#BeautyIs… A Feminist Issue?

If you haven’t heard of it already, you’ve probably been living under a rock, because Dove’s #beautyis campaign is stirring up a storm in pretty much every corner of the internet.

Just in case you have been living under that aforementioned rock, here’s the video

Now, let’s take a second to deconstruct this campaign.

A few women volunteer for an experiment, the nature of which they have no idea until they’re in there, contract signed. It turns out they’re given a patch, called RB-X (very scientific sounding, right?). They’re told they’re testing the product, keeping a video diary to see if it works before Dove are able to put it on the shelves. Possibly it will make them more beautiful, possibly it will have no effect, possibly they’ll all fall horribly ill as a result of some misused hormone or chemical – who knows?

Well, Dove knows. Because the patches are empty. “Just a patch.” Which is great, because these women feel more beautiful now, and all that they needed to change was their state of mind! Pretty wonderful message to be putting across, isn’t it?

Apparently not, according to some feminist circles. Some feminists are arguing that Dove’s campaign is all simply a ruse, to prove how much we need the beauty industry, by showing just how vulnerable women are. Because after all, who could possibly believe that the patch had something in it? Only foolish, weak, ditsy women could possibly imagine for a moment that chemicals could affect a person’s appearance, and clearly, Dove is just exploiting those women.

Except, it makes sense. An imbalance of hormones can cause acne and greasy skin. Its why we start taking the pill as teenagers even when we aren’t having sex. If somebody started selling a chemical “beauty patch” my mind would probably jump to something along those lines. Something to help your skin, filled with vitamins to make your hair shinier, bright eyed and bushy tailed, all that lark. And maybe there would be a few cynics – there always are – but for the most part, it’s a believable product.

The people who argue that Dove’s campaign makes women look “vulnerable” don’t seem to know the term “Placebo Effect.” Fair enough, if you’ve never studied psychology, medicine, or spent weeks at a time catching up on old Grey’s Anatomy episodes, then you have no reason to know it. In that case, I’ll explain. The Placebo Effect is something used in medical or psychological trials, to test whether the drug being tested is having an effect, or whether any improvement from participants is simply psychological. a random selection of participants (sometimes the person conducting the experiment doesn’t even know who) are told that they’re given the drug everyone else is testing, but are simply given a sugar pill, or something equally ineffective. This way, at the end of the experiment, the scientist, doctor, psychologist, or Derek Sheppard can test the results of the real drug against the results of the placebo, and see if the drug really is effective.

So, say it with me guys, the Placebo Effect is a thing. A widely accepted, fairly effective thing, which is used for ~science~ not for laughing at vulnerable women.

In case you haven’t already worked it out, then I should say that I wholeheartedly disagree with assertions that this campaign is anything other than amazing. Maybe I’m just naive, but here we have a beauty company – whose whole aim is to tell us how much we need their product – telling us that all we need to feel beautiful is confidence.

Regardless of any ulterior motives, as a feminist, I’m a supporter of anything which promotes positive self-image. A* to Dove, for surprising us all. Four for you, Dove, you go Dove.



  1. Hmm that’s an interesting perspective on it. My only problem is that it’s really sad that in order for women to feel confident, they need to feel beautiful. It’s a package deal. Great post, and great blog! Care to check out mine? downwiththenorm.wordpress.com

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