what kind of communication or updates I would receive. I received no communication.

…Until March 16th when I got this email:

Email from Unilever's Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Followed up by this on March 24, 2011:

Starting to get a bit spammy now, Unilever!

If you want to continue the conversation on social media, the hashtags are #DoveDishes #SingingInTheRain & the handle is @DoveCanada.

ETA: Josh Greenberg at Carlton University has written this thoughtful piece: Beauty & The Promotion Paradox.


  1. Dahlia Kurtz / March 24, 2011 at 9:07 pm /

    Love every word of what you wrote. (Even if you did it on a PC.) And as you’ve already realized, I agree with you too:

  2. Nine / March 29, 2011 at 2:24 am /

    Thank you for the update on this subject! The Dove Thruth is not a pretty one. Again, thank you for making me more aware of the hypocrisy of this company.

  3. Liza_the_second / March 30, 2011 at 2:40 am /

    Wow, love that second one. “Celebrate self esteem! Unless you have underarm stubble. Then hang your frizzy head in shame.”

  4. Lori / January 19, 2012 at 3:25 am /

    Just thought I’d mention a point about that skin lightening thing… Asian women, especially south-east asian women are prone to a skin condition called melasma that causes dark spots on the skin, especially on the face. (I work in a pharmacy specializing in dermatology, is how I learned this). It is exacerbated by sun exposure (of which there would be a lot in these countries). While there might be some women who want overall lighter skin, mostly they just want to get rid of the darker spots and even out the skin tone. Cats look great in patches, women don’t feel so good about it, and that has nothing to do with the media – it’s a long-entrenched thing. So don’t feel quite so bad about all those skin-lightening products – they’re response to a demand that was there long before global conglomerates and marketing.

    Though I agree that Unilever is being quite two-faced about the whole thing…

  5. hollyglightly123 / March 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm /

    What they’re doing is called cause-related marketing and it is a major money maker for the company as well as charities that the company partners with. I have no problem with what they’re doing, even if it is in seeming contrast with other products that they push. There IS good that’s coming out of it.

    Loving yourself and having self esteem also includes self improvement.

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