Dove is done: When a brand shows you it values whiteness above all, believe it

Dove's apology for an ad that suggests its soap transforms black skin into white is too little, too late

By D. Watkins

Published October 9, 2017 12:40PM (EDT)


The hashtag #BoycottDove trended over the weekend because the toiletry company, a subsidiary of Unilever, posted an ad for Dove body wash, a three-second animated GIF, on Facebook that showed a black woman using the product and magically turning into a white woman.

The company released a statement on Saturday in response to the backlash: “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 color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused.”

Award-winning director Ava DuVernay ("13th," "Selma") was one of the first prominent voices to criticize the apology, tweeting: “You can do better than ‘missed the mark’. Flip + diminishing. Deepens your offence. You do good work. Have been for years. Do better here.”

Dove has removed the ad, but it was too late. The apology tweet received over 3,000 replies, mostly negative.

This isn’t the first time Dove has been criticized for racist advertising. In 2011 they released a similar ad in which black and brown women were suggested to be the "before" images and a white woman the transformed "after." On Sunday, Marissa Solan, a spokeswoman for Dove, said that the ad “was intended to convey that Dove Body Wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity, but we got it wrong and, as a result, offended many people.”

I’m not sure why these people think that we are all stupid. We know ads send multiple types of messages, especially in a soundless GIF where all you can see is a black woman turning white. The company is obviously trying to take advantage of our country's many layers of problems with race, colorism, and the idea that black and brown skin is inferior to white. Making the mistake once could be a goof-up by a clueless advertising team, but twice? Dove is clearly trying to send a message to its loyal customers: “Use our soap and you’ll never have to deal with the trauma that comes with being black in America!”

As an African American, it’s hard enough to stay away from companies that seem racist, which is why I’m happy that Dove drew the line themselves. Their lack of concern for black support is crystal clear, and they've hand-delivered our business to their competitors in the process.

D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir." His latest book, "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress," is out now.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Advertising Dove Race Racism Unilever