THE DOVE REVOLUTION
DAY OF THE REGULAR GIRL
"How flattering, Darling.
The Dove Co. wants me to be
its new cover girl because I'm
flat-chested and have a
wart on my chin."
Hire real-looking women
as cover gals? Maybe, baby!
By CHUCK McFADDEN
A grocery store I frequent has a whole rack of womens magazines within easy view of the checkout. Almost without exception, the covers feature pictures of the most gorgeous female persons imaginable, staring out there at us customers. Same thing on the inside, with stunning women everywhere in the ads.
Which is fine, if youre a male. I mean, what red-blooded American male, etc., etc., etc. But what about the women in the checkout stand? How do they feel, looking at these perfect women? I mean, here you are, maybe, what, 35? 45? Getting a little saggy? Things kind of moved around a bit, have they? If you look at those beauties on the magazine covers, you probably feel every extra pound. Pretty discouraging, Id say.
Little did you know that all of you rounder, perfection-free ladies may become todays new fashion icons. Time will tell, but you might very well be in the enviable position of being on the cutting edge, female form-wise. Those beauties on the magazine covers? Well, for at least a while, they might become as hard to find as Saddam Husseins WMD.
The new female advertising image is headed toward the real woman. She doesnt live on skim milk and vitamin pills. She eats mashed potatoes and pot roast. She has been known to have a beer or two. Or three. She doesnt nibble. And rather than brooding, the real woman is sunny and smiling.
The most ubiquitous example of the real woman advertising movement is the Dove Gang. The Dove company has unlimbered a campaign for its soap and other products that feature half a dozen or so women in their (non-thong) underwear, kind of giggling at the camera and looking pretty happy with life and themselves. Not one of them looks as if shes trying to become as skinny as a chopstick.
Nike has joined the nascent advertising bandwagon by showing some muscular female thighs that dont exactly look as if they belong in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
I dont know if its boosted Dove sales figures any, but the Dovettes are surely causing a lot of chatter, some of it pretty philosophical. Robin Givhan of the Washington Post muses: Fashion thrives by constructing stories, building images and weaving fantasies. Should the fashion media portray women as they are? Or as they might imagine themselves?
Answer: Whatever moves the goods.
I suspect the Dove Gang may cause a spike in Dove sales, and then things will ease back to normal. Normal being not-normal women. I say that not just because I would miss the heartening array of females on magazine covers at the checkout stand. Its just that everyone needs a little fantasy in their lives. Lots of times, the fantasy is provided by glimpses of some impossibly beautiful people in some impossibly beautiful place, courtesy of your local Ford dealer. And if some brooding, skinny, gorgeous model causes some woman to participate in the fantasy just a little bit by buying some brand of perfume, well, whos to say thats wrong?
And advertising fantasy is not confined to women, you know. Take a look at the ads for mens watches. Here we have an eight-pound stainless steel concoction that is water-resistant to 800 feet. Right. I have great need for a watch that keeps running while Im 799 feet under water. Or one that tells me what time it is in Port Said. Or watches made of titanium. Titanium. But if wearing such a watch makes me feel like a big-game hunter just in from a safari the next time Im taking out the garbage, well, wheres the harm?
Still, it is refreshing to see non-pouty, less-than-perfect, real women on bus shelter ads and billboards. I wish them, and Dove, all the luck in the world during their time in the spotlight. Theyll sure make the ladies in the checkout lines feel better about themselves.
But it probably wont last. Manufacturers of everything from neckties to nighties have been clearing inventory by giving us peeks at impossible glamour for at least a century now, and its proven to be a profitable formula.
Three cheers for Dove. But dont be too surprised if, in another six months, youll be right back to seeing some anorexic but beautiful 19-year-old tragically touting soap.
©2005 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The cartoon is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. This column first posted on Sept. 12, 2005.
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