Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sorry Dove, This Is Why I Won't 'Choose Beautiful'

The Underlying Flaw in Trying To Make Women Believe They Are Beautiful

Splashed across every newsfeed, timeline and profile this week, it's been almost impossible to ignore Dove's new 4 minute virality-ensured, 'empowering' PR stunt - their Choose Beautiful campaign which sees unsuspecting members of the public suddenly faced with the unexpected choice of whether to continue their path through a doorway titled 'Average' or one titled 'Beautiful'.

Much to the whole world's ardent surprise, the emotive music begins, and 98% of the women are seen electing to choose the 'Average' door, before, lo and behold, the clip reaches the 2 minute mark, the music changes and suddenly women are transformed by the infamously inspirational power of soap to be brave and tug one another through the 'Beautiful' door. Smiles and hugs all round, congratulations, another win for feminism and Dove's reputation soars as women across the globe tearily share it on their profiles and tag all their mates.

Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not trying to be a cynic.

I appreciate what Dove have been striving for since their 'Campaign For Real Beauty' movement in 2004, when they made the decision to only use 'real women' for their adverts. The general premise is an overwhelmingly positive one, and anything which encourages humans to embrace and love their bodies and themselves is something which deserves to be shouted from the rooftops. 

But there's is something about this campaign which rubbed me the wrong way.

Beautiful or Average.

I believe, regardless of context or inference, there is fundamental damage in asking a woman, or anyone, whether they consider themselves to be either a) beautiful or b) average and nothing else in between. 

Being average is NOT the opposite of being beautiful. 

And it is CERTAINLY not all there is.

The spectrum of beauty is so extraordinarily comprehensive, as is the criteria of objectively 'being average' - so how could they possibly ask people to choose which one, without explanation, and attribute it to this overall hypothesis that most women don't think they are attractive? Or think they have little worth? 

I'm average at basic arithmetic, I have a boring crappy job that pays the bills and live in a small but sweet house, I'm the most mediocre of average students and have less than an average ability at general household tasks, yet every now and then I look in a mirror and I'm like damn son, you ain't shit. So where would I go? 

It only gets worse when those who do choose the average door get reprimanded for not thinking higher of themselves - surprise surprise, from a company who cash in on the insecurities of women not feeling beautiful enough.

Why in god's name should we even HAVE to make that decision, only then to be told we're wrong about our choices for ourselves, by someone else? Then forever live in the knowledge that we've condemned ourselves to an eternity of either self-realised irrelevance or arrogance?!

I mean for fuck's sake, you might as well have two doors optioned 'Pretty' or 'Shit'.

Faced with that option, I'd gladly know which one I'd choose.

I do see what Dove were going for here - I'm not being deliberately pedantic -  But they've gone about it all the wrong way. Because however optimistic it may be to assume that people are going to instantly think of their own inner gloriousness just as equally as their outer appearance, when faced with the question of DO YOU THINK YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, that's just not the way we are programmed.

And this effectively says:

If you don't think you are beautiful, you are worthless.

At this, I wanna sit back, place my thumb and forefinger on either side of my nose and exhale deeply. 


And oh my lord almighty, the day that we all realise that we have so, so much more to offer than beauty, will be such a glorious day I might evaporate out of sheer fulfillment.

Dove could have gone with 'Important', 'Extraordinary', 'Influential', 'Powerful', 'Inspirational', 'Intelligent', even 'I goddamn matter' and any woman choosing that door I would have personally run up to them and thrown my arms around them because that it so, goddamn BIG.

So, Dove, I'm sorry but I'm not going to be choosing beautiful. It's impossible to align myself under any one label that determines how much worth I have, and nor should any other multi-faceted and unfathomably complex human being. 

And personally, the internal worth I allocate to my beauty is as good as NOTHING compared to the worth I allocate to my honesty, beliefs, dreams, sense of purpose, pride and my goddamn humanity, as a being, as a person, as a woman.

So I'll happily be your average. But I ain't gonna be mine.


  1. Oh god I so agree with this.

    I don't think I'm stunning but I think my face is alright, I can live with it. I wouldn't go through either of those doors to be honest because I wouldn't label myself as either beautiful or average. I am ME. I'm relatively happy with my life I suppose, and I wouldn't suddenly think my whole life is amazing because WOW I AM BEAUTIFUL. Urgh.

    Yes, everyone is beautiful in their own, unique way. They own it however they want. I get tired of the industry trying to specify what they think is beautiful. Frankly, because I don't care what they think - I'm not going to buy their product just because of some campaign (I'm not that easily won over with many things, to be honest)

  2. I completely agree with you that average is -not- the opposite of beautiful! I also read a comment on the YouTube video that made me laugh because it's true:

    "*All* of those women are [so] beautiful."
    An average is a comparative term. If they're all beautiful, then that's the average.

  3. So so true! Average and beautiful aren't something you can really compare. It's a bit of a weird stunt tbh. I'd gladly be average and still know I'm beautiful in my own ways.

    Naomi xx

  4. it also reminded me of the "fear <-> love" line from donnie darko.

  5. Tbh, I see your point. I agree that there is a spectrum of beauty to average or beautiful. I totally agree with the alternative options you presented such as 'Important', 'Extraordinary', 'Influential', 'Powerful', 'Inspirational', 'Intelligent'. I think it gives it a more positive spin, and really gives women a chance to appreciate themselves beyond beauty.

    As there were only two options presented, I would've personally walked through the beautiful door. Now this is not because I think I am Naomi Campbell But I have had beautiful experiences and continue to, and in the first time in life I feel at peace with who I am.

  6. Thank you for writing this post. I agreed with you all the way through and you just made my day with the Katniss Everdeen Gif...


    Writer’s block and broken lenses

  7. This is so bloody brilliant.
    I hadn't seen the ad before reading this but I had heard about it. Watching it actually made me feel bad? It's quite cringeworthy if I'm honest.
    I think you're so right, qualities like important & influential are much more inspiring!

    Another excellent post Katie!
    Maeve // Thrift O'Clock

  8. I hadn't seen this advert before reading this post but OH MY GOD what a total pile of shite. Absolutely brilliant post, best I've read all week. I literally agree with everything you've said and now watching that advert back it just makes my blood boil with the whole ridiculousness of the concept. Thought Dove could come up with better than that!

    And amen three cheers to this brilliant phrase : 'from a company who cash in on the insecurities of women not feeling beautiful enough' - you tell 'em giiiiirl!

    GOD. This post was great. Damn. xx

    LA COCO NOIRE ¦ Lifestyle, Food and Photography Blog

  9. I completely agree. Many of Dove's ads come so close to being good but they fail because they only half understand the self-empowerment movements they are trying to join in.

  10. Even though there are so many blogs nowadays, I find very few worthy of note. Yours is one. I started reading after I saw you went to Iceland, which I agree is one of the most enlightening, spiritual and soul awakening places I've ever been to. Your writing is brilliant and captures that sense of early/mid-twenties existential angst perfectly, and I can identify with everything you write. Ignore the naysayers and keep on writing, creating, dreaming and living the hell out of every day :-)

    Maria x

  11. I definitely agree with this! While Dove are trying to be empowering and innovative, by choosing the word 'beautiful' over the words you listed in your post, they are still bowing down to the age old debate that women only want to be pretty. In today's society, a woman's goal in life isnt just to be pretty! I would much rather be kind, smart, influential...

    Great post and amazing blog!

    Lauren |

  12. What a stupid ad! I couldn't watch all of it, it's just so stupid. Nobody is going to walk through the "beautiful" door - not because they think they're "average", but because they don't want to look stuck up by admitting that they think they're good looking. So stupid, and it achieves nothing. Cooooooool waste of money.

    1. right? Loads of people call themselves average even when they think they're pretty because they don't want other people to argue with them and try to tear them down, which sadly happens a whole fucking lot.

  13. Completely agree- I've always found Dove's campaigns to be a little cringe for most of the reasons you give. And it's ridiculous- attaching self worth to whether you think you're beautiful, because they are completely different things.

  14. Such an interesting viewpoint! Great post <3

    Sophie | Dreams and Colour Schemes

  15. Literally wanted to do a round of applause from behind my computer screen. Katie you manage to take things I think in my head and write them so eloquently and so powerfully. Thank you!

    Hunter //

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