Selling Shame

Dove wordmark
Image via Wikipedia

Emilie wrote a post recently about Dove‘s Campaign for Real Beauty, posing the question if Dove is truly doing something to watch out for women’s well-being or just selling products.

Then I saw a clip on The Colbert Report where Stephen Colbert spoke about a new deodorant from Dove, their Go Sleeveless deodorant.  This stuff promises to leave underarms “softer, smoother and ready to reveal” in five days.  Colbert, even with all the sarcasm and snark, manages to hit the nail right on the head though when he points out that it is just one more thing marketed to women by telling us that there is something wrong with our bodies the way they are.

Seriously, we’re already bombarded with messages about how many aspects of the female form needs to improve: abs, butt, legs, breasts, eyes, lips, hair, etc.  Do we really need to throw the armpit into the mix?

It just makes me wonder when the turning point was where companies started to cater to women’s insecurities (or started to create more insecurities) to sell products.  Magazines are doing the same thing to us.  Every cover screams at us the ways that we are doing things wrong… not only in terms of our bodies but in terms of how we live our lives.  We need to “lose inches” and “drop pounds” and “shed sizes” while managing careers, health, families, friendships at the same time.  We’re supposed to be able to keep everything organized and clean while cooking gourmet meals and homeschooling children and climbing the corporate ladder.  It’s no wonder we’re stressed and tired and looking for any fix that may come in a bottle.

Recently I’ve decided that my subscription to Real Simple magazine is doing anything BUT making my life Real Simple.  It actually kind of stresses me out… like I’m supposed to care about 7 pages of how to decorate my home with blue and the way I’m supposed to cook all these meals that provide wonderful flavor and nutrition (for my uber-picky husband).

When I entered treatment for my eating disorder I canceled subscriptions to Shape, Prevention, Self, Women’s Health… all of which I felt gave out too many messages about losing weight as opposed to just being healthy.  As I’ve written on my About page, I really feel that being healthy is the optimal expression of the genetic hand we’re working with… not some outside imposed perception of what health is.  We’re all individuals so “health” will be expressed a little bit differently for each of us.

So the next time you see some advertising, remember… they aren’t necessarily trying to help you but are trying to make money off you and all the ways we perceive that we are “less than”… and you are “more than”!


  1. Yeah, ads really play on our insecurities. It’s ridiculous.

    I had to cancel my Real Simple subscription, too. I felt like I was failing in every direction when I read that mag.

  2. Well said, Jill! Ironically, I don’t pay much attention to advertising on tv or in magazines, but I do feel that same pressure from blogging. Everyone seems to be promoting something whether it be the latest fashion trend, the best beauty products, a weight-loss cleanse, exercise program, etc. I’ve learned to tune out advertising in the traditional sense, but I have to work really hard to not want to buy everything that my “peers” or the really popular bloggers are selling me on their blogs. (And I’m not even talking about sponsored posts!)

  3. Oops, I hit reply too fast. 🙂 The last thing I was going to say is that I think it’s impossible to escape advertising. We can try to remove some of the triggers that make us feel bad about ourselves, but we are constantly bombarded on all sides. At the end of the day, it comes down to a true test of willpower and strength in believing that true happiness and well-being comes from something much deeper.

  4. The one reaaly nice thing about being old, yes, I have decided I am a lot closer to old than young, is that I pay absolutely no attention to what magazines say.

  5. I didn’t see that episode of the Colbert Report, but I did read an article about a poll Dove did asking women how they felt about their armpits and then publicizing the fact that X% of women said they felt their armpits were ugly. It was an interesting article that brought up the same point–Dove (I’m pretty sure it was Dove, although it could have been a different deodorant brand) is creating a concern that women didn’t even know they should have in order to sell their product. It’s incredibly insidious and upsetting because for every person who takes a look at these things critically the way you do, there are undoubtedly several who get drawn in by the message and begin picking themselves apart for no reason.

    • You know, if someone “surveyed” me about my armpits I’d probably be indifferent. Do I love my pits? I dunno… they’re armpits. And that would probably be construed as dis-satisfaction with them. I’m sure their survey was full of leading questions.

      • I should have read your entire comment, I read the first sentence and was like “OOH I have an opinion!” I’m Emilie’s sister, by the way, which is why I replied to her. 😉

    • You know what’s most interesting about this is, Jill said in her reply that she thinks if polled she’d be pretty indifferent about her armpits. Well, I bet most women would feel that way – if asked “what do you thik about your armpits” I’m willing to actually put money down that most women would say “Uh, I really *don’t* think about my armpits much”.

      So I wonder what questions were used in this poll that got this proud result. I heavily doubt that they just went out and asked women straightforward questions and I’ll bet that “no opinion” wasn’t even an option.

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