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.
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.