by Piano on April 25, 2017 - 1:46pm


Advertisements are very widespread now. Everyone sees one at least once a day. However, some advertisements may cause uproar because they may seem offensive.  There are some ads like the Dove ad for skin products that seem racist because of the arrangement of the women in the picture. Race in the media is rarely portrayed as beautiful because it does not t meet the requirements of the existing and historical cultural “beauty standards”.


In the Dove’s 2011 skin care product advertisement, there is written “before” and “after” text above the women but the women gradually get whiter. The degrading of skin colour and it’s text written at the bottom of the ad, “Visibly more beautiful skin” implies that white skin is beautiful than non-white skin color. As a result, when the public saw this ad, they found it very offensive and racist.  They saw it was a way to target different races and saying their skin color is ugly and that in order to be beautiful they need to be light skinned. Due to the history of the portrayal of the African-American women in media, the advertisement seemed to be portraying and supporting the idea of the “beauty standard” of looking like a European; skinny, blonde hair, blue eyes straight hair and light skinned. According to Weems in the early 20th century, there was barely any African-American culture represented in the advertisements (166). Therefore, due to the lack of representation, women felt the need to archive the “beauty standard” because of the pressure of seeing the “beauty standard”.  As a result, African- Americans will buy skin-lightening products and straightening hair products in order it fit in that “norm” and be culturally accepted. For example, Weems mentions an example of a skin lighting product that said, “New 3-Way Skin Discovery Gives You [White Skin Beauty Overnight-Or No Cost]” (Weems 167). This ad was a perfect example of exactly how they used to target other races to reach their goal or their aspirations of having whiter skin to achieve that “ideal beauty” look.  Basically, this advertisement is promoting whitewashing saying how white skin is beautiful.  However, since the 1960s Black Power and Black Consciousness movements, more African-American stopped reaching the “beauty standard” and embraced their culture (Weems 125).  


However, it was never the companies’ intentions to discriminate against other races; they wanted to promote and support different races.  For example, Dove said, “We believe that real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and ages and are committed to featuring realistic and attainable images of beauty in all our advertising. We are also dedicated to educating and encouraging all women and girls to build a positive relationship with beauty, to help raise self-esteem and to enable them to realize their full potential. The ad is intended to illustrate the benefits of using Dove VisibleCare Body Wash, by making skin visibly more beautiful in just one week. All three women are intended to demonstrate the “after” product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience (“Is Dove's VisibleCare Body Wash Ad Racist?")”.  However, the ad is still problematic because even if their intentions were not in favour of racism, it was their misrepresentation of the ad that was not the best and how they portrayed their message about their skin product was very problematic. The moral dilemma here is that it supports the ideology of teleology because it was the outcome of their actions that caused a stir in the community.  They created an image that they thought was not problematic but ended up being one.  Their outcome was not for the greater good but for the greatest number.  If anything, it was more offensive than support of different skin colors. Their ad seemed to represent that white color skin is the ideal and beautiful skin type to have and seemed to be supporting whitewashing.  If companies such as Dove want to advertise such diversity especially for beauty products they have to be careful on how they represent their ads. They have to make sure that they take in account the history behind cultural representations in order to be careful and not support the ideology and the media in the early 20th century where “European” was the ideal beauty standard.



Not only was the Dove’s misrepresentation of whitewashing been a problem for many years especially in Hollywood with actresses and singers. For example, when Beyoncé was on the cover of L’Oréal advertisement, her tone of skin colour was lighter than her usually skin tone ("Why Representation of Black Women In Advertising Needs To Change"). Another example is Gabourey Sidibe’s cover in the cover of Elle magazine ("Why Representation of Black Women In Advertising Needs To Change").  Those are not the only cases where magazines and advertisements were accused of whitewashing celebrities. As a result, it causes problem for the reader because they view whitewashing as if their skin tone is not beautiful or acceptable in the media and seen as ugly biased on the European “ideal body image”. As a consequence, the African-American are not represented enough and even if they are, they are misrepresented because of whitewashing. However, when African-American women who look at white models and who have a high self-esteem and aware of their background, they technically have an increase in their self-esteem because of the differences between the attractiveness of beauty standard (Makkar, Jalmeen K. and Michael J. Strube). The African-Americans are poorly represented in advertisements. Whitewashing not only happens in advertisements but it also occurs in the mass media such as the mainstream media.



  In conclusion, Dove’s advertisement is a perfect example of how advertisers need to be careful when representing diversity. It may not be their intentions but this Dove advertisement represented whitewashing and established the “beauty standard” and it offended other races in the process.  


Work Cited

"Is Dove's VisibleCare Body Wash Ad Racist?" TheGloss. N.p., 24 May 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.


Makkar, Jalmeen K. and Michael J. Strube. "Black Women's Self-Perceptions of Attractiveness Following Exposure to White Versus Black Beauty.." Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 25, no. 17, 9/1/95, pp. 1547-1566. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=cookie,ip,url&db=aph&AN=9512033582&site=ehost-live.


Robert E. Weems. Jr. “Consumerism and the construction of Black female identity in twentieth-century America.” In Jennifer Scanlon (Ed.) The gender and consumer culture reader. New York: New York University, Press, 2000, pp, 166-178.


"Why Representation of Black Women In Advertising Needs To Change." Odyssey. N.p., 26 Dec. 2016. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.





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