Dove‘s new VisibleCare body wash promises users “visibly more beautiful skin.” Too bad the ad for it suggests that getting visibly more beautiful skin means lightening the skin so much that you’ll look like you belong to another race. In just one week!
The ad features close-up pictures of skin taken before and after using the new wash. Then underneath, you see three women, one black, one Latina, one white, standing from left to right in descending order of melanin content. Visually, it communicates that if you have dark skin before you use VisibleCare, you’ll have pale skin afterward. You’ll also be thinner and have blonde hair.
It’s definitely cringeworthy, mostly because it’s racist, but also because none of the scores of people who had to approve this ad thought there was anything wrong with it before they sent it out into the world. The ad has been featured in magazines and is on a Dove website made just for the product. (You can see it here if you scroll about halfway down the page.)
After a day of being ragged on on the Internet, Dove released a statement saying that they want to help all women “build a positive relationship with beauty” and that the company believes “real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages.” Also, they totally didn’t mean to be racist:
“The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”
But not condoning an image and not sending that image out into the world is not the same thing. It’s out there, and the statement that white women are more beautiful than black women has been made yet again. See for yourself, below.