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Dove sketches: What is true beauty?

Published: Thursday, April 18 2013 6:00 a.m. MDT

How would you describe yourself to a stranger? That's the question that Dove's latest experiement and ad campaign "Dove Real Beauty Sketches" has used to catch the attention of women around the world.

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How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

That's the question Dove's latest experiment and ad campaign, "Sketches," has used to catch the attention of women around the world.

The video, which has been shared and reposted thousands of times, shows several women describing their own physical features to a forensic artist who sketches a portrait based on the descriptions.

Women in the video disliked describing themselves and often frowned when answering the artist's detailed questions.

A opposite tone is evident as these same women are asked to describe a woman they just met. Their descriptions of these strangers are positive and punctuated by smiles.

"I should be more grateful for my natural beauty," said one woman in the video. "We should spend more time focusing on the things we do like."

Lexie Kite, co-founder of the non-profit Beauty Redefined shared her own experiences with such negativity.

"Whenever I would say something negative about my appearance, my mom always used to tell me, 'You are your own worst critic! No one else would ever think that about you!'" Kite wrote in a Facebook post. "Though I always rolled my eyes at the time, I came to find out my mom was completely correct — both from interpersonal experience and research."

Those in the Dove video also recognize such findings. Toward the end of the video, both portraits are shown to the women, one in which she had described herself and one in which someone else had described her. In each case, the self-described portrait seemed much less appealing.

"This video from Dove is a cool example of how a handful of women described their appearances and how that differed starkly from how others described them," Kite wrote.

While the video is very uplifting and impressionable, Kite didn't hesitate to also point out that the company behind the video is still involved in promoting must-have beauty products for women.

"We always keep in mind the fact that Dove is a for-profit company that sells anti-aging, cellulite-‘removing,’ underarm-beautifying, and skin-‘firming’ products that capitalize on female body anxiety by diagnosing flaws for women and then selling the products to ‘fix’ them," Kite wrote. "However, this video does a good job of illustrating this beauty phenomenon, and we appreciate that."

Kite expressed to the Deseret News that beauty can be defined as much more than the fine-tuned definition that the media displays.

"If we keep the conversation at beauty, we are limiting women to being bodies alone, and we shout from the rooftops that women and girls are capable of so much more than being looked at," Kite said. "Worth has a major role to play in this. And worth is dependent on much more than fitting beauty ideals."

With the popularity of the video, it has become obvious that such sensitivities around self-image are still very common among women. Kite suggests that in order to remove such feelings, women need to start by looking beyond what seems to be negative.

"When women can start to see themselves as more than just parts in need of fixing, more than just bodies to be looked at, they get somewhere," Kite said. "They start taking better care of themselves and start to think less negative thoughts."

Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.

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