Sad Stuff from Dove

Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty, real women, models, body issues, Joan Smalls, Daria Werbowy, Raquel Zimmermann, Vogue

Dove sent me a really upsetting press release the other day. Unfortunately it wasn’t about soap or body wash or any beauty product, it was about some global research they did about beauty and confidence. Prepare to be depressed.

Here are some of the findings:

Nearly half (47%) of Canadian girls between the ages of 10 and 17 have avoided social activities like going to the beach, participating in physical activities, going to school or giving an opinion because they feel badly about the way they look.

The Dove Real Truth About Beauty research found that by the age of 14 more than half (55%) of Canadian girls already feel pressure to be beautiful. By the time they are 29, this number increases to 96%. After the age of 14 girls increasingly become their own worst beauty critic. While only 10% of girls 10-14 put pressure on themselves to be beautiful, this number climbs to 59% of women 18-64.

While 13% of Canadian girls (ages 10-14) are comfortable calling themselves ‘beautiful’, this number slides to 6% for girls ages 15-17 and to only 3% for women (ages 18-64); the percentage of girls who claim to be confident declines from 76% of girls 10-14 to only 56% of girls 15-17.

I suppose these figures will have much more value if this research is ongoing, and we can compare them to results from 5, 10, and 20 years from now. Although I know I grew up in a very different world, where we weren’t bombarded with internet images all the time, I do feel that mentalities were not that dissimilar. Perhaps not as bad as the ones above, but physical appearance has been an “issue” for women for as long as I can remember. Another point to consider is the growing number of people who are overweight and obese. Wouldn’t the fact that there are more obese people today mean that confidence is lower?

Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty, real women, models, body issues, Joan Smalls, Daria Werbowy, Raquel Zimmermann, Vogue

Regardless of these thoughts, the facts are still startling, particularly the first one and the fact that there is a 20% decrease in confidence from the ages of 10-14 to 15-17. How is this issue to be addressed? Dove has lots of interesting information on their website, which is worth reading if you are a girl under the age of 18. But I don’t think Dove is powerful enough to solve the problem (which is a shame, since they seem to have pretty good intentions, even though they are ultimately trying to sell more product.) People’s perceptions need to change, and women, or girls, need to be empowered by being lead to believe that physical appearance is not the only thing that matters, or that there is no standard definition of “beauty.”

I started writing this post after having completed an article about how much I dislike Uggs and harem pants, etc… which makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I personally don’t address these issues very often on the blog, and I certainly don’t feature enough body types in the images I choose (or “real’ women, as they are sometimes called. But I’ve written about how I think that whole concept is highly annoying.) Should I be? Well, I most definitely would if someone would choose to take a fashion photo of someone who wasn’t a size 2 or 4, traditional “beauty.” But that happens very, very infrequently.

To make matters worse, Vogue has just released this video, entitled Bodies of Work, featuring models Joan Smalls, Raquel Zimmermann, and Daria Werbowy talking about their imperfections. The last thing anyone with “low self confidence” needs is to see some of the best bodies in the business talking about the problems they have with their bodies. Here are a few quotes from the clip.

“We all obviously have different shapes, but they all look good and we all work in our way to obtain that.” -Joan Smalls. While I agree that not all model’s bodies are identical, I don’t see how she can claim that the three women below have “different” shapes. If their heads were cut off, I would definitely have trouble identifying which one was which, and I wouldn’t wonder if one was Beth Ditto.

Dove, Campaign for Real Beauty, real women, models, body issues, Joan Smalls, Daria Werbowy, Raquel Zimmermann, Vogue

Three "imperfect" bodies: Joan Smalls, Daria Werbowy, and Raquel Zimmerman. How do they live with themselves?

“I have my Dad’s legs, I swear to you, my Dad’s legs.” -Daria Werbowy while she modeled the dress above. I don’t exactly feel sorry for her. And I guess her Dad has pretty hot legs, then.

“Some of the models (backstage), you’d be surprised that their body isn’t perfect either…Don’t be fooled by models being perfect specimens, because they are far from that.” -Joan Smalls. She might be right, some of them have an ugly toe, or a birthmark on their back, or a wrinkle on their neck. But Smalls obviously has a different idea of “perfection” than a normal person.

On a last note, products like this push up bikini by Abercrombie, aimed at 7 year old girls, are certainly not doing much to solve this problem.

  • Jen Cunningham

    Great post.

  • Remo

    In the quotes that you’ve posted from the Dove research findings, they state that “Canadian girls… feel pressure to be beautiful”. If I read between the lines, I would think that they are contributing to the idea that beautiful is synonymous with thin. All in all its pretty scary, from child obesity to girl’s self esteem issues and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t fear the day where I might be blessed to be the father of a girl.

    I also wanted to say that I respect the fact that after some reflection, you felt a little bad about your previous post about being a fashion victim. I understand who you were targeting and the provocative (for lack of a better word) topic/title most definitely gets you views and comments, but this inflammatory style of writing, where you sink to the lowest common denominator is beneath you.

    Please don’t take offense to this as I do enjoy reading your stuff, and part of that reason is your strongly opinionated views, and in fact, if I had a blog, I would probably write in a similar style (not about fashion, obviously). Its just in instances like this you come across as a bit of a fashion elitist and you end up alienating some of your audience. After all, can you imagine that 13 year old girl who comes to your site because she’s a fan of yours or because she want to live vicariously through your fashion eyes, only to be cut down and told she’s a victim because she owns a pair of Uggs?

    Save the cut downs for Lily Allen and Victoria Beckham. Anyway, that’s my 5 cents worth. Probably 3 cents too many! :-)

  • Anonymous

    While I understand where you are coming from (and I welcome criticism and debate on this blog, so keep it coming) I also know that my audience does not comprise of very many 13 year old girls. But then again, the whole reason today’s youth are “scarred” is because they are more likely to be swayed by articles like mine, than the target audiences of women 19-35.

    However, I stand by my views, and there are lot of alternatives for 13 year old girls that aren’t Uggs. In fact, the boots, which cost upwards of $250, are a prime example of how a fashion trend can be born because of celebrity endorsement. Uggs initially became popular when Kate Moss wore them, and I would encourage every teenager to buy into fashion because they love a product, or it makes them feel good, not simply because a celebrity has worn them.

    And yes, I guess in some ways I am a fashion elitist (although not in a rich/thin way), but I also think that this is one of the reasons I have my readership. And I would hope that in exposing celebrities for what they are (NOT fashion designers, amongst other things) and highlighting some of the issues in the fashion indsutry, my younger readers will be able to make more educated opinions about their fashion, and lifestyle, choices.

  • Terri

    Does Dove study this in countries besides Canada? It would be interesting to see how this might vary nationally or depending upon the degree of industrialization/capitalism in a country.

  • Anonymous

    I am guessing they did this for the US and the UK as well, but it would have
    been nice to see other countries, as UK, US, and Canada are fairly similar
    in many ways. My friend sent em some images from a campaign they did in
    Japan, although I don’t know if they did the research there too.

  • Amanda

    Great post! As a parent of kids in that age range, I have often wondered what we were ever going to do with the hat trick of 1) what you mercifully point out are just normal teenage feelings (they even existed pre-internet!), 2) truly horrendous diets and 3) endless images of “perfection” poking out from every computer, magazine, television and iPhone. It truly is sad. But before you go featuring more body types, I say, why not some half-decent parenting around the polling area, or, gasp, everywhere? Why someone would hand a 13 year-old girl a slurpie and a picture of Taylor Swift and then ask her if she feels beautiful is beyond me.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, good point. The media shouldn’t be the only or main influence in a
    young girl’s life!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, good point. The media shouldn’t be the only or main influence in a
    young girl’s life!