For several years, Dove — the Unilever-owned toiletries brand — has tried to market itself as focusing on a more realistic notion of beauty, at least when compared to the often unattainable standards set by many of its competitors. So why on Earth did the brand think it would, in any way — in any world — be a smart idea to run an ad wherein a darker-skinned woman transforms into a very pale woman?
The original Dove ad, which was posted as a 3-second video on its Facebook feed over the weekend, actually features three women. First, a woman of color in a brown top lifts her top over her head to reveal a completely different — and decidedly whiter — woman underneath. This woman then lifts her shirt to reveal the third woman, who has darker hair and slightly darker skin tone.
Dove claims the short video was intended to show that “Dove Body Wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong and, as a result, offended many people. We are deeply sorry.”
It’s not hard to understand why they the blowback against the ad was immediate. Whatever Dove’s intentions, when you have a person of color — standing in front of a bottle of Dove body wash — then peeling off a layer to reveal a very pale person underneath, an obvious inference to be made is that Dove can somehow scrub away one’s skin color. As was noted by many critics of the ad, there’s also the implication that darker skin is to be associated with being unclean.
Which is a problem Dove has run into before. In 2011, the brand ran this now-infamous ad where the darker skinned woman is standing in front of a close-up of skin labeled “Before” while the paler woman stands in front of the one labeled “After.”
Regarding this weekend’s ad, which was removed from Facebook after Dove realized the problematic implications, the company has issued an apology, stating that “we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.”