Hygiene brand Dove ran a Facebook ad that shows a black woman taking off her t-shirt and magically turning into a white woman after using Dove bodywash. Because, you know, black women are dirty. And white women aren't.
But a lot of people didn't understand the issue. People of colour are so easily offended, they claimed. They pointed out that another image in the campaign shows a white woman undressing to appear as an Asian woman.
Only a non-person-of-colour would rationalise Dove's actions that way. Only someone who hasn't stood in the shower as a child, trying to scrub off their colour, because they know it makes them inferior in the world, would excuse the international brand.
But there's no excuse; Dove should know better than to use skin colour/race as a marketing tool. The images of a black woman turning white shouldn't need context to be understood.
Just imagine being a young girl or woman of colour and seeing this ad. You are not good enough unless you are white. You need to be white. White is best.
The ad was misleading, irresponsible, discriminatory, arguably a breach of duty of care... and a total dick move (which is the legal term this writer would use as a summation of Dove's actions in a court of law).
The bodywash ad came to social media's attention after it was noticed by makeup artist Nay the Mua, who posted a screenshot and wrote, "So I'm scrolling through Facebook and this is the #dove ad that comes up...."
Naturally, there was an extensive backlash against Dove for its total misrepresentation of its product and, yeah, of REALITY.
Me going to apply for a loan again after bathing with dove pic.twitter.com/LtCVNAUX22— One Take Mo (@ItsElmosWorld) October 8, 2017
Tired of getting harassed by the police? Tired of getting followed around in stores? Or hell just tired of being blacc? Wash it away w DOVE pic.twitter.com/ufvGeckcag— TREEZ™ ♿ (@OceanGrownTREEZ) October 8, 2017
Dove deleted the ad, explaining that it had "missed the mark"; for which they deserve an award for understatement of the year.
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
Unilever, owner of Dove, also issued a statement:
"As a part of a campaign for Dove body wash, a 3-second video clip was posted to the US Facebook page. This did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened. We apologise deeply and sincerely for the offence that it has caused and do not condone any activity or imagery that insults any audience."
Not good enough. When you point out that it was merely a "3-second video clip", you're not apologising -- you're in damage control.
For too many years, people of colour, especially those living in countries where they're a minority, have put up with these sorts of messages; that the white appearance and lifestyle is the one to aspire to. There's been a pervasive lack of commercial representation of their existence, and of their needs -- in the media (on television, in ads) and in products they can buy (suitable make up, a very limited definition of anything 'nude', including basic things such as pantyhose and bandaids).
But by 2017, this is increasingly no longer the case, thanks to greater awareness from big brands. The world is no longer so euro-centric and caters for a wider range of skin colours. It's been wonderful to witness this evolution in diversity representation, and it's been embraced by much of society.
Which is why Dove's ad almost seems like a practical joke. Actually, if they had better public relations people, that could have been a better way for them to play this gross mistake. They could have tweeted, "Y'all just got P'unked!" and they might have been forgiven.
But then again, if they had better public relations people, this wouldn't have happened in the first place.