So, several bloggers around the web have been commenting on this Dove VisibleCare body wash advertisement, saying it appears to them to be (unintentionally) racist.
I don’t think I’m gonna hop on that band wagon.
It seems pretty clear to me that the before and after panels are intended to represent two pics of the same person’s skin before and after they used the product. If I had to guess at the ethnicity of that person, I’d say they were white (or very light skinned). There’s no way that pinky-beigey “before” panel is meant to represent the beautiful brown sista pictured on the left.
I get the point that they positioned the white woman on the far right, and English-trained reading brains ingest visual cues from left to right, leading some to translate that as black to white. But, I can’t help but wonder if they would have positioned the white woman on the left, would we be talking about what hidden message there is in putting her first, (thereby ranking the two brown women second and third by default?) Or, in avoiding either of those issues, they could have just put the white woman in the middle…
Not. (Please. Remember how much flack Beyoncé got for always being the “center” of attention in Destiny’s Child?)
So, Dove, I’m thinking maybe you were just between a rock and a hard place on this one.
Here are a few comments I found on the web regarding this nontroversy:
While I suspect there was no ill-intent, the subtle message that perfect (white) skin is the ultimate goal of using Dove offends me. This message is inconsistent with your stated goals regarding self esteem. I will not be using Dove until I know you have recalled this ad and will ask my friends to take the same action. –From CourtneyLuv.com
“Visibly more beautiful skin.” Bye-bye black skin, hello white skin! (Scrub hard!) Can this ad possibly be real? Some people think it is! We’ve emailed Dove’s representatives for confirmation, and we’ll update with their reply. If real, this could be the most (unintentionally) racist skin care product ad in… about ten months. –From Gawker.com
Dove body wash turns Black Women into Latino Women into White Women. At least, that’s what one could possibly infer by the left-to-right before and after progression in this ad for Dove VisibleCare. This is so stupid, I’m thinking it’s got to be a fake Photoshop ad. –From copyranter
Gawker.com did get a response from Dove:
“We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential.
The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”
If someone perceives this ad as racist and or hurtful, I definitely don’t intend to dismiss their gut response, but I can’t help but wonder if crying foul on something like this distracts from efforts to address real instances of racism and colorism in the media.