How Did Dove Think it Was Okay to Run this Painfully Racist Ad?

By Sharanya Gopinathan

Image courtesy Twitter

Pretending to care about social issues is a lot like lying, in so far as that if you keep doing it, you will get caught one day. The international beauty brand Dove (by Unilever), has made a lot of noise over the years about how body positive it is, and how it champions the movement to accept women of all shapes and sizes, not just the stereotypically skinny women we’re seeing in ads.

This mask first slipped badly back in May, when Dove came up with a laughable plan to promote body-positivity by releasing a body wash in a bunch of strangely shaped bottles that were supposed to represent different women’s body types. The plan backfired when everyone pointed out how silly it is to sell bottles in the supposed shape of a woman’s body to promote body positivity, and people were quick to point out how this could erase some of the brownie points Dove had earned for itself for promoting “socially conscious beauty” over the years.

In which case, they’ve probably leapt a mile backwards with their newest, ill-fated campaign. This weekend, Dove posted a GIF to its Facebook page as part of an ad for their body lotion. The GIF showed the image of a black woman taking off a dark brown shirt to reveal a white woman wearing a white shirt. It’s honestly a shocking image to see, because the second you see it, the strong message you receive is that that non-white skin and colouring is dirty and meant to be scrubbed off or removed in favour of whiter skin. The ad also included an image of the body lotion bottle, which said that it creates “visibly more beautiful skin”.

It’s an awful message to put out there: totally tone-deaf at best, and racist, offensive and dangerous to the psyche of non-white women at worst.

As angry commentators on social media pointed out, it’s also pretty amazing to think that a group of advertising execs, probably really good ones if they were hired by a huge brand like Dove, sat together and conceptualised this horrible ad, and then a boss somewhere okayed the final product, and no one at any step of the process found this offensive at all.

Lol did this even look right to y’all? I mean your whole team sat down and cleared this bullshit right here? How?

— Musimbwa (@UNcubeOthungayo) October 7, 2017

Dove has since apologised for the post in a tersely worded tweet (with no explanation for why and how the ad as published at all), and have taken down the offensive Facebook post. They haven’t been responding to the media’s requests for statements on the issue, so clearly, this is all Dove has to say on the issue:

An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.

— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017

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