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Dove’s Racism in Promoting New Shower Foam


Modern media advertising is engaged in various social issues as it strives to focus on the context and customer’s backgrounds to promote products and services. One of the most critical social problems refers to racism that is widely combated across the world yet remains alive in some cases. The media advertising presented recently by Dove shows a woman of color removing her brown top. The three-second gif posted on Facebook shows that she turns out to be a White woman, perhaps, Asian or American, in a white top (see Figure 1).

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It seems that the identified advertisement suggests the first woman is dirty, and the second done is clean, thus regarding women of color as dirt. In an attempt to sell new shower foam, the beauty company Dove causes offense to African and African American women.

Dove’s new marketing campaign
Figure 1. Dove’s new marketing campaign (Wootson 2017:n.p.).


The thorough review of the mentioned media advertising as well as the reaction of such credible media sources as “The Independent” and “The Washington Post”, it seems that Dove created it unintentionally. The perception of this advertisement is rather controversial. Whether Dove states that inside every woman of color there is the one White woman or that black skin needs to be cleansed? Perhaps, it also can be considered as a lack of diversity within the company that leaked outside in the form of the mentioned advertising? Howbeit, racial discrimination is an integral and implicit part of this new campaign, and it is central to the mentioned social problem.

The most importance here is given to the presentation of two women and their skin colors. Since the advertising is only three-seconds long, the above idea becomes rather evident and comprehensible. In order to draw the attention of the target audience, primarily women, the company uses such rhetorical devices as non-verbal components, including smiles as persuasion (pathos) and real testimonies as trustworthiness (ethos).

In combination, ethos and pathos on this advertising are to create an attractive image of a new product. As noted by Wootson (2017:n.p.), the company apologizes for the offense caused and also explains its position. In particular, the short clip was to demonstrate that Dove is suitable for every woman and glorifies diversity, but we did not succeed, as clarified the company in its response.

Considering the problem of racism on the wider scale, it is significant to stress that social segregation is an ideology that uses external differences as the main reason for refusing equal treatment of members of another group on the basis of racial biological, or moral characteristics regarding them as different from their own group and initially downstream (Adams-Bass, Stevenson, and Kotzin 2014:382). In the given case, the core question is as follows: what, exactly, is the point supposed to be? The problem of social deviation is the focus of attention of sociology from its very emergence. Modern racists believe that the representatives of every culture have a certain place and roles that cannot be changed (Wilson, Gutiérrez, and Chao 2013:103).

Slogans of modern racism are formulated as “incompatibility of cultures”, “inability of migrants to integrate”, and “threshold of tolerance”. Observing Dove’s advertising, the above statements seem to be compatible with racist views. Racism is a set of concepts based on the physical and mental disparity of human races and decisive influence racial differences in the history and culture of society determines the primordial division of people into higher and lower races. At the same time, the former are recognized as the only creators civilization called for domination, while the latter are not capable of creating and even mastery of high culture and doomed to exploitation

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Racism is an implicit problem in the United States, which causes the majority of the population to believe that racism in the country is uprooted. In fact, the degree of inequality between the white and black populations of the United States is, to some extent, even greater than in the 1960s-1970s (Brym and Lie 2015:291). And it is even more dangerous. Recently, the UN called on the United States to pay more attention and more actively to investigating crimes committed on the basis of racial hostility.

The beauty industry in general seems to be racially-biased in presenting advertising to the public. For example, in 2011, Dove also created a racist advertising, where an African American woman was standing near the dirty skin, while the White one – near the clean. The company also removed it and apologized, yet plenty of customers were confused. Likewise today, the above advertising involved implicit racial implications.

In the view of the mentioned similar advertisings, one may assume that racism is rather complicated and hidden in many cases that makes it more dangerous and difficult to overcome. In this regard, it is extremely necessary that the initiative emanates from society, then only the government and representatives of the authorities will make concessions and take the necessary measures (Kim 2012:660). As long as the white population, especially in the United States, does not realize that along with white skin, a person automatically receives power and privileges, until it recognizes this and does not agree to give these privileges, it is unlikely that the authorities or the press will change its position.

Even though Dove and other global brands declare their gratitude to diversity, they are still not safe from mistakes. Therefore, the increased awareness is what can eliminate racism in media and all over the world in general.

Taking into account that the identified short video was intended to every woman regardless of her skin color, it is possible to recommend that Dove might include more women of different races, thus making the advertising racism-free. The main idea here is to avoid associations between black skin and dirt that were caused by the gif. Another opportunity lays in the fact of diversity promotion based on clarifying the position of the company towards the variety of races using its products.

For instance, it would be better if the advertising was focused on how foam would perfectly suit both African American and Asian women. Since it is a beauty company that regulates the corresponding industry to some extent, it is of great importance to ensure that beauty ideals are not racist. Thus, the different construction of the advertisement should be focused on equal treatment of women of different color.


To conclude, it should be emphasized that the analyzed media advertising involves implicit racism regarding women with black skin and associating them with dirt. In terms of the sociological perspective, such an attitude promotes inequality and discrimination. The review of the relevant articles allowed suggesting the alternative to design the advertising in a way that would contribute to social equality and proper treatment of women regardless of their skin color.

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Adams-Bass, Valerie N. Howard C. Stevenson, and Diana Slaughter Kotzin. 2014. “Measuring the Meaning of Black Media Stereotypes and Their Relationship to the Racial Identity, Black History Knowledge, and Racial Socialization of African American Youth. Journal of Black Studies, 45:367-395.

Brym, Robert, J. and Lie, John. 2015. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, 5th Ed. Toronto, Canada: Nelson.

Kim, Sookyung. 2012. “Racism in the Global Era: Analysis of Korean Media Discourse Around Migrants, 1990–2009.” Discourse & Society 23:657-678.

Wilson II, Clint C., Félix Gutiérrez, and Lena Chao. 2013. Racism, Sexism, and the Media: Multicultural Issues into the New Communications Age, 4th Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Wootson, Cleve R. 2017. “Business a Dove ad Showed a Black Woman Turning Herself White. The Backlash is Growing.” Web.

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