Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure that you’ve heard of the latest controversy involving Dove last weekend. The skincare brand came under fire for an advert showing a dark-skinned woman removing a shirt, revealing a light-skinned woman underneath.
— Megha Mohan (@meghamohan) October 8, 2017
The video, which has since been taken down, was uploaded on Dove’s Facebook page on Saturday. Backlash followed when makeup artist Naomi Blake uploaded screen shots to her Facebook page.
After the infamous Pepsi advert featuring Kendall Jenner, not to mention Nivea’s own controversy back in April, one may be forgiven for thinking that consumer brands have learned not to be culturally insensitive. Clearly not, since Dove is the latest company to neglect the feelings of people of colour (POC).
“These soap ads imply that dark skin is “dirty” and that lighter skin is the “cleaner”, more desired result.”
Historical soap adverts depicting black children having their skin “cleansed” is an example of how white supremacy infiltrates our media. White supremacy praises whiteness and presents it as something to aspire to. Anything that doesn’t fit the whiteness ideal is unwelcome and must be abandoned. These soap ads imply that dark skin is “dirty” and that lighter skin is the “cleaner”, more desired result. These kind of messages are simply dangerous, especially to impressionable black kids who may be influenced by the media to think there’s something wrong with their skin tone.
When Dove’s current advert was criticised for its problematic implications, they tweeted: “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.”
Dove, we don’t believe you. You need more people.
This isn’t the first time Dove have been racially tone deaf in their advertising. They attracted criticism for this poster several years ago:
This isn’t the first time their products turn you from “abnormal” problematic black to “normal” desirable white.. wonder why I say “normal”? pic.twitter.com/HExhNywPMs
— Richie 🇬🇾🇲🇲🇮🇳 (@RichieBrave) October 8, 2017
There are also photos of a Dove product that says “from normal to dark skin”, meaning that Dove are not even attempting to hide their racist agenda. The implication of dark skin not being regarded as normal speaks for itself.
So again Dove, we’re not buying it. We aren’t falling for your PR sound bites or backhanded apology. Besides, it’s doubtful if you really are sorry or if it’s something you’re saying to placate us until the next controversy occurs.
What is really egregious is that Dove creates campaigns showcasing different types of beauty. These beauty campaigns frequently include women of colour, such as the 2015 “Embrace Your Curls” campaign. They’ve even asked TV producer Shonda Rhimes to collaborate on a “Real Beauty” campaign.
“What may seem like a lapse in judgement is actually a concerted effort to devalue black skin in order to uplift white skin.”
Dove could be forgiven for this if it was a careless mistake that happened once. They may be given the benefit of the doubt if all their beauty campaigns outnumbered the insidious anti-black rhetoric that is shoved down the throats of black people.
But time and time again, they use a white supremacist trope to sell their products. What may seem like a lapse in judgement is actually a concerted effort to devalue black skin in order to uplift white skin.
We need to challenge white supremacy more than ever, especially in the wake of the events at Charlottesville and the drama of the Trump administration. One way we can do that is by calling out racist imagery as soon as it appears. We can also promote greater diversity in the decision making process in well-known companies by granting POC a seat at the table. Lastly, we can ask for wider representation of POC in the media in order to have positive images that instil a sense of pride.
Silence is no longer an option.