Like the infamous Evolution Campaign, this new Dove promotion is compelling. After publishing research showing that 60% of girls drop out of sports because of body-image issues, the company is out with a new ad campaign focusing on adult women's distorted self-image.
In the video, women are instructed to sit down in a room and to answer questions about them. A man asks them to talk about their facial features. Little do they know that they are being sketched by an FBI trained forensic artist.
After the women self-describe with words like: "big jaw", "protruding chin", "fat rounder face," and "pretty big forehead" they are asked to leave the room without seeing the drawing. After, the same women are asked to come back but this time they are describing another woman rather than themselves. The descriptions suddenly get more positive. She has "bright eyes that lite up when she spoke" and a "nice thin chin." The forensic artist uses these descriptions to draw a new sketch of the same women.
When the female subjects are shown the two drawings, they are dumbstruck. The difference between how others see them and how they view themselves is so shocking that some of them are brought to tears.
"I should be more grateful to my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for and the way we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn't be more impactful to our happiness" says one of the women.
"We spend a lot of time as women trying to analyze and fix the things that aren't quite right and we shoud spend time appreciating the things that are right" explains another.
Because the video is powerful, it doesn't mean it's perfect. It's true that women are way too harsh on themselves, but this campaign seems to imply that it's somehow from fault of their own. Sure, women should actively avoid self-defeating thoughts about their appearance, but is realistic to exclusively blame women for feeling bad about their bodies? Dove is owned by Unilever, who also owns Axe, a notoriously mysoginistic brand that only values females for their sexual currency. It's companies like Axe that promote the idea that women are simply ornamental and to be appreciated for their body. Isn't paradoxical that Axe's marketing strategies feed the insecurities that Dove purports to be countering?
Objectification isn't just something feminists came up with to confuse chauvisnistic pigs, it's an actual psychological term. Researchers interested in the topic have shown that "objectification theory" is the process by which a societal focus on the female body as object impacts women’s understanding of their own bodies as defined through external characteristics rather than internal cues. Women come to understanding their bodies through the perspective of an outsider rather than through a process of introspective thought. Because of this mind-set, women tend to be more critical of themselves because they are taught to police their bodies.
It goes without saying that self-objectification is linked to mental problems such as anxiety, body shame, reduced probability for peak motivation and diminished awareness of internal bodily states. Women come to rely on others for validation because that's how they come to view themselves: through others.
Research on self-objectification also explores the extricable link between self-objectification and women's unhappiness. It turns out that the more women self-objectify, the more unhappy they are. Objectification interrupts the state of flow, which is fundamentally necessary in the pursuit of happiness.
Feeling unhappy because of your body. Not being able to see your own beauty until someone else points it out. Does this sound familiar? Looks like the women in the Dove's video are suffering from a mean case of self-objectification! So what's the best remedy for it? According to experts, the best place to start is by reducing the number of images that portray female objectification. If Dove is so committed to their self-esteem campaign, maybe they should start by walking across the hall to whatever ding-bags are creating Axe commercials and tell them to knock it off. Instead of trying to fix women's self-esteem, let's prevent it from being shattered in the first place.
How do you feel about Dove's new campaign? Let me know on Twitter: @feministabulous