The Internet is abuzz today with news of an unintentionally racist skincare ad from those generally inoffensive lovers of “real beauty” over at Dove. Although the “before” and “after” copy is meant to refer to the close-ups of dry/not dry skin, the models are positioned under the words in such as way as to imply that VisibleCare Body Wash will give black women “visibly more beautiful skin” by turning them first into latinas, and then into skinny blonde white women. Uncomfortable!
“Can this ad possibly be real?” asked Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. “If real, this could be the most (unintentionally) racist skin care product ad in… about ten months.” As it turns out, it is indeed genuine. In fact, it’s still up on Dove’s website.
In response to the controversy, Dove’s PR firm issued this statement:
We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential.
The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.
But unintentional insults are okay? Now, I believe them that they weren’t trying to be racist. But the visual effect of the ad is still, intentionally or not, pretty fucking racist. I think it would behoove Dove’s image to re-work the ad to remove any racial messages, intentional or not. After all, there are lots of beauty ads that are intentionally racist (like the horrifying example Nolan linked), and I doubt that’s something Dove wants to be associated with in any way, shape, or form.
Okay, now I’m going to sit back and let this gif say it for me: