Original Advertisement : Dove’s Body Wash
This picture is an advertisement for a Dove body wash. It advertises towards women, and sends a message that they can achieve beautiful skin when they have used the body wash, as it says “Visibly more beautiful skin from the most unexpected of places – your shower”. It seemingly has a promising, positive message that a person who uses this product will become more beautiful.
However, the before and after panels in the background represents a “before the shower” and “after the shower”, placing a black woman, and then another woman of colour who is lighter skinned than the black woman, and then a white women as an end result. The panel where the black woman is standing in front of is cracked, while the panel the white woman is in front of is smooth.
The problem with this ad is that it is very racist, as it sends out the message that women of colour are not beautiful, and they must strive to look like the white woman in the “after” result. It also promotes colourism by placing two women of colour next to each other, showing the change of their skin getting lighter, and their races supposedly changing after they have used the body wash. It promotes the false fact, that women of colour are less beautiful and have cracked skin, and that in order to be pretty, they must look like a white woman.
It is also impossible for a person to change their race and the colour of their skin by just using the body wash (or in fact, any other beauty products) thus, it sends out a false message to consumers. This ad trivializes race as a whole, ignoring the racism and colourism that is rampant in this society. Furthermore, many women who suffer from colourism and racism turn to whitening products which are detrimental to their skin, and although this ad does not address whether it has a whitening component in it, it advertises unhealthy and unrealistic beauty standards as a whole, both mentally and physically.
In my jammed version of the ad, I added new text: “Try this body wash. Your race will change. Be white, and be beautiful.” My intention was to highlight the absurdity of this ad, and add the underlying message that already exists in the ad.
The original ad’s message is that if a person uses this body wash, and they will become beautiful as the white woman on the right. Because it was not explicitly written in words but is a message that can be derived from the image, I decided to add these words in order to portray the absurdity of these expectations. One can not change their race just by using a body wash, as race is a social construct that has been embedded into all of our minds since the day we were brought into this world.
By writing these words in, the ad’s literal message will be presented, and consumers will see how racist and ridiculous this advertisement is. I do however understand that many people who see the original ad will know the absurdity of the message, but some women who see this who are not really aware may implicitly be sold this product, and enforce both their internalized colourism and racism.
The original advertisement may be improved by removing the background of the cracked skin, and the “before and after”. By showing these women of different races, looking happy and beautiful after using the body wash will improve racial representation, and imply that every woman of every colour is beautiful. It will remove the negative connotations that women of colour have cracked skin and are not beautiful, and show them being happy in their own skin.