Real vs. Not

I’m supposed to be working. When I hit a rough patch, that’s generally the cue to open another browser and look through tumblr. This is a bad idea, no productivity has ever come from browsing tumblr, but it’s irresistible when you’re supposed to be making progress. What’s there not to like, an endless stream of pretty boys, porn, pretty girls, more porn, art, puppies, kittens, unicorns and for whatever reason, the following image. It has come up several times the last few days, and the fourth or so time it came up, I thought. Okay. This is god telling you something moof. Don’t fight the inner dolphin. Let him swim free.

According to Dove’s mid 2000′s campaign, this is what real women look like.

This rant will take a while to unfold, but just roll with me–I am hoping that like Brie cheese, if I let this fester at room temperature for a bit, it will get creamy soon.

Please complete the following sentence.

Every woman has a _____.

I don’t know about you dear reader, but I cannot complete that sentence. There is no word I can find that goes in there that is true for all women, all the time. (Not even every woman has two x chromosomes, because there are chromosomal abnormalities and the such… I know not every woman has a vagina either… ) That is to say, I cannot think of one physical characteristic that everyone who calls herself a woman shares.

Now, I understand that the fashion industry’s current standard of beauty, insofar as an average woman is concerned, is fucked up.  Still, stuff like the Dove campaign above annoys me so much, I could puke. Excuse me, Dove, but can you please stop pooping all over my intelligence?! Yes, those women are all real.

In fact, EVERY woman is real. A 500 pound woman is real. A woman with a beard is real. A woman without breasts because she had them removed is real. A woman who has given birth to 20 kids is real. A woman who has had her tubes tied and never intends to give birth is also real. No matter how unusual or how commonplace, they occupy a place in space–they have a mass and girth.

A stripper with triple G breasts is not a fake woman. She is a real woman who has fake breasts.

A Victoria Secret supermodel is not a fake woman. She is a real woman who is most likely  underweight and has to exercise/starve like hell to look like that. Whatever. Dancers are also underweight. Gymansts are also underweight. Other women are possibly extremely overweight.

And they are all real.

Yes, on one level, I am sick of all these pale, wraith-thin, doll-faced, doll haired chicks being the only marketable form of beauty right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m part of the wicked and I believe they are beautiful. But I also find many other types beautiful  and if a  fashion label/beauty product wants to try to turn the tides by featuring women who deviate from that standard, wonderful. I will applaud them for their courage and support their product.

But please don’t act like the words ‘real’ and ‘ordinary’ mean the same thing. They don’t.

If Victoria’s Secret launched a similar ad, with a gaggle of supermodels and called it a campaign for ‘real women’, they would be lynched. People would scream ‘You can pray on our fantasies and our insecurities, but you DO NOT get to appropriate what constitutes a real woman!’ But because Dove uses ordinary women who can be found in your office or your class room, they can?

News flash: Every person who says I am a woman, I feel like a woman, I identify as a woman, whether or not she dyes her hair, is severely overweight, shaves her armpits, has fake breasts, has a dick, or still has her uterus in her body is a woman and she is fucking real.

‘k Dove? ^^ Ok, rant over. Whoo, I feel better…

6 responses to “Real vs. Not

  1. Hey moof,

    interesting that you are so annoyed by the dove commercials. I think that for a large corporation campaign, they are surprisingly fair.
    To me it is about the distorted perception created by the use of tons of makeup, lighting, photography and especially digital image manipulation. Because nobody, including supermodels, actually looks like what you see in the ads.
    I do see your point that they are inevitably creating a new type of ‘real’ dove-woman that cannot possibly encompass all variations that genetics, personality and society allow for. But it’s only a soap company. And they are of course also using lighting, photography and image manipulation to subconsciously establish this new ‘real’ dove-woman as your idol, humbly supported by dove products. But criticising to the status quo and providing a new (albeit invariably also limited) perspective is a laudable effort in my opinion. Especially in an industry as perverted as fashion.
    If you account for the fact that at the end of the day, dove is a company that wants to make profits like everyone else, I still consider this a net win.



  2. Fail, thanks so much for letting me procrastinate more :D
    Your comment has me thinking further. I’m sorry this is so long, but I blame you, for leaving a long and thought-provoking comment. I agree with you, their heart was in the right place, but I have further reasons for ire…!

    Beyond gross misuse of the word real, two more things that your comment made me think about.
    First, I hate scapegoat-ism. ‘Oh, the fashion industry makes people think this way!’ etc. etc.
    The fashion industry doesn’t have the power to create a standard of beauty out of nothing. Rather, they shape what people are drawn to.

    I believe the industry capitalizes on thin because thin is rare. In some developed countries, thin people are becoming as rare as the dodo… And people psychologically are drawn to what is rare more to what is plentiful, because that makes it a status symbol.

    Like how in the past being fat was considered beauty–sign of wealth. Now, processed, cheap foods are causing endemic obesity. If you do not have the right combination of genes, it is harder and harder in a developed country to stay thin–that’s why I think it is becoming like a symbol of status. Look, I shop at Whole Foods, I work out five times a week, I am educated about nutrition blah blah blah
    (Same with being tan–it used to be a sign of poverty, but that has changed too…) This is just my crack pot theory, of course.

    Beauty products and clothing capitalize on fear and longing–fear of being ugly/undesirable, and longing to look better. This is a natural human tendency the industry uses to its advantage, but I would not say they are the source of it. The source is in us–the industry exploits that. (But it’s a business, so what do you expect?) So another thing that annoys me about this campaign is that using normal people strikes me as very naive–when I buy a beauty product, I don’t WANT to look like a normal person after I’m done using it. I ALREADY look like a normal person, and if I was happy being that way, I wouldn’t be buying a beauty product, now would I?

    I think what would really punch the status quo in the face is telling women they don’t need to smear all this shit on their face to be beautiful/worthy–but then Dove would go under ~_~ Anything else is slapping the turd (You know that saying by now …)

    Anyway, thanks for your beautiful long comment and feel free to rebut any and everything I just said…!

  3. I like the comments almost as much as the post. I’m not sure what I think. I admire the advertising in that its a good idea, well executed and well targeted. And it IS refreshing to see non-models on TV. However I rather dislike dove because its under the umbrella of Unilever which is a rather very polluting company. So its a deeply manipulative advert. But a good one, because it works.

    • Yeah, Unilever owns Axe and some skin-whitening gunk targeted at black women (and I always thought skin-lightening creams for black or Asian women are about the most evil quote unquote beauty products known to man.

      Ok, ok, you and Fail convinced me, and I give Dove the benefit of the doubt for trying to do good. I got high on my sassy horse, but I am just really annoyed by the whole ‘real women have curves’ (and more broadly the ‘real X have/do Y’) trend.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. I like this, SO MUCH. Thank you.

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