Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video and Why it is Problematic

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 4.44.54 PMThere’s been a lot of discussion around Dove’s latest self-esteem video. It’s a six and a half minute short wherein a bunch of women describe themselves to a sketch artist, then someone else describes those same women to the sketch artist, and then they compare the two images. The thesis of the piece is that women are too hard on themselves. Right? Duh. We know this, it’s nothing new. But it’s an interesting visual illustration of the disparity between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

The problem, though, is with the underlying message: You are more beautiful than you think.

Look, your face isn’t as fat as you think. Look, you have fewer wrinkles than you thought you had. Look, your freckles aren’t that noticeable. Do you see? By saying, Look, you’re not that bad, Dove is saying that there is a beauty standard and that it matters—you’re just not as far away from it as you thought you were.

Well fuck that. Fuck your cultural beauty standard.

This whole thing made me wonder about my job, you know? I write for an online beauty blog (not this one, the one I get paid for): tips and tricks and how-to-look-better articles. Reviews about products you must buy. By its very nature, it reinforces conformity, right? Buy this eyeliner because your eyes should look bigger, this foundation will make your skin smoother, this lipstick will make you look younger.

But who’s to say all those things are beautiful? Who’s to say you have to be beautiful?

This weird, consumerist culture we live in says that a woman’s value lies in her perceived attractiveness. We know on an intellectual level that this isn’t true. But that does nothing to alleviate the constant, crippling pressure to conform. Not for me, anyway. Not for most of us.

I don’t have an answer for where my job fits into this whole mess. But I do know that beauty products make me fucking happy and I have fun playing with them. They’re divorced from this whole sick conformist cycle for me (body image is a whole other story, believe me). I use beauty products because I enjoy them. They’re fun. They’re silly. I write about them because I like sharing my knowledge with people who are interested in such things.

You’re more than just beautiful. You are more than your capacity to be beautiful.

But if feeling beautiful makes you feel happy, then follow happy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Then again, maybe I’m too entrenched in that world. What do you think? I really want to know.

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One thought on “Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video and Why it is Problematic

  1. And of course there is this other problem with the “experiment.” The artist knows whether he is drawing someone who is talking about herself v. someone else. Obviously very easily biased.

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