The “Real” You: Dove vs. Victoria’s Secret & the Female Body

Dove and Victoria’s Secret are competing for the dollars of real women – in Africa and internationally. However, the two brands are going about it in different ways. One brand is obviously going about it the right way while the other brand is being a little insulting with their message. In recent years, the fashion and beauty industries have become increasingly aware of their part in marginalizing everyday women in their advertising. By constantly showing size 0 models as the ideal of beauty, many everyday women such as us Africlectists have become uncomfortable in their skin. Many have even felt like they’ve had to slim themselves down to an unrealistic size for their body type in order to compete with the ideal of beauty.

Dove and Victoria’s Secret have aimed to attract women by creating campaigns featuring “real women.” Both campaigns seem similar at the outset, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find that they are, in fact, woefully different. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Campaign, on one hand, showcases women who aren’t models. These women are of different races, backgrounds, and sizes. Dove succeeds in exploring the message that if these women can love their bodies enough to be photographed in their underwear, then you can, too. The campaign is saying that Dove understands that women of all shapes want to feel beautiful, and Dove promises to embellish that natural beauty.

However, Victoria’s Secret’s “Love My Body” Campaign seems naive when it comes to what they consider “real bodies.” Sure, they show different races in their advertising, but all of the women—who are also professional models—are all small, unrealistically small for most women. Most women aren’t model-sized, so to promote the idea that these sizes are the sizes of “real bodies” is disingenuous, at the very least. At worst, it’s a slap in the face to women who aren’t those sizes.

Every woman’s body should be respected and cherished; a woman shouldn’t have to be made to feel less than a woman just because they don’t fit in a sample size (which shouldn’t be made as a size 0 anyway).

Victoria’s Secrete’s representation of body images.

In a way, the ad is saying to everyday women that they aren’t actually respected in the beauty and fashion worlds, and that they shouldn’t love their body if they aren’t the sizes of models. This kind of false advertising is playing right into what the beauty industry does well, which is play on women’s insecurities. While the Dove campaign indulges more in body confidence, Victoria’s Secret is more involved in exploitation. Let’s say a woman of a bigger size is looking for lingerie. If they see an advertisement like Victoria’s Secret’s, they might start feeling insecure about their body and think that if they buy Victoria’s Secret lingerie, they can have some of that size 0 beauty for themselves instead of embracing their own beauty. What Victoria’s Secret should do is empower women; they should be giving the message that their lingerie will accentuate a woman’s beauty, no matter what size they are.

As a size 14 woman myself, I personally find Victoria’s Secret’s ad sadly hilarious due to how out-of-touch it actually is with the “real bodies” idea. Every woman’s body should be respected and cherished; a woman shouldn’t have to be made to feel less than a woman just because they don’t fit in a sample size (which shouldn’t be made as a size 0 anyway).

Victoria’s Secret desperately needs to change their stance on “real bodies” as soon as possible. What do you think about these two campaigns? What do the Africlectists – female and male – think of Victoria’s Secret chosen route to illustrate “real bodies?”

  • Sarah

    I don’t think VS tried to say that their models are representative of all women. I also would argue that Dove’s real women campaign doesn’t exactly match real women. Sure, they show ladies larger than a size zero, who are not real models (hmm… cheap advertising?) but they all have long hair, are young, and still beautiful. Nice curves and shape, no rolls… maybe a little airbrushing?

  • Jess

    The ad campaign you link with Victoria’s Secret is about a specific line of bras called “Body by Victoria” not about illustrating real women’s bodies…..