Dove is back with a new pro-body image advertisement manufactured to restore your faith in humanity or change the way you see yourself-nonsense. It’s a lovely idea that I very badly want to completely give into (like the feeling a freezing to death, it’s pleasant), but ads like this don’t erase the fact that Dove exploits the idea that we’re not good enough and need their products.
The basic premise of “Patches” is this: women are brought before a researcher who tells them that they are going to try out a new patch that will make them feel more beautiful and increase their self esteem. The women put it on their arms, and record video diaries chronicling their increased confidence over the next two weeks. They report that they’re more social, confident, and spend less time agonizing over their clothing. They meet with the researcher again and are told that the patches contained, surprise, nothing. It was the placebo effect all along.
There’s so much of this worth gushing over–it’s true that poor self esteem and hating your body is a social construct drilled into women from day one. I do believe that every person is capable of liking themselves given the opportunity to tune out all of the messaging that tells them they’re unworthy. I never tire of seeing women discover their own beauty (and by beauty, I don’t mean something that necessarily conforms to narrow beauty standards, but confidence in themselves).
But there’s one thing that can’t be ignored: Dove is a company that exploits low self esteem for profit. During the big reveal, one of the women says “I don’t need something to make me feel that way,” implying that she’s capable of self love and confidence all on her own. And yet, the Dove logo flashes at the end. We’re supposed to be swayed by their commitment to women’s self esteem and confidence despite the constant message to wear makeup, get plastic surgery, color or remove your hair, lose weight, and otherwise alter your appearance. We’re supposed to think Dove is above all of that, and then go buy their products that do exactly that. We’re supposed to forget that Dove products and Axe Body Spray are from the same parent company.
Despite the hypocrisy, Dove’s campaigns have been pretty effective. People want to support a company that purports to have a good message, which seems like a welcome change in the advertising landscape. Contrived or not, they’re doing something right. I count four different Dove products in my bathroom.