In the last couple of weeks, a Dove beauty ad has gone viral. By now, I’m sure, many of you have seen it: how a series of young(ish) women are introduced to a sketch artist and asked to describe themselves. The sketch artist proceeds to draw them—and then the ad introduces a twist. The sketch artist also draws these women as they are described by others, and in every instance, the second drawing is much more attractive than the first. The ad concludes that most women are more beautiful than they realize. (A spoof ad concludes that the opposite is true for men.) Compare this to a recent ad for Disney, which, aside from the expected product placement, presents a fairly empowering message to a wide variety of girls.
Although both ads seek to empower women, critics have pointed out that the Dove ad presents a fairly narrow range of beauty (mostly young, mostly thin, mostly white), and the ad rests on the assumption that beauty is the most important criterion of value in women. Similarly, although the Disney ad downplays physical beauty, the concept is still present in this line: “I have heard I am beautiful; I know that I am strong.”
As for me, I have mixed feelings.