• Tue, May 24 2011

Is Dove’s VisibleCare Body Wash Ad Racist?

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:

(Via Styleite)

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  • DebMoore

    I saw that too! I am not usually a person who is good and picking up things like that (meaning I am not good at reading between the lines) but I totally thought that when I saw the ad in a magazine not too long ago “so with Dove I will start off as a large black women and end up a skinny white one? Interesting”

    • angie

      What magazine was the ad in?

  • Eileen

    Okay, I definitely didn’t pick up on that, for what it’s worth – the women look as though they’ve been lifted from the regular Dove ads as three examples of great skin.

  • Hannah

    I was just in India, and was extremely surprised by all the commercials and advertisements I saw. There, the products are aimed at lightening Indian womens’ skin, in the same way products in America which are aimed for white women focus on tanning. Dove and Jergen’s both had advertisements for skin lightening creams, and one of them had a troublesome quote in it: “Your naturally light skin is hidden underleath a layer of dark skin. Reveal it.” It’s sad that all over the world, people just want to be any color other than their own.

  • Jane

    Sorry, I have to disagree. All I see in this ad are 3 smiling, confident women that seem happy in their moisturized skin. For all of those people who see something racist, I doubt you’d see anything different in a picture featuring only white women, or if the women were reversed.

  • breezy

    I guess we’ve run out of things to rightfully be offended about and must now go in search of them?! Yikes. This is getting into pretty ridiculous territory. How about instead of making giant leaps to racism, we commend Dove for using beautiful women of all races, ages, SIZES, etc. It’s beautiful, obviously not racist, and should be appreciated rather than nitpicked.

  • Jinx

    Am I the only one who noticed the part “All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit” from Dove’s statement? It just so happens that the three are standing in order of dark to light. If you’re looking for racism, there are much more blatant examples of it everywhere so why get outraged when it’s merely a hint under the surface.

  • Brittany Ransom

    I didn’t even notice until someone said something.

  • skstroup

    Ok, so the whole problem is that the black and latina woman is under the before side. How about they just switch the order… oh wait, that would be racist too. This all seems silly. The only people that would find this racist are the people who already are. I did not notice it until it was pointed to me too. The more we think about racism the more it becomes a reality.

  • Jeanne

    Of course it’s racist. I caught the racism in this ad the first time I saw it.

  • D Nor

    It might be racist but this “fix” using Color Splash+ Fx made me laugh http://deracifying-ads.tumblr.com/post/39595917550/it-seems-like-dove-had-a-few-things-to-say-about

  • dave

    some people just look for things to be offended by…
    Pretty sad that anyone could see this as a racist ad