Tuesday, June 19, 2012

OFF TOPIC: Diversity, Beauty and Self-Esteem

My post today has nothing to do with writing. It's about a passion of mine. I'm a huge diversity advocate. You may not know this, but when I started this blog, it wasn't about writing. It was about raising a little Black girl, in North American society. You see I grew up in majority White communities until I was 15. And even then, while I was living in a more diverse city, most of my neighbors were still White. 

Needless to say, I experienced quite a bit of racism and prejudice. As a result, I've developed a very thick skin over the years. Now I've got a little Black girl of my own. My decision to move to Toronto rests solely on the desire to raise my children in a place where they could see others who look like them working in stores, teaching at their schools and living in their neighborhood. Believe it or not, in a city like Toronto, it's not always the case, but it's better than the alternative.

Well my post today was inspired by a commercial I viewed on Facebook. Dove has become popular over the years for their Campaign for Real Beauty and, more recently, their campaign to support self-esteem among girls. The video in question highlighted an excellent message: Many girls quit doing things they love, because of the way they feel about how they look.

The commercial featured such activities as swimming, gymnastics and ballet. And, unfortunately, it featured a very one-sided view of the types of girls affected by this. There was only one girl of color in the video. A little Asian girl, who sat in the background with her head down. The rest of the girls, in the thirty second commercial, were White.

I'm sorry, but I have a problem with this. No, no. Let me rephrase that. I have a problem with this and I'm not sorry at all! How irresponsible of Dove to advertise their concern for girls experiencing problems with self-esteem, but not include EVERY TYPE OF GIRL? 

At first I thought "okay, this is something I'll brood about for the next hour", then I thought "no, I'm going to say something". There were tons of other comments under the video, applauding Dove for their efforts. Well, I left a comment of my own. I wasn't snarky or rude, just honest.

"Gosh, I hate to be negative, but this commercial exhibits a serious lack of diversity. What a shame too, because this is a great message. I hope the event does a better job of representing cultural diversity."

The event they were advertising is what led me to this video in the first place. Dove calls on mothers to "introduce your daughter to some inspiring new role models" by joining a live event on June 26 that will showcase four women Dove believes should be famous.

Imagine for a second you are a little girl again. Everything you see influences you. You watch this commercial and you're nowhere to be found. Translation: your self-esteem, or lack thereof, doesn't matter.

As adults, we can rationalize. We can tell ourselves, "this applies to me too!" but a child won't do the same. My little girl, will see that commercial for what it is. A public service announcement for White girls.

Like I said, it's great message. Wonderful idea, but what the hell was up with that commercial? It boasts Dove's ability to help "8 million girls around the world". Too bad it doesn't show that.

Well, I said my piece, right there on their Facebook page, and left it at that. Then a friend informed me that the link I'd commented on was broken, the page no longer found. Sure enough, when I click on the link, it brings up an error message. Okay, whatever. It happens. But then another friend suggested that my comment may have simply been erased? Maybe Dove didn't want me stirring up any trouble. Casting a shadow on their inspiring event. But that's just a theory. And honestly, my shadow likely isn't that long.

Still, it's a theory that got me thinking. The last time I had a problem with a Dove commercial advocating "True Colors" it was because they failed to include girls with darker skin. Imagine that: True colors don't get any darker than a latte.

It seemed, back then, no one had the guts to say anything about it, so in my comment (on YouTube) I did.

It's almost like people are either too ignorant or too afraid to speak up. If it doesn't affect them, why would they? But the fear part I understand.

I've heard it before: Why does everything have to be culturally diverse? In other words, can't you just be happy with what we give you?

Allow me to respond with a few questions of my own:

  • Why does almost every commercial, TV show or movie feature White people and, on occasion, a token person of color? 
  • Wouldn't it be weird if you were watching a commercial on Fox or CBS and every single actor was Black, or Asian? Or any other color, other than White? 
  • Wouldn't you sit up and take notice? Wouldn't you wonder what the commercial was about, based on the color of the actors alone? (I won't lie, I'd probably think the channel had been accidentally switched to BET.) 
  • So why can't I question the lack of people that look like me in commercials, TV shows and movies? Why must I be shamed out of saying anything at all?

If Dove wants to campaign for real beauty, if they want to take on this HUGE responsibility of representing a globe full of girls and women, then they need to represent the full cultural spectrum. Every. Single. Time. Not whenever they feel like it. I really don't see the harm in that.

Well, when I rant, I rant. So I clicked on Dove's Facebook page and noticed something else disturbing (to me at least, I don't know about you). Their Facebook banner features 7 women. Only one of them (maybe two, I can't really tell) is of color. And 8.1 million people are down with that.

Well, thank you Dove. Thank you for showing me what 'real beauty' is. Thank you for showing my daughter that she matters too. 

Or not.

P.S. I won't be joining the self-esteem event. I'm doing a pretty good job of inspiring that on my own. I also won't click like to help you sell more products, Dove. Not until you click the like button on true diversity.


  1. Wow. I am truly inspired by your rant. Although it sounded a bit too intellectual and well-expressed to be considered a rant to me. ;)

    I agree wholeheartedly with every word you uttered. No surprise there, lol. Dove gets two thumbs up for recognizing body issues and trying to raise self-esteem, but two thumbs down for not displaying every "type" of girl. So really, they're in the exact same spot as all the companies that do nothing.

    And I wouldn't put it past some low-level worker who deleted your comment because it didn't jive with their plan.

    1. Lol...rant or not, it was good to get off my chest, Jenn :)

      Dove has some work to do, yet!