Viral ad campaign: Dove Real Beauty Sketches.

This is the other Dove ad campaigns that I mentioned in class last week.

If you haven’t seen the ad yet, watch it first before reading the rest of this post:

Now on the surface, this seems lovely and all – Women, you’re more beautiful than you think! Now buy our product! But most commentators have have been highly critical, calling the ad campaign patronizing, manipulative, and worse. Here’s some commentary from the Globe and Mail:

Dove’s new campaign: Real beauty or sentimental manipulation?


Women have reportedly wept over this video. And who could blame them? The soft lighting and schmaltzy music were calculated to jerk those tears out come hell or high water, preferably the latter. For Dove, this latest effort in its successful Real Beauty Campaign, launched in 2004, was a highbrow social experiment. To me, it’s sentimental manipulation, sentimental because it encourages women to rerun that old script of themselves as noble but underappreciated, smart but self-sabotaging, hard-working but undermined by societal beauty pressure. It’s the kind of underdog myth that gets women feeling all cozy and sisterly about their dear, beleaguered psyches, which invariably need a pat on the back.

The Beauty Sketches video felt out of touch not only with modern, confident women in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In wave of feminism – some might even take it as a backlash to it – but also with the complex etiquette of vanity. Every woman knows that even if she considers herself pretty, it’s inappropriate to brag about it. In an interview situation, she would never go on and on about the beauty of her eyes (hence the unlikeliness of my tongue-in-cheek script). The judgment of her would be cruel. And yet the glaring paradox is that we’re living in a highly narcissistic digital culture that encourages vanity. Just have a look at the comment threads of teenaged girls on Facebook, a fascinating study in vanity manners and disingenuous modesty. Often, they will post a flattering picture of themselves looking beautiful and then express surprise when friends respond with compliments. “Really?” they will write in the thread. “Thx! U R pretty too!”

Almost immediately (and inevitably), a video spoof of the Dove Beauty Sketches campaign surfaced, featuring men who report feeling great about their looks (one says he thinks he looks like a “white Denzel Washington”) while casual onlookers express otherwise. It’s tag line: “Men: You’re less beautiful than you think.” The humour was a powerful and confident response suggesting that, while women acknowledge the differences in vanity issues between the sexes, stereotyping them in such a simplistic fashion is just plain hilarious for all concerned, men and women.

And this is also why I don’t get too worked up about the perceived hypocrisy that a company that sells beauty products (including skinlightening creams in countries such as India) claims to be worried about how women are overly critical about their looks. Hey, that’s marketing, which I think most Western women get. And if they don’t, then they’re not paying attention, because just as we’re bombarded with beauty messages, so are we deluged with commentary about how we should be wary of them.

So, yes, the whole Real Beauty premise is just a cleverly subversive piece of communication: To avoid the beauty industry’s messages about what to look like, you should buy our product. But let’s be honest: In one way or another, women are complicit in these pitches about how to improve themselves. That’s what the fashion/beauty industry is all about. And if we choose to engage in it, it’s mostly because doing so is a lot more fun than paying income tax.

Most women, on the whole, are very aware of which aspects of their looks they like and which parts they hate. That’s life – unless you consult a plastic surgeon. Even Elizabeth Taylor, whose face was a masterpiece, hated her chin. It was too small, apparently. Not that she would have made note of that if she were asked about her appearance. And that’s because she would have known that we hate beautiful women who quibble about their smallest, inconsequential self-perceived flaw.

This criticism has been echoed elsewhere, for example:

Reddit thread

Huffington Post

Justin, from the last summer’s section, sent this along, to lighten things up (thanks!):

One third of American marriages begin online.


From USA Today (published last year):

Study: More Than A Third Of New Marriages Start Online
by Sharon Jayson

More than a third of recent marriages in the USA started online, according to a study out Monday that presents more evidence of just how much technology has taken hold of our lives.


The research, based on a survey of more than 19,000 individuals who married between 2005 and 2012, also found relationships that began online are slightly happier and less likely to split than those that started offline.

Findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put the percentage of married couples that now meet online at almost 35% — which gives what may be the first broad look at the overall percentage of new marriages that result from meeting online. About 45% of couples met on dating sites; the rest met on online social networks, chat rooms, instant messaging or other online forums.


While Cacioppo is a noted researcher and the study is in a prestigious scientific journal, it is not without controversy. It was commissioned by the dating website eHarmony, according to the study’s conflict of interest statement. Company officials say eHarmony paid Harris Interactive $130,000 to field the research. Cacioppo has been a member of eHarmony’s Scientific Advisory Board since it was created in 2007. In addition, former eHarmony researcher Gian Gonzaga is one of the five co-authors.


“It’s a very impressive study,” says social psychologist Eli Finkel of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “But it was paid for by somebody with a horse in the race and conducted by an organization that might have an incentive to tell this story.

“Does this study suggest that meeting online is a compelling way to meet a partner who is a good marriage prospect for you? The answer is ‘absolutely,'” he says. But it’s “premature to conclude that online dating is better than offline dating.”

Read the whole thing here.

Armpit fetish.

Illustration by Elizabeth Vasquez

Passed along by Kevin, a past student (thanks!). From Vice:

It’s Time To Talk About Armpit Fetishes
By Alison Stevenson

Armpit fetishism: It’s real, yet not really talked about. We live in an age where tossing salad is all over mainstream porn, but there aren’t many people who are gonna cop to licking someone’s pit to get off. Is an armpit fetish really so different from all the other freaky stuff out there?


I remember jokingly putting on my OkCupid profile that I had hairy armpits, thinking that would deter a lot of men from messaging me. I never took the site all too seriously, and at the time indeed had hairy pits. So I thought, why not? I figured I’d add this detail about myself so the men posing shirtless in their default pictures would deem me gross, or even worse—some kind of feminist (a.k.a. unfuckable). To my surprise, I had a slew of messages from men who were either “curious” about my armpits, asked me to send pictures, or flat-out stated they loved hairy pits. I found myself in a predicament: If I shaved my armpits, I’d be pleasing men. If I didn’t shave my armpits, I’d still be pleasing men. A real damned if I do, damned if I don’t sort of scenario. Couldn’t I go just one day without being so goddamn desirable?

A few weeks later, I started seeing someone I met through the site. He lived in San Francisco while I was still living in my college town of Davis. The first time I took a train to meet him, we ended up spending the whole weekend together. The night before I had to leave, we were drunk and got to groping. Eventually, we were both naked. He stopped kissing my lips, and moved down towards my neck and breasts. At this point I was expecting some standard nipple sucking, but instead he lifted my right arm and began licking my armpit up and down. He paused and asked me if this was OK. I let him keep going, and he enthusiastically got to licking the other one. Licking, and kissing it. After a few seconds, he asked if he could “stick his dick there.” I panicked at first, thinking he wanted to stick it in my butt. When he clarified that he was talking about my armpits, I was relieved. Hell yeah you can stick it there, just not the butt. Anything but the butt.

Read the rest of her story, and more, here.

And an example of someone who appeals to those with armpit fetish:

Wedding-night sex on the decline.


From Jezebel:

Nobody Has Wedding Night Sex Anymore
by TracyMoore

Wedding night sex is officially as passé as using Febreze or talking on the phone. Rather than get it on, newlyweds are wont to do any number of things post-nuptch that do not involve consummating the marriage. Consider this historical trajectory though: Medieval couples hadto do it. Modern couples simply ain’t care.

Though facts here are easily fudged — who can ever know for sure how often anyone does it, when, why, or how, or count on the doers to be reliable narrators — surveys hint at some recurring just-hitched issues that lead to one of you spending your Big Night with your true soul mate playing Words With Friends on your phone. And what’s more, being fine with it.

A recent survey from a wedding stationary company Paper Shaker claims a quarter of couples don’t do it. A few years ago, the Daily Telegraph covered a survey by Bride to Be magazine, which found that 90% of couples expect to do the deed, but only a quarter see their dreams realized. The Daily Mail, who may or may not be forever a bridesmaid, insists that over half of couples (from a survey double the size of the previous) don’t make it official by ancient religious standards on the wedding night.

The biggest reason? Drunk dick. Second biggest reason? Too tired. Last year, a financial advice website asked newlyweds why they bypass the action (in this survey, fewer than 48% got around to sex). All had been married within the previous three years. Their reasons:

Groom too drunk (24%)

Bride too tired (16%)

Bride too drunk (13%)

Had to watch kids (11%)

Had fight before reception ended (9%)

Needed to leave for honeymoon (9%)

Pulled an all-nighter partying (7%)

Groom too tired (4%)

Neither felt like it (4%)

Read the rest, including some funny personal anecdotes, here.