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Behind Dove’s #KeepTheGrey battle against ageism and sexism

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

August 26, 2022 | 9 min read

Dove discusses how its latest powerful effort continues to widen the stereotypical view of beauty for all women.

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Dove’s new #KeepTheGrey campaign aims to fight ageism and sexism in the workplace / Adobe Stock

Earlier this week, Dove launched a social media campaign that aimed to shift public perception of graying hair and fight back against ageism and sexism in the workplace. The campaign – centered on the hashtag #KeepTheGrey – is an extension of its ongoing mission to promote a more inclusive and expansive definition of beauty, especially for women.

That mission came into clearer focus back in 2004, when the Unilever-owned brand launched ‘Real Beauty,’ a global campaign that sought to break down the unrealistic standards of feminine beauty that had long pervaded – and still to a large extent continue to pervade – the personal care and beauty industry. ‘Real Beauty’ brought a wide diversity of women to the fore, like the antithesis of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, in an effort to create a more inclusive and representative image of health and beauty.

The idea for the new #KeepTheGrey social media campaign was hatched with that same ethical goal in mind, says Laura Douglas, Dove Canada’s brand manager. “Dove has such a long-standing history in terms of Real Beauty and everything that [that campaign] has stood for and will continue to stand for to make sure that we are always widening the stereotypical view of beauty for all women. We really do believe that no woman should ever be held back by her appearance – and gray hair is no exception to that.”

The new campaign was launched shortly after Canadian television journalist Lisa LaFlamme announced on Twitter that she had unexpectedly been let go from her position at CTV National News, Canada’s most popular news program. This occurred after she allowed her hair to turn gray. CTV’s parent company Bell Media said in a statement that the decision to drop LaFlamme was made in response to “changing viewer habits”; but the Globe and Mail also reported that a senior CTV executive had questioned during a meeting who had given the OK to “let Lisa’s hair go gray,” sparking widespread public outrage against the company. “We noticed that there was a lot of discussion that was really happening in Canada around ageism, especially in the social space, and so as a beauty brand we really wanted to make sure that we could harness that energy and use the conversation for good,” says Douglas. Anthony Chelvanathan, chief creative officer at Edelman Canada, the Canadian arm of the global public relations firm that partners with Dove, says: “This is bigger than just one person ... it’s about all women, young and old, being able to age the way they choose and on their own terms.” In support of the effort, Dove has changed the color of its logo on its Instagram account from gold to gray, and it’s encouraging its followers to apply a grayscale filter to their profile pictures. “Women with gray hair are being edged out of the workplace,” the company wrote in its Instagram post, “so Dove is going gray.” The company is also donating $100,000 to Catalyst, which describes itself as “a global nonprofit that helps build workplaces that work for women.” Dove hasn’t been the only brand in recent days to rally online support against ageism. Yesterday, Wendy’s Canadian Twitter account published an image of a gray-haired Wendy, along with the hashtag #LisaLaFlamme.

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