It seems Dove's new "body positive" campaign is already in pretty bad shape. The international brand of hair and skin products has released limited-edition bottles of body washes in six new "body types." But what was meant to inspire women ended up insulting everyone.
"Every woman’s version of beauty is different and, if you ask us, these differences are there to be celebrated," Dove said in a press release. "Each bottle evokes the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their very own limited edition. They’re one of a kind—just like you."
This leads to so many questions: Should we only buy the bottle that matches closest to our shape? What if none of them even come close? If you're going to celebrate all bodies why are all the bottles white? And most importantly, which would best fit our already crowded shower caddies?
The company also encouraged consumers on social media to help spread their "beauty diversity message" using the hashtag #RealBeauty, but it didn't take long for people to question what that message was exactly. Their continual pledge to "always feature real women, never models," "portray women as they are in real life" and "help girls build body confidence" can sometimes come off as gimmicky, and previous campaigns have garnered mixed reactions.
The bottles cannot be bought in stores, at least not yet, but were sent to influencers and fans. Though with the overwhelming, initial response, we're not sure they should even try a larger rollout.
This time, people saw right through Dove's "femvertising" techniques, and wow did they not hold back.
"I don't know about you, but I have never felt oppressed by the shape of my toiletry bottles—and I do not appreciate a company that so oversimplifies the complicated issue of how our society views women's bodies," wrote Kristen Bellstrom for Fortune. "It's a good reminder: Companies that use feminist themes in their ads may well buy into some of the messaging they use and can even help spread important ideas. But at the end of the day, they create those campaigns for one reason—to sell you their stuff."
Femvertising, or using feminism or female empowerment in advertising, has met strong critics in the last few years. Many see these marketing moves as an appropriation of social activism, rather than true empowerment.
"Why doesn’t Dove just make products that are more aligned with feminist ideologies in the first place? If feminist consumers are what they want, then make feminist products. Don’t try to just apply feminist concepts as an afterthought in hopes of increasing consumer sales," writes Nichole Fernández for Sociological Images. "Feminist concepts should run through the entire core of your business before you try to sell it to your consumers."
The TL;DR? Don't try to solve serious, complex issues with various body wash figures or a can of Pepsi. Just don't.