Let me say up front that as a white woman, I may not be the best person to comment on racism and how it may effect a community that I am not a part of, but when I see something that I recognize as racist and hurtful, I want to speak up.
Normal to Dark Skin…
You’re a big company, Dove. No one noticed this? You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you? And it’s disappointing, because I was a big fan of your campaign for real beauty/ movement for self-esteem. Given that you consciously decided as a company to expand that idea of what was beautiful in your marketing campaign…how is it possible that you still approved a lotion/self-tanner that equated dark skin with the abnormal?! How is this supposed to make women of color feel beautiful?
Looking into this story, I could only find one blogger who covered the issue. Her name is Mitu Khandaker, a British South Asian woman of color, who I’m sure can say it better than I can.
It is harmful because it positions ‘dark skin’ as abnormal in a culture where racism is still a very real and potent thing. This kind of labeling, subtle as it is, and in a world full of similar instances of labeling, sticks to people’s minds. It sticks to the minds of those who are supposedly “normal”, and it sticks to those that it is making “abnormal”.
It took me a long time to realize that growing up, yes, I internalized the message that I was not normal. And, that is not okay.
She also comments on the disconnect between Dove’s beauty/self-esteem campaign and how this product is being marketed.
Meanwhile, Dove (in the US, at least, I think?) are trying to promote their ‘Movement of Self-Esteem’. Well, I can tell you, Dove, from my own direct experience, that things exactly like this are what contributed to my own lack of self-esteem growing up. All I wanted as a kid – as we all do – is to fit in, and subtle things like this, adding up, take away from the ability of any non-white person to do so.
Somewhat surprisingly, she received a quick response from Dove. I have to say, though, that I don’t buy their statement. Labeling a product that poses dark skin and normal skin as opposites isn’t just an “oversight” or an “accident.”
Many of our lotions focus on moisturization as the key benefit and in some cases we label them “normal to dry skin.” The Dove Summer Glow Body Lotion is a gradual self tanner that also moisturizes. It should have been marked as “fair to medium skin” or “medium to dark skin” depending on the skin type it focuses on. In this case, there was an oversight from our team and we accidentally combined the phrases.
You can read the full statement here. They go on to say that the relabeled bottles will be in stores sometime this summer.
Some would call this subtle racism, but I have to disagree. I also have to disagree with those who say that “Dove didn’t mean it that way.” You can’t equate someone’s skin tone with being abnormal and have people believe that you didn’t mean it that way.
This is a pretty big fail, Dove. Not once did you acknowledge that you so-called mistake was indeed racist; that it was a mistake because it’s racist. Own up to what you did. How else can women of color, or anyone else for that matter, take you seriously? How can we believe that your campaign for real beauty is anything more than a shallow scheme to get people to spend money on your products by making them think you care about their self-esteem?
You didn’t just make a mistake, Dove. Racism isn’t a mistake. It’s a choice.