Whitely

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Dear The Body Shop,

I like you. I really like those tiny delicious-smelling pots of lip gloss. And I really really like that you are into ethical business. So, friend, what’s up with these?Image

Sadface,

KK.

I found these in the Queen Street branch in Auckland, New Zealand.

Seriously, two out of five words that is the name of this product involves the word “white”. The packaging is white too, in case we missed the point.

According to the Australian website for The Body Shop (there is no New Zealand website, and I could not find the product on the global one),  it “reduces early melanin-making signals even before the hyperpigmentation process and melanin production cycle starts – helping to prevent uneven skin tones, brown spots and freckles” (http://www.thebodyshop.com.au/Product.aspx?Id=962 ).

O sorry, my mistake. This whitening whitely white product is for uneven skin tones, brown spots and freckles. That sounds OK, I guess. Not out of the ordinary, in any case.

Waaaait. Do you mean the same melanin as the thing that determines skin colour? The same melanin that PREVENTS SKIN CANCER? THAT MELANIN?

O SHIT.

Not only is this product inherently racist, it is possibly carcinogenic. But I’m no scientist, and cannot comment on the latter. (Can anyone confirm or deny this?)

But as a woman of colour, I find this product offensive. It equates whiteness with beauty, and as such, it is not an ideal that any woman of colour can achieve naturally. Whiteness is privileged. Conformity wins over diversity.

The thing is, The Body Shop has excellent moral principles and policies to reflect that(http://www.thebodyshop.com/_en/_ww/services/pdfs/AboutUs/Policyonexternalmarketingandclaimslayout.pdf). At heart, there is goodness. This is one of the major reasons why people patronise The Body Shop. But this product blatantly contradicts those priciples and ignores the policies. The excerp from the policy below clearly states that beauty is “regardless of… skin colour”, and that there is a “stringent copy approval system”.  By selling this product, The Body Shop is not only transgressing its own moral boundaries, but also deliberately lying for profit.

What is the most constructive step from here?  Dear Reader, please help me with suggestions. There will be a follow-up post on this.

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One response »

  1. I think saying it’s inherently racist is taking a bit far. I’m a white girl and I used some creams like this back in my early twenties because I thought it would somehow bleach my freckles away and make my skin a photoshopped, uniform pearly white. Yes, it was very obsessive and vain of me. But not racist.

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