BY: NADIA ZAIDI
Recently, Dove decided to release an ad that showed a black woman taking off her t-shirt to reveal a white woman underneath. There was a bottle of soap in the corner.
I guess my only question now is: at what point did this seem like a good idea?
Since its release, the ad has ignited yet another storm of hate on social media. People are offended, and justifiably so.
Of course Dove is now claiming to have “missed the mark.” This is the statement they released on their Facebook page:
“Dove is committed to representing the beauty of diversity. In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of colour and we deeply regret the offence that it has caused,” Dove said. “The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”
The black woman who was featured in this ad is Lola Ogunyemi. Ironically, we’re busy asking her to answer for the final cut of this ad. The contention is over the depiction of what we as viewers perceive to be a black woman “morphing” into a white woman. The actual entire ad, goes on to show multiple women, of different races and ages, morphing into one another. Ogunyemi claims that the film process was wonderful, and that she was proud to be part of an ad that would celebrate all skin colours. More power to that.
But she shouldn’t be the poster child for racist advertising. That seems regressive. I think the hard questions should be asked to the advertisers and corporate big wigs who decide to release content with blatant connotations.
Much like the recent tone-deaf Pepsi ad, I think it scrapes wounds so deeply ingrained that it extends beyond a commercial. Advertising is not simply advertising. It’s about repeated messaging and disregarding select groups. It’s about blatant disrespect and inherent bias.
Nobody deserves to feel offended anymore – and not because we are hypersensitive, coddled and unable to withstand criticism, but because we are in a climate of volatility and fragmentation.
To judge someone based on the colour of their skin seems so primitive now. We like to believe that racism is less of an issue today. Yes, we’ve made strides, but the reality is that while racism might not be as blatant and accepted as it once was, it still lurks, beneath the surface and in the cracks of our institutions and our media. It’s this covert form of racism that has excused discrimination and allowed it to spread. It’s also been a driving force in racist advertising.
This isn’t about boycotting a brand or declaring war on Dove as the enemy. This is about understanding that we expect more from our messaging and advertisements. Heck, we expect people to show up and work toward putting something of substance on the table. It’s about asking people to wake up and be present. If you were one of the people in the board room, it’s about time that you look around and open your eyes. The world isn’t one colour – and it never was.
Like it or not, we are exposed to thousands of advertisements per day. With or without our knowledge, the messages that advertisements spread, no matter how concealed, have an influence on the way we consume, think, act and feel.