Where did these images come from?

We all know the power of the media to influence, enhance and promote certain faucets of popular society. The women of my generation have grown up with images - toy manufacturers, fast food conglomerates, big food distribution companies, and now electronics brands, to name a few - that have defined and shaped our tastes. More importantly, the images that fill those 30-second tv commercials not only sell products to us, they sell images of us to the American psyche.

A few years ago, I started noticing a trend in print ads targeted to black people. If the ad featured a black family, the father was dark-skinned and bald; the wife was much lighter, with long hair; and their daughter (never a son) was cute and had her mother's complexion and features. I was a bit surprised to see more and more of these images, mainly because I don't know that many families that fit that description. Suddenly that became the 'black family' middle class image in the media.

Even more puzzling to me was the emergence of the curly-haired black woman.

At first I chalked it up to recognizing the mixed heritage that alot of black people share. After all, how many of us have people of other races, ethnicities and histories on our family trees? But again, this image became more and more popular, and left me wondering why. Especially since, in real life, there aren't that many sistas walking around who look like this.

Don't get me wrong. Sistas are beautiful to me, whether dark-skinned, light, bright, jet black, whatever. Black women are even more beautiful to me when they embrace their own unique beauty and appreciate their features, hair texture, and curves as their birthrite to beauty. But why do advertising agencies use these pictures to represent their target market? There is nothing wrong with these images except for the fact that, over time, they become the standard to which the real-life buyers of the advertised laundry detergent and cars are measured against.

None of my light-skinned friends, including my mixed sistahs, look like this, or have natural hair like this texture. None of my brown-skinned or dark-skinned sistahs resemble these images. Who are they supposed to appeal to? Is this what we are supposed to want to look like? Is this image circulated to appeal to black men, who don't buy the products that these images advertise?

I applaud Dove for including real images of real women (not saying women who actually look like this are not real women... but if you've ever met one let me know!) in their ads.

When I see those Campaign for Real Beauty ads, I feel like they accurately represent me and my friends, regardless of race, and that they understand who I am and what I really want. Thanks, Dove! Their marketers hit on something that is slowly being circulated in the media: truth in advertising, not of the products but of the consumers of the products.


Angel said...

I love the Dove Adverts!! They make me feel that they are talking to me.