Aug 01 2005

Dove’s Tail

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Dove Girl Gina displays her intellectual depth with a shake of the old moneymaker. She feels beautiful whenever she poses in her underwear for money.

I can be silent no longer!

This Dove-is-so-great crap must cease! Dove is not so great! Dove’s “real” women are, like, 22, and they’re conventionally pretty, and they’re in their fucking underwear. They are given insipid slogans, like “I felt absolutely beautiful on my wedding day!” Mouse over’em and they morph into bent-kneed playboy sexbots. They’re selling beauty crack. On the website there’s even a section where you can vote on the hotness of more “real” models, à la amihot.com. The message: Dove products will give you the only thing that patriarchy actually values in a woman: a tight ass.

Real women my eye. What does real even mean anymore? It means fake, that’s what. Media reality is universally fake. Reality TV is fake. Dr Phil “getting real” is fake. This “celebration” of fat girls is fake. In Dove-land, “real” is just a bogus marketing euphemism for Kate Moss + 15 pounds. Only under the auspices of a toxic patriarchy would women to look to a fucking cosmetic company’s ad campaign for permission to “have curves.” This is just fucked up to the max.

I repeat: hot young babes in underwear selling beauty products is not radical.

Because everybody likes big butts, and they cannot lie.


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  1. Finn

    I guess if you’re patriarchy-blamin’, the Dove ads represent one kind of abomination. If you’re sugar-blamin’, it’s another kind of abomination altogether.

    Dove is attempting to relate to the new, fat American. I feel like the crime, here, is that we’re becoming more and more willing to accept our fattitude as a given.

    This is a confusing one, because it’s hard to imagine that ads like this wouldn’t exist, even if there were no patriarchy to blame.

  2. antelope

    Errr, I am built pretty much the same as these women – which is not ‘fat to the point of unhealthy’ by any stretch of the imagination. The idea that NOW I have permission to accept my “fat” self because images like this are out there is a pretty stunning backhanded compliment. It assumes that I’ve been part of this particular patriarchal discourse all along & therefore DIDN’T accept myself until this very moment in history – when the wonderful folks at Dove gave me permission to do so. It is so, so scary to think about how many women might actually be taking it that way.

    Of course, genuinely fat people are already allowed to hawk insurance, financial management, non-profit causes, and a huge variety of prescription & over the counter drugs. I guess that is probably too much validation for them & should be stopped immediately. And, of course, Oprah should be disappeared when she’s on the upswing.

  3. Mistress

    Living in a major urban area, those ads are EVERYWHERE. Every billboard, every poster, every bus– the subway stations are just scary. What I thought was retardedly cute was that someone wrote on one, ‘You don’t need this! Beauty is all around you!’ with little flowers &hearts

    I’m built like those bitches, too. That kind of body being attractive isn’t a new thing. People have been telling me for years that I’m Amazonianly babe-a-licious. Whatever.

    While I think how it’s being presented is obnoxious, like, WORSHIP US FOR PRESENTING HEAVIER WOMEN & GLORIFYING FATNESS, it’s at least a relief to see different kinds of girls in ads. Sort of like United Colors of Benetton.

  4. Pinko Punko

    I think coming from the more enlightened realms, you are seeing the marketing bullshit for what it is. I think that perhaps just judging from the massive response to these ads, perhaps it suggests just how bad (could it be worse?) marketing has gotten. Some people, many people, are calling those women fat, even though they are probably just average. Mistress says the ad says “worship” fatness. Yeah, because “fat” people get all the breaks. Are our eyes so skewed that these women are really considered fat? Is the ad really saying “women of the world, give up, have another bon bon?” I think not. The product being marketed is indeed some sort of cream to make fat look less so, so the empowering message is really saying “these fabulous women are truly empowered, you obviously are not, but you can use this, and in your deepest dreams you might some day not be ashamed of your body.” The fact that one never sees fat in ads or in airbrushed pictures of celebs, except in the annual Enquirer cellulite issue, where skinny normal celebs are shown to have the thighs of normal, skinny, out of shape people really suggests how skewed marketing has become. If someone desides to try a different, what I would say less abusive strategy, which I think this is, and I’m going into it with my eyes open, I feel compelled to drink a little of the kool-aid, as opposed to being forced into a kool-aid bong form. Perhaps we will discuss this later in the week on Republic of Dogs (res publica’s site)- we’re guest posting there.

  5. Geenie Cola

    OOH go blow it out your muppet hole!

  6. piny

    >>I’m built like those bitches, too. That kind of body being attractive isn’t a new thing. People have been telling me for years that I’m Amazonianly babe-a-licious. Whatever.>>

    Yeah, and all the extremely thin women I know don’t seem too happy about being extremely thin.

    This has been the most interesting–and maybe the most valuable, from a thinking standpoint–part of it for me. When I first saw the ads–the first one I ever saw was the woman with the straight sandy hair who looks like a more normal Meredith Viera–it went like this: “Wow, she’s really big! What’s she doing up there? (beat) Wait a minute…[quick mental review of naked women seen in real life] she’s not big at all! She looks like my friends! She’s thinner than my coworkers! She’s probably smaller than me, and I’m a recovering bulimic! What’s going on here?”

    It got me wondering why the consumerist version of what’s merely acceptable is so out of touch even with what we find really attractive. Because these women are what we find really attractive–they’re the kinds of women that are seen as really hot in real life. I think we tend to forget that the buy stuff! buy stuff now! beauty standard is not just extreme and narrow, but actually contrary to most people’s ideals. Inhuman on a lot of levels. The Dove ad phenomenon, illustrative though it is of so many other failures both general and specific, did manage to hold a mirror up to the martians we’re all supposed to want to become.

  7. Sunya Harjis

    When this flap was going down at Feministe, I posted then that I was in favor of anything that ratcheted down the hysterical pressure on women to be thinner, younger, prettier.

    I also noted that it was stone-cold stupid to expect a cosmetics company to try and sell product with images of genuinely fat people, or handicapped people, or really old people. Because, you know, that’s not going to sell anything. Companies like Dove need to move product in order to make money. Slightly-less-anorexic women is better than anorexic women on my chart of marketing bullshit that I’m willing to buy, because even though it’s still plenty misogynist, it’s less misogynist than other sales techniques.

    I support anything that encourages women to think better of themselves, even if it is with the patriarchy’s backhanded-insult approval. After all, Twisty, recall that revolutions don’t occur when the potential revolters are maximally oppressed: they occur after periods of security, wealth, comfort, or increased freedom. Free time and fewer worries are the fecund soil in which coups d’etat germinate.

  8. Erin

    I am so happy that someone else hates these ads! I can’t stand them.

    To me, instead of saying “Hey men, here are some unattainable, airbrushed, starving women in their underwear for you to look at”, these ads are saying “Hey men, here are some women who’ve probably had a meal in the last few days, and who look more like the women you know; who are also airbrushed, but who still probably won’t go out with you, the bitches. And hey! They’re in their underwear for you to look at”.

    Pictures of women in their underwear are not a marketing technique directed at me. I know what women in their underwear look like. I can see a normal-sized woman in her underwear through the magic of removing a layer of my clothing. The text of this ad might be for me, but the images are not. And that’s what makes me sick. Because the pseudo-empowering text juxtaposed with the cheesecake photos sends me the message that even if I’m comfortable with my non-size-6 body, I should still remember that my primary role is as a passive sex object to be gazed upon by whomever chooses. The message I’m getting is that my non-anorexic ass should be happy that there are those who are willing to see me as a sex object, despite the handicap of my obvious physical flaws – as long as I buy some sort of butt-firming unguent. Try as I might (okay, not very hard), I have problems finding these messages empowering. And I think it’s sad that we’re in a position where this campaign can be considered radical and woman-positive.

    Stupid patriarchy.

  9. Anonymous

    All ads suck.

  10. CafeSiren

    I have mixed feelings about this ad campaign. They form no coherent position. Here goes:

    1. Many feminists (myself included) have hollered long and loud to smash the one-dimensional image of women in the media. This campaign seems to be trying to do that. Granted, they’re doing it to sell a product, but that’s an ad’s job. On the other hand, if the rest of media-world continues to sell us the photoshopped anorexic 15 year-old, then this ad won’t make much of a dent, either way. Momentary buzz (a.k.a. “free publicity”), and that’s it.

    2. Is the only way around the conundrum (for that’s what I see it as) to deconstruct the category of “female beauty” entirely? Is that even possible?

    3. Ads for “beauty products” sell the idea, not of beauty, but of transformation. Conventional ads tell you: you need to have firm skin and be thin. This ad tells you: you need to have firm skin. Both tell you, in their own way, not to be satisfied. Do we give Dove any credit for committing a slightly lesser offense?

    4. Will we still have to suffer hearing some patriarchy-supporters (male & female) ridiculing these women for being “fat”? Oh, wait: I know the answer to that one already…

    Bottom line (no pun intended): I’m not going to run out & buy the product Dove is hawking with these ads, but I can’t bring myself to hate them any more than any other ad.

  11. lucky

    Not to get off-topic, but you’re brilliant. I heart Twisty.

  12. deja pseu

    “Dove is attempting to relate to the new, fat American. I feel like the crime, here, is that we’re becoming more and more willing to accept our fattitude as a given.”

    WTF? I guess it just goes to show how distorted some people’s idea of “normal” women’s bodies are if these women are examples of “fattitude.”

  13. Kate

    Awesome post and awesome comments (well, except for the worshipping fattitude one, that was not good at all).

  14. Travelling Punk

    I too have issues with Dove’s new ad campaign and have blogged it myself.

    Yeh, it’s nice to see women who are curvier than the normal miniature tiny skinny waifs we’re meant to aspire to, but at the same time we’re used to, and wise to that advertising tactic.

    Maybe this is why Dove have decided to try a new approach, only now instead of seeing right through the hype and objectification people are celebrating these ads for being something good! Not so many people are wise to this approach, and sadly not so many people can see right through it for what it really is, just another way to push cosmetics onto us that we don’t need and that don’t work.

  15. TeenageCatgirl

    I’ve been throughly pissed off by these ads for a while.
    Dunno if you’ve got it in the US yet, but here there’s an advert shown on television where women complain about their ‘faults’ which aren’t faults at all. Like a perfectly normal arse being too large, and some girl complaining about her ‘love handles’ which appear to be made out of her hip bones.

    I’ve also seen the same ‘real woman’ with a large scar sporting two different heads in seperate adverts!

    Dove are not to be trusted, they try and suck people in with a carrot, but it’s still the same old stick in the end.

    And personally, I’ve never thought any of the women featured were fat, I think anyone who does must have serious issues with healthy body size.

  16. ae

    Friends, let’s not get sucked in by the “well, at least they put a ‘fat’ ‘woman’ in the ad” argument! Look at what the ad is selling: cellulite firming lotion (or some such shit). That’s anti-“fat”! It’s also selling a new (?) ideal of the vapid, now-supposedly-chubby, sexually passive object. This ain’t a win for us patriarchy blamers. Not by a stretch.

    As usual, Twisty, I bow to your greatness. I saw these ads all over No. California when I was visiting and had to shoot a deathray at each and every one with my Vagina Lasertata 3000.

  17. Jenny

    Whoa. I guess I want your mirrors. I looked at this ad and saw another impossibly thin 20 year old girl. Where are all of you coming from that she looks fat to you? Maybe you need to get out more. Or maybe I just need another donut.


  18. Steph

    My husband summed it up nicely: “mmmm normal-looking chicks in their underwear”.

    Yup, they’re ads for guys who like to see women with no clothes on. Patriarchal bastards.

  19. Finn

    >>Yup, they’re ads for guys who like to see women with no clothes on. Patriarchal bastards.<< Devil's advocate might remind that they could very well be ads for women who like to see women with no clothes on, too, right? The appreciation of the beauty of a semi-nude female is not necessarily limited to dudes. Guys might like looking at ad semi-naked chicks in the ad, but we aren't going to buy that product and we aren't likely to even recommend that someone buy that product, no matter how hot the ad is. The ad is selling the product to women, plain and simple. Now, the question seems to me to be whether you're buying what the ad is selling because the patriarchy made you do it or not. Some have made the point that the ad is less offensive than normal because it presents a more realistic female image than what we normally see. I would submit that ads are not designed to dictate social norms, they are designed to get you, dear reader, to suspend your disbelief long enough to become susceptible to the impulse of purchasing. Good (read: successful) advertising engages a fantasy about ourselves that we can't help but resolve with a purchase.

  20. Wordlackey

    I really must be out of touch with the mainstream. I live out in the woods of Massachusetts so I don’t see many billboards. Although talk about these Dove ads has been popping up a lot in blogs during the last week or two, your post has been the first time I’ve actually *seen* the ads.

    I have to go along with your description of “Kate Moss + 15 pounds” for these models. Fat? *I* should be fat like them. (well, not quite since I’m a guy but you get my drift…) As you say, real means fake in our funhouse media, a reflection distorted by lies.

    I find myself repeating this statement over and over: Advertising Lies. It lies all the time, in every detail. The impossible trick is actually finding any grain of truth in an ad. My contention is that there is almost nothing true in an ad. I grant the possibility that if it includes a copyright date, that *might* be true but I’ll only give you even odds for a bet.

    Here’s something to watch: In the Fall months, ads are often copyrighted with the next year. Soon we’ll start seeing print ads with a copyright of 2006. Now my question is: how can they copyrighting something for a future date? Oh, I understand the principle but still…

    OK, I’ve strayed from the subject. Let me just leave you with this themed statement: The Patriarchy Lies. It lies all the time. It lies because the truth is like sunlight to the vampiric Patriarchy. Hey, that’s catchy! I should remember it.

  21. TeenageCatgirl

    I think ‘impossibly thin’ is a little harsh. Since I am a bit thinner than that girl (naturally, before you start screaming about dieting) I can assure you it’s perfectly possible to be thin. And in fact the whole culture of women examining other women and finding them lacking because they’re ‘not real women’ is as much a symptom of patriarchy as this advert is.
    It actually comes from insecurity, which is understandable, but in truth just perpetuates the obsession with assessing women by their appearance.
    Until women lay off other women, and accept everyone regardless of their size, patriarchy will carry on.

    And Finn, this advert exploits womens’ insecurites, so although it may not be directly aimed at men, it’s certainly directly aimed at women whose men complain to them about their dimply arses.
    It definitely does not rely on any aesthetic pleasure women may or may not get from looking at some girl in her underwear.
    (And by the way, women can mostly just remove their clothes and look in the mirror at a real-life girl in her underwear should they feel the need)

  22. marlem salazae

    who gave Dove the permission to say what’s real and what’s not. real women do have curves but they dont pose in their underware half-naked so that everyone can see them. real women are house wives not some over-wheight models no offense but that’s what they look like. like poster childs of an experiment gone mad. hey you can give me that shit that dove is selling to reafirm your ass and i’ll do it but that don’t mean that i will pose like those girls, i have pride and something called decency.

  1. Lingual Tremors

    Those Damned Dove Ads

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