Thanks to Dove, I need to buy new deodorant.
Am I oversharing?
You might wonder why you need to know that; you might think this is one of those ADHD symptoms I have where the chronic oversharing kicks in and I tell you a bunch of stuff you didn’t necessarily need to know about me. That happens sometimes, but in this case, hang on. I have a point, and the deodorant is the tip of the iceberg.
As a young girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She and I were besties, and as besties, we had a lot of sleepovers. At my grandmother’s house, all children take a bath every evening. That means every evening, I took a bath and used my grandmother’s soap of choice: a pretty pink bar of Dove moisturizing soap. She’s changed brands over the years, but that smell can still take me back to childhood. I and many black women I know look to Dove as a brand that is gentle and will not dry out your skin. That means, unsurprisingly, that we would expect the brand that we have invested many dollars in to have some courtesy and respect for us, right?
Am I expecting too much from Dove?
As usual, expecting cultural sensitivity from a brand that I and others like me have always supported is a bit too much. Dove has disappointed me. For those of you who haven’t heard the latest scandal, Dove released a video of a young black woman smiling, taking her shirt off to reveal a young white woman, who took off her shirt to reveal another young racially ambiguous woman.
Not so bad on the surface, right? I mean, maybe Dove didn’t mean any harm? All lives matter, and all that jazz, no? Let’s look a little deeper into it.
Previously, Dove poked the internet watchdog of wokeness, otherwise known as Black Twitter, by releasing another campaign in which a young black woman stands on the far left, while another brown woman stands in the middle, with the final white woman standing on the right. In the background is a slide with two different skin conditions. The left is dry and scaly. The right is smooth as silk. I guess we can thank Dove for saving our itchy, scaly black hides. Where do I mail the thank you card?
Am I pulling the race card?
I can almost hear you rolling your eyes from here. “Why”, you’re wondering, “do people have to make everything about race?” Well, first of all, because when you live your life in America as a person of color, every experience you have with few exceptions can be seen through the lens of race, so don’t kid yourself. Secondly, let’s talk about why this matters for real.
It isn’t because Dove is some nefarious racist. Nor is it because I’m hypersensitive on matters of race. Rather, the backlash that is occurring is because advertising is psychological, and Dove, which is owned by Unilever, should know better.
Why should they know better? Because they have too much money not to. That’s right, when you get called out for cultural insensitivity, your next step should be to hire focus groups. You should also get people of color on your advertising teams. You do that so this will NEVER happen again. NO excuses.
Time for a history lesson
Leaving Dove for a moment, let’s get into the historical precedence here. “Are there historical precedents in soap advertisement”, you say? See, this is what gets me about you “why does it always have to be about race” types. Usually, you’re sitting blissfully unaware in whatever tower of ignorance you’ve built for yourself, and you hate hearing about racial issues, not because you honestly know whether there is one or not, but because hearing about it makes you uncomfortable. It makes you feel icky, and you don’t like it. Let me be clear, in case you were confused: I don’t give a shit about your comfort if your comfort means that I have to be quiet about issues that affect me or the people I love. If you came here to be comfortable, you came to the wrong place.
Advertising has a long racist past, and unlike our “why does everything gotta be about race” people, most black people know their history when it comes to racism and the stupid shit that has been pulled over the years. But because I care about your education, if not your comfort, I’m going to hit you with just a little bit of what we have been exposed to over the years.
Oh, trust me, there are more, but I’m not going to spend all of my time scouring the internet. You get the idea. In advertising, especially in soap, there is a historical abuse of black people. Black people have dark skin. Dark skin is dirty. They need to correct that. They need to correct their dirtiness by using this soap. If you’re dirty (although certainly not as dirty as black people, you nice white consumer), then you should buy this soap too.
Was it intentional?
Do I think Dove knew that walking into this advertisement?
Maybe, maybe not. What I do think is that they have a responsibility to their consumers, to show them respect and treat them well. That isn’t what they did here, and I, and many others like me, are tired of it.
I have used Dove’s deodorant faithfully for years, call it brand loyalty. A small reminder of a childhood where all the worries of the world could be washed down the drain with a washcloth and pink soap. I guess all things, even years of purchasing, eventually, come to an end.
Do better, Dove,
PS: Don’t forget to pin this to your pin board!