You may have seen the latest video from cosmetics company Dove doing the rounds online — a short 'experiment' seeking to change public perception of 'real beauty'. Dove invited several women to be part of their campaign video. Each woman was asked to describe their facial features to a retired police sketch artist who sat concealed behind a floaty white curtain. A stranger is asked to repeat the task after spending time getting to know the woman. The sketch artist works away at two images — one described by the woman herself, the other described by the stranger
The differences between the sets of pictures appear to be remarkable. When the women describe themselves the resulting images are — on the whole — tired, wrinkled and dull. When the strangers describe the women the resulting images appear bright, vibrant and much more attractive.
Finally, the sketch artist leads each woman into a large room and shows her the two images of herself, hanging side by side. Many of the women are visibly surprised and tearful to find their appearance, as described by a stranger, shows them to be beautiful, lively and much more open in appearance. A stark contrast to the way they described themselves.
Dove forces us all to face the truth: when we look in the mirror we are more likely to fixate on our quirks and imperfections instead of our unique beauty.
After watching a campaign like this I cannot help but come away feeling manipulated. I come away wanting more. I understand what Dove is seeking to do and I see value in publicly challenging perceptions of what is beautiful. But the women featured in Dove's latest campaign are — on the whole — attractive, slim, white-skinned and well-dressed. Where are the women I see every day? Where is my mother, my workmate, the woman who owns the corner dairy, my grandmother, or my friend? Dove's idea of 'real beauty' looks too polished, too expensive, and too smooth to satisfy.
I was interested to learn the same corporate which owns the Dove brand also owns the men's deodorant brand Lynx. While Dove's 'real women' champion a new approach to beauty, the women depicted in Lynx ads are anything but real. Often depicted as sexy caricatures, the Lynx girls can't seem to resist the 'Lynx effect'. Two contrasting images — both designed to convince us to buy a product.
If we get our image of 'real beauty' from a screen we will continue to be dissatisfied. The Bible depicts a praiseworthy woman in Proverbs 31. She is of great worth to her family. She is strong and capable. She works hard and selflessly cares for others. She is wise, perceptive and resourceful. She is compassionate, kind and joyful. The worth of this woman is not caught up in her outward appearance: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." The Proverbs 31 woman finds her confidence and self-worth in her creator.
This is the sort of woman I see every day. Here's my picture of real beauty: I see the strength of a single mother raising sons; the perceptive woman who counsels others; the new mum who struggles through sleep deprivation; the young woman who volunteers in the community; the talented and skilled working mum; the grandmother who lavishes love; the teenager who gives up her seat on the bus.
I see mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and friends. These are women who are not defined by their outward beauty, but by the one who created it.
First published May 10, 201
Sophia Sinclair is a writer living in Christchurch, New Zealand. After studying, working and training in Theatre, English Literature and Journalism, she joined the non-profit sector to work for the Anglican mission organisation NZCMS where she promotes mission around New Zealand. For more information on NZCMS: www.nzcms.org.nz
Sophia Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sophia-sinclair.html