Dove "Misses The Mark" Again but At Least They are Aiming

Dove "Misses The Mark" Again but At Least They are Aiming

I’ll come out and say it; I am very conflicted about Dove’s latest controversy. As a person who has come into womanhood during the age of Dove’s #RealBeauty campaign I am reluctant to throw the whole thing into the trash. Hear me out.

In case you have been under a rock for the past 24 hours, here’s what happened. Dove released a 3 second gif advert on their Facebook in which a black girl wearing a brown T-shirt takes off her Shirt and becomes a white girl with the accompanying caption “Time for a Dove shower?...” It’s outrageous right. Someone in Dove’s camp should have said , “wait a minute, this looks really bad”. Anyone who works within the soaps category and in the media industry should have at least a basic understanding of semiotics and that images signify greater meaning. The images we see in adverts trigger interactions in our brains that lead us to draw connections with the real world we live in. Why then did nobody pick up that this was a PR storm waiting to happen? WHO is in those brainstorm sessions? And more importantly, who ISN’T in those sessions?

Dove release a statement saying: “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.” If there was an award available for lacklustre apologies, Dove would be there in a sequinned red dress nervously waiting for its well deserved award. By saying you regret the offence something caused, you’re essentially shrugging off responsibility. It’s like saying “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt” rather than “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings”. 

With all this said however, I can’t bring myself to fully buy into the outrage. This, from a person who is usually first in line at the outrage store, I am an avid reveller in social justice outrage. This isn’t to say that what Dove did wasn’t bad but rather that as far as brands who live their ethos go, Dove is one such brand. Since 2004 their message has been consistent, “Dove celebrates real women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in our campaigns, because they represent the real beauty diversity in society…. We take women’s beauty confidence very seriously. Through the Dove self-esteem project we have reached more than 20 million young people with body-confidence education, and we aim to reach 20 million more by 2020.” 

This is a beauty brand that has championed inclusivity and made great strides in changing the kinds of bodies that we see represented on our screens, magazine pages and billboards. They were diverse before diversity was cool and they made sure no woman was left behind, no matter the race, age, sexual orientation and body type. In the beauty industry, where women’s insecurities have been capitalised on to sell everything from flat tummy tea to skin lightening creams, a brand that says ‘you’re already beautiful - we just want to help you moisturise and feel good’ is important.

In light of all this activism they have undertaken, personally, I’m willing to give them room to get it wrong from time to time. I’m willing to let them err in this process of striving to be a responsible brand. They got it completely wrong this time. The ad was tone deaf and hurtful but it probably pointed to an advertising and creative staff that is not diverse rather than a hate for a specific group of people. 

I do believe that everyone who is outraged however, has every right. Those feelings are valid. The world antagonises black women everyday and adverts like this feel like further onslaught. Black women have fought hard to ensure that even if the world doesn’t like us, it WILL respect us - so to see this visual was triggering. It felt like an undoing of this self-love we work so hard at building and for it to come from Dove, who we thought was one of the few beauty brands that was on our side, was a double whammy. 

Past good deeds don't absolve you of responsibility for future offenses, not by a long shot but they should surely be taken into account in a character judgement for people and brands alike.

Dove should have known better and when their mistake was brought to their attention they should have taken their ‘L’ with more grace as opposed to what appeared more like righteous indignation. I’m not ready to see them go though, not for what was more an oversight than blatant antagonism. What I do need to see is evidence of diversity within the people they hire behind the scenes. This kind of thing simply wouldn’t happen if more black people had seats at the table. #Kwesefied #Opinion

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