Dove’s new campaign #ChooseBeautiful is challenging women across the globe to rethink what it means to be beautiful and acknowledge their own beauty. Dove’s most recent inspirational advertising placed a “beautiful” sign and an “average” sign above two adjacent doors of buidlings in San Francisco, Shanghai, London, Delhi, and Sao Paulo. The cameras were then rolling to see what women of all ages would do when faced with the decision to walk through the “average” door or the “beautiful” door. The large majority of women chose to walk under the “average” door, some with hesitation, others seemingly without thought. The women who walked through the “average” door expressed feelings of regret afterwards. One woman stated, “I regretted my decision because it was different than how I live, from who I am.” The majority of women highlighted in Dove’s advertisement who walked through the “average” door also mimicked this sentiment of regret. Dove showed women who walked through the “beautiful” door as often being pulled or redirected by other women, upon which these women reported feeling “triumphant” (Stampler, 2015). What is this universal condition that prevents women from around the world to #ChooseBeautiful?
Women and Self Esteem
In today’s fast paced consumerism, people are bombarded with endless media messages that represent women as these seemingly physically flawless beings. From the time of birth these media messages are influencing the development of the brain and young girls’ self images. As a young girls brain views media pictures of celebrities and models in advertisement, while also hearing the word beautiful attached to these images, a definition for beauty is formed. Young girls develop a deeply ingrained ideology of what it means to be beautiful, which is reinforced as they continue to grow amidst millions of more media messages of what is beautiful. As young girls form this “ideal” self image, their self esteem is impacted when their image in the mirror seems different than this “ideal.” Girls grow into women who have trained their brains to compare each part of themselves to other woman, feeling not as good, and in many ways simply average.
Johnston and Taylor (2014) explored how some companies have shifted their marketing approach to embrace feminist activism and attempt to ignite true transformation in the women targeted by such campaigns. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty started in 2004 in attempt to rebuild the Dove brand by advertisements that challenged the ideal image of women’s beauty created by the millions of other marketing campaigns. Dove’s first campaign used advertisements that showed women who were aging and wrinkled, mothers with leftover stretch marks, and other women who have been told they were fat. This campaign took off, being spread globally and endorsed by high profile celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey.
Dove’s new #ChooseBeautiful campaign again focuses on the everyday women, but through the use of the hashtag and social media, Dove is employing another tool to transform the ideology of beauty. The #ChooseBeautiful allows for women from across the globe to connect and read other women’s struggles with self image and self esteem. Dove’s commercial for #ChooseBeautiful portrays the majority of women walking through the “average” door only to feel regretful and saddened. Those that walked through the “beautiful” door were mostly portrayed as needing to be forced or pulled through by another woman they were with. The act of another women encouraging girls and women to walk through the “beautiful” door aligns with Dove’s use of #ChooseBeautiful to connect women across the globe. #ChooseBeautiful attempts to empower women through other women. As young girls develop the ideology of beauty standards based off flawless looking women, they also begin comparing themselves to every girl around. The social construction of beauty standards is then reinforced by the very women it makes feel “average.”
Dove’s #ChooseBeautiful is an attempt to combat the social construction of what is beautiful by encouraging women to empower other girls and women. The act of empowering another provides a sense of agency and purpose that in return also gives power to those empowering. The choice to walk through the “average” door was a choice made out of conscious concern for what others might think. Will people think that woman is full of herself? Will people critique this woman more since she thinks she is beautiful, putting her under the microscope? Women’s minds are flooded with concern about the other. However, Dove’s editing of their commercial strategically emphasizes the desire for women to empower other women. This idea of banding together is another attempt to transform the social construction of feminist beauty by giving the power back to women to define beauty.
Johnston, J., & Taylor, J. (2014). Feminist consumerism and fat activists: A comparative study of grassroots activism and the Dove real beauty campaign. Signs, 40(1).
Stampler, L. (2015). Here’s What Happens When Women Decide to Call Themselves Beautiful. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/3773858/dove-choose-beautiful-average-door/
#ChooseBeautiful (2015). Retrieved from http://www.dove.us/Our-Mission/Real-Beauty/default.aspx