Ethics of the Dove Beauty Campaign

Almost everyone has heard about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty by now. If not, here’s a closer look.

Judging by that video, you’d commend them, right? Tell them what a great thing they’re doing, attempting to redefine beauty standards in order to make all women feel “beautiful.” As progressive as the movement may appear, it’s important to take a step back and realize that there is indeed harm attached to this.

Launched in 2004, the campaign began after it issued a study that revealed that only 2% of women believed themselves to be beautiful. The campaign sought to redefine what it means to be beautiful, and was composed of three phases.

The first, using 6 seemingly “average” women claiming that “real” women did not look like supermodels:

The second, targeting moms and their young daughters, urging them to not let the media define their beauty:

And the third, aimed at older women, stating that real beauty knows no age:

All together, these phases seem to be a great move in the right direction, yes? Just wait. Before the first phase was launched, Dove sent out this Craigslist casting call for the 6 “average” looking women:

If you read the fine print, you can see that this idea is pushing Dove further from their goal of redefining beauty, as they’re merely succumbing and reinforcing societal standards of what it means to be beautiful. In the casting call, they ask for “beautiful arms and legs and face” as well as “must have flawless skin” and “no tattoos or scars.” Seems a little harsh for claiming to appreciate all forms of beauty, right? Sure, they want women that reflect our perception of “average,” but are still sticking to societal norms.

While this point is controversial about whether or not it’s ethical, I’d have to argue that it is most definitely not. How can a company that is claiming to “redefine” beauty actually still adhere to it? For impressionable young minds, this is quite dangerous. They see that what Dove is doing is “appreciating real beauty,” yet they still claim that real beauty consists of flawless skin, a beautiful face, arms and legs. Sure, they want you to have a little more meat on your bones so that you’re not an obvious supermodel, but how fair is that? They’re saying they appreciate everyone’s natural beauty and that everyone is beautiful – but they’re only representing a slight percentage of our population with this campaign. What about the girls with big noses, acne-prone skin, scars or tattoos, bigger calves or pale skin? What about those with thin hair, broad shoulders, brittle nails, tiny lips, flat butts? Where is their representation?

But here’s the kicker – Dove and Axe (yes, the body spray company known for exploiting women) are sister companies, meaning they’re owned by the same “mother” company. If you haven’t seen an Axe commercial, take a closer look:

So here’s my problem. You say you want to redefine beauty: Great. Awesome. Fantastic. I think we need it. But you, in turn, create a casting call and tell women what they have to look like in order to be considered beautiful by you? Hardly seems fair. And to top it off, you’re going to launch this progressive (and enormously successful) campaign, while your sister company is working backwards, reinforcing gender stereotypes, as well as hyper-sexualizing women? It doesn’t seem like this campaign is all that it’s talked up to be.

This campaign is revolutionary – it’s unlike anything the world has ever seen. Using all forms of New Media, (magazines, YouTube, social media, billboards, print advertising, commercials, etc.) almost every girl has heard or seen this campaign, which is a huge success for Dove’s marketing team. And if we’re solely talking in terms of advertising and marketing, then Dove has truly outdone themselves.

But we’re not just talking about that. We’re talking about girls who are made to believe that Dove is ripping down the confines that mandate what it means to be beautiful – but instead, they’re just reinforcing them. While the intention was admirable, the implementation is harmful. I urge Dove, if they claim to continue the Campaign for Real Beauty, to represent every type of woman in order let the people choose what it really means to be beautiful.



Dove. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Retrieved from           Mission/campaign-for-real-beauty.aspx

3 thoughts on “Ethics of the Dove Beauty Campaign

  1. When I first heard about this I thought it was interesting and it kind or burst my bubble on the whole Dove real beauty campaign. I had always admired that campaign and had no idea it was related to Axe Men;s body spray. Even though there are some behind the scenes flaws I still feel the campaign has a positive effect on the people. However I’m not surprised because it is still a business and I doubt business are going to have the ethical background that we wish them to have all the time.


  2. This was surprising and disappointing to read. I feel like Dove was doing something brilliant and came up with a great idea to build women’s confidence. Reading about the partnership with Axe was surprising, I had no idea. No company is perfect, so it shouldn’t surprise me too much that Dove would put standards on what type of women can apply for their campaign. Despite the negatives, Dove launched a successful campaign that touched a lot of people.


  3. Pingback: Dove and Real Beauty | Baavaanee

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