I think it’s safe to say most women remember the first time they saw Dove’s first ad campaign featuring “real women”–non-models of different skin-tones and shapes standing proudly in white bras and panties. I particularly remember this so vividly for one reason. It was jarring as fuck. It was ground-breaking. Seeing normal-looking women endorse products your normal-looking ass has been using for a while suddenly made you feel like you were part of the conversation rather than just being talked at.
Sure, the body above wasn’t and isn’t my body, but it was closer to it than anything I had ever seen in mass media. It fulfilled a need I didn’t even know I had, problematic firm-thigh beauty standard reinforcement aside. I didn’t know representation mattered until I got a taste for it. And yet, there was more to come from Dove.
The brand seemed to be pulling back the curtain on perceptions of beauty with this ad and displaying a solid commitment to challenging said perceptions with their self-esteem campaign and educational resources for young girls. This was exciting stuff. It almost made some of us forget that their inclusivity in terms of models had completely failed to progress. That the “real curves” they were finally starting to shed light upon weren’t getting much more real. Their fattest models were acceptably fat. Their oldest models had acceptably aged. All of their models were able-bodied. We were letting this slide until it all suddenly went pear-shaped.
Pear-shaped fucking bottles, that is.
Thank god they reminded us of this epic resting upon one’s laurels by giving us these wtf-worthy goddamn bottles. I got the message loud and clear. “Hey yeah, about that representation thing, ummm, like did you know that your body shape already exists in the world around you and can be seen literally everywhere? Like this VW Bug or these cotton balls or this Gloworm doll. So really, you don’t need us to cast models who look like you. You are all around you! So…ok byeeeeeeeee.”
This was the shriveled cherry atop the sad sundae of mediocrity Dove advertising had now become. And this wasn’t because they devolved before this. They just failed to keep the momentum going. BOPO as a movement is speaking to more people and resonating with more groups than ever before. Dove’s failure to take that opportunity, to see there could possibly be less risk than ever before in giving visibility to those who desperately need it, produced this.
THIS is not what we want. The world knows we come in all shapes and sizes. What they don’t know, because they don’t see it, is that we simply exist in our bodies without being at war with them. All. The damn. Time. We are not constantly in radical acceptance mode of our own bodies. We are not spending all our mental energy deprogramming ourselves of diet culture. We’re not all on weigh-loss journeys or vowing to start one on Monday. We’re not even constantly dealing with fatphobia. Regularly, sure. But not constantly.
We do not personify a war within or a war with society. We’re just fucking here.
We’re doing the things. We’re having careers. We’re building families. We’re brunching, We’re opening up and saying ahh at the dentist. We live everyday fucking lives with many moments completely devoid of “fat struggle.” Yet that is exactly what were a reduced to and it’s tired. Overcoming obstacles is tired. Show us being. Keep your bottles.