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Sins of the flesh 

Lezlie Lowe strips away the layers of Dove’s pro•age campaign.

You won't hear this often from me. But the American Family Association is—gulp—right. There is something wrong with Dove's new pro•age ads.

The AFA—a non-profit, "pro-family" society which blames the US entertainment industry for the alleged dive in American values—is urging a boycott of Unilever, Dove's parent company. The AFA is all riled up about the latest Dove sales campaign—rolling vignette shots of naked women aged 50 and older. The AFA doesn't like the "sexual images."

Oh, silly AFA! Who was the keynote speaker at your most recent policy conference? Because conflating nudity and sexuality, frankly, is the territory of a nine-year-old boy.

And naked flesh is the least offensive part of this Dove campaign.

You can check out Dove's pro•age soft-sell, including 30-second TV spots and print ads photographed by Annie Leibovitz, at In the TV ad, seated naked women appear on the screen labelled "Too old to be in an anti-aging ad." At the end, viewers are told, "But this isn't anti-age. This is pro•age."

So we're clear—this nudity is only ostensible. There are no tits, no bush. Not even as ass. Nary a nipple. Retail sales associates have seen more of me in a changing-room visit to try on knee socks.

This flesh is all in the service of the 16 products in the pro•age line, including facial cleanser, eye treatment and deodorant. And it's part and parcel of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty (, which takes responsibility for the brilliant Dove "evolution" spot, a one-minute film showing the chemical and digital contortions perpetrated on a model from "normal" to billboard.

The American Family Association isn't completely without a clue in linking Dove with the sexualization of women for profit. Parent company Unilever makes AXE body spray—not only an olfactory assault, but one on the good taste of commerical-watchers everywhere.

The "AXE effect" makes a promise to the lads who drench themselves in the heinous perfume: SPRAY MORE. GET MORE. Yes, that's right. More sex. Obviously. The flagship ad at shows a man dousing himself in AXE as thousands of breast-enhanced bikini-clad women charge him.

The Dove pro•age campaign flesh isn't buxom and nubile, but it's no less offensive. The reason is the message behind the nakedness, and the lotion that's supposed to go on it, not, as the AFA would have you believe, its humdrum appearance in 30 seconds of screen time. (By the way, the Federal Communications Commision has banned the ads—too hot for American TV viewers. Nevermind that you see more flesh on your average grocery-store newsstand every day. Even the August 1970 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine showed more flesh. Seriously. Google it.)

Pro•age products, Dove tells us on its website, help "revive and renew." The line's shampoo works on thinning hair: Its neck and chest (!) beauty serum "smooths the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles" and "improves surface cell turnover."

Wrinkles are wrong—no matter their inevitable creep. That's the message. Thinning hair's not kosher either.

"Beauty has no age limit," the pro•age ads tell viewers. But that's only because no matter how old, craggy and mouldy you are, you can still buy these products in all their glorious quackery. Neck and chest beauty serum? Please! They're fabricating deficiencies so we'll buy products to mend them.

I'd take an everyday tits-ahoy Cosmo cover and the come-hither women in any AXE body spray spot over the pro•age ad any time. At least AXE's sickening sexualization of women is obvious. Dove pro•age's tactics aren't so naked. And that makes them ever more so insidious.

Bare your soul. Email:

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