Whenever brands go the self-hate route, it’s weird. Most fashion and beauty ads sell you the idea that my appearance + how I look in these clothes = my self-worth. But some companies, like Dove, are different. They’re the brands that bank on the idea that we’ll all think about giving self-acceptance a chance when we think about the brand.
In a new ad for the clothing line D.Efect a group of statuesque models, the ones fashion idolizes, talked about their own legitimate feelings of insecurity. The ad read, “This obsession with perfect looks will make you feel hopelessly insecure and miserable.” Good news, we’re not alone, and as each model explains why she hates her least favorite body part, we’re supposed to be better able to accept our own insecurities. (The brand’s ethos is about embracing imperfections.)
It feels like a lot to hang on a model who guesses she hates her beauty marks. As cockamamie an idea it is to get our confidence boost from models is, we’re supposed to get the message that even the models who might make us feel inadequate don’t feel perfect. It’s still difficult for the non-model woman to see herself in the all the models who also deal with self-doubt. A better play would be to cast people at the margins so that more women could see themselves. Another better play would have been to not put this message on one model’s banging toned stomach. But at least brands are trying to pay attention to feelings. Whether or not everyone buys their jumpsuits because of this, it’s an important discussion they’ve endeavored to take on because these are feelings that touch most women.
Dove’s recent ad focused on how those little pep talks women give to themselves about how atrocious we look sound really effing disgusting when we hear them out loud. Typical tearjerk stuff. But are they really worried about how beauty standards screw with us? On one hand, it’s oddly comforting to see a brand discuss the anxiety that fashion and beauty ads cause. On the other hand, it’s weirdly unethical to try to pump us for money and play on our insecurities, while their competitors continue to sell an image of perfection.
When companies like this claim they’re here to offer you an entirely different way of seeing your gross reflection, it’s troubling. That’s because it’s presented as this epiphany we haven’t heard before. These brands are supposed to peddle the artifice that conceals imperfections or the clothes we wear to look good. When they tell you that they think you’re A. O.K. the way you are, a layer of that message is that you couldn’t do that for yourself.
Invoked this way, this message will always hit a nerve because instead of claiming to know what women want – to be beautiful, they go for the jugular, the need to feel that they’re naturally beautiful without products. Do we actually need brands to give us the top-secret information that a big nose or curly hair is O.K. seeing as most companies don’t? How do you feel about the ways companies talk about self-image?