Unilever’s “Photoshopped” Hypocrisy

Dove, the brand that champions the unadorned beauty of women, has come out with a Photoshop action that reportedly––unbeknownst to the user––reverts an image back to its original state. You can see it at work in the video below. Dove distributed the Trojan horse action virally using Reddit.

Although this viral ad campaign is admirable, as Lexi Nisita points out on Refinery29, its criticisms might be off the mark. “The people retouching images for big companies are, by definition, the little guy,” she writes. “They’re probably aspiring photographers and graphic designers who are following orders and don’t have the option to make a decision on how much to alter.”


Interestingly Unilever, the company that markets Dove, also markets the edgy men’s brand Axe. Look at the ad above. It’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t in some way Photoshopped. Of course we have no proof that it was. But as your eye examines the photograph, it certainly appears that the model’s skin tones have been smoothed, her complexion improved, and her cleavage enhanced. So is there some hypocrisy at work here?

I think we can all agree that Dove’s viral campaign seems well intended. But do you think that it incorrectly criticizes the “little guy?” Moreover, what do you think about Unilever’s apparent double standard? Shouldn’t the company practice what it preaches, across its brands? What is Unilever saying? That women should see themselves as they are, but that men should see them as sex objects that are the epitome of perfection?

Thanks to my student Jessa Diebel for sharing this with me.

Sources: refinery29.com, Unilever, Dove, reddit.com