02/03/2017

Dove’s latest campaign gets real about diversity

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It’s the first Friday after the Miss Universe pageant. Hot on the stiletto heels of the Most Beautiful Day in the Universe, the pageant is still the talk of the Internet and the subject of many Twitter jokes. There’s no more contesting the relevance of the spectacle around Miss Universe. We’ve all seen real life and online conversations. But given the range of women who took part in this year’s pageant, the discussion is now focused on diversity.

The criteria for entry to Miss Universe only explicitly states that the girl must be 18 to 28 years old, never been married or given birth or parented a child — basically, things you need to keep to still fall under the title of “miss.” But we’ve all seen that, time and time again, the contestants conformed to an unspoken standard like a glamorously skinny elephant in the room. Maybe it’s society, or maybe it was the Cheeto-colored misogynist who previously owned the enterprise. Who’s to say? It wasn’t until very recently that we saw the trend change. Miss Universe is slowly owning up to its name as a pageant for women by women. It was refreshing to see a bald girl, a dark-skinned girl, and a plus-sized girl represent their respective countries. I also very much appreciated how a lot of the girls were studying or working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), an industry largely dominated by men.

But just how diverse can a pageant of taller-than-average ladies be? Out of the pageant rubble, Dove released another one of its signature feel-good videos to walk the diversity talk to show how real beauty is universal. A two-minute homage to beauty that’s big, small, tall, thin, brown, chubby, tattooed and dyed shows the variety of real women and how beautiful they are in their element. To be completely honest — the initial feeling I had was “Really, Dove? Really?” How many times do we have to be subjected to a video about real, inclusive beauty that features porcelain girls with great smiles in various sizes? Where’s the intersectionality? Where are the girls who are both big and brown, or small and chubby? Or tattooed AND super tall? Maybe we’re not there yet, and after all, it’s just an ad… and it’s the thought that counts.

Yaaaas kweens: The women in Dove’s latest feel-good video are all about being comfortable in their own skin.

As a real girl who has gone through the whole range of “realness,” I can appreciate the message that Dove is trying to get across. Not for its merit in asking people to look at others and alter their perceptions of beauty overnight, but ultimately for its secondary message to girls to really stop hating themselves so much, realize and own their beauty before others. The road to self-love and body positivity is long, hard, and sometimes filled with emotional binge-eating. I’ve been the thin, untattooed, simple girl who often looked at photos of myself and thought I was fat. I’ve had pink hair, blue hair, and even almost no-hair. Now, I’m at the size I thought I’d never be. Nearly 200 pounds, tattooed, stretchmarked and miles happier than I used to be. But what’s become important for me is the stuff I’ve done in between. I tried and failed at having a start-up. I had a job that involved eating a lot of good food on the regular so I could post it on social media — and yes, now I carry that experience around my waistline. But now, I can also confidently say that, even at this stage, I’m more active and engaged with the outside world. I never used to like going outside and hiking, but last year, I crushed it and did that four different times.

I won’t tell you at this point that it’s the inner beauty that counts, because even inner beauty is subjected to another set of standards that people won’t ever acknowledge like the premium on niceness and simplicity. However, what I think is really important is to teach girls to encourage their sense of agency in all that they do — to own their identity and their lived experience with confidence without being too affected by the haters that surround them. The great philosopher Sean Paul once said, “I don’t really care what people say,” and I think that’s beautiful.

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