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The Dove Phenomena – what’s normal anyway? August 2, 2005

Posted by Winter in beauty myths, body politics.

This is a bit of a follow on to the great post Winter Woods wrote to days ago, I’ve had a bit of a surf to see what’s going on at other blog sites Re: this issue. Over at gender geek the discussion turns to make up, while over at I blame patriarchy the debate rages about what is normal and what is fat. While I am of the view that the Dove campaign is a pretty cynical advertising ploy to get women to buy more cosmetics, and at the same time examine each inch of their bodes with the aim of identifying the bits they don’t like, it is good to see some ‘normal size’ women on billboards, I just wish they could have some clothes on. All of this has prompted me to ask the question, well what is normal for women in 2005?

Emma at gender geek seems to have a pretty sensible attitude towards makeup. She doesn’t seem to allow it to worry her but rather uses it as a tool to get her in the right frame of mind for the working day ahead. We all have our routines and rituals and what we include in them is, to my mind, a matter of personal preference. What worries me, is not that women wear a makeup, but that they feel ugly without it. As readers of this blog will know, neither winter wood nor myself are regular make up junkies and so I feel a little out of my depth when it comes to commenting on what other women do to their face, and certainly in no place to judge or criticise. However, I do find it depressing that dove has run an “inspirational article” entitled “a day without makeup.” It does make me wonder just how out of touch I am with the experience of what seems like many other women if where I find this article patronising, other women my truly find it helpful and empowering. Is the experience of many women truly one of fear at the thought of not wearing makeup for a day, of wearing clothes that don’t match or of (gasp!!) being seen in the swimming pool with hairy legs, crotch and armpits? If this is so then the beauty myth really grips society stronger than ever.

The other issue that intrigued me was the Fat issue. As people may or may not know I am not a member of the fat is good lobby. Lots of fat in it self is not good for the body. Heart disease, infertility, diabetes and joint damage are all end result of carrying around too much fat, and as I have said before, I don’t believe it is empowering to sit there and stuff donuts, even if the donut binging is in the name of sticking it to patriarchy and the beauty myth (although obviously there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to one or two no and then!). But before you all think I’m a total fascist, I want to qualify that with saying that all people have a natural healthy weight, and for some it is smaller, for some it is larger. I don’t believe any of the women in the dove advert could be said to be fat, and it is quite disturbing that someone on I blame patriarchy though the dove averts were appealing to “Fat America”

“Dove is attempting to relate to the new, fat American. I feel like the crime, here, is that we’re becoming more and more willing to accept our fattitude as a given.”

Whoever you are you need your eyes tested. What this does illustrate is that we have lost sight of what is normal, like I said above, healthy weight, or ‘normal’ comes in all different shapes and sizes in the real world, the media view of normal does not. Over at Big Fat Blog they promote a healthy at any weight philosophy which I really agree with. Promoting healthy life styles for all people, irrespective of size, rather than putting pressure on women just to be thin, thin, thin at any cost is a far better way to approach this issue.

Maybe it’s time we junked the term normal, as normal infers that there must also be abnormal. Women come in so many shapes and sizes that the idea of trying to fit them into categories of normal and abnormal seems plainly absurd to me. What we should really doing is promoting the radical idea that women can be happy this their bodies and faces, that they don’t need to search each inch of flesh for blemishes and cellulite, and that it’s not a crime to feel comfortable in your own skin. I guess that wouldn’t sell cosmetics though would it?



1. Winter - August 2, 2005

I think “normal” is a dangerous word. Queer theorists have argued that we should protest against the very idea of “normal.” They have a point. Recently I have become increasingly aware that things are getting worse on the body image front and feminism is loosing this battle. More and more dangerous and painful beauty practices are being “normalised.” This is probably why we’re so wary about condemning the Dove campaign – something is better than nothing.

The American response is bizarre! I haven’t heard anyone in Britain going on about the women being “fat.”

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