How a racist beauty advertisement reinforced colonial ideas that present Blackness as abnormal in relation to whiteness.
Unilever, the conglomerate behind Dove soap and other bath and beauty products, has said it will stop using the word “normal” on its packaging, as well as making digital alterations to the bodies and skin colour of models used in its advertising in an attempt a push to be more inclusive.
The move from the London-based company, which is one of the top advertisers in the world, comes as it tries to move beyond a backlash it has faced for some of its advertising campaigns.
Unilever was pushed to rename its top-selling skin-lightening brand in India to “Glow & Lovely” from “Fair & Lovely” last year after facing consumer ire over negatively stereotyping darker skin tones.
In 2017, the company faced a social media outcry over an advertisement for Dove body wash, which showed a Black woman removing her top to reveal a white woman.
More recently, it had to pull all its TRESemmé haircare products from South African retail stores for 10 days due to a backlash over an advertisement.
“We know that removing ‘normal’ alone will not fix the problem, but we believe it is an important step towards a more inclusive definition of beauty,” Sunny Jain, the president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division told the Reuters news agency.
Globally, more than a hundred Unilever brands will have the word “normal” removed to describe skin type or hair texture, and replaced with terms such as “grey hair” for shampoos or “moisture replenish” for skin creams by March next year.
Unilever said a poll it conducted of about 10,000 people globally showed that more than half the respondents felt using “normal” to describe hair or skin made people feel excluded, while 70 percent said using the word in advertising had a negative effect.
The company also said it would stop digitally altering body shape, size, proportion and skin tones of the models featured in its own advertisements, or those of its paid influencers across all its brands, a move that started with the Dove brand in 2018.