Mad World: Dove Deodorant is Just for Pretty Babies

Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too many episodes of Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch lately and therefore keep seeing the same online ads, but this Dove Clinical Strength commercial is everywhere I look and I want it to go away, and take its only-pretty-girls-are-strong-and-deserve-deodorant message with it. Behold:

There are lots of things going on in this 30-second ad that I find to be bogus. Let’s look at them in chronological order, shall we?

  • The opening line, which asks “What happens when beauty meets strength?” I get that pretty people sell more products than ugly people, but this is deodorant! Is beauty a requirement for it to work? Also, it’s weird to frame that as a question. Me: “I don’t know, Dove. What DOES happen when beauty meets strength?” Dove: “Um, deodorant?”
  • The song, which is not only patronizing, it’s literally infantilizing, since it’s all about pretty babies for some weird reason. Everybody loves a baby that’s why I… think you need stronger deodorant? Baby?
  • The little descriptions of women doing “strong” things, all of which have to do with looks. We’ve got the woman who checks herself out in the mirror, the woman who is painting her nails, the woman who is trimming her hair, etc. And I for one find it problematic that the descriptions play on stereotypes like “flaunt what her mama gave her” (directed at the only woman of color in the ad) or “run with the guys” (you know, because strong women would never run together).
  • The tagline, which tells us that Dove Clinical Protection is “Where beautiful girls find strength.” Of course beautiful girls can be strong, but so can less-beautiful ones, and what does being pretty have to do with your armpits anyway?

I realize that this ad is relatively tame compared to some (hi there, Axe) but it still irks me. Maybe it’s because Dove claims to be about real beauty and not beauty norms, or maybe it’s just that I’m tired of feeling like every part of my body has to look pretty. Can’t my armpits just be armpits? Why do they need cucumbers and lotion and theme music about pretty babies? Women are under enough pressure to be “pretty babies” as it is without bringing our armpits under scrutiny, thank you very much.

OH_Logo.jpg This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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19 Comments Have Been Posted

Um, is "beautiful"

Um, is "beautiful" inherently binary?

what about stinky people.

I mean seriously, what about people who choose to be "smelly" are we not strong, come on Dove Clinical Protection. Can't I be strong? GAH!

I'm with you, Laura. My

I'm with you, Laura. My least favorite thing about deodorant ads directed at women is that they so often insist that their product=instant confidence and "strength". Just perpetuates the idea that women should and do feel insecure if they don't cake on the Clinical Protection. Thank goodness Dove is here to "protect" me from my own sweat!!

Strong smelling, maybe.

Strong smelling, maybe.

maybe you can be strong but

maybe you can be strong but DEFINITELY not beautiful. ;)


What you said in the commentary and..... cucumber pits?? Are we supposed to smell like salad ingredients?

Beautiful bangs

Also, I hate it when TV/commercials/movies show people cutting their own bangs in the mirror and coming out looking gorgeous. I tried cutting my own bangs once and it was a huge mistake—very choppy.
<b>Kelsey Wallace, web editor</b>

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>

9th grade

I cut my own bangs in 9th grade and they looked HORRIBLE. Everytime I see this ad (and others) I think to myself "yeah right!" my bangs were thick, uneven, and just looked bad.

These commercials also bother me because while it tries to be pro-woman, they fail miserably. I'm supposed to go "WOO HOO STRONG WOMEN!" because it shoes a woman cutting her own bangs or dancing in front of a mirror?

Dove is so conflicting to me. Which I appreciate their Campaign For Real Beauty, it has its flaws, like insinuating that only Real Women Have Curves. And I do think it's great that they use "real women" and not models in their ads, there's still a lack of representation. And in this ad, it's obvious that they used models/actresses and not "real women." (and another thing about that "real women" thing... it insinuates that all models are fake or something).

And then the beauty thing... why is beauty so damn important, anyways? (something I read on s.e. smith's blog) If ou doesn't mind me linking, i think ou has some nice insights to beauty:


How do you know they don't mean INNER beauty? The company is supposedly about real beauty, after all. And they have done some good commercials in the past. Also, I think the song is just a song. A cute, upbeat song that sounds nice. Don't read too much into it. Then again, maybe I just like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But lately this website and I haven't been seeing eye to eye, and it worries me. I used to love and vehemently agree with everything i read, and now...i just find myself getting more and more pissed off and disagreeing. *sigh*

Disagreeing is OK

It's OK to disagree about stuff like this as long as we keep the conversation going. (Although I am probably always going to "read too much into it"—I can't help myself.) I for one didn't like the ad, and didn't interpret it to be about inner beauty, but there's room for lots of interpretations.

If you want to give more feedback about why the site is worrying you, feel free to send me an email.
<b>Kelsey Wallace, web editor</b>

<i>Ask me about our <a href="">Comments Policy</a>!</i>


While the ad doesn't completely annoy me, I can't help but be cynical with Dove in general. They can have happy songs and talk about beauty--inner or outer--but the fact remains that they're owned by Unilever, who owns Axe, and could probably not actually care less about how we feel about our bodies.


This is exactly what I was going to bring up, the connection between Axe and Dove. Yep, that Axe: the one whose commercials are all about sexy men and their sexy men smells and the women who have spontaneous and multiple orgasms when they smell them.
Ultimately, Dove is still selling a product. I'm not sure, much as it pains me, that as a company they're much interested in inner beauty as anything but a marketing ploy. Check out an interview about Dove in particular, and marketing in general, <a href="/post/use-your-imagination-an-interview-with-the-women-of-sociological-images" target="_blank">here</a>. This is how I found out about the Unilever umbrella!

I didn't feel as irked as

I didn't feel as irked as the author about this ad, either (I also haven't seen it running repeatedly over a long period of time, which can make any ad irksome and its flaws more obvious). I think I, too, thought about it in the context of greater Dove campaign, which is meant to make all women feel beautiful. Of course, if they had someone without a "perfect" ass flaunting it, perhaps it would seem more genuine? This ad (and I've only seen it the once) made me want to flaunt what my mama gave me, too, even though it's imperfect. :-)

Context is everything, right? Having shiny happy feelings about Dove generally, despite their flawed ad campaign, made me feel more inclined to give this particular ad the benefit of the doubt.

And I agree with Kelsey: We don't always have to agree, as long as we can talk about our disagreements in reasonable, civil, and intelligent ways, right?

Reading the opener I

Reading the opener I thought, "Well Dove normally doesn't do too bad, I be the author is overreacting..."

That's not what ended up happening at all.

I would find the line, "Where beauty meets strength" rather empowering if they went in completely opposite directions with the definitions of both "beauty" and "strength." This article also leads me to questioning who writes these ads and what percentage of them are female.

Not so stinky anymore...

I must admit I never paid much attention to this commercial whenever I did see it but now I'm kind of shocked at how... irritatingly rude it is.

However, I have to add - I love the clinical strength deodorant. I sweat like crazy, especially in the winter, and it's not much of a problem of stank as it is my shirts get soggy in the pits. Since I'm a college student, I try not to wash clothes every week, but stinky, soggy pits means you have to wash shirts after one wear... So once I started using this deodorant, it was sooo much better. It's also not as nasty smelling as a lot of the deodorants out there. I'd say the only big big thing that irritates me about the product itself is that it's super expensive for a small amount of deodorant... so right now I'm using left over deodorants that I never really liked, but still have. Funny - that one is Dove too.

And they are all skinny and

And they are all skinny and hairless. If one of those girls even had a 5 o'clock shadow, there may have been mayhem for dem gender roles. If it's about "real" and "natural" beauty, what's more natural than a little armpit hair? Or lots of it?

I am so glad you said this.

I am so glad you said this. I've felt like this ever since i saw it for the first time. My anger comes from the insinuation that beautiful girls can't be strong normally. That those two cannot coincide. I've been a female athlete for most of my life and seeing commercials like this that just perpetuate the old stereotypes and misnomers about women and femininity is personally offensive. How can men respect my strength when evidently me being strong is weak punching at a mirror and other things that are not really showing off my physical strength?

Other issue...

As a girl who uses Dove Extra strength... I feel like the "beauty" message that seems to bother the writer and others is not exactly what people are interpreting it as... See the girls in this ad are supposed to be girls who over-sweat, (like me!). So it's saying that although you over-sweat and deodorant wont stay on your armpit for more than an hour; you are still beautiful and therefore can be more confident in participating in whatever daily activities. So I don't think that they mean "beautiful" as exclusive, but rather it is inclusive. Particularly to women and girls with overactive sweat glands... Like the author said, this ad is pretty tame and there are other ads who don't stand up for any other cause than to generate and maintain gender stereotypes who deserve more of our attention...

Everyday Women

The girls shown in this ad are not models/actressess. Under Dove's Contract of being in one of their tv ad's, not one person is allowed to be shown if they have been a model/actress or been filmed or shot in any type of magazine (from an advertising point of view).

Dove clinical protection is about being confident in ones ability to do anything without having to feel embarressed because of excess sweat. Dont read into the ad too much. The comments about all the words that the ad uses such as will run with the boys. Well hell yea we can run with the girls anytime, but running with the boys, why the hell not either? If they just said run with the girls you would probably get the other side yelling why cant she run with the theres no winning this arguement.

The product itself is outstanding, so i would recommend it to anyone who feels they need a more potent solution.


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