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Thanks Dove! Now I will finally stop comparing myself to the perfect form of a soap bottle

This has never been a source of anything even resembling discomfort for anyone, ever.

In my bathroom, there’s a bottle of Radox shower gel. It’s hard to describe the shape but I’m going to settle for “pointy, asymmetric oval, like a croissant made of wax, which has been left out in the sun and melted a bit”. The point is: I will never look like this. No amount of dieting, cosmetic surgery or CrossFit make me look like a melted croissant. Tragically, I was born human-shaped and my lack of body shape representation in toiletry vessels is a constant source of trauma. Except no, it isn’t. Because this has never been a source of anything even resembling discomfort for anyone, ever.

Even so, in this year’s latest display of corporate wokeness, Dove soap has come up with a genius solution to this non-existent problem. The Pepsi ad solved racism. The new Heineken ad has solved misogyny and transphobia. And the latest body positive campaign from Dove seeks to celebrate the fact that women come in different shapes and sizes. Tube shape. Rococo armoire shape. Whatever arbitrary thing you look like naked, you are probably represented by one of the skincare brand’s limited edition differently-shaped body wash bottles.

This latest well-meaning but ever so slightly patronising move by Dove, known for plastering tube station walls with pictures of racially and... bodily (?) diverse women in white underwear, hasn’t inspired quite as much internet vitriol as the now recalled cataclysmically disastrous Pepsi ad. But a lot of people have pointed out that a) the “diverse” bottles are all still white and b) this whole thing is silly, please – for the love of God - can brands stop trying to hijack important political movements with inane ad campaigns. It’s almost as if fictional PR non-genius Siobhan Sharpe has come to life and taken over the whole of advertising.

But, far more pressingly, is the idea from Dove – clearly concocted in a “creative space” where people sit on live alpacas instead of chairs – that you pick the bottle that corresponds to your body type? Because I can’t see mine, and I’m starting to fear a continuation of the bad old days of the melted croissant Radox bottle and impossible beauty standards. Also, where can I find a toiletry container that speaks to my experience of being gay, Jewish and dyspraxic? If corporations are going to tout their PC-ness, they may as well go the whole woke hog.

What’s more, if Dove are going to do feminism, it’s probably a good idea not to literally objectify women by turning us into bottles of soap. But maybe I’m scraping the barrel for something to be offended by.

Really though, it’s hard to get genuinely angry about the Dove campaign. It neither hurts anyone, nor solves anything. It just sits there like a sofa in a field. Doing nothing. It’s quite peaceful, in a way. If ads are going political, and there’s nothing we can do about that, isn’t it much better that they’re tepid and ineffectual like the Dove one than genuinely very gross, à la Pepsi? Meanwhile, I’m almost looking forward to another brand taking on a Big Issue and missing the mark with balletic precision. Maybe Greggs will try and wipe out anti-Semitism with a Star of David-shaped sausage roll.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty
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Nicola Sturgeon is betting on Brexit becoming real before autumn 2018

Second independence referendum plans have been delayed but not ruled out.

Three months after announcing plans for a second independence referendum, and 19 days after losing a third of her Scottish National Party MPs, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon booted the prospect of a second independence referendum into the heather. 

In a statement at Holyrood, Sturgeon said she felt her responsibility as First Minister “is to build as much unity and consensus as possible” and that she had consulted “a broad spectrum of voices” on independence.

She said she had noted a “commonality” among the views of the majority, who were neither strongly pro or anti-independence, but “worry about the uncertainty of Brexit and worry about the clarity of what it means”. Some “just want a break from making political decisions”.

This, she said had led her to the conclusion that there should be a referendum reset. Nevertheless: "It remains my view and the position of this government that at the end of this Brexit process the Scottish people should have a choice about the future of our country." 

This "choice", she suggested, was likely to be in autumn 2018 – the same time floated by SNP insiders before the initial announcement was made. 

The Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie responded: “The First Minister wishes to call a referendum at a time of her choosing. So absolutely nothing has changed." In fact, there is significance in the fact Sturgeon will no longer be pursuing the legislative process needed for a second referendum. Unlike Theresa May, say, she has not committed herself to a seemingly irreversable process.

Sturgeon’s demand for a second independence referendum was said to be partly the result of pressure from the more indy-happy wing of the party, including former First Minister Alex Salmond. The First Minister herself, whose constituency is in the former Labour stronghold of Glasgow, has been more cautious, and is keenly aware that the party can lose if it appears to be taking the electorate for granted. 

In her speech, she pledged to “put our shoulder to the wheel” in Brexit talks, and improve education and the NHS. Yet she could have ruled out a referendum altogether, and she did not. 

Sturgeon has framed this as a “choice” that is reasonable, given the uncertainties of Brexit. Yet as many of Scotland’s new Labour MPs can testify, opposition to independence on the doorstep is just as likely to come from a desire to concentrate on public services and strengthening a local community as it is attachment to a more abstract union. The SNP has now been in power for 10 years, and the fact it suffered losses in the 2017 general election reflects the perception that it is the party not only for independence, but also the party of government.

For all her talk of remaining in the single market, Sturgeon will be aware that it will be the bread-and-butter consequences of Brexit, like rising prices, and money redirected towards Northern Ireland, that will resonate on the doorstep. She will also be aware that roughly a third of SNP voters opted for Brexit

The general election result suggests discontent over local or devolved issues is currently overriding constitutional matters, whether UK-wide or across the EU. Now Brexit talks with a Tory-DUP government have started, this may change. But if it does not, Sturgeon will be heading for a collision with voter choice in the autumn of 2018. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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