vaseline discovers beauty is not skin deep

Why do some women wear lipstick? Why do some men tan?

Changing our appearance is a normal human desire (see: mascara and razor blades), yet oh did Vaseline step in it with a Facebook app promoting a product to lighten skin tone, apparently targeted at Indian men. The app quickly drew heat; commentator Linda Fingerson offered a representative response, "mmm skin whitening cream! Yes, let me feed a sense of inadequacy to myself, my lovers and all my friends!"

But the story is more complex -- as nuanced as why women paint their lips red to evoke erotic arousal, or why men sun themselves to look burly as if working in laborious jobs no longer at the top of the financial ladder. Danah Boyd dissects the emotion and caste systems behind changing skin color, noting that as a Caucasian child in Pennsylvania she grew darker to signal affluence (the rich took winter trips to Florida), only to be surprised later in life traveling in Japan to find women there aspire to be whiter. Modifying skin hue is not so much an issue of racism, she suggests, but of societal context, and tastes that seem sane in one geography feel wildly inappropriate in another.

No matter. The Vaseline Facebook app is a warning for all marketers: fail to consider the cultural ecosystem of your product, and you may blush.

1 comment:

Howie said...

Michael Jackson Approved! Next is them advertising the Orange Paint John Boehner uses.

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