Dove recently released an advertisement called Patches — where five women meet with a doctor who gives them “beauty patches” to put on their arms to help raise their self esteem. For a week, the women keep video diaries about how they’re feeling every day. When the women come back to meet with the doctor seven days later, they feel noticeably better about themselves. The doctor then asks each woman: “Would you like to know what’s in the patch?” The women nod, eager to know the secret — only to learn that there is nothing in the patch, and that the ability to love their bodies was inside them all along.
Krissy Eliot, a 24-year-old journalist, and Jamye Waxman, an established sex educator, had polar opposite, visceral reactions to the advertisement — with Eliot experiencing feelings of disgust, and Waxman tearing up when the commercial came to a close.
Because their takeaways were so drastically different, Eliot and Waxman decided to answer a series of questions about the advertisement. Their goal was to explore the good, and evil, in Dove’s campaign.
What was your first response to watching Dove’s “beauty patch” advertisement?
KRISSY: My first reaction to the advertisement was: Whaaaaaat? What kind of idiots put patches on their arms for a week without knowing what chemicals they’re putting into their body?
Honestly, I wouldn’t condone this. What are we teaching the young girls of today? Trust doctors to make you feel beautiful? Gross.
The most fucked up part of this ad is that even though there was nothing actually in the patch, and the whole point of the ad was to say women can find their inner beauty on their own without help — they actually can’t! They needed a fucking placebo patch to find that beauty.
I think the patch advertisement is an attempt to hone in on women’s insecurities and paint the picture that a lot of women aren’t confident in who they are. Why couldn’t they include one woman who actually felt good about herself, and see how the placebo patch affected her? And even if these women were “real people” and not just actresses, how insecure could they be if they agreed to be in a Dove commercial? Also, what was that casting process like? Did they put out a flyer or send out a mass email that said: “Are you insecure? Would you like the world to know? We’ve got the opportunity of a lifetime for you.”
JAMYE: I didn’t want to like the ad, but I couldn’t help that I got teary eyed by the end of it. I thought it was really powerful, and slightly uncomfortable to watch these women go through a process of relying heavily on an outside patch to make them feel whole on the inside, only to discover the patch was a placebo.
It would have been peachy keen if these women could have done for themselves what a placebo patch did for them, however I thought the commercial served as a good reminder that sometimes you think you need to trust in something outside of yourself to find the answers inside of you; you have the power in yourself all along.
Maybe this hit a cord for me because I grew up with body image issues. I got messages from my family and the media that the way I looked was not okay, and I spent many years trying to learn to love my body, even when I weighed a fraction of what I weigh now. Had someone stuck a patch on my arm, I might have given it a try. And it may have hurt to have to go through that “duh” moment, but I may also have gotten over my issues more quickly. Sure, the ad focuses on women’s insecurities, but I bet these women, after feeling more than slightly duped, probably have more confidence than they did before putting on the patch.
While I don’t use Dove products myself, I have to say that when it comes to their advertising, they are doing so much more than selling soap.
What do you think about the concept of a “beauty patch?”
KRISSY: I think that a woman shouldn’t need a patch to feel beautiful, and the drug industry already has enough control over society. Just learn to take better care of yourself; get more sleep, eat better, hang out with people who love you. Fuck a patch.
JAMYE: I think a beauty patch is million dollar idea. And I think they should still go ahead and market/sell one, even with nothing in it. If women can use the patch to face their insecurities, then let them pay for nothing. Yeah, women shouldn’t need anything to make them feel beautiful, but then what’s makeup all about? We already have this established idea in society that women decorate their faces to appear more attractive. Along those lines, if a patch helps, more power to the patch.
How do you think women should deal with body image issues?
KRISSY: They shouldn’t watch Dove commercials.
JAMYE: I’m a big fan of group processes. I think women should talk about their issues with their close friends and family. I think that a woman who is called out for an insecurity, should look at it and deal with it. Of course, for some women they will need a lot of support to do this. So start a group. Unite to help each other get over our issues.
How do you think women should be reminded of their beauty?
KRISSY: They should pay attention to their brains, not the mirror. They should also stop focusing on the idea that women need to feel physically “beautiful” to be worth anything, which is what this Dove campaign suggests. We should be able to be fucking dog-faced, own it, and still succeed in life and love ourselves.
JAMYE: I agree that women should love themselves first, because without self-love, the idea of loving anyone else is virtually impossible. That being said, I also think it’s nice to receive compliments and be reminded of your beauty. Even if someone doesn’t look like a Disney Princess, being praised for her good qualities is never a bad thing. In the Dove commercial, what the doctor really does is hold a figurative mirror to their faces, and say, “see I showed you your beauty by allowing you to feel it for yourself.” Each one of those women knew, in the end, that they were beautiful, but it doesn’t hurt to have help when you’re not feeling your best.
How do you think advertisements like this affect society?
KRISSY: I think advertisements like this perpetuate the lie that these huge companies are on our side and have our best interests at heart. Since they weren’t directly selling something in the ad, this suggests that the company is merely sending out a positive message just to enhance society’s well being.
Too bad this ad made me feel sick.
You know what would work to make us healthier and happier, though? If Dove stopped selling products that literally kill us — with their soaps containing toxins like sodium lauroyl isethionate, stearic acid, and cocamidopropyl betaine, to name a few.
I know, I know. But they put fat women in their ads and the bird design on their logo is so pretty!
JAMYE: I agree that advertisements like this are on one level a way for companies to say, “like me” or “we’re on your side,” when really, it does come down to getting your dollars and developing brand loyalty. On the other hand, Dove is using their money to make bigger statements than just BUY OUR PRODUCT, which I do appreciate. I think you have to take it for what it is and say, “I know this is sponsored by Dove and I choose to support, or not to support, their product,” and then take what you want from the message.
How did Dove’s “beauty patch” advertisement affect you?