Is Dove's #KeepTheGrey Campaign Still Ageist?


3 minute read

By now you’ve probably heard the news regarding award winning Canadian news anchor Lisa LaFlamme being reportedly fired for letting her hair go grey. Understandably – and rightfully so – there has been extreme outrage.

 

So much so that Dove launched the campaign #KeepTheGrey, aimed to be a ‘rallying cry’ for ageing women everywhere to feel proud of, and embrace their grey hair (or at least for women in Canada; the campaign hasn’t been extended beyond the borders…🤔)

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It has been met with widespread acclaim and had even inspired other brands to join the movement. For example, fast food chain Wendy’s have temporarily changed their logo for Wendy to have grey hair.

 

Progress. Big brands are finally tuning in to ageism and joining the movement to change the narrative around ageing to a positive one. 

 

But, as controversial as this may seem, I must ask, in reality how progressive is it?

 

Yes it’s great that such a huge and influential brand is spreading this 'age-positive' message, and battling gendered ageism in the process . In their own words:

 

“Age is beautiful. Women should be able to do it on their own terms, without any consequences. Dove Is donating $100,000 to Catalyst, a Canadian organization helping build inclusive workplaces for all women. Go grey with us, turn your profile picture greyscale and #KeepTheGrey”

  

But here in lies the problem. It's brilliant that Dove is donating to charity to help fight gendered ageism. It's brilliant that Dove is championing women with grey hair. But what's not so brilliant is how they're doing it. Because Dove's call to action is for women to GO or KEEP the grey. i.e. they are still telling women what to do. 

The use of directives is contradictory, and potentially dangerous, messaging. On the one hand they’re saying you should now be proud of your grey hair, but on the other hand they're still setting strict parametres of how to be included in their new, positive narrative around ageing.

 

What about women who don’t want to go grey – not because of societal pressure, but purely due to personal preference? Not all women suit grey hair. And what about those women who want to only have a flick of grey? Or women who don’t even go grey with age?

Even if you're now saying going grey is the positive way to age, the direct implication is that not going grey is the new bad way to age. And that's still ageist. Just at the other end of the spectrum. 

We’ve said it before, and we will keep saying it: ending ageism is about CHOICE. The choice to age however you want. That may be going grey. That may not.

I suggest a better # would be something like #ItsOKToGoGrey

This both empowers those who choose to go grey, whilst also acknowledging and encouraging choice. 

 

So yes, Dove’s campaign indicates progress. And it is hugely empowering for many women. But let’s also remember there is still much more to be done in the movement to truly ending ageism, and not allow the movement of going grey to turn into the very thing it has been trying to eradicate in the first place. 

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