NEW YORK — Dove is facing heat for a body wash ad showing a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman, with many social media users calling it racist.
Dove has removed the post from its Facebook page and posted comments on social media Saturday saying it “missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully.” In an emailed statement Sunday, Dove said the ad, a three-second video clip, “did not represent the diversity of real beauty which is something Dove is passionate about and is core to our beliefs, and it should not have happened … we apologize deeply and sincerely for the offense that it has caused.”
The ad was a gif showing a black woman taking off her brown shirt to reveal a white woman, who then took off her lighter-colored shirt, revealing a woman of color in a slightly darker shirt.
While that post has been taken down, there are screenshots from the ad circulating broadly online. One is a group of four images from the ad that show only the black woman turning into the white woman.
Social media users said there were racist implications of a soap ad that showed a black woman transforming into a white woman. Many who criticized the imagery said it suggests black skin is dirty and white skin is clean, and noted there is a historical legacy of racism in soap ads.
“Dove’s marketing team is fundamentally racist. A clean body is not a white body. Black bodies aren’t systematically dirty,” wrote Abigail Sewell, 34, a sociology professor at Emory University in Atlanta, on Facebook. “I’ve used their products forever, but it’s time to move on.”
It’s not the first time Dove has been criticized for being racially insensitive in an ad. A 2011 ad that showed two women of color and a white woman standing in front of “before” and “after” signs was also criticized.
Dove, which is owned by British-Dutch company Unilever, has long had an ad campaign that highlights women’s diversity. However, news reports indicate that a number of social media users have been unwilling to let past diversity efforts shield the company from criticism over the most recent ad.
“The apology failed to stem a torrent of online criticism, with some social media users calling for a boycott of Dove products, while conventional media outlets in the United States and Europe were also seizing on the story,” Reuters reported. “On Twitter, posts including the hashtag #BoycottDove, which started over the weekend among U.S. users, were appearing in multiple European languages.”
National Public Radio, referring to CNN political commentator Keith Boykin, pointed out that this is not the first time Dove has found itself in hot water for the way it has advertised body wash.
“Okay, Dove … One racist ad makes you suspect. Two racist ads makes you kinda guilty,” Boykin tweeted.
As NPR noted, in 2011 Dove released a body wash ad showing three women with a range of skin tones standing in a row, the word “before” above the head of the woman with darker skin and “after” above the head of the woman with lighter skin.
After Gawker criticized the 2011 ad, Dove issued a statement in response: “All three women are intended to demonstrate the ‘after’ product benefit. We do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience.”