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BuzzFeed beauty editor Arabelle Sicardi wrote a post on Wednesday that critiqued Dove's new Choose Beautiful campaign, in which women are made to walk through doors labeled either "beautiful" or "average." The post was subsequently taken down by BuzzFeed, Gawker reports. It was replaced by one line: "We pulled this post because it is not consistent with the tone of BuzzFeed Life."
Gawker dug up Sicardi's archived original post, in which she comments on the narrowness and superficiality of Dove's experiment, writing, "You know, maybe those women described themselves as smart, funny, generous, kind, but we’ll never know, because the soap manufacturer wants to tell us how we feel about ourselves. And then fix it for us. With soap."
Could it be that the post was deleted because Dove's parent company Unilever is a major advertiser on BuzzFeed? A former BuzzFeed writer alleged that BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith made him delete a post in 2013 critical of Axe, owned by Unilever.
In regards to the Dove post, Smith tweeted: "We are trying not to do hot takes." An internal memo reads in part, "When we approach charged topics like body image and feminism, we need to show not tell. (That's a good rule in general, by the way.) We can and should report on conversations that are happening around something that we have opinions about, but using our own voices (and hence, BuzzFeed's voice) to advance a personal opinion often isn't in line with BuzzFeed Life's tone and editorial mission."
Sicardi isn't the only writer who found Dove's ad to be condescending. Fast Company also criticized the spot, saying it "feels infantilizing" and "less than empowering." Teressa Iezzi writes:
Any available scenario is icky. Maybe there are women here who had the audacity to never feel the need to define themselves based on how they look and now they have to face this humiliating choice. Or maybe there are women who do have issues and insecurities with their looks in which case—thanks! Or maybe many of these women really do think of themselves as "beautiful," whatever that means, (and the spot mainly includes conventionally attractive women—looks like we're just leaving the "average" women out of it), and just didn’t want to feel like jerks by choosing the "beautiful" door.
We reached out to Sicardi for comment, but she's posted her pitch-perfect statement here. It pretty much says it all.
Update: BuzzFeed republished Sicardi's post with a note: "This post was inappropriately deleted amid an ongoing conversation about how and when to publish personal opinion pieces on BuzzFeed. The deletion was in violation of our editorial standards and the post has been reinstated."
In an editorial memo BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith tweeted out, Smith wrote: "You also have a right to ask about whether we did this because of advertiser pressure, as Gawker suggested. The answer is no. I field complaints all the time from companies and individuals, including advertisers, and see it as my job to shield you from that pressure. We obviously need to do a better job of giving guidance to writers and editors on the place of personal opinion on the site."