Two days ago, a friend posted the Dove “You Are More Beautiful Than You Think” video on her Facebook page. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, the basic set-up involves a number of women who are told nothing more than to answer questions about their appearance when asked by a man who is hidden behind a curtain. The man is a sketch artist tasked with drawing each woman’s portrait based upon her description. Earlier in the day, Dove asked each woman to spend time with a particular stranger, though neither knew why. Each stranger was then asked to describe his or her partner to the sketch artist. Afterward, the artist showed the original women their “self- portrait” alongside of the one drawn based upon the stranger’s explanation. The self-portraits were unanimously less attractive, suggesting women are too critical of their appearances.
A lot of viewers are promoting the video, but it has its detractors too. The Cut posted a parody of the ad, which is actually amusing. Salon contributor Erin Keane recently posted an article blasting the ad as anti-feminist. She argues Dove professes to show women as their own worst critics, but in fact reinforces the unhealthy message that women should care about whether others perceive them as beautiful.
Ms. Keane’s analysis raises some valid points. And one may argue physical appearance shouldn’t matter at all. Yet, I suspect everyone likes to feel pretty (or handsome) once in a while, and I don’t think anyone should be made to feel ashamed of that need.
When I watched the video and heard the unflattering terms the women used when describing themselves, and recognized my own insecurities, obsessive nit-picking, and other negative habits involving my appearance, it affected me. Does that mean I don’t appreciate the value of my non-physical characteristics (such as my compassion, loyalty, integrity, and work ethic)? Not at all. Does it mean I don’t understand Dove, like every company, is willing to exploit consumers’ feelings in order to sell products? No. Does it mean I’m oblivious to the fact my critical self-assessment has been adversely impacted by the constant barrage of images of feminine beauty in the media? No.
But, contrary to the naysayers’ opinions, I experienced a positive take-away from Dove’s campaign. Basically, it demonstrated how differently we each “see” each other and evaluate physical beauty, thereby proving no “standard” exists for anyone (man or woman) to attain. We are all beautiful to someone, and if the Dove campaign helps a few people remember that fact, why is that so terrible?
So, what do you think? Is it a positive or negative campaign?