Every once in a while, a TV ad grabs me by the heartstrings and seems to open up a conversation that needs to be had. It’s rare, but this spot from Dove makes the mark.
It simply juxtaposes natural reactions from women (and teenage girls) who realize they’re being photographed with those from girls who are simply kids. The kids love the camera and are completely natural around it, even performing for it. But the older girls and women recoil in panic at the thought of having their picture taken. Then a simple question is posed: “When did you stop thinking you’re beautiful?”
Dove has long been a proponent of encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to embrace their beauty and I applaud it. As a man, this spot touches a sad chord in me, because it unfortunately rings so true. Countless women I’ve known (and dated) refuse to have their photo taken, and I can see it genuinely fills them with fear to think that their image could be shown to someone else. (Whereas I’ve yet to meet a man who doesn’t leap at the chance to mug for a camera, no matter how unappealing we might actually be at the moment.) I don’t know how much it’s a genuine belief that they won’t look good in the photo, or just a fear that someone else will think they don’t look good and judge them, but the prospect clearly fills them with anxiety, and breaks my heart to see. I wish I could say that my constant pleadings of, “Oh, come on, you look beautiful!” have much of an effect, but they rarely do. I even try to reason that, “Hey, who cares if we don’t look our best right now, we’re on top of a mountain after hiking for 3 hours, let’s just capture the moment!” But often to no avail. And a lot of my fellow male friends will confess it’s hard to be in a relationship with someone who’s always hiding when a camera is out.
Clearly, part of the blame can be put on American pop culture and the emphasis on a certain narrowly prescribed definition of beauty put forth in posters, movies and advertising that women feel they must measure up to. I ask the women of the world: if you have this reaction to a camera, what’s driving it? And to men and women alike: how can we create a world where women as as proud to show themselves to the world as adults as when they were kids?
Photo: Andreanna Moya Photography/Flickr