Added: Elisa Dresser - Date: 17.09.2021 07:33 - Views: 15768 - Clicks: 6318
Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" aimed to widen cultural understandings of diverse bodies and embodied beauty. In this essay, however, I question the ability of the campaign to confront the limits of our current cultural understandings of embodied beauty and diversity. While the acceptance of diverse physical bodies was espoused by the campaign, the textual and visual discourse simultaneously reflected many traditional beauty standards and practices.
I draw key examples from the discourse to support my claims that the campaign's discourse re inscribed meaning to the normate body and re made the body through traditional beauty practices.
The subsequent ramifications of societal understandings of the body and the aesthetic value of women with physical disabilities are discussed. The body is a political site understood and experienced in relation to discursive productions of what is normal and desirable. Feminist standpoints have identified social systems that serve to reproduce the dominance of white, able-bodied, males. More broadly, however, To the naive women on here sensibilities are concerned with how difference is invested with meaning and the oppression that exists due to unequal social arrangements Mays, Due to their common investment in exploring the social systems that oppress individuals, feminist sensibilities have been paired with social models of disability to analyze and critique the representation and treatment of people with disabilities.
Specifically, feminist-disability theory addresses the complex intersection of gender and disability. The theory challenges and resists existing social relations that shape that normalize particular bodily conjugations Garland-Thomson, It interrogates the politics of appearance, representation, and labeling to "forge positive identities" p.
Because advertisements contribute greatly to public understandings of the body, Gills argued that "it is not surprising, then, that in the wave of feminist scholarship and activism that swept through western countries in the s and s, advertising was a key target for analysis and critique" p. Indeed, advertising has become an unavoidable part of our daily routines. It is estimated that the average US citizen, for example, sees or hears advertisements daily Kilbourne Advertisements often rely heavily on stereotypes concerning how the body should look and be performed Gills, Further, the media frequently situates the "normal" female body as the presence of high cheek bones, even skin tones, long legs, and the absence of fat, wrinkles, physical disabilities, and deformities Kilbourne, ; Garland-Thomson, Kilbourne ; argued that these narrow representations have led to individual and societal dissatisfaction with the actual lived bodies that comprise most of the public.
Because representations of beauty not only impact what the larger society believes about the body, but also how individuals value and identify with their own bodies, it is important to consider the discourses that contribute to the defining of beauty. Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" is one such contributor.
The campaign was marked by various media that aimed to expose the traditional media, offer more realistic depictions of beauty, and stimulate dialogue about new beauty definitions.
Short films sought to expose the media's use of digital technology to create images of bodies that appeared flawless and the media's impact on women's body image. Magazine, television, and web-based advertisements reinforced this message and offered new images to consider by depicting "real" women, not models.
Further, audiences could connect to articles and workshop materials online for more information and activities. Dove envisioned their campaign as innovative because: 1 their representations of women were unlike the images found in the contemporary media environment; 2 their campaign offered a critique of the images that dominated the media environment; and 3 their campaign encouraged dialogue about alternative forms of beauty.
Drawing on the feminist-disability framework, I explore how the Campaign for Real Beauty's definition of real beauty, as constructed textually and visually, confronted the limits of current cultural understandings of embodied diversity. I argue that the campaign's rendition of real beauty simultaneously challenged and reinforced traditional understandings of beauty and the body. Subsequently, by omitting certain bodies it excluded the experiences and aesthetic value of many women with very real bodies — primarily those of women with disabilities.
I begin by exploring the intersection of feminist theory and disability theory to highlight the contributions these theories offer to the study of beauty as depicted in advertisements. Then I review some of the traditional concerns about the representation of women and individuals with disabilities in the commercial media to provide a context for my description of the Campaign for Real Beauty.
After reviewing the extant literature and the campaign, I use examples from the campaign to thematize its key features and evaluate its contributions toward understanding beauty To the naive women on here embodied diversity. According to Morris"our society is characterized by fundamental inequalities and by ideologies which divide people against each other" p. The body, for instance, is a site of physical variance that has been politicized throughout history. The body and our knowledge of it is largely, though not wholly, socially constructed Wendell, Cultural messages about how the body should look, be maintained, and be experienced contribute to understandings of the ideal body.
But, the ideal body is often a far cry from real human bodies Wendell, In these messages, Garland-Thomson ; has shown that both the female body and the disabled body are commonly devalued. Feminine and disabled bodies are both considered deviant, inferior, and in opposition to societal norms. For example, historically both female and disabled bodies have been positioned in opposition to the norm, a male able-body, and have been ignored in the development civil rights and medical discourses.
Indeed, Morris suggested that both women and individuals with disabilities are believed to represent negative, less valuable figures in society.
Subsequently, they participate in cultures they have not fully helped to co-construct. Recently, feminist-disability theory has become a framework to describe, analyze and critique social systems and material practices that stigmatize certain kinds of bodily variations Garland-Thomson, Feminist-disability theory emerged from coupling of material feminist standpoint and social models of disability. Underlying feminist-disability theory are basic assumptions shared by both feminist and disability frameworks.
Both frameworks hold that the body is invested with social meanings developed through discursive, ideological practices Meyer, Further, these socially derived meanings are political in nature Garland-Thomson, Feminist-disability theory, specifically, assumes that the corporeal body does not lead to oppression, but rather, dominant social practices privilege able-bodied males and marginalize females with disabilities.
Finally, both seek to create positive identities for those who have been oppressed. Feminist-disability theory seeks to recognize the interconnected and evolving identities that emerge from femaleness and disability. InGarland-Thomson provided four overlapping domains that can be explored through feminist-disability theory: representation, the body, identity, and activism. First, Western representations have framed females as weak creatures and people with disabilities as monsters. These "representations ultimately portray subjugated bodies not only as inadequate or unrestrainable but at the same time as redundant and expendable" p.
Feminist-disability theory illuminates portrayals of women with disabilities and the cultural practices that give rise to these representations. The second domain focuses on the politics and identities that arise from the body's materiality. The integration of disability into feminist theorizing contributes to current critiques of cultural practices to alter the body's appearance through medicaliazation or consumerism. Next, the third domain of feminist-disability theory recognizes the multiple interconnected identities of women, including identities related to dis ability.
Researchers are able to explore how the performance of gendered identities is shaped by and informs social beliefs and expectations To the naive women on here to disability. The final domain of feminist-disability theory expands activism on behalf of the oppressed. Activism can range from protests to alternative forms of representation to academic efforts that bring "disability as a human experience out of the closet and into the normative public's eyes" p. Many parallels exist between the social experiences of women and individuals with disabilities due to the politics of embodied diversity.
While feminist and disability theories have illuminated experiences related to To the naive women on here and disability separately, more complex analyses of gender's intersection with disability could further "confront the limits of the ways we understand human diversity" Garland-Thomson,p. Through comparisons to cultural ideals we acquire social identities — both those that claim us and those we claim for ourselves — that limit our ability to celebrate human diversity and to identify with or love our bodies Wendell, Not only does this oppression influence individuals' abilities to access resources and participate in society, but it also influences how they make sense of their own experiences.
For example, historically dominant culture has been often represented by white, male, educated, wealthy, and able-bodied individuals To the naive women on here Within this system, individuals with disabilities have been labeled deviant and subsequently separated from society through group homes, special schools, and rehabilitation centers.
For example, Garland-Thomson' description of how individuals labeled as freaks due to their visually deviant bodies have been historically been made spectacles of in dominant discourses, such as women with disabilities, reflects an ideology of segregation. Kreps said that many organizations claim to value diversity in hiring practices; however, while people with disabilities are hired into visible positions in the organization, few accommodations are made for those applying for less visible jobs.
For instance, she claims that advertisements often "cast disabled consumers as simply one of the many variations that compose the market to which they appeal" p. Finally, an ideology of pluralism reflects cultural respect for diversity and desires integration that allows people to maintain their unique subjectivities. The goals of feminist-disability theory — to forge positive identities and to promote the inclusion of women with disabilities in mainstream society — would be made possible through an ideology of pluralism.
According to Morrisfeminist-disability theory creates space for individuals from diverse backgrounds whose experiences have been isolated and ignored by mainstream society. Garland-Thomson has described the complex role of representation and activism in the acceptance of woman with disabilities. Activists can promote the adoption of an ideology of pluralism by increasing the representation of individuals with physical differences in contexts that do not portray the individuals as sensational or deserving of pity. However, she also warned that portrayals of impairment "as a mundane experience in the lives of seemingly successful, happy, well-adjusted people Activism through media representation must adopt images that normalize the unique experiences of people with physical differences.
Images must be sensational enough to gain the attention, but routine enough to position disability s as everyday and commonplace. Goffman argued that the visual imagery in advertisements contain implicit messages that influence our self-concepts, how we view right and wrong, how we conceive of living a good life, and how we perform and affirm identity. In addition to affecting our understandings of what it means to be human, visual representations of bodies can impact the allocation of social resources and the meanings we as to public policy and civil rights Fugh-Berman et al, ; Millett, ; Rose, Traditionally, research has explored the representation of females and people with disabilities as distinct units of analysis.
Scholars have found that images of the body often present idealized versions of feminine beauty — thin, tall, long legged, and always young Kilbourne, ; Garland-Thomson, Not only do advertisements establish a body type for society to use as a marker of normalcy, they also create expectations, self- and other- imposed, that women should strive to achieve a normate body. However, these standards are nearly impossible for the average viewer to ever achieve.
She concluded that cultural conditions were becoming less favorable of diverse female bodies. Kilbourne blamed advertising for many apparently gender specific problems, such as eating disorders and poor self-esteem. Empirical research supports this assertion. Harrisonfor instance, showed that the greater the amount of television college-aged women reported viewing, the thinner their ideal waist and hip size. Similarly, Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner found that adult women who To the naive women on here exposed to TV advertisements that portrayed women as sex objects revealed a larger discrepancy between their actual and ideal body sizes preferring a thinner body than women exposed to the nonsexist or no advertisement conditions.
Just as advertisements contribute to the construction and reification of norms surrounding a woman's body, they also serve to reify dominant cultural understandings of the dis abled body Haller, Traditionally, individuals with physical disabilities and deformities have been presented as flawed able-bodied people, not as people with their own identities Barnes, These ascribed flaws disconfirmed the social status of individuals with disabilities, reducing them to objects of stigma Goffman, Farnall concluded that it is only within the past twenty years that disabilities have been depicted favorably in advertisements.
Before the s, there were two types of advertisements depicting disability and deformity. The first group was comprised of line drawings that magnified the disfigurement of the body. The second group provided images of children using braces or wheelchairs to elicit pity and donations. These advertisements contributed to public fear of disabled bodies Garland-Thomson, Images that depicted people with disabilities as deserving of pity created a stigmatizing system that is only now being questioned and replaced Nelson, The presence of disabilities in advertisements has been met with varying degrees of acceptance.
For example, because women are often depicted as sexual objects Kilbourne, and people with disabilities are traditionally understood to be asexual Nemeth,viewers expectations are violated when women with disfigurements or disabilities are sexualized in the media. For instance, the Breast Cancer Fund chose to raise cancer awareness by parodying commercial media which "routinely represent women's breasts as only sexual in nature" Garland-Thomson,p.
One poster depicted a woman in her bra and underwear pulling at one cup of the bra to expose a mastectomy scar. While Garland-Thomson felt the realistic image of the woman's amputated breast was likely to make people consider their attitudes, Barnes pointed to a tension that lies between the rights of those with disabilities to have accurate portrayals, yet the temporarily able-bodied audience's inability to identify with the disabled model.
He warned that the general public might not be ready for too realistic depictions of disabled and disfigured bodies and the associated challenges. The public's readiness to accept images of diverse bodies in the media reflects their ability to negotiate the meanings associated with diversity Garland-Thomson, Advertisements are carefully constructed for rhetorical effects beyond product endorsement Schroeder, Borgerson and Schroeder argued that, because marketing communication has a global reach and contributes to audiences' understandings of the groups of people, scholars and marketers should consider the "intersection of ethics, aesthetics, and representation" p.
Because pictures of people make up a large part of marketing imagery, it is important to explore the meanings that are inscribed on the body through their visual representation. While feminist-disability theory provides a framework for complex analyses and evaluations of ideologies of diversity and for prescribing effective avenues for social changes, few scholars have actually taken up the theory to explore visual representations of women with disabilities. Garland-Thomson has provided case studies to demonstrate the utility and application feminist-disability theory, yet research focused on analyzing adverting campaigns as social discourses that contribute to ideological approaches to diversity is limited.
In the current analysis, I seek to address this gap in the literature by exploring the intersection of disability and gender as visually represented in an advertising campaign, but also within a campaign that positioned as a challenge to dominant understandings of beauty — Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty.
Since its inception, Dove has targeted female consumers seeking to improve or maintain their bodies through moisturizing products. Dove's first product, the beauty bar, was the first cleansing products to add moisturizer to help dry skin. New products, such as moisturizing lotions, hair products, and deodorants, and global marketing have also contributed to the Dove brand's success.
This project was commissioned by Dove to develop a better understanding of women's attitudes and beliefs about their beauty and well-being "Mission," Although the Campaign for Real Beauty, guided by a board of experts in the areas of body image, self esteem, fashion "Meet our experts,"recognized that "a mix of factors — consumerism, health, the fashion and diet industries, cultural conditioning — have all contributed in cultivating this ridiculous and exclusionary aesthetic" "Stop Sizism",the campaign blamed the media as the primary source of body dissatisfaction.
To counter dominant beauty definitions, the campaign developed a series of messages aimed at helping young women develop healthier understandings of their bodies and levels of self-esteem through education and discussion "About the Dove," For example, the Campaign for Real Beauty was first comprised of a series of advertisements called "Real Women Have Curves" promoting Dove's skin firming lotion. The advertisements depicted women aged 22 to 96 who were wearing only a pair of plain-white underwear and a bra Hoggard, They were displayed in television spots, magazines, and on billboards in urban markets globally.
Each advertisement focused on one physical trait traditionally considered a flaw, such as flat chests, short stature, and freckled skin.
In addition to the image of a woman, the advertisements begged a question of the viewer. For example, a photograph of a woman with small breasts asked, "Does sexiness depend on how full your cups are? Can true beauty only squeeze into size 8? According the marketing director for Dove in North America, the new website was intended to provide resources that met the needs of the global female audience, yet also to help each individual meet her own unique needs Pitman, At the website, audiences could see additional pictures and biographies of the women in the advertisements.
Audiences could also find information about the Self Esteem Fund, articles related to esteem and beauty, and resources to aid discussions between women and girls including workshop information, discussion starters, and self esteem measures "the self," The website was also the primary location for audiences to view the campaign's web-films, which address issues such as low esteem, media pressures on young women, and digital editing.
With the ambition of challenging traditional definitions of feminized beauty by promoting conversations and providing alternative visual representations of women and the body, Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty positions itself as a cultural location where women could re configure their understandings of the female body. Because the Dove brand targets female audiences and the campaign exemplifies and participates in the contested nature of feminine beauty, the Dove brand and the campaign is good case to analyze for this study.To the naive women on here
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