Have you seen the new Dove advert? It takes some women off the streets and asks them to describe themselves to a forensic artist who can’t see them and draws them from behind a screen, following only their verbal descriptions. Then he draws pictures of the same women based on what people who have only interacted with them for a short while describe. In almost every case, there’s a stark difference between the two images of each woman.
The self-described portraits are less beautiful, sadder and almost sour-looking in some instances. When the artist asks one woman what her most prominent feature is, she says, “I have a fat, rounder face,” immediately honing in on the negative. Several females bemoan their ageing: crows feet around the eyes, more freckles. You can only imagine what they would have said if the portraits were full-body.
This isn’t novel. Plenty of studies have concluded that women tend to view themselves as worse-looking than they are. In an oft-cited 2003 research project, young women were asked to pick out their body image from a range of figures. On average, they picked figures that were almost a stone heavier than their actual weight.
Most of us don’t need formal studies to know this. Just think about the last few times you’ve complimented a female on her appearance. More often than not, you get something back along the lines of “Oh, this old dress/shirt?” or “Thanks, but …” or “My hairdresser/friend helped me.” We are constantly diminishing ourselves or attributing our good aspects to the influence of someone or something else. It is well filmed and has some very poignant results, highlighting the self esteem issues that many women struggle with. Rhiannon alerted me to it on the Activate Facebook group. Join 53 million others in watching this, I found it moving.
Now it has been cleverly echoed in a matching piece of film about men. This is not made by Dove and is a spoof! But it is also clever and has some insight to share – I won’t spoil the message by explaining it here. The two clips side by side make for good viewing and, and if you have no moral objections to advertising Dove, they would make a fun introduction to an event you are running, especially one about self esteem, confidence or the difference between men and women. Here is the link to the men’s story.