Pop-Culture | Posted by Fiona L on 11/2/2011

There’s Nothing Real About These “Real Beauty” Campaigns

real beauty?

"real" beauty?

Although at first it appears that companies like Dove and Bare Minerals have taken a step in the right direction by running “Real Beauty” campaigns, there’s often nothing real about them.

When I see an ad that claims to feature real women, yet the woman are still remarkably flawless, it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. At least when I see a model in an advertisement I can tell myself that the way she looks is fake, enhanced by photo shop, and probably required harmful eating practices. When I see an ad that claims to be “real” or represent “average women,” yet not a single woman weighs over 140 pounds (the average weight of an American woman) I can’t help but feel as if I’m imperfect, and the rest of the world is flawless.

The fact is that “real beauty” campaigns may show beauty, but they don’t show truth. The campaigns often try to make a big deal about showing us imperfections, but the “imperfections” are rarely hard to look at as they’re usually tiny crow’s feet wrinkles, A cup breasts, or even freckles! I’m still waiting for the ad campaign that shows young women with pimples, old women with real wrinkles, or a woman with stretch marks on her breasts. Flaunting minor imperfections hardly helps the average reader, watcher, or listener feel better about herself.

The media lies to us when they show us photoshopped pictures, but at least we know they’re fake. What troubles me is when magazines and companies try to convince girls and women that what they’re seeing is real—like the many magazines that have featured celebrities “sans-makeup.”

Finally, many of these campaigns focus on excluding one element of the editing and production process. Sometimes it’s no makeup, other times it’s no photoshop, but it’s never everything at once, making sure that we never have to see a woman in—God forbid—her natural form.

I understand that a picture of a woman with acne doesn’t sell lip-gloss, but I’d rather companies were honest with their viewers about what we’re seeing, rather than trying to force an image of reality on us, that many of us may confuse for the truth.

Bare Minerals’ recent ad campaign reads, “We set out to find the world’s most beautiful women. And we found them…without ever seeing their faces.” Bare Minerals’ models are interesting women. They’re doing great things and their stories are inspiring, but Bare Minerals is not being entirely truthful by saying they never saw their faces. The casting call was for actresses (who were probably chosen by their agents), not anyone, and after the actresses had been “whittled” down to a whopping 78, they did meet with casting agents to choose the final five. Bare Minerals claims to have cast average women based solely on their accomplishments. I applaud Bare Minerals for choosing these inspiring women, but these women were chosen for their bodies, faces, hair, and accomplishments, and we can’t forget that.

I’ve always said that any step in the right direction, no matter how small, is important. But, I feel that by portraying their campaigns as more authentic than they actually are, companies like Dove and Bare Minerals are actually doing a great disservice. Real beauty campaigns are really beautiful, but they’re also really misleading.

This was originally posted on Rachel Simmon’s blog. Fiona also writes for her own blog “Barbara’s Angels.”

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  • Ariel @ at 9:33 pm, November 2nd, 2011

    Excuse me?
    A cup breasts are an imperfection?
    I take some serious offense to that as I have A cups and think they are fan-fucking-tastic. To label them as a flaw is rude and oppressive and seriously makes me feel like I’m unworthly as a woman for not being a perfect b,c,d,e,g cup. >=(!!!

  • AntiSlice @ at 3:35 pm, November 3rd, 2011

    Yeah, A cup is not really an imperfection. A lot of those photoshopped models probably have A or AA cups. A departure from the norm would be “non-proportional” bodies – A cup with size 10 pants or something. Even D+ cup with size 2 pants.

  • Emma E @ at 4:03 pm, November 3rd, 2011

    Um, I think (I could be wrong here, but this is how I interpret it) that the author was calling out these campaigns’ definition of ‘imperfections’, not saying that those things were actual imperfections. Because I don’t really consider freckles an imperfection either, y’know? And crow’s feet? Who, above age forty, doesn’t have crow’s feet? That’s just how I read it, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think that she was actually saying there’s anything wrong with A cups. :)

  • Ariel @ at 4:38 pm, November 3rd, 2011

    @Emma E
    True but I take more offense at the fact that even if she wasn’t labeling my breasts as imperfections herself and was poking at the advertisements, she still said ‘the “imperfections” are rarely hard to look at…’ Which means to me that although they are Rarely hard to look at, they still are. (I swear if I had crows feet or freckles I’d still be in this boat, just abuot those things.) Cause really, are small breasts hard to look at ever? Crows feet? Freckles? Is there something disgusting about them on rare occasion where they are unacceptable?
    It’s more all of that^ then what I posted before, which was more a mix of my anger with the fact that A cups are labed imperfect (by the company) and that they are hard to look at sometimes (by her) and it just got a bit mixed together in my first post.

  • QuantumInc @ at 2:27 am, November 5th, 2011

    To throw in my overly thorough take on the issue:
    Various industries that publish various media featuring women deciding long ago to only feature the most attractive women. They also tend to show the most attractive men, but clearly it’s more important that the woman is attractive. Just compare the woman on a billboard or magazine for TV show to the one standing next to you and you will see a difference.

    Right or wrong, feminists believe this difference is harmful for women because they feel the need to live up to this incredibly high standard of physical beauty. Thus they demand that these media show more average looking women.

    A couple of companies decide to reach out to women feeling this beauty pressure with these campaigns. Yet they seem to only go halfway. They focus on things that few considered to be flaws, like A-cups and freckles, and say “We can look past your flaws!” The only time these are flaws are in the magical world of magazine models, which apparently is where Dove and Bare Minerals live anyway.

    For every person who works there are genuinely sympathizes with women, there are two who are terrified that ads with a truly realistic variety of women will destroy their sales. These ‘real beauty’ campaigns are the compromise.

  • Fiona L @ at 9:03 pm, November 7th, 2011

    As the author of this piece, I just want to clarify that I was by no means saying that freckles, A cups, or crow’s feet are imperfections in my eyes or that I have a hard time looking at them. Rather, and clearly this didn’t come across especially clearly, I was attempting to put out the how ridiculous it is for these companies to show us models with such attributes and try to convince us that those are imperfections or evidence of the fact that they are using “real models.” Hope that cleared up any confusion.

  • Renee @ at 12:41 pm, November 22nd, 2011

    I always point something like this out to my friends (but we mostly talk about the modeling industry) and they always bring up the “we need more size representation”!(which we do) but then I pint this out and say so what if we get better representation of sizes the women will still be flawless outstandingly beautiful have the perfect hair legs no acne no scars no dimples no stretchmarks….and in the end we all just agree that the world is shit.

  • Renee @ at 12:44 pm, November 22nd, 2011

    *they will also probably be white(or white enough) and tall because God forbid there be a “short”(5’6″) woman somewhere.

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