About

This clip, published in January 2014, is a part of beauty and skincare brand Dove’s #BeautyIs campaign, which seeks to “start a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty.” The first part of the clip illustrates a series of mother-daughter teams discussing their own personal insecurities about their appearances, such as wearing or not wearing makeup, comparing themselves to others, aging and wrinkles, and general discomfort with their looks. In the second part, professional photographer Michael Cook organizes an experimental photography workshop at a high school in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in which mothers and daughters use “selfies,” or smartphone photo portraits taken by the subjects themselves, in order to create their own definition of beauty and challenge their own perceived shortcomings. After printing out and displaying the portraits in a gallery, other girls wrote compliments on Post-It notes and attached them to each photo. While nearly all the women and girls had critical things to say about themselves in their testimonials, these Post-It notes illustrated the divergence between self-perception and outward appearance: one woman’s insecurity may be exactly what another perceives to be a unique and beautiful physical feature. By incorporating the power of social media and smartphone technology, the video illustrates to viewers the personal power they have in re-defining what is truly beautiful.

Discussion

This short film aims to challenge traditional beauty molds and re-examine the way we mentally construct an image of a beautiful woman. While social media has the ability to perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards, the film argues that we can also use the power of self-portraiture to create and recognize our own beauty – and that when we can’t, other women can empower one another to do so. Do you think that this is possible? Why or why not?

The video illustrates the reflexive relationship between self-perception in mothers and daughters. While mothers may influence the way their daughters view their own bodies, whether positive or negative, the teen daughters in the film serve to teach their mothers how to take selfies. What do you think is the purpose of showing this generational gap rather than capitalizing on teens or adults alone? What is the video saying about the significance of mother-daughter relationships in respect to beauty?

What do you think the phrase “widening the definition of beauty” means? In some of the testimonials, teens allude to the traditional beauty standard “mold.” What is the traditional beauty standard mold?

Selfies are largely tied to technology and social media. Do you think the power of self-portraiture is positive or negative? How so?

Critique

The overall message of the film is quite clear in terms of using social media and fellow women to empower each other, however, some of the message is lost in glossing over the technicalities of the selfie itself. Although we see the daughters explaining to their mothers how to take a selfie, the clip fails to illustrate specifically why this social media phenomenon is so powerful. It is easy to fill in the blanks, but an older viewer who isn’t connected to the Instagram generation may wonder why this mode of representation is important at all.

It’s somewhat ironic that Dove, a company that profits off of beauty-enhancing products, has engaged in a campaign that emphasizes real or natural beauty. However, as more people have begun to tackle the unrealistic beauty expectations of our media-heavy society, Dove’s real beauty campaign paints the brand as one that doesn’t aim to mask imperfections, but tries to promote confidence and self-acceptance. Unlike some other brands, Dove doesn’t ask consumers to change themselves, but to adopt a more body-positive outlook that transcends generations and traditional beauty standards.