At the Zenith with Zhang

Make “Average” the New “Beautiful”

If there’s one thing that annoys me the most, it’s condescension. Even a well-meaning but patronizing tone sets my teeth on edge, because there’s always an assumption of status and a dismissal of intelligence.

That being said, let’s examine an interesting turn to beauty commercials, namely Dove’s. Their newest ad is set outside a store with two doors: one labelled “Beautiful,” and one labelled “Average.” A lovely piano and violin tune accompanies footage of women and girls walking through the Average door, and then expressing regret for doing so. They’re crushed at this terrible revelation—God forbid anyone be “average” on a planet of nearly 7.5 billion people—and then the music swells as they run, laughing, through the “Beautiful” door. A white screen with the campaign’s slogan, “#ChooseBeautiful,” flashes before the video ends on the Dove logo.

It’d be a wonderful, tear-jerking message if you ignore the underlying meaning, which says, “You’re a girl, of course you have low self-esteem. Here, let me pretend I actually care about you so you’ll fork over a few dollars. You’re probably not a complex human being with various strengths and hardships because all you care about is being pretty.”

A multi-billion dollar company cashing in on women’s insecurities is nothing new. But what’s uniquely frustrating about Dove’s campaign is that it’s a business venture disguised as voice of support. Dove is not saying, “Buy our product to cover up blemishes, or to look completely transformed at prom.” Dove is promising, “Buy our product because you’re a bombshell waiting to happen, and it’s your duty as a female to uncover that bombshell.”

The brand claims to be a spokesperson for natural women, yet its message is laughingly unrealistic. In fact, the premise of representing real women with actors and sets and props

is about as effective as trying to convince people the Na’vi exist because whoa, those CGI effects in “Avatar” were so dope! Not to mention that a 30-second ad is not going to solve years of self-esteem issues. Confidence comes from within; it’s an arduous, individual process, and until one reaches that emotional epiphany, she will continue to see the same flaws in the mirror. Also, has Dove forgotten that they’re selling a bar of soap? Not a beauty potion, Botox or even plastic surgery. A bar of soap. Unless suds = instant hottie, I’m not buying it.

Every type of natural body should be celebrated and our perceptions of conventional beauty must be redefined. These topics, however, should have their own spotlight. It is deplorable to use them as side messages in order to sell a product. I want to see a body positivity movement without dollar signs dangling in front.

Furthermore, Dove’s fatal flaw is its assumption that “averageness” is the new chlamydia. Surprisingly, women aren’t running for the hills at the thought of—gasp!—not being the spitting image of Gigi Hadid. Who knew?

“Beautiful” is not a duty women have to fulfill. Everyday, exceptional women are running companies, taking care of households and earning recognition at the top of their fields. Heck, even running for President! We must be near invisible if people still believe that having an average appearance stops us from speaking our minds, pursuing our goals and succeeding in what we do.

While compliments may act as catalysts for empowerment, they should not be linchpins for one’s self-worth. They should be sincere, not a series of sweet nothings meant to stoke the fragile embers of a woman’s ego. Compliments should acknowledge a person’s complete self, not just her appearance. To many, intelligence, creativity, confidence, work ethic or athleticism are much more meaningful traits to be praised for.

So Dove, thanks but no thanks. I’m sure your soap is swell, but I’m happy being average. Exceptionally average, that is.

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