Impossibly Beautiful

[Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine…]

Part One in this series was the Dove advert "Evolution" that captures the transformation of a real woman into the impossibly beautiful version of herself on a billboard. Now comes (c/o Shaker Roguish Smurf, via Monoscope) another advert for Dove by the same creative team. Called "Onslaught," this ad the explores relationship between girls'/women's body image and the narratives about girls/women transmitted by the advertising culture.

I continue to have very mixed feelings about Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty," given that it's still ultimately trying to hawk beauty products to women and that this is their idea of the spectrum of curvaceous women:

"Real women have real curves," Dove tells us, but there are real women without curves and there are real women with real big curves, too. Dove's carefully manufactured idea of "real beauty" strikes me as only slightly less pernicious than the beauty standard it's attempting to criticize—and I'd offer that there's a viable argument to be made that it is perhaps even more nefarious in some ways, since Vogue (for example) merely seeks to represent something (allegedly) attainable, not something "real."

Purporting to represent real women, while excluding everyone who wears a size in the double-digits, creates a fun-house mirror image of reality, not a true reflection. And it would be hilarious, if it weren't so sad, that "Queen of Self-Esteem" Jess Weiner, who's noted as their "resident expert on everything from body image and boys to popularity, friendship, and family issues," has a body shape evidently not considered thin enough to be featured as a "real woman" with "real curves."

I appreciate what Dove is trying to accomplish, but I remain unconvinced that they're really doing anything more than moving the goalposts a few inches by telling average women who most closely conform to the Impossibly Beautiful beauty standard that they're beautiful. And that's great—those women need to hear that they're beautiful. But surely that's an idea which can be conveyed without communicating the idea that the rest of us are not only not beautiful, but not even "real women" at all.

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