114 Consuming Constructions:
A Critique of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty Lauren Dye The University of Western Ontario
ABSTRACT According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, approximately 11.7 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007; of these surgeries 91% were executed on women. While contemporary conceptions of beauty are limited to say the least, Dove’s campaign to counter such ideas are similarly limited. In attempting to appeal to what they call “real” women, Dove markets itself as an esteem-building brand based on enhancing women’s natural beauty; however, what Dove sells are nevertheless beauty products. I will argue that the message of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is not only contradicted by its product-line, but that Dove exploits women’s desire for such an inclusive message. The appeal of the campaign works to create a deep brand loyalty that covers up its own inherent flaw: that Dove itself upholds the beauty myths and expectations it claims to aim to reverse, expectations that are both consuming and consumed.
The standard of beauty today, at least as many women perceive this standard via the mass media in general and advertising in particular, is unnatural, unhealthy, and unrealistic. A survey conducted by Dove revealed that out of 3,000 women in ten different countries, only 2% described themselves as beautiful (Etcoff et al. 9). These results are not surprising considering many of the countries included in the survey – the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy, Canada, and the United States – are Westernized countries, where the dominant culture’s conception of beauty tends to be shaped by Western ideals, including but not limited to, whiteness, tallness, and thinness. In its attempt to uproot the unrealistic standard of beauty that damages women’s self-esteem and self-image, Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty in 2003.