This is turning out to be the week of controversy between Dove’s claims about feminine self-image and the Boston Marathon…
Keeping the focus on Dove however, I have to say, I’ve been pretty impressed by the response to the “Real Beauty Sketches” ad, as most people have been tearing it apart and pointing out the not-so-obvious aspects of what Dove is trying to sell.
One of my friends put me onto this satirical response to the Dove ad and I have to admit, it did its job. Watch below:
I absolutely love that the creators of this video used men as the subjects and played off of cultural expectations of gendered self esteem to make their point. And in all honesty, before I even watched the video I believed that it was a legitimate advertisement trying to make a “real” claim about the low concerns for self image among the majority of men in North America in comparison to the high prevalence of self esteem issues amongst women.
While this video is definitely making fun of the Dove ad, it is also attesting to some amount of truth concerning the way most men are taught to perceive themselves, both physically and mentally. The video opens up quite seriously with an attractively confident young man saying, “My mom always said I have the most beautiful teeth” and showing off his radiant smile, which is quite the departure from the women’s version of the experiment where most of those women being interviewed seem more likely to critique themselves before admitting anything positive about themselves.
I noted in my last blog entry (click here if you missed it) that it’s problematic when people automatically assume that women have self image issues and that beauty is their foremost concern in all aspects of their lives. However after the post I actually had a talk with a few of my guy friends about this and they had to disagree with me. The conversation went a little like this…
Me: “You know, I really think these commercials are bad because not all women are like this…I don’t wake up in the morning like ‘Am I beautiful?’ When I think about myself I’m thinking ‘Am I a good friend? Am I successful? What are my talents? What’s going on in the world around me?’ Stuff like that. My appearance is not my first concern.”
Friends: “But Taylor, that’s rare. Most girls are scared to voice their opinions, they think they have to dumb themselves down for a guy or that they have to be perfect. The truth is, most girls are insecure, and it sucks…”
Now my friends are very open minded and aren’t saying this to try to disempower women in any way, and to a certain point I do agree with some of what they were saying. I think that it’s a matter of both genders perpetuating this internalization of women as limited in their abilities due to their obsession with self image. Women on the one hand keep it going by feeding into the BS and positing beauty as representing the most important part of self worth as opposed to one’s talents and character, but men also kind of reinforce it by expecting that women will put their appearance before anything else. And I don’t mean to say that I think even most men expect all women to be–or want to be–the pinnacle of physical perfection, but I think men’s perceptions of women are colored by the fact that they expect women to be hung up on this stuff, and that it will affect all other aspects of who they are. To put it simply, BOTH men and women expect women to be insecure, and so they are, they live up to this expectation.
It’s a cycle.
My main thing is that I don’t want this to turn into a “men have it good” or “men are born with advantage” thing. Even if those statements have some truth to them, I believe it’s about how YOU think about yourself that gives you the advantage in life. We are all born with something that makes us disadvantaged in some way, and it’s all about playing your cards right and realizing your own success and happiness, and part of that is by blocking out what is socially and culturally expected of you. That being said, this response to Dove’s self esteem campaign is very powerful because it turns the tables on the expected and the “normal”: men become the objects who mistakenly describe themselves as more fantastic than they really are, and women are the ones who get to judge them as opposite.
The video ultimately works because it can be considered outrageous, especially considering how the women are such harsh critics. One woman furrows her brow in deep thought. “Does anyone remember if he had eyebrows?” It’s humorously dismissing the notion of women as paying too much attention to detail as well as undermining thoughts of all men as important and deserving of attention. In the end, it’s also funny that most of the men cannot come to terms with the idea that they may not be as physically attractive as they thought. “That is not me, and I refuse to believe it.” One of the men starts to slightly break down as well, which is also pretty brilliant on the video’s part. It’s just great because men are being feminized, yet at the same time retain the qualities that essentially make them men: confidence, power, and unbreakable pride. This video is an effective satire that challenges our conceptions of gender.
That isn’t to say that this video is problem free either. Any effective critique points out the good and the bad and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t expose parts of it that kind of confirmed social stereotypes. For instance, one of the main things I noticed was that one of the women described one of the men’s eyes as “rapey”. Pretty hilarious, but at the same time it also kind of fulfills an assumption about women as perhaps falsely accusatory or consistently suspicious of men in general, as well as somewhat making light of a recent spotlight on rape culture.
Anyway, that’s all I have time for today but if you’re looking for more, be sure to visit the guys that made this video, Newfeelingtime, on Youtube, if you love these kinds of satirical videos about the way our society works be sure to check them out. Nothing better than a little Friday laugh.