Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is Dove Chocolate the Escape for Women that it Seems?

I found the following video at Sociological Images.

Transcript:

We’re only human, but we try to be perfect.
We pretend that high heels are comfortable, and that waxing just takes getting used to.
We pretend we can manage anything that’s thrown at us, and sometimes we can.
And other times, we just have to cut ourselves some slack, and take a moment.
Because although we’re only human, that’s more than enough.
Your moment, your Dove.

Gwen took issue with this commercial, because it uses a woman’s empowerment message to sell its product, “in a superficial way that simply suggests consumption as a solution rather than truly challenging the beauty ideals it appears to be critiquing.”  I think that this is an unrealistic demand from any commercial regardless of the product.  The goal is to sell an item, not restructure the world. If an advertisement can accomplish this goal without pandering to isms that we know that are harmful, has it not already exceeded reasonable expectations?

Of course we have to deal with the fact that this is a chocolate commercial aimed at women.  Even though both genders use a multitude of products, certain items are invariably aimed at women.  I don’t recall the last time I saw a cleaning product use a male actor in an advertisement -- and though it takes two people to make a child, a diaper commercial will invariably star a cute baby and its mother.  Dove could have done something really challenging and shown a man eating a piece of chocolate as a form of escape.  Even though in my household, any kind of chocolate invariably belongs to me (because I freaking said so), this does not mean that chocolate is not consumed for pleasure by both men and women.

The idea that women do perform their gender is something that is not often acknowledged for the occasionally painful and often time consuming ritual that it is.  None of the messages in this commercial were inaccurate.  If we are absolutely honest, not only are women spending inordinate amounts of time performing gender, they are also  doing a double shift.  Stopping to relax and to have moments of absolute pleasure, is not something we often give ourselves the pleasure of having, even though we live in an individualistic society rather than a communal one. 

Yes, aiming chocolate specifically at women and ignoring the way that this is considered a woman’s indulgence certainly plays upon sexist ideas; however, the message that we should relax is something that needs to be reinforced.  The problem is the product itself that is sending the message.  In the west, chocolate is something that many consume is vast quantities because it is pleasurable and cheap. The reason it is so affordable, is because of how it is produced.  Chocolate is an item that is made from highly exploited labour and sometimes even slave labour.  So as I sit here, a western woman engaging with the ways in which this commercial deals with gender, in response to the work of another western woman, the perspective we have both focused on, completely reflects our western biases.  What about the women workers that are producing the chocolate for little to no pay?  Do we think that they are affected by this commercial? Sometimes we can become so determined to look at something to see how it impacts us, that we miss the multiple layers of oppression right in front of us.  We cannot think in an intersectional fashion, unless we seek to deconstruct something from as many angles as possible. There is much more to this commercial than gender but it takes a determination to deconstruct an item to its most basic components to see this.