Most women can tell you what fruit they are.
At some point in their coming of age, women learn that their shape can be compared with a fruit, mostly by figuring out exactly what is wrong with it. Hips larger than the bust? Pear. Waist larger that the hips? Apple. No curves? Banana.
But now there’s a new choice: Dove says women can also be soap bottles.
The Unilever brand that’s been on a mission to get women to embrace their “real beauty” for a few years—while other Unilever brands teach other women to change the color of their own skin—has launched a new campaign to empower women to embrace their body shape.
In the UK, the company will sell a limited edition of six Real Beauty Bottles: unusually curvy shampoo bottles that look like they were inspired by a mix of illegal drugs and Constantin Brancusi.
“We’ve created a limited edition range of Dove Body Washes, designed to show how beauty is diverse and diversity is beautiful,” said Unilever in a press release, explaining how these are intended to depict real women’s bodies. All body wash bottles—I mean, women—are beautiful as they are.
Many women do not seem pleased. Not only are they not running to the drugstore, they are making fun of the bottles.
This is the apotheosis of Dove’s misguided brand of “empowering advertising,” which tends to end up exploiting the very female insecurities that it claims to destroy. Well-intentioned or not, the message behind all of these campaigns is the same we’ve always heard: Be beautiful.
Of course, Dove is selling soap, not programming classes, so it makes sense—but the attempt to mask that mandate as stereotype-busting is ineffective at best. It’s just not that empowering to overhaul the ideals of feminine beauty: We’re never going to find all people and bodies equally beautiful, no matter how many commercials feature women getting teary-eyed after embracing their own outer beauty. Some women will always be more beautiful than others, just like men are. The only way to actually help women escape the “beauty trap” is to simply make beauty less important—just like it is for men.