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The marketing geniuses behind Dove’s “Real Women, Real Beauty” campaign have extended their theme of making all their customers feel beautiful to their packaging designs, dropping a series of body wash bottles in various shapes meant to represent diverse body types. As you might expect, “Real Beauty Bottles” is backfiring pretty hard.
The campaign is ostensibly meant to unify and support women, so dividing customers into a handful of body types isn’t exactly going over well:
The only thing redeeming the campaign is the potential it creates for some very dank social criticism in the form of—what else?—memes on Twitter. Many of them are by women who feel irritated and patronized by Dove’s over-the-top marketing efforts. Some are by dudes who spotted an opportunity for comedy and jumped on the bandwagon because, well, dudes just can’t help themselves.
thanks Dove but I already have a body wash that matches my natural curves 🙂 pic.twitter.com/IIkKAn0LjQ— Tim Federle (@TimFederle) May 8, 2017
dove matches it's new body wash bottles to your body type. pic.twitter.com/vdpT2L3ybV— luka (@lukavino) May 8, 2017
I think this dove body wash is more my body type. pic.twitter.com/ps0kjICFS3— Jess hurdlow (@blend_jess) May 8, 2017
when is dove releasing a bottle for my body type pic.twitter.com/sfPojDQ3m9— mostly not willman (@willmanduffy) May 8, 2017
dove pls— darth:™ (@darth) May 8, 2017
why u do this dove pic.twitter.com/9NxQWcVLGm
which dove bottle slash hercules cartoon muse are you!!! pic.twitter.com/FwSWzoGzuR— Rebecca Caplan (@RabbiReba) May 8, 2017
One overarching theme of these gags is that normalizing seven body types isn’t that much better than normalizing one. What if you’re more of an Edward Scissorhands or a Mrs. Butterworth? Does Dove not want your business? Yes, these are funny jokes, but there’s truth to them: In an attempt to embrace all customers, the company has made many feel dehumanized.
Much like “real beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” so does the criticism of Dove. Some women haven’t forgiven the company for the condescension of its previous campaigns:
Unless they're made of the flesh and bones of the women who failed to surrender to the demands to smile more of the last Dove campaign, pass https://t.co/RqblaJ6S6g— Alana Massey (@AlanaMassey) May 8, 2017
Others point out that, in our fun, corporatist society, there’s basically no means of consumption that benefits women anyway, so please stop trying to co-opt feminism for capitalist gain:
Weird. It’s like women are individuals with a multiplicity of ideas, and not just bodies that can be divided into a set of general shapes.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.