Martin Mulvenna, Contributor.
“Seek and thee shall find” a motto that the identitarians seem to fanatically pursue. The latest heretic to incur their wrath is the cosmetic brand Dove, following their newly launched advertisement.
The advert people are discussing is a mere minuscule three-second-long, (I repeat three seconds) and has been accused by some activists as being racist. One such commentator is the model turned political activist, Munroe Bergdorf, who recently made a personal film denoting her experience of racism as a mixed-race Briton. Bergdorf claims that the advert perpetuates the hideous insinuation that black skin is akin to filth and thus, easily washed off. The advert has since been retracted by Dove, who issued an apology via twitter stating that the advert “missed the mark representing women of colour.”
This isn’t the first time, however, that Dove has been accused of racial insensitivity. Back in 2013, Dove released an advert showing three models standing in a straight line, while behind stood two pictures. One showed smooth skin with the tagline “after,” while the other was of cracked skin with the tagline “before.” The controversy arose due to the order of the models with black models appearing on the under the tagline “before” and the white model appearing under the tagline “after.”
However, the advert which has caused the recent controversy, simply shows a black woman sitting at a table, who takes off her shirt, which then cuts to a white woman in the same position, who then in turn takes off her shirt, which then cuts to a woman of colour. It’s telling that in Bergdorf analysis of the advert that she leaves out this final portion of the video, aiding in her construction of quite an elaborate narrative about the ‘racist’ connotation of a cursory three-second long video.
The insinuation which Bergdorf claims the advert is perpetuating doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, as the advert doesn’t show the women rubbing any product onto themselves to turn “white” nor is there even a shot of any model scrubbing their skin. Therefore, to argue that the ad somehow suggests a model transforming from one race to another is ridiculous, as the camera solely cuts to one model to the next; there is no extended shot of a racial metamorphosis that Bergdorf’s reading would have you believe.
Of course, racism is a very serious topic and in no way am I trying to detract from its importance. However, it seems absurd to suggest the advert in question is evidence of the underlying racism of the beauty industry. Even the model who appeared in the advert, Lola Ogunyemi, appearing on BBC Breakfast, defended the advert, stating she was “shocked” by the response it has received.
What the witch-hunt like backlash seems to show is that that in the growing field of identity politics, its adherents are ever vigilant for even the slightest connotation of offense, willing to weave such complex and logic leaping narrative, even if they have to derive such conspiracies from a mere three second video. All in an effort to compete in signalling one’s own righteous and virtue.