So the above image has been making its way around Facebook. A lot of people posting, of course, think it is a great message , showing women it doesn’t matter what they look like, they can still be beautiful. However, there are a few problems with the juxtaposition of these two ads.
First, notice the campaign titles: Love My Body and Real Beauty. What messages do they send to the reader? Is the top photo telling readers that if your body type more closely resembles the bottom one that you don’t love your body? Is the bottom photo telling readers that if your body more closely resembles the top one that you’re not really beautiful?
Whether you love your body should have nothing to do with how you compare to other women, which brings me to by second point.
What these ads do when a woman sees them is forces her to compare herself to the models in the ads, particularly when they are side by side. She automatically tries to decide where she fits in, or if she fits in at all. After all, where does someone who has grey hair and wrinkles and is over 40 and a size 20 fit? Nowhere according to these ads.
Third, while the creator of the image may have intended to assure women that being larger than supermodels is just fine and the real definition of beauty, what (s)he has really done is perpetuate the dichotomy between skinny and fat. Women should be happy with their body type, they should be judging whether they are too fat or not skinny enough. There is far too much emphasis in our society on body shape and not enough on actual health.
Fourth, why does it even matter at all whether women are beautiful? Why do we see no Real Beauty ads for men? Why should female self esteem be tied to beauty?
Fifth, why does Victoria Secret or Dove get to decide what is beautiful? Why can’t we all decide what is beautiful for ourselves.
Finally, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Unilever, the company that owns Dove, also owns Axe.