Dove Asks Women to Choose: Beautiful or Average?

Credits: Photo - Sarah G. Schmidt, Styling - Sarah G Schmidt, Location - Sarah G Schmidt's home

Given the choice between 2 doors would you choose “average” or “beautiful?” That was Dove’s latest campaign's challenge in #choosebeautiful where it explored how women feel about themselves. In 5 major cities: Delhi, London and Sao Paulo, San Francisco, and Shanghai Dove constructed signs above the only two entrances into city buildings. Women self-selected and walked through either the “Average” or “Beautiful” door. Hidden cameras caught the footage. After making their decision and walking through one of the two doors, some of the women provided rationale why they chose what they chose and what that decision brought into focus. Many felt regret as they knew they had opted out of choosing beautiful. They acknowledged that they chose for themselves and it’s telling.

I believe I am speaking for many when I say self confidence is paramount to building a positive self image and yet the statics for confidence are alarming low. Canadian Living reports the following:

“Girls as young as six can fret about their figures. But typically they begin to worry about their weight between the ages of nine and eleven. By age eleven, 37 per cent of Canadian girls say they would change how they look if they could, and 21 per cent say they need to lose weight.” 

Let’s read that again. As early as grade three over 1/3 of Canadian girls are not only thinking about, but are unsatisfied with their looks and/or weight. These are kids. It’s so sad and, I think, somewhat avoidable. But it’s real and it’s happening.

I tried to put it in perspective for myself. I am one of six kids. Five of us are female. That means up to two of my siblings don’t like what they see in the mirror. It was hard for me to write that sentence. Excruciating really. I get physically upset because their beauty is so apparent to me, I cannot possibly fathom how they could even entertain anything different. But the statistics would challenge me to think again.

Many criticize Dove for selling beauty products that advertise the altering affects of its beauty products while at the same time asking women to accept and love their looks. I can see how that might be seen as hypocritical. Something along the lines of, “How dare a beauty product company tell me that I need to think better of myself? They’re the ones selling me the crap and telling me I should want it.” The marketer in me says, tell a brand how you feel about them by either buying their products or not. Show then just how you feel with your hard-earned money. And spend that money wisely. They only way to make it stop, should you be inclined, is to not buy, click or talk.

For me, I’ve seen beauty products as means to exploration and empowerment rather than a crippling gender-based necessity. For me it has nothing to do with identifying female and doing typically female things. It’s about choosing what products I experiment with and support. My body, my choice. Often I choose Dove.

Further, playing with products has helped me feel in control of how I choose to put myself together. How every morning I walk out of the door looking they way I want. I know that how I looked yesterday and tomorrow don’t matter. It’s just about how I want to show up today. It can be fun, dramatic, simple and, above all else, liberating.

Regardless of how one personally feels, I argue that the key takeaway of this campaign is that it’s getting us talking. Once we are able to talk about standards of beauty, argue the merits for and against the topic or a particular point of view, we are making progress. We are, at the very least, evaluating it, processing it and offering our thoughts and opinions about it. I think it’s really rad when we people dig deep, perhaps into research, to help form views. I hope, too, in that squishy, exploration phase that we are seeing what’s out there for support. Most importantly, it may make us look inside ourselves and reflect a bit about how we feel about "me." Now, if we're really going all out on this the magical self-esteem-unicorn that I wish for others to consider is, “What example am I setting for others around me?” Not just girls, but boys too. Really it's about all persons trying to find their place in this world and express themselves outwardly and feeling supported.

Generation after generation, we hand down social norms. The heretics challenge the outdated norms to make positive progress. We may stumble here and there but by and large it feels forward. Let’s challenge the statistics and create a reason to get new data on beauty and confidence. Let's build people up.

It seems we are able to #choosebeautiful for others more quickly than we can for ourselves. Why not challenge yourself today and #choosebeautiful when you look in the mirror? If you do, I promise you that no one can take that from you.