Short answer? Because Dove sells beauty products.

Obviously, there’s been some controversy over this since we used a picture of the Dove commercial in our worst beauty ads of all time. I wasn’t really going to make a big deal out of it, and obviously it’s not one of the all-time worst beauty ads (tapeworms!), but wow, I guess people care about that commercial. According to commenter Martin:

I cannot belive you included the dove ad. This was a milestone in breaking down the stereotypes continually pumped out there. I work as a creative director in a global ad agency and i ask on what authority (and what part of your brain was damaged) do you have to inflict your stunted thinking on a world where advertising undermines the self image of women. In short, you have an ugly mind.

Well, Martin, I think it was very insensitive of you to make fun of my crippling encephalitis. But there is actually a reason I think those ads suck, other than the fact that I hate fatties and love stereotypes.

And that reason is (I’ll say it again) because Dove sells beauty products. They’re not there to promote real beauty, they’re there to sell you stuff. The Real Beauty ads continually remind me of the ads that Phillip Morris used to run which led me to believe that Phillip Morris didn’t want to sell me cigarettes, they just wanted to help my grandmother with her groceries. I found those ads insulting, and I find the Dove ones just as insulting.

Because if natural beauty was really where it was all at, then we wouldn’t need the firming cream they’re hawking. And the fact that these ads boldly declare “love yourself, you’re perfect just as you are!” and then say “now go buy this firming cream” seems like a completely contradictory message.

And the contradiction upsets me more than any normal ad does, because I feel as though they’ve tricked me. I’m going along thinking “yeah, I AM beautiful just as I am and then, wait, whoops, no, I need to go buy some firming cream.”  I don’t mind terribly when an ad features a beautiful model, because I get what they’re doing. But the fact that the Dove ads keep talking about real beauty only to reveal that your “real beauty” needs a firming cream, well, it seems like a total cheat. And it makes me feel that whoever thought up this ad thought that women were so dumb that if you showed them some curvy models, then women would buy just about anything.

The fact that commercials feature women of different body types along doesn’t make them body positive. They’re not selflessly put out there to make women feel better about themselves, they’re just a different way to sell beauty products. And the fact that people automatically assume they are body positive just because they feature women of different shapes makes me feel that obviously a lot of people don’t register insults to their intellect all that well.

Those ads are not there to make you feel good about yourself. There are books that do that. There are friends that do that. These are advertisements. And they are there to sell you stuff.