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HEALTH | Body Positivity: Critique on the Critique of Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches

One of the featured sketches from Dove's Real Beauty video. (Youtube)
One of the featured sketches from Dove’s Real Beauty video. (Youtube)

The immensely popular “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” video has caused quite a controversy in the past several weeks. The video consisted of several women describing themselves to a forensic artist and then the artist sketching them according to their description. The women are then described by other people, who have only seen and talked to them for several minutes. Once the sketches are completed, they are placed side-by-side and the subject is brought in to look at her portrayal of herself versus a stranger’s perceptions.

Each woman’s description of herself was very harsh, while the strangers’ descriptions were very flattering. Some of the subjects became emotional in the video and say things such as “I look so fat and ugly in my view of myself.”

Subjects such as fat-shaming, anxiety with aging, and even surprising disdain with one’s own nose shape were commonly brought up throughout the women’s interviews. “My face is very round and fat” and “I’m 40, so I’m getting old and have a lot of crow’s feet” are only some examples. The very things that make us human were constantly self-criticized, even in this so-called ‘body positive’ video.

Common complaints about this video included a lack of diversity within the casting in terms of appearance and ethnicity (the majority of the actresses are white, very tall, and thin) and the traditional beauty standards most of the women conform to. Another concern is how the “ugly” version the women described themselves isn’t actually ugly, and the people who do look like their “ugly” version were immediately put down. It was also discovered that Dove is owned by Unilever, a company that includes such brands as AXE and TRESemmé, known for products and commercials that promote everything but positive body image for women.

While those complaints are valid, the main critique I have is the focus on the outside “beauty” depicted in the video when the advertisement did not make any mention that beauty cannot be skin-deep. True beauty comes from within. Our personalities, emotions, actions, and feelings are what make us beautiful and unique human beings. Perhaps a more far-reaching commercial would be close friends describing non-physical things that make the featured women beautiful.

Through our critical viewing of this video, we tend to lose sight of what this video actually is: an advertisement for Dove products. While it is most definitely not perfect, it is getting us talking and thinking about what beauty really is. And perhaps changing minds and getting women and men to feel more confident about themselves.

Read Kendall Anderson’s earlier blog post: HEALTH | Body Positivity: Treat Yo Self!.

The Mills Body Positivity Group meets on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays at 12:20 p.m. Check out the Facebook group:

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