I just realised that the Australian Positive Body Image Awards are on right now… through some tweeting from Hugh Stephens. This is something new to me, although I was quick to judge when I realised that Dove was once again being rewarded for some of the worst commercial hypocrisy ever.
Have we all seen this little gem? Such a great product. Selling the idea that Dove gives a shit about your daughter’s body image through shocking and disturbing images of what she might see on a daily basis just walking around, crossing the street. In theory, I approve massively. In fact I’ve used the video many times in my own positive body image program, FlyGirl. But I don’t use it in isolation, in fact, I use it less as a way of demonstrating how negative the media can be on young women’s self esteem and more as a way of demonstrating how horridly hypocritical corporations can be when wanting to sell a product.
After I show the young women the video, I ask them what they think about it, whether it connected with them in some way and why they felt it was good/bad. I then ask whether it would encourage them to buy Dove products more readily? Or if they thought it would encourage other women to buy Dove products. To which they all answered yes. Next I show them this video which replaces all the problematic images in the first video with ones taken from Lynx ads.
Lynx is a mens product owned by the same parent company as Dove. Unilever. Lynx ads are renowned for being utterly awful, misogynist and degrading towards women. Lynx actually seems to use the horror of their ads as a marketing campaign in themselves. The general trend goes like this; new product released, horrible misogynist ad made to go with product, massive public outcry at the awfulness of the ad, ad retracted with requisite humbleness and apologies from Lynx, new ad of equal or greater awfulness released. Whoops, we did it again!
So with one hand, Unilever are telling women they’re worth more and should be more positive and ignore the awful images they see and with the other they’re whacking them about the head and telling them they’re only worthy as a sex object for men. Hypocrisy? Yes. Award worthy? No!
Finally, I show my participants this video. This is my favourite one. When Dove not only gets whacked for being hypocritical about women but also exposes the broader problem with trusting products based on what they show you themselves. In this Greenpeace video, the parody is of a young girl in Indonesia seeing her home being destroyed for palm oil production, the killing of Urang-utangs, and the destruction of rainforest for a product that WAS commonly used in Dove products and is still used in many everyday food and beauty products. After pressure from Greenpeace, Dove started using only sustainable palm oil in their products. In fact, the entire of Unilever started using only sustainably sourced palm oil way back in 2008. They were able to see the destruction that it caused and made the ethical decision. So why is it that a) they’re unable to see the destruction of their advertising methods and b) that the Australian government is so keen to award them for paltry efforts to remedy some of the damage that they are responsible for. It’s kinda like if they were continuing to using sustainable palm oil in one product that they were labeling “green” pedaling information and resources and programs about the evils of unsustainable palm oil production while at the same time continuing to use it in all their other products. In that situation Greenpeace would not be awarding them for their brilliant work and patting them on the back. They wouldn’t be partnering with them to run their sustainability workshops like The Butterfly Foundation is.
So why is the Australian government so keen to support a pathetic and hypocritical attempt to improve body image in young women and so quick to ignore programs that are actually successful, genuinely make a difference and are based on non-commercial, community oriented intentions?