Dove Ads Redefine “Masculinity” in a Healthy Way

Dove, known for championing a healthy body image for women, is turning its sights on guys. We explore why men need just as much “real beauty.”
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Dove got a lot of attention this week when it launched another attack on the media outlets that may contribute to women’s negative body images. The company created a button that supposedly made models’ skin glow, but actually erased all changes in Photoshop, reverting the image back to the original version. Now they’re taking on an entirely new demographic whose self image may be just as damaged: men.

This week, Dove launches a brand-new T.V. ad campaign for its Men+Care skincare line that features celebrities like Dwayne Wade sharing stories about fatherhood. The campaign, “Real Moments,” will run through the NCAA Basketball tournament, reaching even the sportiest dudes who might not typically prioritize their health and beauty. It’s an effort to replace the stereotypes of men as clueless dads, macho men, or girl-crazy guys with more positive, realistic representations of people who care about their families.

What’s the Deal?

The ads are basically about dads spending quality time with their kids. In one commercial, Wade (a Miami Heat star) gets “pumped” by picking up his squealing kids and tossing them into the family pool; in another, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas teaches his daughter how to drive.

The commercials are hardly the first to focus on fatherhood, or what’s funny about it. But the “Real Moments” campaign is giving a voice to the men and women who object to the way dads are typically portrayed in popular media. Much of the time, the company says, dads are depicted as totally inexperienced in comparison to moms. Meanwhile, the ads that don’t feature fathers show sports-car-drivers with six-pack abs or guys trying desperately to win over women. The campaign is aimed at men between the ages of 25 and 54 who feel they’ve evolved past these stereotypes (or never fit them in the first place).

Why It Matters

 

The “Real Moments” campaign isn’t Dove’s first effort to improve the portrayal of men in the media. Since 2012, Dove has sponsored the annual “Dad 2.0 Summit,” where discussion often centers on the negative representations of dads on TV. Many of these men say they’re just as competent as mothers, and often take on more domestic responsibility, contrary to what the commercials would have us believe. (Remember, for example, a Doritos commercial that aired during the 2013 Super Bowl, in which a dad and his goofy friends ended up donning dresses while munching on the cheesy snack.)

Dove is hardly alone in its efforts to combat the effects of stereotyping. Researchers are finding that most men react negatively to images of “ideal masculinity.” Perhaps as a response, organizations such as Standyourground.com and the Men’s Activism News Network have boycotted products from brands that feature “male-bashing” advertising. There’s even a whole website dedicated to the slew of commercials that feature “stupid” men.

Dove’s ad campaign also suggests that men are increasingly concerned with taking care of their bodies and their physical appearance the same way women do — even though the market for women’s beauty products is a lot bigger. Overall, the campaign indicates that men may be less interested in conforming to one stereotype or another, and more interested in just being themselves, whoever they may be.

Do you notice negative stereotypes of men in the media? Do you think Dove's ad campaign will help combat them? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @ShanaDLebowitz.

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