Dove, a UK cosmetics brand, have recently launched their new ‘#ShowUs’ campaign in which they attempt to ‘shatter beauty stereotypes’ with their photo library. The collection of more than 5,000 images shows women of different colours, sizes and races for the purposes of providing representation for all women and girls. The campaign images were shot entirely by women and non-binary people, in protest to the fact that the photography industry is notoriously male-dominated.
Statistics released by Dove, alongside their campaign, show that 72% of women don’t feel represented in media and advertising. So, this campaign sets to remedy this issue. I first came across their latest campaign during a television advertisement. At first, I was troubled, as I often am, by the seemingly tokenistic gesture of brands partaking in the body positivity movement and attempts at diversity more largely. Immediately, my thoughts were that to promote and advertise a brand, and subsequently their products, via the discussion of this campaign negates the kind-hearted sentiment of the project.
Throughout modern history, women’s bodies and their insecurities have been manipulated for financial gain. Whether its weight-loss tablets, skin-lightening creams or (tax-included!) razor blades, the female body has been scrutinized and shamed for generations. We are bombarded with idealized images of beauty; slim, toned, tall and happy women are depicted to sell us products that are supposed to help us achieve similar euphoria. However, now, we are beginning to see a shift: the inclusion of a ‘plus-sized’ model here and there (I appreciate I’m over-simplifying).
Without appearing entirely pessimistic, it must be appreciated that attempts to solve the issues of lack of representation in advertising are worthwhile and shouldn’t go unnoticed. Campaigns, such as Dove’s, whilst they have their issues, do have a positive message at their core. Attempts to remedy deep-rooted and painful associations with the media’s portrayal of women will take far more than a photo library, but surely, it’s better than nothing?
Nevertheless, true equality and representation can only be achieved through a natural acceptance, rather than a deliberate attempt to appear ‘ahead of the curve’ or groundbreakingly tolerant. All women, of all shapes; sizes; races; sexualities and abilities should be represented in media and advertising. However, for this to be truly genuine, it needs to arise organically. Dove’s #ShowUs campaign seems like a tokenistic marketing exercise, rather than a sincere attempt to remedy the oppression and unrepresentative nature of modern advertising, specifically for women.
Whilst traditional media has financially benefitted from the female insecurity, brands like Dove seem to have begun a new wave of marketing tactics that financially benefit from female empowerment and body positivity. I’ve mentioned in a previous post (about the Missguided bikini), that there’s something deeply troubling about using feminist rhetoric/the broader feminism movement and monetizing it. Yes, the campaign itself promotes an amazing cause and attempts to see every woman/girl represented, but in doing so they’re also promoting their own brand, and subsequently selling us their products. Someone might be more likely to purchase Dove products now that the brand is more aligned with their thinking and are representing them in a way that media has never done before.
One can only hope that in the future we progress towards genuine and meaningful representation, that goes without saying and doesn’t attempt to monetize a good cause. Hopefully, one day all women (and men) will see themselves represented honestly in media and advertising, without it being an innovative marketing strategy that someone, somewhere down the line, will benefit financially from this clever concept. I would love, ideally by the time I may one day raise a daughter, to see genuine and respectful portrayals of all types of women that she can take for granted.
For more information on the Dove #ShowUs campaign, visit: https://www.dove.com/uk/stories/campaigns/showus.html