Dove Ad: An unfortunate flash from the past

PC: Whitney Jani's pull quote from the article.

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By Whitney Jani ’18

The latest Dove ad is sweeping across social media and taking it by storm. The ad features a woman of color with a Dove bottle on her side. She then proceeds to lift her shirt up to reveal a light skinned women as if the black woman was becoming white with the use of Dove soap. The ad brought up deep controversy and confusion. Was Dove’s message that using their soap had the ability to remove the “dirtiness” from black skin and make it “pure” like white skin?

The ad was very insensitive and tasteless. The main goal of an ad is to invite people to want to buy your product. It is not to make people deeply offended by the message of your ad.  Dove released an apology on Twitter that stated, “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.” Many people took to Twitter expressing how that apology was not sufficient enough. One user stated, “We do not accept your lousy ‘apology’.”

The hashtag #boycottdove began to circulate around social media, and many people began to make their voices heard. Many expressed anger and disbelief that Dove actually sat together in a marketing meeting and thought that an ad like this was going to be ok. Were there no black people in the meeting? If there were, how was an ad like this able to slip through the cracks?

This is not the first time Dove has been accused of releasing a questionable ad.  According to theguardian.com, “In 2011 Dove’s before-and-after advert charted the transition of a black woman to a white woman after using its body wash.” In response to the latest Dove ad, CNN political commentator Keith Boykin tweeted, “Okay, Dove… One racist ad makes you suspect. Two racist ads makes you kinda guilty.” He is exactly right. I don’t think that Dove is purposefully trying to be racist, but they have a track record of having severe lapses in judgement. They seem to not learn from their mistakes.

Despite all of the social media buzz, Dove’s ad has more serious implications. Stemming back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were ads published that pictured a distorted view of African Americans on advertisements for soap. These advertisements would depict people of color transforming their dark complexion into a lighter one.

When these ads were published, in a time of early deep racism and early Jim Crow laws, they appealed to a lot of people because racism and prejudice was the norm. That is definitely not the case of the America we live today.

Considering how far this country has moved from those troubling and sad times, a new ad like this sparks flashbacks from the past. A past that many would like to forget and move away from. Although this country has progressed significantly from these racist institutions, Dove’s ad serves as a reminder of how far we still need to go.