Why that new Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercial is annoying

One of my favorite Columbus comedians Laura Sanders has this great joke about the Dove Real Beauty campaign. It’s much better when she tells it, but the idea is that while the ads’ overarching “believe in yourself no matter what you look like!” message is one she can get behind, it’s pretty frustrating for anyone with A-cup sized wobbly bits because all the women in those commercials are lugging around some decent-sized knockers.

“Yeah, real ‘fuckable’ beauty.”

Laura. So on.

Apropos that I heard her tell this joke the weekend before the beauty brand’s newest installment of the Real Beauty campaign went viral.

My Facebook feed blew up on Monday with this video. My friends loved it, and, I agree, it is really moving. Ad synopsis: a forensic artist (those people in “Law & Order,” and I guess in real life, who draw crime suspect sketches based on the recounting of their physical appearance from an eyewitness) asked a group of women to describe their own faces. He then asked them to describe the face of the woman they had been assigned earlier in the day to get to know.

Quelle surprise! When placed side by side, the sketch that represented the women’s own descriptions of themselves were much less flattering and less accurate than the sketches that represented how the other woman described their faces.

It reminded me of my own struggle to find myself beautiful, physical or otherwise. I have not always been this glorious, model example of female physicality, dear reader! In eighth grade the group of boys my group of girls were “friends” with (you know how that goes) decided to give us girls really mean gag gifts as “just a joke.” They didn’t follow through but we later heard what they planned on giving all of us. One girl was going to get a pack of razors (tres hairy!). Another a push-up bra (tres tittyless!). And another — me — a small bag of dog food (tres unattractive!).

Quelle horror! At least Sister Sasquatch could actually use those razors. But a face is a face, bro. I could have used a commercial like Dove’s latest at that age.

Point is, on the surface, this commercial is beautiful. But, alas, beauty is about more than what we first see, yes? (Teachable moment copyright Dove Inc.)

Watching the sketch artist video reminded me of watching Christina Aguilera’s music video for “Your Body.”

Christina, so talented, so poised to be a role model for sexual, independent women getting older and growing emotionally and physically. Instead, this song, while kind of admirable in its pro-sex attitude, has a video that makes her appear to be a grown woman stunted at age 19-level promiscuity. She could have taken this platform and said something newly positive, instead she just seemed to be hyping a very overdone, unilateral point of empowerment even though at first glance it seems like she’s doing something liberating for herself. (We’ve even, if this vid is any indication, run out of visual euphemisms for cum. See: realistic in consistency but blue stuff spraying everywhere in the bathroom scene.) While kind of awesome on it’s surface — do what makes you feel good without shame! — “Your Body” is functionally flawed and ends up doing underhanded damage to the intended message.

A la, forensic artist Dove commercial.

First is the frustration that Dove could really make a difference by doing these kinds of self-acceptance experiments with women whose appearance tangibly challenges conventional beauty standards (eg. women with disabilities or whose physical appearance has been malformed by illness).

Also, I think there’s maybe one woman of color in this sketch video. Feeling good about oneself isn’t just a #whiteladyproblem. In fact, it’s not just a lady problem.

Why does beauty only seem to be something we need to quantify for women? Beauty or feeling beautiful is still a predominantly feminine must-have. I guarantee if you had men do that same forensic sketch experiment, they’d have the same outcomes; however, we (general sweeping societal “we”) don’t feel the need to empower men to say they like the way they look. We don’t really care. Men are taught early to not put too much value of self in physical appearance. And it feels insulting that finding myself beautiful is something, as a grown woman, I’m encouraged to think about and say out loud.

Dove’s message creates a self-perpetuating cycle; it’s rash with conflicting messages — being conventionally beautiful doesn’t matter but you better fucking believe thinking you’re beautiful does. It’d be nice to reach a point where feeling beautiful is not associated with being a strong woman, a point where it’s just a second tier trait, much like it is for guys.

The Dove commercials give me the same uncomfortable feeling that someone in a big glass tower somewhere is thinking “silly women, I know what we can tell them to get them on our side.” Like when the Republican party brought Sarah Palin on board to get the women vote for the 2008 presidential campaign, or when pro-gun advocates tried to get women on their side by scaring them with rape. Just talk to me like a person. I want a gun because I want to protect myself; that’s not a woman’s issue. You shouldn’t have to gloss it up in pink and a pretty polka dot bow to get us to pay attention.

Per usual, lots of things are at fault for this covert disconnect. This morning while watching the local news, the anchors talked glowingly about this Dove sketch commercial and about how sad it was that only four percent, or something ridiculous like that, of women found themselves attractive. The next story was about a study that found new parents would rather have a boy child than a girl child because girls were more difficult to raise.

If you don’t see the connection here, you’re not paying attention. Maybe life would be a little less of a roller coaster ride for girls if they weren’t give such mixed messages about who they are and what they should become.

To the brand’s credit (lest we forget this is a brand), Dove is taking a step to alleviate some of this uneven playing ground of worth of physical appearance. I do see the good in the Real Beauty campaigns, but we should also consider them critically.

Plus, there were some real women’s issues that the morning news could have and would have covered if women put less time into thinking about whether or not they think they’re beautiful. Like the fact that the day before members of the Ohio House of Representatives added an amendment to a state budget bill that would fine schools for teaching anything but basically abstinence only sex ed.

OK. Let’s just let Christina and “Your Body” give kids the general idea and they can figure it out from there. “Whaa? Cum isn’t blue?!”

And all of this isn’t to say I don’t like trying to make myself more attractive or think that trying to be beautiful is demeaning. Putting on mascara every morning has become a near religious ritual for me. I think we should approach it is how I’ve been (trying) to approach gender differences with my five-year-old nephew and three-year-old niece.

Niece LOVES makeup. For her birthday I bought her lip gloss. I see nothing wrong with that. That’s what she’s interested in and I think it’s overcompensating/detrimental to the point of gender neutrality to just not give a little girl something innocent that she likes because I think it could make her think being beautiful is all that matters. Instead, to make myself feel like I’m helping, I catch myself when all I am saying to her is “You’re really beautiful!” I’m shocked at how often this is all I can think of to say to her. I then try to add in things that are also true, but said less often to little girls, statements about her impressive intelligence or running speed. I also try to throw in a few “You are very handsome!”s to my nephew while also cooing over his stupidly accurate description of what an Apatosaurus eats for a snack. I try to make their physical appearance seem like something they can’t really control and thus something both of them shouldn’t worry too much about.

Maybe we can stop worrying about it so much too. You’re beautiful (male and female reader). Inside and out. Let’s move on.

Internet win of the week: April 18

Cool shit I found online this week. A series of fave importance.

“Run Like Hell”

Here’s the story: Women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972 thanks to Title IX. The theory was that women were biologically unequipped to handle the physical demands it takes to run so many miles. But five years earlier a woman did run the race. It was 1967 and Kathrine Switzer was a 19-year-old Syracuse student. She had snuck into the race, and when the race’s director John “Jock” (coincidental nickname?) Semple found out, he tracked down Switzer and physically tried to tackle her out of the race.


Switzer was having none of it nor was her boyfriend. He took down the Jock and yelled to his lady love to “Run like hell.” She did. Completing the race in four hours.

This story is perfect. Pictures document how ridiculous and true and violent this kind of sexism was. Switzer is a hero of athletic equality, an avenue in which women and their abilities are still marginalized. AND, it’s a reminder that men who stand up for women’s rights are hot as, ahem, hell.

Homage, the athletics T-shirt company brimming with nostalgia, released an online-only design that references this line of encouragement. It’s $28, and after the bombings that happened at the 2013 edition of this annual feat of fitness, this T-shirt seems even more meaningful: Run like hell, and don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

Internet wins of the week: March 6

Cool shit I found online this week. A series of fave importance.

Thoughtful: Robert De Niro on getting lucky

This video is of the entire Q&A interview “Sunday Morning” did with the movie star, but you’ll find the winning play in the first three minutes of the interview. The interviewer asks De Niro how he feels when people call him a legend. Big D is speechless but manages to say, “I am lucky that I have whatever I have that makes me have a successful career.”

I know. I had the same reaction to this–shut up! you know you worked for that!–but then De Niro continues, “I’m lucky that I have the drive to do the work.”

Boom. What a beautiful, bullshit-free answer. De Niro delivers a twist on a classic lesson in one sentence. This week, do the De Niro. Give thanks for the moments you have in which you can dwell, even dance, despite your own darkness. Give more thanks if you can do that often.

Yeah, he’s fucking talkin’ to you.

Important: “Makers” online

Watch MAKERS: Women Who Make America Trailer on PBS. See more from Makers: Women Who Make America.

PBS’ three-part series “Makers: Women Who Make America” (trailer above) aired last week but is now available online. It. Is. Awesome. This look at the U.S. women’s equality and feminist movement from inception to today is unprecedented. It is objective but congratulatory in all the right places. Some highlights for me:

– The wacko sexist sports stories, particularly the steaming piles of vitriol slung at runner Katherine Switzer and tennis player Billie Jean King.

– I really connected with Gloria Steinem (today) discussing how she (back then) thought feminism wouldn’t need to be a decades-long movement because if only–only!–the feminists could explain to people why the way society treated women was harmful, things would change rapidly. I think we all, feminist or not, can mourn a moment where we similarly lost our naivety.

– Who knew Roe v. Wade was argued in the Supreme Court by a 26-year-old woman?! Thanks for the kick in the ass to get to work.

– I’m well-versed in the history of Betty Friedan and “The Feminine Mystique,” but I was struck by the scene of a 1930s/’40s housewife standing at the counter while the narrator said many women of that era knew something wasn’t right, but they didn’t feel they should complain because things were SO MUCH BETTER than they ever had been before. Youch. Sounds familiar, yes? It made me think, it’s OK for women today to be thankful for how far we’ve come, but it’s also OK for us to ask and work unapologetically for better. We, and the women who fought for us to get this far, deserve it.

– Reading between the lines: This documentary aired the same week the Violence Against Women Act almost didn’t pass in Congress. No comment.

Teach yo’self. Watch “Makers.” Encourage it be watched in history classes. Because people are still idiots about ladiez and the people who support feminism. Exhibit No. 4,678:

Good one, bro! I'm gonna make my old lady feel guilty about her pride in herself, too!

Good one, bro! I’m gonna make my old lady feel guilty about her pride in herself, too!

Funny: “The Maria Bamford Show”

Comedian Maria Bamford’s voice work could sweetly coo you to sleep or wake the prehistoric dead. But in her web series “The Maria Bamford Show” she uses her voices (not to mention the voices inside her head!) to create all the characters in this tale of an LA.-based comedian who has to move home with her parents after having a nervous breakdown. Here’s episode 2, but all are worth watching. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh and you’ll quiet, for a bit, your own damn voices.

 ‘Till next week, suckas. This has been Internet Wins of the Week.

Making Space

Making space

Window gazing at night.
I look longingly at other people’s windows.
Not inside, just at. And by now it’s more of an eye tick than a look.
Solace comes to me in this practice–
this practice that is a habit.
It began long ago as an unconscious solution to a very conscious problem: Lack of space.
When my most imposing secrets were revealing themselves to me, I was living in a small bedroom with another person discovering her own secrets.
But my desire for room was not unusual.
It’s one of life’s cruel jokes that the time most of us need the most space/aloneness/freedom is also the time most of us don’t have any of it and a time when most of us can do absolutely nothing about finding it.
Childhood is all about space — continually taking up more of it with our bodies, trying to recognize and respect when other people need it, discovering how much of it we need to fight our own battles, our glories and defeats in which no one else shall know.
Space, physical or otherwise, is woven into in all segments of Maslow’s Hierarchy except, maybe, the one that lists our needs to survive in the most basic way (to eat, to excrete, etc.). Survival of any other kind, though, requires room.
Looking at windows of houses/apartments/trailers became a way to self actualize my actual teenage self. I’d imagine living there. I’d imagine having a room of my own. Where no one had a key but me. Where nothing was let into my room/my space unless I wanted it to be let into my room/my space/my life/my window/my mind. I was the space’s ruler and everyone who entered it would understand me even when I had yet to find the-way-the-words-the-means to express what it was I was trying to say.
It was an imaginary place to feel safe learning how I wanted to have ownership of my own everything–
even when I had no idea of the bounds my everything traversed.
Space is a place to discover a self.
But sometimes it becomes a crutch.
Sometimes the proverbial windows become locked shut, barred closed, sealed tight; entry only accessed via a secret password whispered through the thin clear glass, a password that no one knows, especially not the person inside.
Now I am a hoarder of space. I need moremoremoremore. I need to live in every window’s room and I need to do it alone.
But I do not want it/ I do not want to.
I realize this disconnect is a problem. I hear you knocking. And I am trying to let you in.
Maybe try the doorbell. I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere. I’ll help you look as soon as I figure out how to open these blinds.

The three best songs with the name Jackie in them

My favorite story about myself is, of course, one that I do not remember. Self-romanticized myths lead every great autobiography. I have had 26 years to inject my own bloated (pun! you’ll see…) self-congratulatory expectations into this story: The story of my being trained to produce poo in a potty.

It was a hot July day (not verified) in 1988 and my mom was totally pregnant (verified) when I learned that my older sister did not wear diapers.


Immediately, I refused to wear a diaper. Refused. I wanted big girl panties and I would have NOTHING ELSE. Not even “My Little Pony: Revolt of Paradise Estate” could calm me down.

Sounds like every parent’s dream, right? No sticker chart or Tootsie Roll-lookalikes to clean out of a tiny plastic “toilet” necessary. BUT, this July day, whilst my poor mother was sick from the beautiful and miraculous pile of goo gurgling in her belly, we were all in Detroit visiting family. My mom was alone with us girls in a hotel room. It was hot. We were far away from home. She was dealing with 24-hour morning sickness.

“Please, Jackie, just wear the diaper now and I’ll buy you big girl panties when we go home,” she said as she clung to the trunk of the hotel toilet regurgitating lunchtime’s Chi-Chi’s treat.

Does man willingly submit to serfdom when he learns means of attainable self-reliance?! Does man willingly eat salsa when free queso is available?! Does man willingly watch “Nashville” when he knows anything else is on TV?!


Mom shoved us girls in the car and off we went to buy me some stupid cotton underpants. She threatened severe corporeal punishment on my little white bootay if said cotton underpants got any sort of excrement upon them. They did not. And that was it. I was potty trained.

I love that story because it is indicative how stubborn I am, which has mostly been a blessing when applied to things like school, work and cyber stalking people I find attractive. I’m a pretty determined person.

Or perhaps I just don’t like sitting in my own pee. I guess we will never know.

So… that’s a little bit about me. Welcome to my blog. I plan to reference poop a lot less in future posts… my apologies if that’s what brought you here in the first place.

If what brought you here was the headline, here are my favorite songs with my name in them. Jackie proves to be a go-to stubborn character in songwriting as well. Or an adventurous drug-consuming character, also fans of cotton undies.

Come back soon!

“Jackie Blue,” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils

This song was recorded on a farm. I, too, was “recorded” on a farm. Dairy.

“Judy is a Punk,” by the Ramones

To be clear, Jackie is a punk and Judy is a runt. It’s Judy’s turn to cry.

“Walk on the Wild Side,” by Lou Reed

Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side and name your kid Jackie.