On Soap

The thing about Dove is, Dove does not exist to boost your self esteem. Dove exists to get you to spend money on smelly, slimy bars and bottles of soap — oh, excuse me, “beauty bars.” You can watch their “Real Beauty” shit until the triple-action moisturizers come home to nourish the deepest layers of your skin, but you’re still stuck in a paradigm where “beauty” is your defining factor, and not, say, power. Or confidence. Or autonomy. Or intelligence. Beauty, and your ability to spend money on soap.

Dove is owned by Unilever. You know what else Unilever owns? Axe body spray and Slim-Fast, two other empowering, pro-woman brands. (Also something called “Consort for Men,” which really? We’re still sticking with that name? And Country Crock vaguely butterish spread, which is an affront to toast.)

(I really love toast.)

I am thus unsure why people are SO! SHOCKED! that Dove isn’t responding to consumer requests to remove their ads from Facebook in light of the recent focus on its misogynist content guidelines. If you haven’t been keeping up, photos showing women how to do breast self-exams or of post-surgery breast cancer survivors or of breastfeeding moms are offensive and must be taken down. Photos of raped and beaten women with charming captions like “Don’t wrap it and tap it, tape her and rape her” are humorous, and to remove them just because of a policy barring hate speech on the basis of sex and gender would be an affront to free speech. Get a sense of humor, feminists!

(May I suggest that if your reaction to seeing a picture of a dead woman covered in blood with the caption “Optimism is seeing the dead hooker and thinking ‘I don’t have to pay,'” is laughter: maybe your sense of humor is the one that’s fucked up.)

Is this Facebook content obscene and offensive? Yes. Do I want to patronize a company that doesn’t see a problem advertising next to woman-hating content? Hell to the no. Do I think Dove gets held to some higher standard because of its inherent pro-woman-ness? No. Dove is not a feminist collective. Dove is a soap company.

Anyway, people are now putting pressure on advertisers to remove their ads from Facebook until it deals with the misogyny. Some of them are agreeing, which is great. Others, like Dove, are not, which is sad but ultimately, not surprising.

May I suggest an additional step, if you wanna hit really Facebook and the advertisers in the gut? Deactivate your Facebook account. First, you’ll no longer be a part of a network that thinks a group called “Raping a pregnant bitch and telling your friends you had a threesome” is somehow not a hate group. Second, you won’t have to see all your second cousin’s stupid Candy Crush updates. More importantly, losing the thousands or millions of eyeballs that allow Facebook to justify its advertising rates is gonna hurt Facebook a lot more than a pile of angry tweets, and do more to make it an unattractive place for advertisers. Sure, in my dream world, companies take the high road and opt out based on the hate speech, but we don’t live in that world. We live in this one.

Facebook is ubiquitous, sure, but that still doesn’t mean we have to use it. We can opt out.

I’ll start.

(More info.)

(A further thought.)


  1. Well said. Unfortunately, advertisers, while being about 2 years behind the wave, will eventually move where all the cool people are, which is what, Tumblr? They’ll always be there.


    1. True that. One day soon, they’ll figure out how to ruin Twitter for me. Eventually, I will only communicate with people who live within the radius of my can-with-string setup.


  2. I have reread your post 3 times now, just trying to wrap my head around these ads you speak of! I have not seen any… yet. And I guess I’m lucky to not have friends who spread around such terrible ‘jokes’…. However, you’ve inspired me to drop Facebook as a result, because I have been thinking about it for awhile now. Thanks for that 🙂


    1. Thank god no one I’m connected to would ever post/like one of these images or pages; seeing them in the context of this campaign was bad enough. But I don’t have to see them to be angry that Facebook does *not* consider a picture of a woman lying in a pool of blood with her head smashed in and the caption “I like her for her brains” to depict “graphic violence.” I mean, Jesus.


  3. One of the pro-advertiser arguments I’ve heard recently is that these companies can’t choose where (what pages) their ads appear. To that, I say bollocks. They have chosen to have their ads appear on Facebook. Enough said.


    1. Indeed. Advertisers can target based on all kinds of parameters. If there’s literally no way to avoid this content, it’s time to leave the platform, period.


      1. I agree. I don’t know how successful Facebook advertising is for these companies, but it can’t possibly be their make-or-break platform. I know I, for one, have never clicked on an ad in FB (which, of course, means no one else ever has either).


  4. I didn’t realize how bad the rape content on FB was. I had my head in the sand. I didn’t want to look and have those images seared into my brain.
    Of course I agree with you on the blatant pseudo-feminism of the Dove commercials, too, but the fact that FB was allowing such disgusting content (about illegal, immoral, hateful activities) is unforgivable.


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