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Contrasting Perceptions of Beauty and The Effects of Advertising

16 Apr
 

Have you ever wondered if your perception of yourself may differ from how others perceive you? Personally, I have always wondered whether what I see in the mirror differs from what the world sees. I never really thought that there would be a big difference but after watching this video I realized that like the women in the video, I do often times focus and emphasize my flaws. It’s interesting to see how we (or most women) are so worried about our flaws and appearance when in reality, most people wouldn’t even notice them or even care about them. So if these perceptions are so different, which one do we believe? I may think that my lips are too small and therefore a flaw whereas others may think it’s just fine. Which one is truly how I appear?

Although I am not sure about the authenticity about this ad, this campaign definitely highlights the insecurities and low self-esteem that most women endure and the idea that we as individuals are our own worst critics. It attempts to call attention to the fact that women’s perceptions of their own beauty have been skewed and manipulated by years of media’s highly idealized portrayals of beauty.

After coming across this video, I did some research about the Dove Beauty Campaign. In 2004, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty. Since their studies found that approximately 4% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful they set out to widen the definition of beauty. First they began with an ad in 2004, which featured women whose appearances differed from the stereotypical norms of beauty. Next in 2005, they advertised six women with curvy bodies in an attempt to reject the norm that only thin is beautiful. Although I admire Dove’s campaign and the messages they are promoting, I find these advertisements as slightly hypocritical and patronizing. Dove and Axe are both owned by Uniliver, and have you seen those Axe campaigns? Check out this Axe commercial that aired during the same time as other Dove Real Beauty ads:

 

How can a company promote these contrasting messages?

On one hand you have a compassionate and powerful message about women underestimating their appearance while on the other you have a campaign promising men seductive women by simply wearing cologne. While Dove seems to empower women and advocate a “natural” beauty, Axe contrastingly labels women as easily being turned on by axe. I’m sorry but I personally would not start popping my booty (excuse my language) or start dancing seductively in a grocery store after smelling axe. It’s just so farfetched and unrealistic. It’s amazing to see how advertising can so easily manipulate peoples’ minds. Why would you advocate women to be more confident when you also advocate women as being so easily attracted to men? Don’t get me wrong, I do admire Dove’s campaign but it’s degrading media like the Axe commercial that makes it so difficult for women to escape this never ending anxiety to believe they are beautiful.

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10 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

10 responses to “Contrasting Perceptions of Beauty and The Effects of Advertising

  1. emilysteidel

    April 16, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    One thing I found problematic about the beauty sketches is that one sketch (the self-narrated one) is defined as less “beautiful” to the more “beautiful” sketch (narrated by another person). If these faces were two separate women, one still be the lesser of the two. It’s not just that the women have low self-esteem, it’s that we have been made to see these differences in appearance on an invisible hierarchy (subconsciously) of beautiful to ugly. While I agree that it is powerful to see women’s emotional (and often negative) attachment to their image/appearance, I find it discouraging that their estimate must be an underestimate. I saw the first drawings as less attractive, too– but I realize now that it frightens me that we are still drawing images of our “selves” and determining their beauty (or lack thereof).

     
    • emilysteidel

      May 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      As a continuation of my above post, I wanted to share this article I found today that makes a much better (and clearer) case for my argument: http://feministing.com/2013/04/16/dove-real-beauty-one-direction/

      It mentions the One Direction song “What Makes You Beautiful” (watch frolic-y music video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJO3ROT-A4E), specifically the Dove ad’s complicity with and promotion of what the author calls the “One Direction Theory of Unknown Beauty (ODTUB).”

      In the Dove commercial and the pop song, Alexandra (article’s author) writes: “The only confidence that’s acceptable is halfhearted: ‘Don’t worry, I don’t think I’m pretty, but I’ve been told I’m wrong, so maybe I am a little.’ Our access to our beauty, then, requires us to sign away our power, including the very confidence Dove ostensibly wants us to claim. And we are still objects–delusional objects for whom reality is out of grasp–only able to see ourselves truly through the eyes of others.”

      This is ODTUB, where there is little room (as in “Doveland”) for “women who know they’re hot,” she writes. Still, I wonder about the confidence Alexandra sees as ODTUB’s alternative (what it discourages). If hotness, or “how your hair curls or enjoy the shape of your lips or like how your ass looks in your jeans,” is still “what makes you beautiful” in the eyes of other, OR IN YOUR OWN EYES, isn’t that limiting? I too am a little frightened by the idea that true attractiveness means thinking of yourself as not very beautiful, but (of course) being beautiful to others. And while I’m all for believing in your own attractiveness, does that still have to be confined to the shape of your jaw, the way you flip your hair, and your smile? Who says (besides everyone!) that your body has to be the best thing about you?

      And– a BIG and– is this part of the song: “You’re insecure,/ Don’t know what for,/… / Don’t need make-up,/ To cover up, / Being the way that you are is enough.” Does she not need any make-up because she doesn’t have any “flaws” (acne, under-eye circles, etc– the things we are told to buy products for)? What about if she wants to wear make-up? Where can a girl claim space in the lyrics of this song? What does the attractiveness of “you don’t know you’re beautiful” (“that’s what makes you beautiful”) imply– what does it disallow, discredit, discourage?

       
  2. robertsc16

    April 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    This blogger’s response points out a few more possible issues, and reminds me of Katie Makkai’s message with the last line: “…you are so, so much more than beautiful.”

    http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me

     
  3. laurenkchow

    April 17, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    When I saw this video, it made me feel kind of uncomfortable because it just felt like more of the same messages about beauty that I see everywhere: thinner is better, and you must be white. As someone who has struggled a lot with my ethnicity and feeling beautiful my entire life, I didn’t like that there were only 2 women of color I noticed and neither of them talked very much. Then I saw the link Caroline posted above, also posted by a couple people on Facebook today. That speaks so much to what I felt watching this video, so I’d highly recommend reading it.

    Also, as Skylar says in the second half of her post, it seems a little fishy that behind the apparently well-intentioned video and many campaign images of a diversity of women, Dove and Axe are indeed owned by the same company. And after all, it’s not exactly in a for-profit company in a capitalist system’s interest to make women LESS likely to buy their products (if they feel beautiful already and don’t ‘need’ to use cosmetics)…

    To end, I just want to tie in our class discussions of the theme of “natural v artificial” in pointing out the title of this huge multi-year campaign Dove has been running: the “Real Beauty” Campaign. Isn’t it a little ironic that even in trying to unpack some of the messages that we receive all the time by the media, we are still allowing a huge corporation to define what is “real” beauty?

     
  4. leafelhai

    April 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    The author of the blog post linked to above (jazzylittledrops) includes a link to this short video by Hank Green (who has insightful things to say on many topics, not only topics related to our class):

    Here, like tsusuis, Green illustrates the inherent hypocrisy that comes with the corporate model, whose sole aim is to make money. The video reminds me of Peiss’s discussion of market segmentation in the last chapter of her book. In this chapter, she describes how the cosmetics industry creates target groups for its very specific marketing strategies based on factors like age, race, class, and lifestyle (246). Because massive corporations use market segmentation to sell their products, corporate hypocrisy (like Unilever’s in selling “real beauty” through Dove and misogynistic stereotypes through Axe) is inevitable. Dove’s message sells products to women who are sick of unrealistic beauty images, while Axe’s message sells products to young men who can’t get enough of those images. With both, Unilever makes money, and the consumer is none the wiser.

    What do we do with this tangled corporate web? Can we in good conscience support a company like Dove? Can lowly, non-corporate citizens change beauty norms without the resources of a multinational corporation?

     
  5. kelseyjk

    April 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    I have really enjoyed many of Dove’s Real Beauty ad campaigns (but I did not know what Dove and Axe are owned by the same company–interesting), so I started watching this video expecting good things. I also agree that it was powerful and affecting to watch these women seeing themselves as others see them, and I’m glad that it seemed to be a positive (and enlightening and maybe even liberating) experience for them; however, even here, the women only feel better about themselves when they realize that they’re considered more beautiful than they had believed: their (self-) worth is based on their physical appearance–that construction hasn’t changed since the era we’ve been discussing in class, during which moral value and female power were both largely rooted in physical appearance. I was also bothered by the widespread use of “thin” as a positive term used to describe the other person (“it was a nice, thin chin”). That discomfort and others are explored in more depth in this blog post a friend of mine linked to on Facebook today: http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me

     
  6. kelseyjk

    April 21, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Here’s the Craigslist ad that Dove apparently put out for “real women” for a campaign–it has some specific conditions on “real”: http://jezebel.com/5573505/craigslist-ad-hints-that-dove-wants-real-women-but-only-if-theyre-flawless

    This blogger writes about a friend who, at one point, defaulted to a more conventionally beautiful (namely, thinner) description of herself, unlike the women in the Real Beauty Sketches: http://www.the-beheld.com/2013/04/one-narrative-fits-all-dove-and-real.html

    This blogger discusses her love of makeup–and not just the “natural” kind–but how it make her feel for years that she was a “bad feminist”: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/04/17/the-face-of-make-up/

     
  7. thescotchtapemedic

    April 22, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    I have really been struggling with my feelings about the Dove’s Real Beauty Advertisements, especially this most recent one. The first time I watched it, I was moved. It hurt to see the sorrow in these women’s eyes as they described themselves, and it made me tear up to see them revel in their newly discovered beauty.

    It wasn’t until the end of the commercial that I felt uneasy.

    The idea that beauty is somehow at the core of our being, that it influences all that we are, really bothered me. Why does it matter? What does beauty have to do with my competency at a job? What does beauty have to do with the way that people see me? The answer is: a lot, apparently. It all comes down to the idea that outer beauty is a reflection of inner beauty, and by extension outer ugliness must be an expression of inner ugliness. Kathy Peiss explores and expands this idea by tracing the evolution of the beauty industry in America – an evolution that ultimately produced this advertisement. And if beauty truly is a extension of all that is good about you, it’s no wonder that these women were so disheartened by their self perceptions of ugliness, and so overjoyed by the strangers’ validation of their beauty.

    In my perfect world, we wouldn’t rely on beauty as an indicator of character. We wouldn’t have to subscribe to a narrow definition of beauty, and try to squeeze ourselves in between those boundaries. We wouldn’t have to strive for beauty just to prove our worth as a human being.

     
  8. bluesharpie92

    April 25, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    As I watched the Dove’s Real Beauty Advertisement, I took away one message from it. Some women can be critical of themselves and do not recognize their own greatness. When I watched this video, I did not pay attention the race of any of the women because I was able to relate purely on the fact of being a woman. Let’s just say we looked beyond race for a second because I feel as though that will stop us from completely understanding the point of this advertisement. The overall message was not to portray a perfect model of beauty. I think the advertisement was highlighting how painful and powerful women’s negative thoughts can be on themselves. Thescotchtapemedic states how she would not rely on “beauty as an indicator of character” in a perfect world, and I agree with this statement. However, I disagree that this advertisement used beauty as a marking of character. Instead, the message shed light on how problematic it is to look down on yourself. I also do not believe that the women in this clip changed their perceptions of themselves because of how others saw them; however, I do believe they had a moment of realization. Wow, I am incredibly hard on myself or why can’t I see the positives that others see? This moment of self-reflection is why I believe this advertisement to be powerful. Looking beyond beauty, I think this advertisement touched on self-love, which I appreciated.

     
  9. emilysteidel

    May 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    As a continuation of my first comment (see top comment), I wanted to share this article I found today that makes a much better (and clearer) case for my argument: http://feministing.com/2013/04/16/dove-real-beauty-one-direction/

    It mentions the One Direction song “What Makes You Beautiful” (watch frolic-y music video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJO3ROT-A4E), specifically the Dove ad’s complicity with and promotion of what the author calls the “One Direction Theory of Unknown Beauty (ODTUB).”

    In the Dove commercial and the pop song, Alexandra (article’s author) writes: “The only confidence that’s acceptable is halfhearted: ‘Don’t worry, I don’t think I’m pretty, but I’ve been told I’m wrong, so maybe I am a little.’ Our access to our beauty, then, requires us to sign away our power, including the very confidence Dove ostensibly wants us to claim. And we are still objects–delusional objects for whom reality is out of grasp–only able to see ourselves truly through the eyes of others.”

    This is ODTUB, where there is little room (as in “Doveland”) for “women who know they’re hot,” she writes. Still, I wonder about the confidence Alexandra sees as ODTUB’s alternative (what it discourages). If hotness, or “how your hair curls or enjoy the shape of your lips or like how your ass looks in your jeans,” is still “what makes you beautiful” in the eyes of other, OR IN YOUR OWN EYES, isn’t that limiting? I too am a little frightened by the idea that true attractiveness means thinking of yourself as not very beautiful, but (of course) being beautiful to others. And while I’m all for believing in your own attractiveness, does that still have to be confined to the shape of your jaw, the way you flip your hair, and your smile? Who says (besides everyone!) that your body has to be the best thing about you?

    And– a BIG and– is this part of the song: “You’re insecure,/ Don’t know what for,/… / Don’t need make-up,/ To cover up, / Being the way that you are is enough.” Does she not need any make-up because she doesn’t have any “flaws” (acne, under-eye circles, etc– the things we are told to buy products for)? What about if she wants to wear make-up? Where can a girl claim space in the lyrics of this song? What does the attractiveness of “you don’t know you’re beautiful” (“that’s what makes you beautiful”) imply– what does it disallow, discredit, discourage?

     

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