Recently, a whole slew of my Facebook friends have been sharing Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” video, which was created by Dove as a part of their marketing plan to encourage women to embrace themselves by “building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential” (as written on Dove’s site). Many of those who are sharing the video have been captioning it with “:’)”, “Love this”, or “Something to keep in mind…” And maybe in that sense, Dove’s video is working; it’s reminding women to reassess the way they view themselves (Not only that, it’s also getting Dove a ton of publicity).
But in an almost more uproarious response, still more of my Facebook friends have been sharing a different link, one that criticizes the way that Dove is approaching its target audience. Now, I think the arguments raised in this post are extremely well thought out and articulated, pointing out that Dove is only reaffirming a social stigma that the only value a woman can have is her beauty as opposed to her intelligence, courage, or strength.
I wouldn’t really have so much of a problem with any of this, to be honest. I think it’s healthy to consume media with a critical eye, so as not to become a pawn of the corporate giants that rule the market. But what I do have an issue with is how so many of my friends have been using these links- and only these links- as conversations.
Let me clarify. One person will share the Real Beauty Sketches video. Several people will “like” it. Then, someone else will post the response written by Tumblr user Jazz as a form of rebuttal with a small side note like “Before you start jumping on the bandwagon” or “Consider this”. More people will “like” that. And that’s the end of that.
This isn’t the only time I’ve seen people use links to videos, articles, or online posts as arguments. I find it extremely common to find people using these links instead of providing their own insights. With so many of my Facebook friends insisting how unjust it is for Dove to post a video like this, I would be so interested in reading about their opinions. But instead, they simply post a link to someone else‘s opinion and people are quick to agree.
I don’t want to discount Jazz’s response to the video at all. I think it’s admirable to be able to watch something presented by the media, digest it, and put together a response that can be both lauding and critical so as not to provide a one-sided argument. But why have we all stopped doing that? Just the other day, in a conversation with a couple of friends, I witnessed one girl mentioning the video and suggesting that we all watch it. And then another girl promptly responded with “Yeah, but did you see that post saying how the video was actually, y’know, bad? Because all it cares about is beauty?” And that was the end of that conversation.
I would have loved to discuss the video more with everyone, especially having each individual bringing up his or her own opinion and then arguing the merits and pitfalls of Dove’s campaign. But no, the conversation started with the sharing of an online link and ended with the sharing of another. What does that lead to? A culmination of a small handful of homogenized opinions shared throughout social media, instead of each person exercising his or her ability to form an individualistic opinion? And that, I think, has become all too common- naturally, I suppose, with the rise of the Internet.
And since I’m sitting here emphasizing how important it is to share our own opinions, here are some of mine. I think both “sides” are valid. I do not believe that Dove is looking to eliminate diversity, as mentioned by the dissenting article. Dove has had a history of beauty and diversity campaigns (which is not to say it gives Dove the liberty to no longer consider diversity in the rest of its marketing), and I don’t believe that this Real Beauty Sketches video is trying to oppress non-Caucasian races. And yes, we can remain critical of the way companies create ad campaigns, because the United States is diverse and people should not be content with being poorly represented. However, this video is one fraction of Dove’s campaign initiatives, right? Before we get too quick to criticize a company’s negligence to encompass every possible race, gender, culture, or identity, I think it is important to consider just how possible (or impossible) it is to do so. When have we ever received a media campaign that is 100% politically correct, 100% diverse, 100% unworthy of criticisms? Does that make it okay to only represent 1 racial group and claim to be representing “real beauty” uniformly? I personally don’t think so. But I also think we have to consider racial representation on a larger scale as well, beyond just one video.
And yes, I agree that we need to remain wary of the way the media (as well as society) portrays women, especially because it is so common to see people demean women as nothing more than a figure of beauty or attraction. But before we start insisting that Dove is denying a woman’s value beyond her appearance, I think we have to remember that Dove, at the end of the day, is a beauty product company. This is a marketing tactic for the company, and while that might sound like an evil thing, I would hardly call the Real Beauty Sketches video “evil”. The intent of the video, it would seem, is to remind people that, as Jazz points out, “most of us are our own harshest critics”. Sure, it would be nice to see a video reminding women (and non-women alike) that women are worth more than just physical appearances, but would that really lie within the realm of Dove’s objectives? Personally, I don’t think so. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. We can be critical about companies and how single-minded and greedy they can be with their marketing campaigns, but we can’t expect companies to pump out PSAs unrelated to their products or services all the time. Ultimately, we should be taking marketing strategies like this video by Dove with a grain of salt. What is it trying to achieve? Is it offending anyone? Oppressing anyone? Misrepresenting anyone?
There’s a lot to be said about media, propaganda, sexism, racism, and other social issues that remain so prevalent in our society today. It is therefore important to remain critical about the media we take in, and to remember to take everything we see online or otherwise with a grain of salt. But in my opinion, it is equally important not to jump so quickly onto other people’s rebuttals. We can’t simply piggyback onto someone else’s opinion and brandish it before our friends in an attempt to be the unique, dissenting perspective. Of course, it would be unreasonable to insist that everyone must provide a complete dissertation on every single remotely controversial topic. But the best way to stay critical is to cultivate our own opinions whenever possible, to share them and discuss them with others, and to be okay, throughout all of that, with keeping an open mind.