Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Wednesday News: Amazing social experiment by Dove

In the comments to the Salon article which posts the article that Howey has since deleted, many individuals see nothing wrong with Howey’s crude fantasy of forcing his penis down a detractor’s throat.

If you do comment regarding this, please remember our policy of addressing the comment rather the commenter. Or in this case, the famous author who has made millions who envisions himself as the monkey, not the frog. (Be the rapist, not the raped per two other male self published authors)


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Julia Broadbooks
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 07:11:24

    Thanks for the Dove commercial link. I’d seen the sketches themselves on tumblr but I didn’t know there was a video as well.

  2. Willa
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:12:35

    I found the Dove advert to be sad – placing the emphasis on physical beauty, which lets face it, is a crapshoot of the gene pool.

  3. Pamela
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:20:43

    The Dove story is amazing. I’ve shared it with all my friends. If only we could see ourselves as others see us. I would love them to do the same thing, but a full body rendering. I think it would be amazing to see how much we as women distort our body image.

  4. Jennifer Lohmann
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:32:58

    The Dove video made me teary, which I didn’t expect. Regarding Willa’s comment, I think the outward part of the story is about physical looks, but one woman who looks at how a stranger sees her and says, “that woman looks happier and more open.” To me, there was an underlying message that we don’t see ourselves as others see us, both physically and in other respects (we don’t see our power, we don’t see our happiness, we don’t see our strength, we don’t see our calm, etc).

  5. Dabney
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:39:20

    @Jennifer Lohmann: I was also struck by how happy the women were when they realized that someone else saw them as “more beautiful,” to use Dove’s phrase. There are two parts here: the women saw themselves as less “beautiful” than others did and that the opinion of others matter tremendously to them. It made me want to compliment every woman I see today.

  6. mari
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:48:17

    I was honestly bored with the Dove commercial. Alot of blah blah blah and the music is coma inducing. All this obsessive focus on how we look and how others perceive us…and of course Dove is such a wonderful corporation for providing me a lesson in self esteem. Guess I’ll run out right now and buy a whole bunch of useless Dove crap to help me be as beautiful as everyone else KNOWS I am!

    And yah know something else? Believe it or not, there are actually more important things in life than the excessive naval gazing promoted in this commercial

  7. Jane
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:59:08

    @Jennifer Lohmann – Yup. it’s so much more about the superficial features and gets pretty deep into how women are so self critical, not just of their looks. I was really struck by the woman who said that the image of her described by the stranger depicted someone who you’d want to be friends with.

    That they saw themselves as closed off, unsmiling; yet the strangers had a completely different experience.

  8. Ridley
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 10:40:57

    @mari: I’m with you, as much as it pains me to say that. It’s brilliant marketing, though. People are sharing it all over the internet.

    If you do comment regarding this, please remember our policy of addressing the comment rather the commenter.

    Ah, this must be why Twitter’s talking about him again. No one wants to be “shushed.”

  9. Lada
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 10:53:30

    Howie really mishandled that whole thing. It would have been much easier to make his point by being straight-forward about himself and his own experiences and success in self-publishing instead of playing coy. The young lady may have been difficult and prejudiced about self-published authors (as so many in publishing are) but his over-the-top reaction leads me to believe she hit a sore spot. Otherwise why care about her opinion at all? Much of the defensive support he’s getting is as disheartening as his original rant.

  10. Carrie G
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 11:03:55

    With our entire culture focused on looks, Dove is doing a great service by reminding women that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” Dove has had several great campaigns in the past that I’ve shared with my daughters and friends. Hell, it might simply be great marketing strategy, but the motive has nothing to do with the results. The message is still true.

    I will always be thankful to Dove for revealing how models are photoshopped and that no real person can live up to the photos. It was eye-opening for many young women.

    I’ve used Dove soap since I had my first baby and the pediatrician said to use that on her instead of “baby” products. But no amount of advertizing has made me use any of their other products.

  11. Jorrie Spencer
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 12:03:55

    Thanks for sharing the Dove commercial. Like Jennifer, it made me tearful when I didn’t expect it.

  12. Courtney
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 14:46:57

    Loved the Dove commercial and I love how Dove tries to empower women to feel good about themselves and see their value.

    Regarding Howey, I didn’t read the Salon article, but I follow his agent, Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency on Facebook and her blog and a few weeks ago when his print book debuted, she linked to a Huffington Post article (I think) that Howey wrote regarding why, despite his success as a self-published author, he decided to partner with an agent and a traditional publisher. I couldn’t make it through half the article because it was apparent to me that this guy thinks he’s beyond fantastic. His work obviously resonates with lots of readers and that’s great if he’s a gifted storyteller. But he was so in love with himself and so enamored with the fact that publishers couldn’t wait to sign him, that I found him personally to be a turnoff.

    Most other authors when they talk about signing significant book deals at least act slightly humble. Not Howey.

    This is a long way of saying that I’m not surprised by his misogynist comments. The guy thinks he’s a literary master and the fact that some girl couldn’t appreciate it was probably beyond his comprehension.

  13. Robin/Janet
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 18:47:49

    To me this whole “how women see themselves” debate isn’t really about whether or not to focus on superficial beauty, but rather it’s about the depth and breadth of women’s discontent with themselves — at every level.

    I don’t find it troubling that a consumer product manufacturer is producing that Dove video; I find it sad that the video concept is NOVEL enough that it can be vastly noteworthy and moving, and therefore effective advertising. That women are still so self-critical and that we’re all participating so vociferously and systemically in the process, passing it on to younger generations, etc. To me, the focus on superficial beauty is merely a symptom of a much deeper problem in how women undermine and are undermined in claiming our own confidence and sense of personal power and the beauty associated with that. Think about how we often punish women for being too confident or sure of themselves.

    And speaking of punishing women… the Howie incident. I’m not sure whether I’m more icked out by the event itself, or the casual endorsements afterward. How the hell many times do we have to have these types of things happen before there’s a broad scale admission of a problem? And I can’t help but think about how we HAVE seen these casual references to sexual violence against women before in the self-publishing stratosphere. Is it mere coincidence, or does it reflect the power that female writers, in particular, have harnessed in this new landscape (and the way that while so many male authors seem to be talking about self-publishing, women seem to be dominating in terms of actually doing it successfully). In the Howie case it’s even more puzzling to me, given the extreme power differential between him and the young woman in question. The whole rant struck me as immense, IMMENSE overkill. But the hostility emanating from those words, from the choice of those words — I do have to wonder if it’s just a product of plain old rape culture (which is bad enough), or whether there’s another dynamic at work here with men and women in the publishing marketplace and shifting power structures? I’m not sure, but to me this not only makes me more curious about the gender and cultural dynamics from genre community to genre community, but it also re-engages my many objections to the use of sexual force as a metaphor for publishing to begin with.

  14. Sarah Mayberry
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 19:40:50

    Okay, I had a sook over the Dove video. Like some of you, I dislike the fact that a woman’s beauty quotient is always, always part of the conversation, and I would love for it to be otherwise, but this is the world we live in. And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t worry about my weight, my face, aging, grey hair, etc, etc every time I look in the mirror. I know it’s not the most important part of me, but those voices are there in my head. As a side comment, my Mum took my niece shopping for my neice’s birthday recently, and she told me that Alana picked out a pink dress with frills etc (she’s 9) and then looked in the mirror and said “I look so beautiful. I’m really beautiful.” As my mother was telling me this, I was aware of this cringe inside that she should be so “boastful”. A second later I recognised that as my issues – or perhaps an expression of the taboos of the society I live in. Why shouldn’t my niece think she’s beautiful ? She’s also smart and a talented basketball player and she loves calisthenics. Her appearance certainly isn’t the sum of her. So why shouldn’t she be happy and confident with her looks? I asked my Mum what she said to her and she said “Nothing, the world will do it’s best to teach her otherwise soon enough. This time is hers.” Personally, I hope Alana can hang onto the confidence and affection she feels for her body and face. It would be a wonderful, wonderful thing to not have those voices in my head.

  15. Deb Nam-Krane
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 19:57:38

    I don’t know what to say about Howey other than that was amazingly inappropriate.

  16. Julaine
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 20:13:50

    Huge Howie could sometime win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and he will never gain me as a reader because I already know everything I need to know about him as a writer. He is unable to win an argument without making a humorless prat out of himself and his fantasy life is less inventive than a fourteen year old. Overcoming those obstacles, would take more talent then his apparent lack of decorum or sense of self-preservation.

  17. hapax
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 20:45:30

    FWIW, Howey has since offered an apology for his post:

    However, since he (and his fans) seem to think the “offense” was simply using the word “b*tch”, rather than the deep misogyny and endorsement of rape culture his post demonstrated, I’m not anymore inclined to pick up his books.

    How could I now, without wondering in the back of my head what contempt he holds for ME?

    Jennifer Armintrout posted what I think is a very intelligent discussion of “what the lesson here is for author/bloggers”:

    Harry Connelly also had a good response, linking back to his post on using social media to build a fanbase of bullies:

  18. Lynnd
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 20:54:22

    @Robin/Janet: Well said Robin.

    @Sarah Mayberry I hope that Alana is able to grow up in a future where she will be able to say with confidence that she IS beautiful when she’s 9 or 29 or 90, that no one will ever question or undermine her wonderful sense of herself.

  19. Robin/Janet
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 22:59:23

    I’ve been thinking more about this Howie thing, and about how people keep saying that he’s such a nice/good/honorable/whatever guy, as if that’s a reason to let it go. And that got me thinking about the way in which we so often feel we can dismiss those who make these kinds of statements with ‘Oh, he’s obviously a jerk, etc. etc. etc.” And that got me thinking about how it’s really NOT about Howie (or about just the person who says something like that), because if it’s just about the person, or if we see the person and the comment as inextricable, than we can either easily forgive or easily criticize/dismiss the person without really confronting what it means when a so-called “good guy” says something like Howie did.

    For me, the fact that someone others regard as a decent guy can so casually make such a deeply, deeply troubling statement — a lengthy indulgence in rage and casual, aggressive anti-woman insults and consciously imagined sexual force — well, I think that’s a profound reflection on how deeply ingrained rape culture (not to mention a fundamental lack of respect for women and for the feminine) really is. It makes me frustrated even with all these arguments about how women need to keep ourselves from getting raped and how it’s worse when women beat on each other, etc. Yeah, women are entrenched in patriarchy, and yeah, it’s good to be smart when walking alone in a dark, isolated place.

    But so much of rape and anti-women rage culture is different than all that, and it’s most pernicious, I think, when viewed through the comments of someone like Howie, who seemed to have stunned people with the ugliness of his post. Despite the Saratoga High School sexual assault/suicide and the Steubenville incident, among many others, I think there’s still a perception that sexual assault, battering, and other forms of violence against women are things that happen from the margins, not from the mainstream. And Howie’s comments should be a big old reminder that these ideas are absolutely mainstream, so much so that a guy with the power and the public presence of Hugh Howie could write that post and not realize the deeply troubling nature of his own words.

    @Sarah Mayberry: As my mother was telling me this, I was aware of this cringe inside that she should be so “boastful”.

    I think when men see another man doing something out of the norm, the socialized reaction is “I can do that better/faster/stronger, or at least I can try, etc.” But when women see another woman doing something outside the norm, the socialized reaction is more along the lines of “Oh, no, she shouldn’t be doing that,” or “I could never do that,” etc. There are obvious reasons for this related to the ways male competition is reinforced by certain social rewards, whereas women who push the envelope are often shunned or punished or the like, but it’s still something every single woman I know struggles with. I don’t have the answer, beyond a need to re-condition ourselves and our daughters/sisters/granddaughters/students, etc., but I can certainly relate to both of your reactions. It’s interesting how we’ve become socialized to regard self-criticism as somehow preferable to self-confidence and self-acceptance.

  20. Melissa Blue
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 23:20:13

    I didn’t walk away from the Dove commercial thinking how it’s trying to tell women they are physically beautiful. I’m with Robin. Looks are tangible. Easy to focus on. You can change something you can touch. But, what struck me is how every time they’d describe something in a negative way it had a much more deeper meaning behind it. “My mother always said I had a big jaw.” Paraphrased. If that’s not a therapy session just waiting to happen…Yes, Dove focused, in a way, on physical beauty. But, get a group of mothers together and let them talk for a while and see how that conversation starts to surround how they aren’t perfect mothers. They are screwing up their kids. Guilt that they don’t “love” their kids every fricking moment of every day. (Meaning they get twitchy because for the fifth time their kid has walked by some trash on the floor and still Has Not Picked It Up.)

    Seriously, this is a problem. Go ahead and compliment a woman on how beautiful or nice she looks. You’ll likely get a litany of reasons why you’re wrong or she’ll downplay it so it’s not boastful. That’s not about looks. Though that’s how the compliment may have started.

    So, Dove may have done a commercial about women being beautiful in a physical way, but, for me, it’s so not about that. It never is. Dove makes a good product. They don’t need to do these commercials or campaigns to make money. So, I commend them.

  21. Melissa Blue
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 23:27:30

    As a sidenote: I find women much more misogynistic than men, especially on the Internet. Haven’t read the article. Probably won’t bother to hunt it down. Will likely irk the hell out of me. But, I think it’s “safer” to point it out and condemn when a man does this when I find the same kind of comments on an everyday basis from the same gender. Like I said before, seriously, this is a problem.

  22. Robin/Janet
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 00:06:51

    @Melissa Blue: I see women as “enforcers” of misogyny. And I think some of this comes from the fear of other women breaking “the rules.” It’s that old crabs in a box thing. But in terms of battling rape culture, I think we need to be holding our men and our boys to a higher standard of respect for women, even though I don’t know whether that starts with women or men or both of us. While I agree that women trashing other women is a big problem, I feel sometimes that gets focused on almost out of fear of directly challenging male-generated misogyny, if that makes sense. Not that any of this is conscious, but when I see so many women defending Howie’s comments, it’s sort of baffling at a content/substance level.

  23. Melissa Blue
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 01:16:10


    Oh, I totally get what you’re saying, but I’m still haunted by the debate, long ago on AAR, about women “asking” for rape. *shudder* That bothered me a whole lot more than the Be The Frog conversation.

    Personally, I kicked around a few theories in my head why this was deemed ok for some and not others. Also how men must look at those conversations/beliefs and what they take from it. And, really the only thing that made sense to me is not the crab mentality, but the permission we give. Sort of like when you are having a conversation with a group of folks and you’re trying to determine if it’s ok to hell instead of heck. Not that men are so brainless they can’t decide if what they say is so beyond the limits of ok. Some things are never ok to say. At the same time when things are deemed permissible within a culture ( because publishing and all it’s various faces is a culture) it’s hard to decipher and draw lines where the problem really starts or what’s feeding into it. (I’m not focusing on the world, because that’s just too big of a damn problem.) But, in short, I don’t think we can ask or demand a higher standard if we don’t do it ourselves or at the very least lead by example. Shifting responsibility isn’t the solution. I don’t know. It feels like it would completely undercut what needs to be changed. Women can’t do it so let’s hand it over to men, which isn’t what you said. I know, but that’s what it feels like when the solution is to have men held to a higher stander.

    lol If that makes any sense. I’m running on a few hours of sleep and am feeling rambly.

  24. Michelle
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 05:52:49

    Regarding the comments by female fans of Hugh. I wonder if they are really “ok with” and defending the content of what he wrote or defending someone who they idolize and vigilantly tearing down anyone who is trying to besmirch their hero.

  25. Nadia Lee
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 07:09:26


    But in terms of battling rape culture, I think we need to be holding our men and our boys to a higher standard of respect for women, even though I don’t know whether that starts with women or men or both of us.

    Should be both. If women don’t respect each other, why should men respect women? When women say things like, “She was asking for it because she was drinking, wearing a short skirt, etc. etc. etc.” men may just believe women who drink, wear short skirts, etc. are truly asking for it, whatever “it” might be.

  26. Robin/Janet
    Apr 18, 2013 @ 14:38:32

    @Melissa Blue and @Nadia Lee: I agree that the way women police other women is an issue, but I also worry about the way in which even the judgment of that kind of surreptitiously feeds into the larger problems, one of which, IMO, is the way patriarchy functions by dividing women and pitting them against each other. So I guess for me the question is, if we’re going to focus on women to start, what should that focus look like? I don’t have any answers, I’m just throwing the question out there, because I think we’ve all been kind of feeding into our own disempowerment, and I’d love to find a better way of managing these dynamics.

    Also, I was struck by something Wil Wheaton shared on his Tumblr, part of an article by Jessica Valenti (whose book Yes Means Yes is one I wish every woman and man would read) in The Nation. Here’s the link to Wheaton’s Tumblr, which contains the link to the story itself:

    But here’s one part he highlighted that really struck me as relevant to this discussion:

    What kind of world do we live in when young men are so proud of violating unconscious girls that they pass proof around to their friends? It’s the same kind of world in which being labeled a slut comes with such torturous social repercussions that suicide is preferable to enduring them. As a woman named Sara Erdmann so aptly tweeted to me, “I will never understand why it is more shameful to be raped than to be a rapist.
    Women and girls are the ones expected to carry the shame of the sexual crimes perpetrated against them. And that shame is a tremendous load to bear, because once you’re labeled a slut, empathy and compassion go out the window. The word is more than a slur—it’s a designation.

    I get that women enforce and perpetuate this, but the fact that we also bear the brunt of the judgments makes me feel very strongly that there needs to be a primary focus on men. Because I just won’t accept the idea that it’s women’s fault that men think of us like this — not only does that thinking seem to doubly victimize female victims, but it also (for me, at least) puts women in a position where we have to own the shame AND the responsibility for changing this cultural mindset. And that feels to me like a replication of the entire problem to begin with.

  27. azteclady
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 08:19:31

    Robin, in case you are not aware, there is a Yes Means Yes blog here.

  28. Angela
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 21:43:11

    All over the ‘Net I’ve heard described the image of Hugh Howey grabbing his crotch being conflated with the phrase “Suck it, bitch.” I was offended, indignant even. It’s hard to imagine someone being further out of line. But then I read the original post. The two incidents in his narrative have no connection to each other.

    “I may even have grabbed my crotch or something like that—the fantasy gets hazy.” – I read this is a rather crass attempt at humor, something along the lines of a common theme in his fantasies.

    “And I won?! Suck it, bitch.” – And this sounds like a generic “up yours” statement, separated from the other statement by an entire paragraph.

    I didn’t appreciate the rant, especially as this is the first time I’ve heard of this author. It didn’t make a good first impression. But I don’t think he was advocating rape or violence. I think he was being crude and petty. If that were a crime, I’d never have read (and loved) Candide by Voltaire.

  29. Phaedra
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 01:21:42

    I read the original rant by Howey. It was taken apart on a number of different websites for different reasons, but his supporters seem to be divided into two camps: those who support Howey for his entrepreneurial skill as a self-published writer, and those who don’t care about him or his books but want to depict feminists as overly sensitive, easily outraged, humorless and out to bully the poor lil Menz who just want free speech.

    It wasn’t only the ‘suck it, bitch!’ fantasy (and I disagree with one of the previous commenters who felt that there was no connection between Howey’s leading paragraph, which commenced the fantasy scenario, and it’s rapist-effect culmination at the end; my sense was that they were connected and meant to imply a crowing fellatio ‘get down on your knees and suck it, bitch!’ humiliation scene), but a multi–layered series of offensive words and images which were vile and intended to put women in their place. The tendency of his supporters to consign blame for the phrase, “I want to slap that bitch!” to Howie’s wife dismisses the point that he wrote it down and repeated it in his entry. There was no need to disparage her appearance or mention that he found her looks unattractive. There was no need to compare her physique with that of people with autism-spectrum disorder. There was no need to put down the star of a popular television series for not being beautiful in his eyes. The entry was horribly sexist through-and-through.

    The worst part of the response to Howey’s entry is that people are quick to leap forward and use his book as a demonstration of his commitment to feminism, because of a strong female character in it. It doesn’t seem to occur that fictional characters are no replacement for exercising actual self-awareness in one’s words and actions in life.

  30. Robin/Janet
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 21:30:50

    @azteclady: I did know about it, but haven’t visited in a long time. Thanks for posting the link.

    @Phaedra: The tendency of his supporters to consign blame for the phrase, “I want to slap that bitch!” to Howie’s wife dismisses the point that he wrote it down and repeated it in his entry. There was no need to disparage her appearance or mention that he found her looks unattractive. There was no need to compare her physique with that of people with autism-spectrum disorder. There was no need to put down the star of a popular television series for not being beautiful in his eyes. The entry was horribly sexist through-and-through.

    I completely agree with you that the post had a theme connecting everything from the title to the last sentence, and it was written to crescendo into that last, incredibly ugly image.

    The bit about his wife was particularly striking to me, though, because I can see all sorts of contexts in which a spouse will say something that’s intended to be a private, mutually-understood show of support for the other partner, something that could in no way be intended in the way it was used in that post. So the co-opting of her statement (whatever it actually was), was particularly problematic for me, because it felt like a rhetorical strategy to win over female readers (‘see, even my WIFE feels this way!’) as foot soldiers in a verbal war against a young woman who was so infinitely less powerful and influential than Howey — and for what? What, really were the stakes there?

    In so many ways, I think that piece is an extremely thorough illustration of how misogyny and rape culture are propagated, assimilated into the cultural mainstream, and replicated in such a way as to seem friendly to “reasonable” women, even if it’s not consciously intended as such. If I were still teaching, I’d have that piece in my class ASAP as an example of persuasive writing aimed at interpellating its readers into rape culture (and I’m not saying Howey intended that; I’m saying that the piece itself strikes me as an argument for rape culture). It’s really a powerful piece of writing, and of cultural propaganda, and I wonder how it would be received if the name of the writer were completely unknown to its readers.

%d bloggers like this: