A different take on the Vaseline skin whitening controversy.

21Jul10

My take on Vaseline’s skin whitening Facebook app was short and sweet. Here’s a much better thought out response than mine. It’s very much worth reading and raises several interesting questions about race and Americans’ viewpoints around cultural differences. Now discuss.

“What intrigues me the most about the anti-Vaseline discourse is that it seems to be Americans telling the global south (which is mostly in the northern hemisphere) that they’re being oppressed by American companies. The narrative is that Vaseline is selling whitening products to perpetuate colonial ideals of beauty. In the story that I’m reading, those seeking to consume whitening products are simply oppressed voiceless people who clearly can’t have any good reason for wanting to purchase these products other than their own self-hatred wrt race. (Again, no discussion of fake tanning products.) And in making Vaseline out as an evil company, there’s no room for an interpretation of Vaseline as a company selling a product to a market that has demanded it; they’re purely there to impose a different value set on a marginalized population. Don’t get me wrong – I think that our skin color narratives are wholly fucked up and deeply rooted in racism. But I’m not comfortable with how this discussion is playing out either. And I can’t help but wonder for how many people the Vaseline App controversy is the first time they’ve seen skin whitening products.”

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One Response to “A different take on the Vaseline skin whitening controversy.”

  1. 1 Amy Johnson

    From the text quoted above:
    “… I worry that us Americans are just reading every global narrative on American terms. Like we always do. And while this might be great for challenging colonialism, I worry that it is mostly condescending and paternalistic.
    … projecting American civil rights narratives onto other populations is not going to be the solution. ”

    Well said.
    The whole idea of skin whitening is completely disturbing to me, and my initial reaction upon seeing the “beauty” products in India was shock and disbelief. But it continues to bother me that people don’t feel the same way about tanning lotions and products. People simply don’t have the same reaction to the American trend of altering your skin color. If someone put out a facebook app that made pale people look tan, I don’t think many people would bat and eye. (is there such an app? I wouldn’t be surprised)



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