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10 May 2017

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.

By Eleanor Margolis

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.

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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.