There aren’t many beauty brands that are champions not only of women of color, but also women of all sizes and shapes. Dove is one of the handful of brands that qualifies, but recent backlash from its newest VisibleCare advertising campaign has many questioning its place.
Racist is the most frequently used adjective for the ad (shown above). In it, there are three women shown of three different ethnicities: one black woman, one Latina or Mediterranean woman (she is a bit racially ambiguous) and one white woman. They are shown from dark to light skin shades in front of “before” and “after” images: one showing dry skin and the other smooth.
The issue lies in the idea that by using the VisibleCare products, the black woman’s skin will come to be the same as the other two, which would mean it would be lightened. The “before” placement and the fact that the black woman is standing directly underneath it also seems to imply that black women have dry skin and with the use of the products, it will be made smoother.
Edelman, Dove’s public relations firm, had this to say: “The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the ‘after’ product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.” (Gawker)
Yes, perhaps the placement of the women from dark to light was a misstep as visually it seems to say that the white woman is the “after” and smoother result. If you look closer, you will see that not even she matches the “before” and “after” colors shown and neither does the black woman. That would indicate that those results would only be possible on women of that skintone which is clearly untrue. Instead, Dove demonstrates that the result shown can work for anyone regardless of the color of her skin. Would it have been better to show the results for each shade?
To say that the ad is racist is far off. Perhaps with some real-time testing, the problem would have been caught, but at a world-renowned brand, I find it hard to believe that it was not approved and rated. Dove has been a brand that has continually catered to women of all shades and it seems absurd that they would now be promoting an ad that shows only lighter skin as beautiful. This is a clear case of our watchful and sometimes harsh eye and it is guaranteed that Dove will not be making the same mistake again.
What do you think of Dove’s new VisibleCare ad? Is it sending the message that lighter skin is more beautiful or are we just being too sensitive?