Dove debunks beauty myths
Beauty comes in all different shapes, sizes and ages. Find out how Dove is doing its bit to fight the surge of eating disorders.
Our beauty philosophy
Until 1995 Fiji didn't have TV, and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia were virtually unheard of. However, within three years of its arrival – and a diet of programmes such as Melrose Place, starring the usual beauty parade of wafer-thin 'blonde bombshells' – researchers at Harvard University found that 15% of teenage Fijian girls were making themselves vomit to lose weight.
Although TV and other visual media can't be held totally responsible for the high incidence of eating disorders in many parts of the world, it is now widely accepted that the stereotypical images of young, thin and perfectly shaped women used in the media have had a corrosive effect on women’s self-esteem.
One survey, for example, found that 75% of teenage girls felt 'depressed, guilty and shameful' after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine.
A major study commissioned by Dove, based on interviews with 3 000 women across the globe, added even greater weight to this view. Two-thirds of the women interviewed claimed that 'the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can't ever achieve', while 48% strongly agreed with the statement that 'when I feel less beautiful, I feel worse about myself in general'.
"We can be as puritanical as we like but we have to accept that we live in a highly visual culture and that it's here to stay," says Susie Orbach, Professor of Psychotherapy at the London School of Economics and author of the bestseller Fat is a Feminist Issue. "The problem is that the images of female perfection we're bombarded with – and we see around 1 200 ads with women each week, on average – exclude most women, encouraging many to be unnecessarily self-critical.
"We need to make beauty more democratic and inclusive by reflecting women in their beauty as they really are rather than as the digitally enhanced fictions that dominate our visual culture."
Ground breaking advertising
Which is the main aim of Dove's new 'beauty philosophy', whose core message is that 'beauty comes in different shapes, sizes and ages'. Initially launched in Europe with a ground-breaking advertising campaign for Dove Firming Lotion featuring 'real' women – not models – of different ages, shapes and colour, the philosophy has now evolved into a fully-fledged campaign.
The award-winning campaign not only includes an interactive website where consumers can discuss beauty-related issues, including eating disorders, but also a series of novel 'tick box' ads that challenge people to re-evaluate the meaning of beauty.
"What I really like about the campaign is that it isn't telling people what to think, but encouraging them to debate," says Nancy Etcoff, a psychologist at Harvard University. "Crucial to any societal change is to make people think."
Boosting females' self-esteem
A Dove Self-Esteem Fund has also been set up in various countries to fund information and educational programmes that help boost the self-esteem of girls and young women.
"With the Dove beauty philosophy, we're not saying that the stereotypical 'Claudia Schiffer' view of beauty isn't great – it is," says Alessandro Manfredi, global marketing manager, Dove. "We simply want to broaden the definition of beauty to include not just a person's physical attributes, but also how they feel – their attitude, style, charm and other intangible elements that add up to an individual's 'spirit'. The key word in all of this is diversity."