On rare occasion, the media isn’t blatantly in-your-face sexist, racist, or ageist. In fact, it’s the more subtle messages, especially those which appear to be about female empowerment, that are harder to scrutinize.
Take this Dove® chocolate commercial, for example:
On the surface, it looks like a step in the right direction, as there is no mention of calories, dieting, sinful indulgence, or guilt –- typical ingredients of a dessert commercial. In fact, this advertisement seems to be advocating for women to reject perfection, accept their flaws, and take time for themselves without feeling selfish. Good, good, and good.
But, wait? Let’s look a little closer. Here’s the text:
“I confess. I’m not perfect. I can’t sew, knit, or crochet. I might have flaws. But this isn’t one of them. Your moment. Your Dove.”
First of all, let’s examine the word confession. Here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:
1. a disclosure of one’s sins in the sacrament of reconciliation
2. a written or oral acknowledgment of guilt by a party accused of an offense
Whoa. That’s quite a loaded word.
Now, instead of the object of desire/pleasure being sinful (the chocolate), we’re told there’s another sin worth confessing. (Insert sexist undertones.) The narrator tells us she must confess that she can’t successfully perform her presumed domestic duties, like the implied “good woman” should.
Gasp! What kind of woman is she if she can’t sew, knit, or crochet?
Well, she tells us straight away. She’s a flawed woman, less than the ideal, a bit of let-down. She admits it, albeit with a smile and a shrug, suggesting she doesn’t take it too seriously. But, despite her shrug-off, she still buys into the stereotypical image of the perfect woman who knows how to do these domestic activities. And, because she can’t live up to the standard, she is, by default, flawed.
It’s subtle, but when we break it down, the message is clear.
She goes on to tell us that, despite having flaws, eating chocolate isn’t one of them. I can agree that the message to not feel guilt for enjoying food is positive. Certainly more of this is welcome. And, by telling us this is her moment, she’s suggesting that it’s OK for a woman to not always be in the traditional role of caregiver, the one who puts everyone else’s needs before her own. She doesn’t apologize or feel guilt for taking time to herself. Again, a positive message.
But, do the positive messages outweigh the antiquated view of women as domestic beings? Can we just overlook this and be happy about the progress? In my book, it still misses the mark of full approval because, truthfully, it’s just swapping one stereotype for another, and that’s not really progress.