This month, the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty has provoked ire from angry feminists, claiming that its commercial celebration of wobbly tums and curvy thighs is just as damaging to female self-esteem as the mainstream alternatives.
The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty is fairly high profile – it can be seen on television, on billboards and plastered all over fashion and celebrity gossip magazines. It’s this latter category that’s the most pernicious, as it’s not unusual to see a Dove advertisement promoting ‘real beauty’ sat beside a snarky column on failed diets and Hollywood hotties looking rough without makeup.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with promoting healthy bodies. If you’re the owner of a pair of thighs that would make Beyoncé blush, stick some hot pants on and wear them with pride. If you’ve got enough junk in the trunk to make turning round in supermarket aisles a tricky task, don’t be afraid to hit the dance floor on a Saturday night and let everybody in the room know it.
A Beautiful Lie
At face value, the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty appears to be a positive thing. As modern women, we all know by now that genuine female bodies are only a shade of what appears in fashion and gossip magazines. There have been countless celebrity Photoshop scandals this year – from Kim Kardashian editing her own Instagram photos, to Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga being touched up like you wouldn’t believe on glossy front pages.
We know that it’s not real by now, even if the mainstream media machine remains untouchable in its grand deceptions. If given a choice, I’d always take the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty over an editorial featuring a woman so photoshopped that she’s barely human – even if that woman is Kate Winslet. Yet, it’s maddening to watch even this kind of marketing slowly become just as damaging as its heavily modified counterpart.
There’s a simple truth behind it, one that few women want to acknowledge. The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty is every bit a packaged commercial product as a Nivea, Rimmel, L’Oreal or Maybelline advertisement. Its celebration of women with round tummies, juicy bubble butts and chunky thighs has been pored over for weeks, in a boardroom, by male executives who are only interested in your level of body confidence for as long as you’re investing in their products.
It has become wildly popular to turn the concept of real beauty into a brand new form of body insecurity. If you’ve ever watched a Dove advertisement and found yourself thinking ‘If these are real women, I must have some real work to do,’ it should be clear why such campaigns are never quite as friendly as they seem. The featured women may be slightly curvier, shorter or older than mainstream models, but still they’re lit and photographed in a way that betrays the honesty of their bodies.
Where are the birthmarks, scars, broken fingernails and chronic split ends that regulate the lives of normal women? Where are the unruly ass pimples, and the wonky patches of leg hair missed whilst trying to balance a book, a glass of wine and de-fuzz at the same time? Where are the misjudged tattoos and the mystifyingly fat ankles that refuse to obey even the strictest of workouts? It seems that somewhere along the line real beauty turned into another box for women to while away the hours in, nothing but a distraction from the pleasure of their bodies.
A Mountain To Climb
To me, real beauty is when you catch yourself in a twisting ray of sunlight after an afternoon romp – when all of the imperfections fall away, and for a brief while you feel hotter than Karlie Kloss and Kate Upton combined. It’s the way you feel when you realise that those weird hairs on your big toe, the folds under your armpit, and the tiny stretch marks around your belly button are all invisible to a lover who finds you irresistible for their own secret reasons.
It’s time to realise that male owned conglomerates are making money not only out of your insecurities, but out of your insecurity about your insecurities too. You don’t have to be a real beauty warrior to be a strong woman, because it’s natural to fret over love handles, waist lines and double chins. If you want to be a beautiful woman, be a woman who only ever has time to fret when there’s no cocktails to be sipped, dance floors to be dominated, lovers to be devoured and wild adventures to be pursued.