As soon as I saw the latest video from Dove’s “Real Beauty” initiative earlier this week, I tweeted the link, saying I want to show it to every teen girl I know.
In the video, women sit in a curtained-off area and describe their appearance to an FBI-trained forensic sketch artist as he renders their portrait. But the video doesn’t stop here. Earlier in the day, these women had conversations with strangers (with no explanation why). These strangers then enter the room and go through a similar process—but instead of talking about themselves, they describe the women they conversed with that morning.
The result literally illustrates the women’s negative self-perceptions when the two different sketches are matched side by side.
This is part of a larger campaign Dove has been running to showcase “real beauty”—but not without controversy. And I agree—there’s plenty that’s not-quite-right with what Dove is doing.
- After all, Dove is part of Unilever, which is also the parent company of AXE. In addition to drenching middle school locker rooms in a haze of body spray nationwide, AXE’s advertising objectifies women.
- And Dove has also gotten flack for casting calls that define “real beauty” in very specific ways and for photoshopping models in print campaigns.
- Even the sketch artist concept elevates and reinforces certain forms of external, physical beauty as essential above other forms of beauty. And this video doesn’t give much screen time to people of color—not to mention a range of ages.
I still want to show this to all the teen girls everyone I know. I want to watch it multiple times for myself.
Because it’s a chance for critical reflection. To talk about media and manipulation and motivations. To help young people become savvy about advertising. What is Dove selling here? How does it reinforce or conflict with other messages we hear around us?
Because body-bashing happens, and Dove’s campaign can spur conversation about about imago dei and what it means to be made in the image of God. The video isn’t perfect, and that’s why it shouldn’t stop us.
Because it’s a good reminder that our self-perceptions are skewed. And to reframe how we see ourselves in both theological and practical ways.
Because all of us are more beautiful than we think.
And we are more beautiful than Dove thinks…because we are more than beauty.