Dove Uses Feminism to Sell Body Wash, Women Are Not Buying It

May 8th 2017

Almie Rose

"From curvaceous to slender, tall to petite, and whatever your skin colour, shoe size or hair type, beauty comes in a million different shapes and sizes," Dove proclaims on its U.K. website.

"Our six exclusive bottle designs represent this diversity: just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too."

Wait, what?


Dove is releasing a limited edition line of body wash with bottles in different sizes and shapes in an effort to market feminism, empowerment, and body positivity all in one.

A spokeswoman from Unilever, Dove's parent company, explained in an email to ATTN:

"Dove celebrates real women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in our campaigns. We use real women in all our campaigns because they represent the real beauty diversity in society. The custom bottles of different shapes and sizes were designed to celebrate this diversity with others who share in our mission; they are not available for consumers to purchase. We take women’s beauty confidence very seriously and through the Dove Self-Esteem Project we have reached more than 20 million young people with body confidence education, and we aim to reach 20 million more by 2020."

But women were not impressed.










This isn't the first time Dove has been accused of trying to use feminism as a marketing tool for its products.

"Feminism seems to have made such a dent that companies now see being anti-sexism as a way to sell products! It’s almost as if women are a majority of the population and it would be a smart business move to market products with their interests in mind, or something!" Teresa Jusino wrote for The Mary Sue in 2015.

After her tongue-in-cheek comment, Jusino explains why one aspect of Dove's "Real Beauty" Campaign was particularly flawed:

"There have been a slew of marketing campaigns that have tried to do this. One was the Dove 'Real Beauty' Campaign, which included the Dove Real Beauty Sketches ad. Women were asked to describe themselves to a sketch artist for one version of a sketch. Then the sketch artist asked another random woman who had met the subject to describe her and did a sketch based on that. The women were shocked that the sketches based on other people’s descriptions were more flattering and 'attractive.'

When I first saw the Dove Real Beauty Sketches ad, I was touched by the fact that these women were finally able to see themselves in a positive light through the eyes of others. [...]

Yet this ad focused specifically on physical beauty – something that women are told every day matters most. Women were crying because they learned that their nose wasn’t as crooked as they thought, or that they weren’t as fat as they thought, for Goodness’ sake. And while, yes, everyone wants to feel attractive, there is a disproportionate amount of pressure put on women to be attractive by the media and by society."



Mic noted in 2014 another issue with the campaign: the "real women" used in their ads may have been photoshopped. Jennifer Pozner, author and executive director of Women In Media & News, explained to Mic why Dove's seemingly feminist ads were really not progressive:

"While I definitely appreciate Dove's investment in some media literacy projects for girls and some awareness-raising about unrealistic beauty standards in the media, fashion and cosmetics industries, we can't forget that the company isn't doing this for magnanimous purposes. They're doing it to co-opt feminist anger at unhealthy beauty standards and media manipulations. Make no mistake: It is extremely profitable to redirect feminist energy away from media activism and toward the drugstore beauty aisle."



Thus, the attempt to profit from "feminist energy" can come off as not only insincere, but in the case of Dove's bottles, ridiculous.

Update 5/9/2017 at 9:55 a.m. PT: This piece has been updated with a statement from Unilever, Dove's parent company.