The Dove Sketches project, part of their new campaign, has gone viral and has generated emotional responses, both positive and negative. Dove’s “real beauty” campaigns have long been praised by many who feel that photoshopped models and size zero standards are harmful to body image.
They seem to have hit a new high with their recent release of the “Real Beauty Sketches” project. The short video about the project has gone viral in recent days.
Dove hired a forensic artist, Gil Zamora, a trained police artist with 16 years of experience with the San Jose police department. He did not see the women who came into the studio. They walked behind him, seating themselves on the other side of a curtain while they are being interviewed and sketched based on descriptions of themselves.
Zamora asks things like: “Tell me about your chin.” “What would be your most prominent feature?”
Responses are hesitant, and a little uncomfortable. “I kind of have a fat–rounder face.” “I’m 40, so I’m kinda starting to get the crow’s feet, a little bit.”
He then created sketches of the same women from descriptions by other people who had been introduced to the subjects during the project. Even before seeing the sketches, the descriptions are very different. We hear responses like:
“Short, cute nose.” “Her eyes kind of lit up as she spoke.” “Blue eyes…nice blue eyes.”
The two sketches were then hung side by side, and the subjects were allowed to see themselves through their own eyes and through the eyes of outsiders.
“You are more beautiful than you think” is the slogan of the campaign. Invariably, the drawings based on self-descriptions are far less flattering than those based on the drawings made from observer descriptions.
When the women saw the photos, the expressions were shocked and emotional. Tears and a feeling of strangeness seems to be the reaction. One woman says “Its very strange”.
Another woman said “I have some work to do on myself.” And she didn’t mean her appearance.
“It’s troubling. I should be more grateful for my natural beauty. It impacts the choices in the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children–it impacts everything.”
The videos are being shared and garnering emotional responses. There is a flurry of commentary and reporting on this unusual project. Many responses are highly positive, saying that many veiwers cried right along with the women in the video, and are sharing because they think everyone ought to watch the video.
Other responses are downright angry. Journalist Heather Long of The Guardian addresses the dispute in her own review:
Let’s start with the obvious: it’s an ad, not a film festival documentary. It’s been edited heavily and has overly melodramatic music. And yes, at the end of the day, it’s trying to sell something, although it’s striking that no Dove products are mentioned during the entire three-minute clip, and the Dove brand itself isn’t even flashed on the screen until the final seconds. But all the cheesiness doesn’t take away from its powerful message: women are too often their own worst critics….
This isn’t novel. Plenty of studies have concluded that women tend to view themselves as worse-looking than they are….
Most of us don’t need formal studies to know this….We are constantly diminishing ourselves or attributing our good aspects to the influence of someone or something else.
Appearances shouldn’t matter so much, but they do….
Attacking the Dove ad as part of this “toxic” environment sends the wrong message….
Dove’s underlying message is you are more beautiful than you think. Be more confident. Frankly, it’s refreshing to see an ad that tackles a genuine societal problem head-on, let alone marketing that doesn’t try to turn women into sex objects, overburdened housewives or shopaholics….
We know that marketing is false. Yet we are too quick to blame our own shortcomings, as if we were the only ones out there who don’t fit the superwoman, supermodel mold.
Dove put a crack in that veneer. That’s the reason the ad has been shared widely. That’s the reason some cried right along with the participant who admitted she’s got a lot of work to do on her self-confidence. Writing those views off as weak or unfeminist, as some have done, is counterproductive.
Instead of picking the ad apart, applaud it for what it is – and ask for an even better encore.