It is not very difficult to glean the message behind Dove’s recent advertisement campaign. The only challenge is why they believed it would receive a reaction other than what it did.
In an effort to sell its body wash, Dove – a part of the British-based corporation Unilever – ran an image on Facebook that has almost been unanimously condemned as racist. In the first image, a black woman removes her t-shirt to reveal a fair-skinned white woman, who then removes her t-shirt to reveal an Asian or Hispanic woman.
The original ad has been deleted but there’s no shortage of people willing to express their outrage.
Y’all I’m SCREAMING, what was Dove thinking? 😭 pic.twitter.com/quLaBbOztq
— Shahem . (@pettyblackboy) October 8, 2017
As can be seen, the ad repeats the unfortunate insult that black skin is equal to dirty skin.
And, as many have pointed out, it’s not the first time Dove has made that equation.
You have done it in the past.🙄 pic.twitter.com/qaGG10bePw
— Nonhlanhla Mabhena (@N0n0zA) October 7, 2017
Others argue that Dove has a history of disparaging black skin that goes even to its packaging:
There’s this one too… they know what they’re doing. There’s no way this would fly in the US. pic.twitter.com/BO6fiJrJCj
— meh… (@AbbieHollowDays) October 7, 2017
Not only is this not the first time Dove or other companies has drawn a parallel between “black” and “dirty”, it’s also not the only time this linkage has been found in Western culture.
Twitter reminds us of this.
In fact, Dove is just following in the footsteps of past soap companies who use white supremacy to promote their products pic.twitter.com/YI2KVxYlIY
— Black Girl Culture (@blkgirlculture) October 8, 2017
This theme has also been found not long ago in the following Chinese laundry detergent ad, indicating that it may be prevalent outside of Western cultures also:
Dove has followed the retraction of the ad with the following apology:
An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.
— Dove (@Dove) October 7, 2017
The company also released a statement on Facebook that read:
Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity. In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.
Unfortunately for Dove, its apology, which never admits that the ad is racist, only that it “missed the mark,” may have missed the mark as well.
It seems disingenuous to say that they “regret the offense that it has caused,” as if they had told a dirty joke near a microphone they did not know was live at a church, when their action was deliberate.
And, according to most indications, unless they’re completely oblivious to the racial sensitivities of people of color, the offense they caused was deliberate as well.