October 22, 2017

"In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products..."

"... the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences."

From "Nivea's latest 'white is right' advert is the tip of a reprehensible iceberg/No amount of sophisticated branding can hide the fact that the messaging of such ads is as deeply poisonous as ever" by Afua Hirsh in The Guardian.
Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture....

56 comments:

rhhardin said...

If you think battery acid is bad, think what happens with concentrated stomach acid.

It eats napkins.

rhhardin said...

"Tomorrow, Jimmy, we'll make battery acid."

- parody of Mr. Wizard

David Begley said...

In "Back to Blood: A Novel" by Tom Wolfe this shades of black thing is discussed. It is a form of racism amongst blacks.

Super great book. Highly recommended.

Unknown said...

This is true in almost every culture around the world for a simple reason. If you work out in the sun, your skin's going to darken. If you work inside or don't work at all, your skin's going to be pale. Dark skin equates to lower class menial labor, light skin equates to upper class. This is even true among white people. Redneck literally refers to the darkening of white skin from working out in the sun all day.

Especially when you're dealing with African cultures, its a mistake to view them through American lenses. Here, race is inextricably linked to skin color in black communities. Darker skin means less white ancestry. I don't think this is something many Africans think about. For the people buying this product, its much more likely to be about class and not race.

Mary Beth said...

The idealization of lighter skin was around in Africa and Asia before these ads. The ads answer a want, not create one. I can understand why people find them upsetting, but if women are going to use homemade concoctions to lighten their skin, advertising an alternative that doesn't contain battery acid seems like a better choice.

The big problem here is that the beauty standards that these women have aren't the ones that white Europeans think they should have.

Tommy Duncan said...

We are told we must respect other cultures. Why is this case any different? If these people wish to bleach their skin, why are we critical of people and businesses who help them embrace their cultural norms?

This is what cultural diversity looks like. Embrace it!

Oso Negro said...

In a former life, I worked for a skincare product manufacturing company. The market for skin lightening products among Japanese women was huge.

Ray said...

All marketing is local.

But, if it hits the Internet...

Saint Croix said...

You'd think white people who get a suntan because they don't want to be pale might ease up on the judgment of other people.

Mark said...

Shadism, pigmentocracy

Is there a special school to learn how to make up words? Or is there some secret leftist dictionary?

rhhardin said...

John and Ken ruminated on the discontinuing of Indian Red from Crayola boxes. There's nothing to color in the faces of Indians with now.

And the white could only be used on British, who never see any sun.

MadisonMan said...

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect

By whom is this observed? The author? Why is the author so focused on race and appearance. Is Sade dark-skinned enough for her? Aretha Franklin? Dionne Warwick?

This article is a bunch of nonsense.

of which west Africa is a significant part

Well -- how significant? 10% 80% That makes a difference in how outraged I should be. Please clarify. If it's just a bunch of Japanese Housewives using these products, can I temper my outrage just a bit?

Fernandinande said...

... the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health.

Which is why the article was about advertising and racism and didn't mention any actual health effects.

Mary Beth said...
The big problem here is that the beauty standards that these women have aren't the ones that white Europeans think they should have.


Yes. The trend lends some credence to the idea that light skin is at least partially the result of sexual selection.

Ann Althouse said...

"This is true in almost every culture around the world for a simple reason. If you work out in the sun, your skin's going to darken. If you work inside or don't work at all, your skin's going to be pale. Dark skin equates to lower class menial labor, light skin equates to upper class. This is even true among white people. Redneck literally refers to the darkening of white skin from working out in the sun all day."

The opposite is sometimes also true. I have been mocked (on the internet) and called an "albino." I have been embarrassed by exclamations like "You're so white!" (not said in a complimenting tone) when appearing in a bathing suit. And I have used skin-darkening agents to make a better impression and avoid openly expressed insults.

Lyle said...

Some Asian women are also in to light skin or non-sun tanned skin. Sun tanned skins suggests hard labor. My Indonesian friend chose to use whitening/lightening makeup for her wedding in Jakarta.

Lyle said...

Yep, different cultures demand different things.

rhhardin said...

Just say that you're British.

Oso Negro said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
I have been embarrassed by exclamations like "You're so white!" (not said in a complimenting tone) when appearing in a bathing suit.


Me too! But my 60-year-old skin looks a LOT better now than does that of those who were sun-worshippers in their teens and twenties.

wild chicken said...

I don't understand about the complaints from brown furniture markers.

Color me lost.

Phil 3:14 said...

"The idealization of lighter skin was around in Africa and Asia before these ads. "

Does it predate the European explorers and colonization?

Bob Boyd said...

"exclamations like "You're so white!""

Try "Jesus, you're pale as a slug's belly." (also not said in a complimenting tone)

Paddy O said...

In industrialized countries, the opposite is true. The more tan you are the higher status, at least for white people. Someone who is English and tan clearly has means to travel. Redneck is a label for a particular kind of tan, a farmer's tan, which denotes outside labor but a whole tan is a sign of privilege and success, the ability to have leisure time in desirable settings.

What's interesting to me in all this is how it really is a form of colonizing, just with different issues: Our-culture-knows-bestism

It's interesting how incoherent it is with proclamations of cultural equality and non-judgment. That non-judgmentalism is itself an entire fallacy. Younger generations aren't less judgmental, they just aren't judgmental about things they don't care about. What people care about has changed over generations.

Puritans still abound, they just have a different orienting philosophy these days.

mockturtle said...

If you think battery acid is bad, think what happens with concentrated stomach acid.

Stomach acid has a pH of 2, IIRC. The cells lining the stomach are designed to protect stomach tissue from the acid which could eat a hole in the floor.

J. Farmer said...

@Unknown:

This is true in almost every culture around the world for a simple reason. If you work out in the sun, your skin's going to darken. If you work inside or don't work at all, your skin's going to be pale. Dark skin equates to lower class menial labor, light skin equates to upper class. This is even true among white people. Redneck literally refers to the darkening of white skin from working out in the sun all day.

This is certainly true in country's where agriculture is still a large part of the society. In Southeast Asia, your corner 7-11 or Family Mart will usually have entire shelves (if not whole rows) dedicated to skin whitening or lightening products. However, in places where agriculture has receded as a signifiant factor in most people's lives, the opposite is true. Tanned skin denotes comfort and privilege while light skin is seen as an indication of perhaps sickliness or being shut in. I have very pale skin and being born and raised in Florida, it has been commented on frequently. Meanwhile, during times when I lived in Southeast Asia, strangers would stop me on the streets, stroke my arms, and comment on how "beautiful" my "white skin" was.

tim in vermont said...

Personally, I find the very dark skin some black women have very beautiful, but I think the same thing of very light skin too. I wonder if it is just possible that there are not logically consistent rules apparent to us as to what we find beautiful?

Fernandinande said...

https://www.asianscientist.com/2012/09/features/skin-whitening-products-asia-2012/

“Skin whitening has a long history in Asia, stemming back to ancient China," said Li Yanbing, vice-secretary general of the Chamber of Beauty Culture and Cosmetics of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, in an interview with China Daily. "And the saying, 'One white covers up one hundred ugliness,' was passed through the generations.”

In Asia, many people associate dark and tanned skin with menial work in the fields under the hot sun, and a pale complexion with a higher social standing and cultural refinement."

mockturtle said...

My younger daughter, who is racially mixed, black and white, has beautiful cafe au lait skin but develops dark spots under her eyes when exposed to sun. Products that bleach the skin can be helpful in such cases.

"Shadism, pigmentocracy.."

This has existed among black people for as long as I remember. This is their issue, not our issue. Don't try to make white people feel guilty for qualitative prejudices of other races. My older daughter's Korean ex-mother-in-law had her eyes 'fixed' to look more Caucasian. This is often done in Asian countries, as well as in the US.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Busybody European know-better paternistically knows what's best for people in other countries who themselves don't give a shit about her moral handwringing. Next she's going to tell them they should only have sex in the missionary position. What century is this?

David said...

For a long time after the Civil War, there was a preference for lighter skin among American blacks. It was a matter of prestige and status in parts of the black community. I'm not sure if the same thing was true in (say) rural Alabama, and it's unclear to me if it is still as much of a factor today. Unlikely that people would dare say so. In the same era, Southern white women were prized for very pale skin.

Oso Negro said...

logger David said...
For a long time after the Civil War, there was a preference for lighter skin among American blacks. It was a matter of prestige and status in parts of the black community. I'm not sure if the same thing was true in (say) rural Alabama, and it's unclear to me if it is still as much of a factor today.


Well, there are the wives and girlfriends of NBA players to consider here.

Bob Boyd said...

In the Middle East I saw a woman's hair care product for sale that featured mercury content. It was in a nice black package with shiny gold text in Arabic and English and had a picture of a beautiful model with long, luxurious hair. It said "with the goodness of mercury."

Laslo Spatula said...

Meanwhile there are women in America that bleach their assholes.

I am Laslo.

Mary Beth said...

Does it predate the European explorers and colonization?

10/22/17, 9:33 AM


It does in east Asia, I don't know about Africa or the Middle East.

William said...

I have red hair and blue eyes. I've had one incidence of skin cancer and, just about every year, my otherwise boring life is leavened with the drama and suspense of another biopsy. White skin is a burden as well as a privilege......Can Coppertone be considered a skin darkening product?.........Are progressives more offended by skin bleaching products or by FGM?

rcocean said...

I'll skip the comments and just write this:

Almost every culture favors females with fair skin, which is not the same as wanting to be white. It isn't about race.

Sorry.

cubanbob said...

The opposite is sometimes also true. I have been mocked (on the internet) and called an "albino." I have been embarrassed by exclamations like "You're so white!" (not said in a complimenting tone) when appearing in a bathing suit. And I have used skin-darkening agents to make a better impression and avoid openly expressed insults."

How can that be when its supposed to be common wisdom that one can't be "too rich, too thin or too white"?

mockturtle said...

Not long ago, white women were busting their buns to get tanned and were curling their straight hair. Nothing to do with race but everything to do with the fact that women are never, ever satisfied with their appearance.

Howard said...

Racists applaud the freedom of people oppressed for having dark skin to lighten. It helps boost their self esteem, but the subconscious guilt and inferiority complex still drives them to chronic suicide by Super Sized Royal with Cheese and Oxy.

MayBee said...

It seems a bit...racist to me to assume it's bad to help black women lighten their skin but not for white women to darken their skin (tanning products, self tanner, bronzers, etc). It's as if we assume being white is superior, and so white women are of course making their own beauty choice but black women are being coerced.

It also seems to me there is some darkish whitish skin that is a universal standard of beauty, and both sides aim to achieve it.

mockturtle said...

I agree, MayBee. Personally, I don't like my skin white. Here in AZ I stay fairly tanned year 'round even though I know it's not good for my thin, white skin. It just looks healthier to me.

Howard said...

For eurotrashy white peoples, fat and white used to be wealth signalling, now it's skinny and tan.

tim in vermont said...

For eurotrashy white peoples, fat and white used to be wealth signalling, now it's skinny and tan.

I am kind of sad for you, Howard, living with all that hate in your head.

Howard said...

Don't confuse honesty and humor with hate. Making fun of myself being of white trash extraction myself. My comment is historically accurate, what bugs you is self deprication. I would be sad for you, Tim in Vermont, living with that denial of human nature and low self esteem in your head, but you should know better.

n.n said...

Color diversity is a progressive condition that is a first-order forcing of progressive confusion.

wild chicken said...

False modesty, Howard. And you casually deprecate others along with yourself (supposedly) with that "white trash" epithet.

Jane the Actuary said...

In China, people in the south are darker-skinned and shorter than in the north. At least, I had two Chinese roommates in grad school, one from the north and the other from the south, and they told me that their different appearances were typical for their regions.

I also have the impression that lighter-skinned women were considered more attractive, and that this is not because of cultural imperialism from the West, but goes back much further than that, perhaps as cultural imperialism from northern China.

It's my understanding the same is true in India. Whether this is a result of British Imperialism I don't know.

Certainly in terms of photography and photoshopping, there are good reasons for lightening a photograph -- in a photograph, unlike real life, it is difficult to see the features of someone with very dark skin, just as with dim lighting.

And, quite honestly, I think it's entirely possible that we are simply genetically programmed to see lighter faces as more attractive.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jane the Actuary,

Remember the two magazine covers with identical photos of OJ Simpson, back in the day? Only, one was artificially darkened, and the other wasn't. Time and Newsweek, I'm pretty sure, but I forget which was which. Anyway, it was something of a controversy at the time.

James K said...

It seems a bit...racist to me to assume it's bad to help black women lighten their skin but not for white women to darken their skin

A similar phenomenon occurs with hair: Women with curly hair (especially blacks) straighten it, while at least some with straight hair make it wavy or curly. Maybe Aristotle's golden mean really is the ideal in looks, and it has nothing to do with racism.

Howard said...

wild chicken: I have a very prominent old money last name. All of the female cousins and aunts tried to trace the line past this one fellow who died in about 1800, but could never find any links. They asked me to take a DNA test and the results showed that we came from a poor white trash family that had one of their own adopted by the family with the great name. Everyone disappointed but me. Am proud to be white trash and hold fellow rednecks to a higher standard. It is disgusting that so many PWT keep right along wallowing in their own filth of racism, sexism, transbihomophobia, fastfoodphillia and substance abuse... and Drumpf is their Pied Piper. Sad

buwaya said...

Whiteness is indeed part of the ancient Chinese idea of beauty. And so also in India.

Howard needs to expand his perspective btw. You cannot identify with your tribe while revelling in reviling it.
It does not work that way.

mockturtle said...

Buwaya: Off-topic but thank you for recommending the book, The Peloponnesian War By Donald Kagan. I'm enjoying it and find it amusing and amazing that the author has the temerity to differ, at times, with Thucydides. Audacious! ;-)

buwaya said...

Good, isnt it?
What can be done without audacity?

The best part of it I think is that unlike Thucydides, he does the whole thing, the rest of the story, and that perspective does not always coincide with Thucydides.

Luke Lea said...

If all else fails, consult Wikipedia: https://goo.gl/xw4FqR

Gahrie said...

Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people

You can't blame this one on Whitey! While the rest of you are busy whitening your skin and straightening your hair, we're getting suntans and perms.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Blogger Paddy O said...
In industrialized countries, the opposite is true. The more tan you are the higher status, at least for white people. Someone who is English and tan clearly has means to travel. Redneck is a label for a particular kind of tan, a farmer's tan, which denotes outside labor but a whole tan is a sign of privilege and success, the ability to have leisure time in desirable settings."

Tanned skin first came into vogue in America in the 1920's. Not only were more and more people moving to the cities and working in offices and factories, but women were showing more skin then they ever had in the history of the West. Those flapper dresses and bathing suits look quite modest to our eyes but exposed knees and calves came as a shock to their elders. The Victorian era had ended only 2 decades earlier. As I note with dismay every spring when I am trying on swim suits, there is something especially unappealing about pasty white legs.

As others have said in this thread, blacks themselves continue to discriminate and judge each other based on skin color.

Jose_K said...

Unknown is right but I may add, and rich people make themselves darker by tanning...