Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vaseline's Skin-Lightening Cream

The Web is in uproar over Vaseline's New Skin-Lightening cream marketed in India and in a Facebook app that allows users to lighten their skin in profile photos.

When I was in China a few summers ago, I blogged about this strange "skin-lightening" rhetoric I noticed on creams that appeared to be simply sunscreens or "complexion balance" products. I knew it was connected to class-based attitudes valuing white-collar jobs that don't require outdoor labor, but I couldn't figure out if people realized the racial connotations too (usually people denied it or acted confused when I asked.)

Well, apparently in India there's the same rhetoric in advertising, and some people DO recognize the racism behind it. This Vaseline Men line is the first of its kind marketed exclusively for men--skin-lightening creams have been around for decades for women--no surprise there. In this article, one man says that this whole thing perpetuates a "I want to be fairer craze" that's sweeping India.

The cream's product description claims to even skin tone and remove "dark spots" caused by too much sun exposure. Okay, I like that terminology better. It's a less offensive way to think about it, and I hope that's the real reason why men are using it, not to "lighten" their natural skin tone.

But still.

It's a good sign, in my opinion, that people are upset about it. No matter the manufacturer's actual intentions, AWARENESS is the first step to racial sensitivity. It's necessary if we are to ever move forward.

Some dude comments on the product's Facebook page: "from the outlook of a European american guy seeing an ad for Indian men to lighten their skin to become like white men; i find this racist and a bit offensive. being white does not make you look good. i find this borderline NAZI thinking and that needs to stop."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Biracial Hair Blog Post on

I've started a hair blog on And right now, if you start a new one through this link, you'll be entered to win a HerCut curly hair product giveaway. Check out the link and tagline below.

Biracial Hair: "Like many multiracial curlies, I've experienced salon horror: a terrible razor cut, a Dorothy Hammil cut turned mushroom-shaped puffball. Finally, I've learned better care practices for my hair, and that the best cut is the not-so-often cut!"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cancer and My Adoptive Mother

I haven't posted as often as usual the past month, partly because I've been dividing my time between PA and my parents' home in IL. My mother has endometrial cancer. Though we've caught it pretty early (Stage I and II), it's still scary.

A few things Mom's said have made me think about our family situation, how we are not related by blood. Her cancer is the same cancer that afflicted both her mother and her grandmother. "Well, at least it stops here," Mom said to me. "This cancer stops with me."

(It reminds me of author Cheri Register, whose adoption book I read a few months ago. She suffers from chronic health problems, which was a major factor in her decision to adopt.)

Also, anytime a woman has a hysterectomy, hospital protocol is to offer counseling services for coping with the loss of the possibility of bearing children. But, as Mom pointed out, she had to grieve that loss 30 years ago, when she and my father realized they could not have kids the traditional way.

Mom is in good spirits, ready to get the treatments and surgery over with. She even laughs when she says: "My woman parts have grown nothing but cancer, so I just want them out!"