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Nivea takes own advice, re-civilizes itself.
August 22, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Skincare company Nivea withdraws a controversial magazine ad after accusations of racism. The ad shows a black man in the act of throwing out a full-face mask which has a beard and an afro. The image is juxtaposed with the slogan "Re-Civilize Yourself."

Nivea also ran a similar ad with a white model, but without the troublesome juxtaposition of the model's race and the "re-civilize" slogan.
Social media outcry is partly responsible for the swift retraction of this ad. As this blog post notes, "Nivea" reached a trending peak last week on Twitter, a service which has a large proportion of users of color.
posted by overeducated_alligator (264 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
In my opinion, making fun of beards and afros is classist, not racist. This, on the other hand...
posted by michaelh at 7:38 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?

I don't know if Nivea's people were being intentionally racist or not, but it doesn't matter. The clear implication that looking like "that kind" of black is uncivilized is dumb, dumb, dumb, going right back to the 19th-century cultural evolution crap. At least they pulled it and apologized, rather than doubling-down.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:39 AM on August 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


I look at that ad and see a guy hurling a severed head. Ergo, I equate Nivea with serial killers.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:39 AM on August 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


This, on the other hand...

... is hilarious.
posted by odinsdream at 7:40 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not racist, it's aspirational.
posted by londonmark at 7:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Beards are masculine. Why does Nivea hate men?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"People, the Nivea campaign is going to rock but I'm really bothered by how straight white guy it is. It's fucking boring. Also, are we implying that only white men care about their looks? What about the other demographics? Black. I'm thinking we should go with a handsome black guy. Genius, I'm a fucking genius."
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:43 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Beards are masculine. Why does Nivea hate men?

I see clean-shaven men all the time and think, why do they hide their beards?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:45 AM on August 22, 2011 [29 favorites]


Hmmmmmm. This doesn't tip my outrage meter today. Maybe I should have it checked out.
posted by Think_Long at 7:48 AM on August 22, 2011


It's not intentionally racist, IMO, and the point isn't that he has an afro, but that it's unkempt hair.
posted by empath at 7:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


michaelh writes "In my opinion, making fun of beards and afros is classist, not racist. This, on the other hand..."

The link is dead, can you describe it?
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And people seem to have jumped on that as a racist message, e.g. rejecting the natural hair of a black man.

Natural hair? The afro was a hairstyle which today most black men seem to have rejected on their own. Along with bell-bottoms and leisure suits.

Trust me. The 70s was uncivilized. We are all well rid of it.
posted by three blind mice at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Since I was born like, half a century ago, it wouldn't seem that huge a deal to me personally. I me4an, compared to the ads I grew up with? Except that, well, the world is isn't entirely made up of old white guys like me. So, I just gotta wonder, who the hell gave that ad a green light in 2011? Were they just asleep at the switch?
posted by tyllwin at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.
posted by winna at 7:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [42 favorites]


The link is dead, can you describe it?

The link will work if you click it and then reload the page once you get the 404.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2011


What I mean, I don't think its even motivated by sub-conscious racism. It's more than it hits a sore point for a lot of people based on historical attacks on 'blackness', and the person making the ad didn't consider that, and probably should have.
posted by empath at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


"me4an" Talk about asleep at the switch
posted by tyllwin at 7:52 AM on August 22, 2011


Yes, I think they intended just to have a cave-man vs city-man contrast - the same message as in the ad with the white model (beards are not notably African features, and it's a full Euro-style beard) - but it backfired due to historic racist stereotypes. So a bit tone-deaf and unfortunate, but not as bad as Abercrombie and Fitch.
posted by jb at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The advertizers took fotos of several models in one shoot and came up with a barrage of potential slogans. This advert could have equally featured any of those models, and this image could have equally been accompanied by any of those slogans. There is a file somewhere containing all of these rejected combinations. The likelihood that racism led to this particular advert being chosen is very low.
posted by Jehan at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2011


And people seem to have jumped on that as a racist message, e.g. rejecting the natural hair of a black man.

This is what I mean. My hair is a frizzy mess in its natural state. A lot of people are. Would the add have been racist if the guy throwing away the mask was clean shaven and had a well shaped afro and the GQ look otherwise?
posted by empath at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2011


Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.

Who then gets to decide?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:55 AM on August 22, 2011


Afros are awesome. Anyone who suggests they are "uncivilized" is an idiot.

Oh, and probably racist, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:55 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well of course it's not INTENTIONALLY racist. But the real issue is when a company is so blinkered that it can get all the way to releasing something like this without someone in the company intervening. When the people who has final say over what ads are okay are a wealthy white people (don't know if that's the case with Nivea, but in the corporate world in general) then you are going to run into sensitivity problems like these.

I love the MetaFilter tradition of white people deciding things aren't racist, almost as when the men decide something isn't sexist.
posted by hermitosis at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [43 favorites]


The only problem is that the only ad that uses the 're-civilize yourself' tagline is the one with the Black man. It was undoubtedly the case that it was a bunch of clueless folk trying to be 'edgy' that made the decision, but I'm getting to the point that I think it's ridiculous that obvious stuff like this isn't caught. Unless, of course, the furor is what was the end goal, since now we're all talking about a company that is really best known for its stodginess.

They did an actual apology, though, rather than 'We're sorry if you were offended' non-apology, so that was nice.
posted by winna at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


The link will work if you click it and then reload the page once you get the 404

Nope, still dead.

The advertizers took fotos of several models in one shoot and came up with a barrage of potential slogans. This advert could have equally featured any of those models, and this image could have equally been accompanied by any of those slogans. There is a file somewhere containing all of these rejected combinations. The likelihood that racism led to this particular advert being chosen is very low.

That may indeed have been the case but perhaps in this situation, given the outcome, perhaps a neanderthal face might have worked better with said slogan.
posted by infini at 7:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The afro was a hairstyle which today most black men seem to have rejected on their own

Not true, my friend. There are plenty of black men rocking the afro nowadays. In fact, last year, I spent an afternoon watching college basketball, and I swear to God I saw nearly every hairstyle black Americans have rocked in the past 60 years: cornrows, dreds, afros, bald, and even the flat-top fade I wore back in high school in the (ugh, so very long ago) late 80's/early 90's. The only thing missing was the conked hairstyle.
posted by lord_wolf at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh this boggles my mind! I give talks about racism and sexism in advertising. It's everywhere!

The best way to sell things is through anxiety, and what better way to invoke that emotion than through racist imagery?

I'm not saying the ad-people are racist, and I'm not saying the whole campaign is racist. I'm saying, that's a racist image. And I'm invoking Jake Smooth to politely tell the world, that ad sure does "sound" racist.
posted by bilabial at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think its even motivated by sub-conscious racism.

Then I think you need to do some reading on what racism is.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


EndsOfInvention: “The link will work if you click it and then reload the page once you get the 404.”

No, it really won't.
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2011


That may indeed have been the case but perhaps in this situation, given the outcome, perhaps a neanderthal face might have worked better with said slogan.

Or maybe the same black guy hurling a white guy's head... that would've been AWESOME!
posted by Huck500 at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Then I think you need to do some reading on what racism is.

Oh come off it. This is an edge case and you know it. The model in the ad is a black man with black features, even after the make over, and his look is being sold as an aspirational image, and it's not a 'white' look.
posted by empath at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What do they have against ?uestlove ?!
posted by supercres at 8:03 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hmm, sorry that my image link isn't working for y'all. It does for me but it's probably because I visited it first. Try this one. It's the "four out of five men agree" Van Heusen ad with the 5th being an over-the-top dark man in tribal gear. I believe it ran in men's magazines in the 50s. It was tongue-in-cheek at the time but looks appalling by today's standards.
posted by michaelh at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


EndsOfInvention: “The link will work if you click it and then reload the page once you get the 404.”

No, it really won't.


Actually, it did work for me. The link is an ad that has three white guys in boring white guy dress shirts, and one black guy drawn as a "cannibal" with bones stuck through his ear and nose and reads "three out for four of these men want Oxfords in the new Van Hausen styles.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2011


white people deciding things aren't racist, almost as when the men decide something isn't sexist.

Does the word "whitesplaining" exist yet?
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [19 favorites]


Dudes, it's not racist. Unless you just think that including both a black and a white guy in the ads because of sales demographics is racist.

It's ok. Your humanities muscle won't atrophy even if you don't flex it at every perceived instance of injustice.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


> Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.
> posted by winna at 10:51 AM on August 22 [2 favorites +] [!]

But it does make them "Meh, what's for lunch?"
posted by jfuller at 8:05 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't be skeered, it's just a beard.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is the answer here that the GQ look is 'white' and that black people should be 'authentic' and 'natural', while white people are expected to be well groomed? I think that's bullshit, and just as racist, frankly.
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how white people get to decide what is or isn't racist. It's akin to telling me whether or not I like cilantro. You can't make that decision for me. It's not yours to make.
posted by desjardins at 8:06 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, stop shaving your face off everyday. Unless you have to wear a respirator or something, stop conforming to that emasculated Roman ideal of a baby face. Exude your manhood without irony.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:07 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this where white people get to vote on racism? I'm white (and an engineering major, not humanities), and I vote Racist.

When do the polls close?
posted by muddgirl at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


desjardins, we both know you hate cilantro because it tastes like soap.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no idea how white people get to decide what is or isn't racist.

Nobody gets to decide for everyone. I do get to have an opinion.
posted by empath at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


Insightful comment from bilabial's link

Jay,

You're not speaking wrong, but it feels like you're speaking idealistically. You're too right about the conversation being spun to "But I'm NOT A RACIST / HOW DARE YOU."

Thing is they're ALWAYS going to come at it from that point of view, because being called a racist has become more taboo than actually being one. People get more upset about the possibility they might have been called racist than the fact that their actions are racist as hell. They'll harp and linger on all their deeds in the past and what clubs they belong to and who their friends are. They'll START any rebuttal to your first words with that. And in the end you end up talking to yourself or talking to the wind, because they've drawn a crowd to chant the "I AM NOT A RACIST" mantra to the point where any on lookers without reading/listening to the whole thing, think that's what it's all about. Then people start picking sides and - boom- it's all over.

I don't think it's that there are people who don't know how to start the conversation and stay on point (in general). I think it's that people know how the conversation's going to go anyway. So they start off wanting to get that point in first - just so they've said it. Or they start off focusing on actions and once that first sentence is gone, they never get another chance to bring it back. There's no known strategy to get the conversation back on track. Either you're lucky and you get a person who's willing to listen, or you're unlucky.

posted by infini at 8:09 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the ad is racist. I also think that telling a person to "Re-Civilize" themselves by -- decapitating someone? -- decapitating themselves? Is all kinds of messed up.\

Speaking of shaving, I cut the hell out of my face this morning, and I really wish I could grow a beard that didn't look like crap. Re-Civilize that!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:09 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


btw empath its got less to do with the man's look, imho, and more to do wiht "get civilized" being attached to a visual African (imho subjectively)
posted by infini at 8:10 AM on August 22, 2011



I have no idea how white people get to decide what is or isn't racist. It's akin to telling me whether or not I like cilantro. You can't make that decision for me. It's not yours to make.


No one can make a decision about what offends you, but just because it offends you, doesn't mean it's racist. And it doesn't mean other people can't have an intelligent conversation about it.
posted by litnerd at 8:11 AM on August 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


If there's no racism here, why does the black ad use the (loaded) term 'civilize' and the white ad instead reference Las Vegas? Shaggy white people can't be uncivilized?

Here's a link to a black person's blog about it. Hint: He thinks it's racist.
posted by Huck500 at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if this would've read different if it ran in Ebony rather than Esquire. I think it comes off racist because we assume the voice of the ad to be white.
posted by condour75 at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


That outfit the black guy in the ad is wearing? The dark blue jeans, black shoes, gray v-neck sweater and white shirt? I totally have that exact outfit. I bet he's got a black leather belt with a featureless rectangular silver buckle on, that we just can't see. And I'm as white as it is possible to be.

So while I can see the charges that the ad sounds racist to some, I also think it was totally meant to be aspirational to people exactly like me, and the effect of apparent racism came from some ad people simply not really considering the fact that the guy in the ad is black.
posted by rusty at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2011


I mean, yeah, I agree it's a bad ad, because obviously whatever message they were trying to get across ran into the problem of the historical context of attacks on 'blackness'. But I don't think a straightforward reading of the ad is racist, especially since its part of a campaign with white models as well.
posted by empath at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2011


If the image of the black man had been run with the slogan "Sin city isn't an excuse to look like hell" would that have been racist? It's an honest question.
posted by Jehan at 8:14 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this would've read different if it ran in Ebony rather than Esquire. I think it comes off racist because we assume the voice of the ad to be white.

And it isn't. Check this out:
The source tells Clutch, “The VP in charge of the entire marketing campaign for the men’s skin care line is a Black male who mainly got in the position to put Blacks on a cosmetics branding pedestal – hence the brand now having a Black spokesmodel.” Further details from the source reveals the initial ad featuring a Black male model is apart of a larger series of more print ads, viral, and commercial spots which will also feature White male models using similar text. We should also note the model in the now controversial ad is BJ Williams, and popular writer, Oren Wilkes, is a Nivea blogger ambassador and agency creative on the project.
The effect is still the same, unfortunately.

Jake Smooth

I knew he was 5-0!
posted by cashman at 8:15 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think that the image of the guy discarding the not-businessy-looking head-and-facial hair is problematic in and of itself. I do think the 're-civilize yourself' tag pushes it into awful territory. I think arguing over whether the label 'racist' is applicable is a distraction from the awful.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:17 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


In other recent controversial ad news, an incredibly upsetting advert for Always sanitary towels made the rounds the other week. It was not made by Procter & Gamble -- I believe it is a spec ad -- but it shares a certain WTFness with this one.

apologies for phrasing and general lack of coherence; I am coming to the end of a day at work on about 45 minutes' sleep and I'm probably only about half an hour from hearing the walls speak to me
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:17 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there's no racism here, why does the black ad use the (loaded) term 'civilize'

It doesn't; it says "re-civilize". Implication: he was once civilized, and needs only some decent skincare to be so once again.

I understand why people may still take offence, but it's an important distinction to bear in mind for this debate.
posted by londonmark at 8:20 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.

-- Who then gets to decide?


History.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 8:20 AM on August 22, 2011


I'm on a Mad Men binge of late, and maybe because of that, and because I'm a white woman, I wonder what the relationship would be if a world existed where:

[Image is of a naked woman, peeling off her 'afro' pubic bush and throwing it away, to expose a neatly shaved 'landing strip' or whatever the idea de jour is of how a woman's genitals should look like]

Tag line: Re-civilize yourself!

Yeah, all kinds of fucked up. And I'm not talking about the weirdness of seeing a woman's genitals in an ad.
posted by angrycat at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The afro was a hairstyle which today most black men seem to have rejected on their own.

I don't know where you live, but this makes no sense to me. I see African-Americans with afros almost every day of the week, and I'm just a sheltered white guy who spends most of his day in a cubicle.

Trust me. The 70s was uncivilized. We are all well rid of it.

I dunno. I remember the 70s well, and they don't look so bad these days. At least if we turned the clock back, we could take a run at doing the 80s differently.
posted by aught at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ugh. I'm glad this ad was honest, at least. The subtext of the cosmetics industry has always been ASSIMILATE! LOOK MORE LIKE A WHITE PERSON! Nothing new.
posted by naju at 8:23 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't think the ad is particularly racist. And I'd say I'm non-white.

It is an ad campaign which includes white people and black people throwing off their beards of whatever. It is a dumb ad but thats beside the point. Out of context, it might appear racist (and shockingly does so) but then lots of things look racist out of context. I'm guessing the marketing people saw it as one of 10's of samples they had hanging on a wall. And, in that context, it didnt particularly stand out.
posted by vacapinta at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2011


Trust me. The 70s was uncivilized. We are all well rid of it.

Man, the 70s. Economy in the toilet, high gas prices, US embroiled in foreign wars, revolution and unrest in the Middle East, awful unnecessary Planet of the Apes movies in theaters wait a minute...
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:26 AM on August 22, 2011 [25 favorites]


If they'd put both guys in the same ad, there probably wouldn't be as many complaints.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:28 AM on August 22, 2011


Trust me. The 70s was uncivilized. We are all well rid of it.

Yeah, sorry, but I don't, um, trust you. The 70s were just fine, thank you. Beat the 80s hands down. And hey, people didn't hate Muslims in the 70s, either.

There was some killer fuckin music, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


unnecessary Planet of the Apes

You take that back!
posted by cashman at 8:29 AM on August 22, 2011


If the image of the black man had been run with the slogan "Sin city isn't an excuse to look like hell" would that have been racist?

Nope, at least in my eyes.

The original on the other hand, is ridiculously racist.
posted by kmz at 8:30 AM on August 22, 2011


Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.

-- Who then gets to decide?

History


I think this is part of it, yes. We have a fraught relationship with the perception of people who have a certain set of phenotypes being less civilized than people who have another set of phenotypes. This has a long history in our global culture.

So when you deliberately play into those stereotypes by actually using the tagline 're-civilize yourself' with a model who possesses those features and only that one model, the fact that anyone with an eighth grade understanding of the history of people from Africa could point out that it's problematic means that either no one in the ad team even remotely bothered to think about the implications of the tagline. Or, what I consider to be more probable, they thought that it would be controversial, as indeed it has been.

And I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not offended. I am bored with the idea that it's 2011 and people are still making ads like this and then being amazed that it was problematic. They're either stupid or trolling. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd prefer not to make my company look like it was run by fools or trolls, but perhaps the people who keep cranking out these psuedo-shocking ads feel differently.
posted by winna at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


So, from links above, it seems the ad was ideated, authorized and executed by a black guy trying to get more black people in cosmetics ads. If true, should this change any opinions?
posted by jabberjaw at 8:31 AM on August 22, 2011


If they'd put both guys in the same ad, there probably wouldn't be as many complaints.

Yeah! The black guy could've held the white guy's uncivilized head, and the white guy could've held the black guy's uncivilized head, and they could've beat each other with the heads, until they were battered and bludgeoned and bruised, and in serious need of Nivea skin care products!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:32 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Dudes, it's not racist. Unless you just think that including both a black and a white guy in the ads because of sales demographics is racist."

That's a pretty dumb straw man. You want to try again and actually read what people are saying?

Christ, it's like people arguing that Sambo's Restaurant isn't problematic because little black Sambo is actually Indian.
posted by klangklangston at 8:32 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's the "four out of five men agree" Van Heusen ad with the 5th being an over-the-top dark man in tribal gear. I believe it ran in men's magazines in the 50s. It was tongue-in-cheek at the time but looks appalling by today's standards.

There are very few ads from the 50s that are not appalling by today's standards. The other day my other half was watching a clip from 1957 of Mike Wallace lighting a cigarette and shilling for Philip Morris and interrupting his own interview to do it.
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on August 22, 2011


I think the ad uses negative racial imagery (perhaps unintentionally). For a long time, African-Americans (and maybe people of African decent in other countries, I don't know) were told that their natural hair was unattractive and wrong, and sold hair-straightening products to make their hair more closely conform to 'white' hair. The afro became more widespread after the Civil Rights Movement and the Black is beautiful movement, right? (I'm, uh, too young to remember all of this). So I can see why throwing off an Afro and saying that's a way of re-civilizing yourself is uncomfortable racial imagery, to the extent that the viewer thinks it suggests that black men's natural hair is something that needs to be rejected (again).

So, yeah. I think there is a not-difficult reading of the ad that could see some negative racial imagery in it. Does that mean the people behind the campaign are racists? No, but the ad does seem like it's tapping into racism, and it's good that they withdrew it.
posted by dismas at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is skin lightening racist per se or a particular culture's idea of beauty?

From that Vaseline link of naju's - and perhaps this isn't the thread for it. But I've all kinds of nationalities here in sunny Singapore protect their faces with hats and shades and parasols to keep their skin untanned (so just the way tanning is appreciated in one location, staying untanned is in another). Also back in the olden days women wore lead paint on their faces for a pasty white look among a host of other things. Even cries of racism can go too far...
posted by infini at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2011


If true, should this change any opinions?

No, racist ideas about beauty can be and often are self-policed.

Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist, even if the ones who most hold this expectation are other women.
posted by muddgirl at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


So, from links above, it seems the ad was ideated, authorized and executed by a black guy trying to get more black people in cosmetics ads. If true, should this change any opinions?

Nope - black people can still make racist ads. Just because that black person doesn't think it was doesn't make it so.

Since Nivea has apologized, I think it's a moot issue. It's something that obviously offended a lot of people; just because any number of black people might not have been offended doesn't mean others weren't. They were wise to apologize, and hopefully the lesson has been learned by them and others. Arguing about other people having the right to be offended has never been something I can wrap my head around -- like those who use "gay" pejoratively but somehow try to argue it has nothing to do with actual homosexuals and I should 'lighten up.' Fuck them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's not racist, it's aspirational.
posted by londonmark


That link claims, "The ad doesn’t say “Civilize Yourself”, it says “Re-Civilize Yourself” and in case the emphasis was lost on anyone the ad even italicizes the “Re-Civilize.” This means that the black man in question wasn’t inherently uncivilized, he was civilized already– the danger lies in regressing."

The problem with that is the ad is using "civilize" as a transitive verb. It's not something someone is or that happens. It's something you do to yourself or someone else.

So the inherent (and I'm sure unintended) implication of the phrase "Re-civilize yourself" is actually this:

"Once, you were uncivilized. Then someone or other civilized you. Then you became uncivilized again (by growing a beard and 'fro), so you must use our beauty products to re-civilize yourself."

The unpleasantly Kipling-esque nature of that subtext is fairly obvious.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:36 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: "Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist, even if the ones who most hold this expectation are other women"

Why, exactly? Would it still be if I applied the same expectations to men?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:37 AM on August 22, 2011


I dislike hypotheticals. We DON'T have the same expectationss for male grooming, for a reason.
posted by muddgirl at 8:39 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


muddgirl: "I dislike hypotheticals. We DON'T have the same expectationss for male grooming, for a reason"

I do. Well, not the legs, but the genitals, sure.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:40 AM on August 22, 2011


So I can see why throwing off an Afro and saying that's a way of re-civilizing yourself is uncomfortable racial imagery, to the extent that the viewer thinks it suggests that black men's natural hair is something that needs to be rejected (again).

I have known black men who wore beards to avoid the horrific keloid problems shaving brought. So telling a black man that a beard is uncivilized and he should shave is kind of a dick move, even for a cosmetics company.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Of course, you'd never see an ad like this in HEEB, because chicks/shiksas dig the jewfro.
posted by obscurator at 8:42 AM on August 22, 2011


Dudes, it's not racist. Unless you just think that including both a black and a white guy in the ads because of sales demographics is racist.

It's ok. Your humanities muscle won't atrophy even if you don't flex it at every perceived instance of injustice.


The white guy isn't being told to "re-civilize" himself. The white guy is instructed in how to behave in or after his visit to Las Vegas.

And I'm not flexing my humanities muscle. I'm flexing my Sociology of Racism muscle, as well as my Language and Culture muscle. I'm also flexing my Othering and Distancing muscle. They are strong.
posted by bilabial at 8:46 AM on August 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Things not being intentionally racist doesn't make them non-racist.

We'll know we've truly overcome racism when people no long try to see racism where it wasn't intended.

Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist, even if the ones who most hold this expectation are other women

No, it's stereotypical and unimaginative. To hold onto a certain aesthetic is not sexist unless you treat people different because of it.
posted by benzo8 at 8:47 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is skin lightening racist per se or a particular culture's idea of beauty?

Those aren't mutually exclusive.

Also back in the olden days women wore lead paint on their faces for a pasty white look among a host of other things.

Back in the olden days my ancestors thought painfully binding girls' feet was a cool thing to do too. That doesn't make it right.
posted by kmz at 8:48 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist, even if the ones who most hold this expectation are other women

Society has a different body ideal for women than men; it doesn't follow that all pressure to conform to that ideal is therefore sexist. Unpleasant, yes, fascist, but not necessarily sexist.
posted by londonmark at 8:48 AM on August 22, 2011


It's more than it hits a sore point for a lot of people based on historical attacks on 'blackness', and the person making the ad didn't consider that, and probably should have.

See, this is what confounds me every time one of these stupid fucking ads comes up (like the hedgeclipping one for women). These are theoretically professional, high-priced ad people. They make their whole living off of manipulating subtext and implication. Am I really expected to believe that they just overlooked the implications here?

Even if they are so swathed in privilege that they did, don't they also run every single campaign through demographically matched focus groups before it hits the streets? Heck, they were doing that in the age of Mad Men. How could they not have caught this before it became a thing?
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


Back in the olden days my ancestors thought painfully binding girls' feet was a cool thing to do too. That doesn't make it right.

Point.
posted by infini at 8:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nope - black people can still make racist ads. Just because that black person doesn't think it was doesn't make it so.

While I don't entirely disagree, I think it is disingenuous to tell black people how to advertise to themselves (assuming you are not also black) because it carries a paternalistic assumption that non-blacks are better at deciding these things.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2011


muddgirl: Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist, even if the ones who most hold this expectation are other women

benzo8: No, it's stereotypical and unimaginative. To hold onto a certain aesthetic is not sexist unless you treat people different because of it.


Because, of course, treating people different for not living up to the dominant aesthetic is something that rarely happens....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


How could they not have caught this before it became a thing?

Viral campaign intent?
posted by infini at 8:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


To hold onto a certain aesthetic is not sexist unless you treat people different because of it.

Women who don't shave their legs are treated differently from women who do. If you yourself don't treat them differently then hooray for you but it's not really disputable that society in general does.

And before someone misinterprets what I'm saying: to be clear, I don't think women should not shave their legs if they want to do that. The thing I take issue with is the societal pressure to do so, and the fact that men are held to no similar standard. A guy with a beard is not seen as being nearly as crazy as a woman displaying hairy legs.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nope - black people can still make racist ads. Just because that black person doesn't think it was doesn't make it so.

While I don't entirely disagree, I think it is disingenuous to tell black people how to advertise to themselves (assuming you are not also black) because it carries a paternalistic assumption that non-blacks are better at deciding these things.


Dragging this back to the skin lightening stuff - entire campaign was done in India, by Indians, for Indians - our harshest critics are ourselves - see kmz's point re: foot binding
posted by infini at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2011


I love the MetaFilter tradition of white people deciding things aren't racist, almost as when the men decide something isn't sexist.

I'm not to voice opinions on these matters, got it. Actually that's fine, it will free up time to plot oppression.
posted by Scoo at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man, the 70s. Economy in the toilet, high gas prices,

Yeah. 1979, when the price of gas broke a dollar a gallon.
posted by aught at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2011


@GenjiandProust and @FAMOUS MONSTER:

Of course it happens. And all too often. But you can't put the cart before the horse because that way we can never solve the root of the problem, which is sexism, not grooming.
posted by benzo8 at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2011


I love the MetaFilter tradition of white people deciding things aren't racist, almost as when the men decide something isn't sexist.

I hope that applies to white people deciding things are racist and men deciding things are sexist...because that would certainly reduce the grar factor in these threads.
posted by rocket88 at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


To hold onto a certain aesthetic is not sexist unless you treat people different because of it.

Tell you what, try getting hired in any mainstream workplace as a woman with visible unshaved leg and underarm hair, and get back to me about how that works out for you.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


They make their whole living off of manipulating subtext and implication. Am I really expected to believe that they just overlooked the implications here? Even if they are so swathed in privilege that they did, don't they also run every single campaign through demographically matched focus groups before it hits the streets?

Exactly. My take is 1) this was deliberately done, and 2) this probably did very well with black focus groups by playing into societal pressures to conform to white standards of beauty/presentation, which people of color are exposed to so often in their daily lives. There's a reason this type of ad keeps consistently showing up (in subtle and not-so-subtle ways), it's because it's devastatingly effective at playing into pressures to "look more white".
posted by naju at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2011


Jesus, white people can talk about racism and men can talk about gender biases -- just realize that because you are white, you are male, you know less about it than people of color/women and show a little respect.
posted by angrycat at 8:57 AM on August 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


Wow, I can't get a job if I don't shave under my arms or my legs? That is fucking news to me. Especially given as I have a job in which I wore tank tops in summer so people could see my disgusting underarm hair. Then my dean gave me a class to teach. Next!
posted by angrycat at 9:00 AM on August 22, 2011


From the Partial Objects blog link: "The only black people who get to appear on/in Esquire appeal to whites, i.e. they are classy, strong, and masculine. That’s what whites want."

So there are never any black women in Esquire? Shit, the magazine's more retrograde than I thought.
posted by blucevalo at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2011


Angrycat, I should have specified "mainstream" better. I was thinking of places I used to work like, oh, Wendy's, J.C. Penney, a corporate food distribution company, etc. Academe is fairly exempt from this bullshit. We have our own special types of bullshit instead!
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2011


Maybe these are younger, new people who don't see colour?

Seriously, will there come a time when this won't be racist, because everyone has moved well past it and it just doesn't bother anyone? Like they'll just choose the models randomly, or based on other criteria entirely, there won't be anyone saying "we've got to do one with a black guy too"?

And the last old people who cry out "hey that's racist because [long explanation of oppression, etc etc]" and the new people will just sort of roll their eyes and go "what's he on about?" That would be a good world!
posted by Meatbomb at 9:02 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


y'all notice that ads for cleaning and childcare products still feature nearly exclusively women using them, right?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, do you know "Niggaz jeans", the jeans with no rulez?
posted by yoyo_nyc at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2011


Wow, I can't get a job if I don't shave under my arms or my legs? That is fucking news to me. Especially given as I have a job in which I wore tank tops in summer so people could see my disgusting underarm hair. Then my dean gave me a class to teach. Next!

That was either a sarcastic comment or... you are unaware that academia is often very much more open-minded and tolerant than most other fields of endeavor and employment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


FelliniBlank, gottcha, and you're right about academe.
posted by angrycat at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2011


"I think he's saying something about the guy's skin colour?"
"What, kind of uneven? Did we fuck up with the makeup?"
"No, he says he's 'black'."
"He looks more dark brown to me."
"Whatevs, these old people have a lot of hangups."
posted by Meatbomb at 9:05 AM on August 22, 2011


Of course it happens. And all too often. But you can't put the cart before the horse because that way we can never solve the root of the problem, which is sexism, not grooming.

Um, perhaps, for some value of "cart" and "horse," but your comment read as pretty dismissive, like you were elevating a theoretical idea (that something is "stereotypical and unimaginative" rather than "sexist") above the actual daily experience of sexism experienced by... virtually everyone. As this kind of approach is a common internet game for avoiding addressing social issues, it's not surprising that people read it as pretty much the exact opposite of what you posted here.

Although that's just my reading.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:05 AM on August 22, 2011


About this hair thing, (Just for argument's sake) isn't that an aspect of conforming to aesthetics of the dominant culture? (and is it as prevalent/pushy in Europe or Asia or Africa etc?)
posted by infini at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2011


Is this where white people get to vote on racism? I'm white (and an engineering major, not humanities), and I vote Racist.

posted by muddgirl at 11:08 AM on August 22 [2 favorites +] [!]


On first quick glance at your comment, I read it as

"... I'm white .... and I vote Racist."

That would be a scary bumper-sticker to come across.

I know you meant nothing of the sort. It was just my initial mis-reading.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


having consciousness raised, wanders off to yell at mom for making comments about looking dark and tanned

Can moms be called racist?
posted by infini at 9:09 AM on August 22, 2011


Seriously, will there come a time when this won't be racist, because everyone has moved well past it and it just doesn't bother anyone?

Actually, I would like it way, way better if there came a time again when natural/long African American hair and facial hair were considered just as attractive and well-groomed as other styles. Especially unprocessed hair for women, which at least here in Nowheresville, you pretty much never see anymore.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The white guy isn't being told to "re-civilize" himself. The white guy is instructed in how to behave in or after his visit to Las Vegas.

Except that it could have easily been the other way round, or even a completely different model with a completely different slogan. The advert itself is sensible without reference to the color of the model's skin.
posted by Jehan at 9:12 AM on August 22, 2011


I'm white... and I vote Racist. [BNP Logo]
posted by rusty at 9:14 AM on August 22, 2011


londonmark: "Society has a different body ideal for women than men; it doesn't follow that all pressure to conform to that ideal is therefore sexist. Unpleasant, yes, fascist, but not necessarily sexist."

Society has a different body ideal for women because of sexism. I can't believe I even have to explain this. Women are supposed to be smooth and "pretty" in order to satisfy the heterosexual male gaze; men are free to be hairy because the female heterosexual gaze is presumed to either be non-existent or conform to whatever the man chooses. How is that not sexism?
posted by katyggls at 9:14 AM on August 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'm thinking the 1950s one could become not racist, too, with enough distance. We still cringe because we are aware of the ugly history and the original context. Show it to my hypothetical new people: "Haha, yeah that's funny! Well duh, he doesn't want those shirts because he wears that other gear! Funky home made stuff, good on him for supporting local producers! Imagine trying to sell that guy one of those shirts!"

And honestly, I can feel myself moving into that mindset right here and now...
posted by Meatbomb at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We'll know we've truly overcome racism when people no long try to see racism where it wasn't intended."

You know, I hate this bullshit "try to see racism." I'm not trying to see racism, but there it is, all the fucking time, man. And it doesn't really matter if it was intended — way to cut out a free pass for the "I didn't mean it in a racist way" crew. It's the offensive, retrograde social messaging that's the problem, not the distinction between clueless and malicious.

I don't really care if someone intends to step on my foot while they're on my foot — we can deal with that later, when they're apologizing.
posted by klangklangston at 9:18 AM on August 22, 2011 [36 favorites]


"Except that it could have easily been the other way round, or even a completely different model with a completely different slogan. The advert itself is sensible without reference to the color of the model's skin."

Could have been, but wasn't. My uncle could have been my aunt, except he was born a man.
posted by klangklangston at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


About this hair thing, (Just for argument's
sake) isn't that an aspect of conforming to
aesthetics of the dominant culture? (and is
it as prevalent/ pushy in Europe or Asia or
Africa etc?)

I think it is, yes. Of course, if you dig under the skin of who gets to define that dominant aesthetic and you might well find mostly men. Just a hunch. Standards do vary culturally though: underarm hair on women is the norn on continental Europe but anathema in the UK.

Interesting how many men are now grooming their body hair; it's no longer just the preserve of gay men and professional swimmers.
posted by londonmark at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2011


My uncle could have been my aunt, except he was born a man.

You're being discriminatory, there is still all the potential and possibility in the world etc. Ask Meatbomb, he knows...
posted by infini at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2011


Yeah meatbomb, the ignorance is bliss perspective isn't really what we're going for as a society, I hope.
posted by cashman at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I can't get a job if I don't shave under my arms or my legs? That is fucking news to me. Especially given as I have a job in which I wore tank tops in summer so people could see my disgusting underarm hair. Then my dean gave me a class to teach. Next!

As always, a single anecdotal counter-example disproves the whole point.
posted by not that girl at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


klangklangston: "I don't really care if someone intends to step on my foot while they're on my foot — we can deal with that later, when they're apologizing."

Or, you know, you could just let it go, rather than push your face into theirs and scream "Apologise, motherfucker, my foot is sacrosanct!"

Being so angry at the time must be really tiring.
posted by benzo8 at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2011


Maybe (for the sake of argument) there exist some new young post-race people who honest to god "don't see color," but unfortunately, they don't live in a post-racist society, speak a post-racist language, or have some magical ability to shrug off millennia of racist cultural texts, images, artifacts, and conditioning.

You can be the nicest fish ever, but you're still in the sea.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, Nivea sells skincare products for men, eh. Didn't know that before today.

Pepsi Blue.
posted by Ardiril at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, Nivea sells skincare products for men, eh. Didn't know that before today.

Yup. German company, too.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2011


One of the main elements of white privilege is to be able to not see racism.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:31 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Nothing like a little manufactured viral outrage to expand your image.
posted by Ardiril at 9:31 AM on August 22, 2011


Or, you know, you could just let it go

Oh you do. The first 45 times. Then you start feeling like they are just plodding through people who look like you, not caring in the least. That 46th time your foot gets stepped on, well now it hurts a lot. Your foot is sore as hell.

Being so angry at the time must be really tiring.

It does suck to have to have a normal reaction (anger) to these situations as they continuously occur. But the solution is for them to stop occurring, not for us to not have normal reactions to them.
posted by cashman at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


Expecting women to have smooth legs and genitals is sexist

I think this is maybe missing the clarification that expecting OTHER women to shave can be seen as sexist. My own self enjoying the feeling of my own clean-shaven $_BODYPART does not in any way shape or form make me personally a sexist. It makes me a person who eschews being itchy.
posted by elizardbits at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being so angry at the time must be really tiring.

Being so unaware must be very blissful. That's what I've heard about ignorance, anyway.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It does suck to have to have a normal reaction (anger) to these situations as they continuously occur.

Marketers count on it.
posted by Ardiril at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2011


The clear implication that looking like "that kind" of black is uncivilized is dumb, dumb, dumb, going right back to the 19th-century cultural evolution crap.

@Lemurrhea - The only thing that stops me from thinking this ad is racist is because looking that kind of white is dumb as well. Long hair, big beard? Makes you look like a barely evolved caveman

(No, I am not saying Sébastien Chabal is stupid. I am just jealous that he was born in France and played for them instead of us, hence poor taste jokes at his expense)
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 9:35 AM on August 22, 2011


the ignorance is bliss perspective isn't really what we're going for as a society, I hope

Huh? That seems a really uncharitable reading of the story I am spinning here. Isn't it the hyperawareness of these little insignificant differences what keeps racism alive? Wouldn't it be nice if we all forgot about these particular tribes we've established, and all the ugly baggage that goes with them? Not that we all become white, but we all just let it go... Yeah, sure he's got an afro, because that's the kind of hair that some people grow, that's his hair...

Think for example about Catholics and Protestants, and how that used to be such a big deal... In many parts of the West now that's a distinction that's just meaningless. An image like this would take a lot of explaining today, and most people would be pretty shruggo... while in the old tymes it could raise people's bile and drive them to commit murder!

"So explain it again to me, why is the guy in the funny hat bad?" That's good ignorance!
posted by Meatbomb at 9:36 AM on August 22, 2011


Racist to be sure, but anti-Muslim even more than racist.
posted by jamjam at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite: "Being so angry at the time must be really tiring.

Being so unaware must be very blissful. That's what I've heard about ignorance, anyway.
"

I'm aware when someone is on my foot. I also realise that being angry about it is going to turn back time and is certainly not the most amenable way of handling the present situation.

In the same way I'm aware of your personal attack, in not-so-subtly calling me ignorant but it doesn't bother me. Really - what would getting angry with you about that actually achieve?
posted by benzo8 at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2011


benzo8, I think the point is that nobody is on YOUR foot, somebody is on somebody else's foot. And the person who got their foot smashed is going to be angry, and the non-foot smashed person telling them that anger is unnecessary is kind of not helpful, unless and until you get your foot smashed.
posted by angrycat at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


How did we get this far without anyone mentioning bingo cards? Is this a mefi record?
posted by desjardins at 9:42 AM on August 22, 2011


In the same way I'm aware of your personal attack, in not-so-subtly calling me ignorant

Just responding to your passive/aggressive attack on klangklangston, calling him "angry". In doing that you reduced his opinion about the pervasiveness of racism in society to some sort of misguided personal "anger", which was absurd and insulting.

Really - what would getting angry with you about that actually achieve?

We could remove our uncivilized heads and throw them at each other! Could be fun for a while, anyway!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


angrycat: " the non-foot smashed person telling them that anger is unnecessary is kind of not helpful, unless and until you get your foot smashed."

You see this I don't agree with at all. You're suggesting there's no place for peace-makers in this world, and that everyone is entitled to whatever response they personally deem proportional.

I'm not sure that attitude has served us particularly well thus far...
posted by benzo8 at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I shave my legs maybe once a year and trim my underarm hair. I also would never wear a skirt or a sleeveless top to work or to a work function, because I recognize that as a woman my body hair is discriminated against.

My own self enjoying the feeling of my own clean-shaven $_BODYPART does not in any way shape or form make me personally a sexist.

I agree, which is why I framed my statement as I did.
posted by muddgirl at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joakim Ziegler: " Why, exactly? Would it still be if I applied the same expectations to men?"

Sure. But your expectations would not have the full weight of our society's cultural standards behind it. Men are not expected to shave their legs or armpits, for example, else they be publicly ridiculed.

Women are subject to far more social pressure in Western society regarding their appearance than men, and women who choose not to shave are forced to defend that choice more frequently than a man would in the same situation. That bias and our ideals of beauty are most certainly gender-related and sexist.
posted by zarq at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're suggesting there's no place for peace-makers in this world, and that everyone is entitled to whatever response they personally deem proportional.

No, angrycat is suggesting - flat-out saying, actually - nothing about peacemakers at all. There is no place in the world for people trying to tell others their determination of the correct reaction to something the purported peacemaker has never experienced at all but the others in the situation experience more or less every day.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


How did we get this far without anyone mentioning bingo cards? Is this a mefi record?

I for one was mentally keeping track. I am entirely unsurprised to see the Tone Argument, Version 5059392012.1.
posted by yasaman at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, I can't get a job if I don't shave under my arms or my legs? That is fucking news to me. Especially given as I have a job in which I wore tank tops in summer so people could see my disgusting underarm hair. Then my dean gave me a class to teach. Next!
posted by angrycat at 12:00 PM on August 22 [+] [!]


A univeristy is not a mainstream workplace, not for faculty. (Things may differ for support staff). Professors can wear jeans and a t-shirt; indeed, in some places, dressing up would be considered wrong.

Don't project the tolerance of your workplace environment - just about the most tolerant in the world - on the rest of the world.
posted by jb at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do think it's sexist when men are ridiculed for a lack of body hair; however, it's generally the brand of sexism that is expressed as homophobia, so I try to be careful claiming it or naming it.
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm glad we settled this racism thing again.
posted by etherist at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: "You know, I hate this bullshit "try to see racism." I'm not trying to see racism, but there it is, all the fucking time, man. And it doesn't really matter if it was intended — way to cut out a free pass for the "I didn't mean it in a racist way" crew. It's the offensive, retrograde social messaging that's the problem, not the distinction between clueless and malicious."

flapjax at midnite: "Just responding to your passive/aggressive attack on klangklangston, calling him "angry". In doing that you reduced his opinion about the pervasiveness of racism in society to some sort of misguided personal "anger", which was absurd and insulting."

You don't read "...hate this bullshit...", "...all the fucking time, man...", "...way to cut out the free pass...", "...offensive, retograde..." et al as angry? Fair enough.

Still, I wonder where in angrycat's paradigm comes the non-foot smashed third party who tries to escalate things through some perceived "passive/aggression".
posted by benzo8 at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2011


jb and mudgirl, yes yes yes colleges are not mainstream, and thus bushiness is tolerated, I get it, I get it. Body conforming things just piss me off; thus I framed my response as I did. Not intending to say that hairy underarmed women are embraced by U.S. culture, at all, at all.
posted by angrycat at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2011


Maybe these are younger, new people who don't see colour?

Clearly, we should all follow the example of "Stephen Colbert"!
posted by kmz at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2011


Society has a different body ideal for women because of sexism. I can't believe I even have to explain this. Women are supposed to be smooth and "pretty" in order to satisfy the heterosexual male gaze; men are free to be hairy because the female heterosexual gaze is presumed to either be non-existent or conform to whatever the man chooses. How is that not sexism?
posted by katyggls at 12:14 PM on August 22 [5 favorites +] [!]


I question that it's about the male gaze - because the people most interested in policing women's hair - and their smells and other earthy, bodily functions - are other women and girls. Women and girls pressure each other to be as un-earthy/bodily as possible - to eat less, to eat neatly, to not smell (except like perfume), to hide all forms of excretions, to not even touch menstruel blood (thus tampon applicators and people who don't like menstuel cups). I have never felt any pressure from a man about any of this stuff, and only the occassional man who cared about my unshaved legs (and he was British - both British men and women have a weird thing about leg hair, they think it's "unnatural). The vast majority of pressure was from girls and women, starting in middle school.

I don't think these issues are about men at all - just like women's fashions are not about the heterosexual male gaze, or models would look more like porn stars. It's about how women perceive and perform Femininity.
posted by jb at 9:58 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Still, I wonder where in angrycat's paradigm comes the non-foot smashed third party who tries to escalate things through some perceived "passive/aggression".

Yeah, man, I'm just trying to "escalate things". There was no passive aggression in your calling klang "angry". Sure, brother. Right you are.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:58 AM on August 22, 2011


Today's poo flinging is brought to you by Afro Sheen, "Man, ain't nobody gonna believe this."
posted by Ardiril at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know where you live, but this makes no sense to me. I see African-Americans with afros almost every day of the week, and I'm just a sheltered white guy who spends most of his day in a cubicle.
In recent years the Afro has been making a comeback. But there was a time when it was considered hopelessly out-of-date. Many black sitcoms in the 1990s (Fresh Prince, Family Matters, etc) occasionally used an African-American in a large Afro wig as a sight gag, something played for instant laughs.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:03 AM on August 22, 2011


flapjax at midnite: "Yeah, man, I'm just trying to "escalate things". There was no passive aggression in your calling klang "angry". Sure, brother. Right you are."

Now you're just embarrassing yourself.

If you've not actually got any further argument to make and all you can do is ape childish playground responses then we're probably best off not responding to each other further. (It's good to see that you do truly understand passive aggression though, as until this point I thought you really didn't.)
posted by benzo8 at 10:04 AM on August 22, 2011


heh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:05 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think these issues are about men at all - just like women's fashions are not about the heterosexual male gaze, or models would look more like porn stars. It's about how women perceive and perform Femininity.

I don't think it's that simple. It's about performing femininity in a way that's presumed to attract men because the ability to attract men of high status is still one of the primary ways that women court power in our society. We tell girls to perform femininity in these ways because the assumption is that they won't be able to attract a mate and thus be socially powerful and financially/socially secure otherwise. In circles of society generally disinterested in attracting men as mates--or where it's de-emphasized, that's where you commonly see women rejecting these values. Using keepers. Letting their armpit hair grow.

Yes, these standards are maintained by other women, but women often act as police in the patriarchy. It's a way for them to display their own conformity in accordance with (presumed) male desire and therefore vie for power.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:13 AM on August 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


It's about performing femininity in a way that's presumed to attract men because the ability to attract men of high status is still one of the primary ways that women court power in our society.

Sort of the way that "blackness" has to be cast in a way that is palatable to white elites in order to be "OK blackness." Lighter skin is better, perhaps (hey there is a cosmetic for that!), but you really need to watch that afro; that's just too black (did I mention that there is a cosmetic to deal with that?). And, for heaven's sake, dress out of GQ!

Sidelining the gay man (and, to a lesser degree, the lesbian), as a "wacky sidekick" is another symptom of the same drive, I suppose.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:18 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"We'll know we've truly overcome racism when people no long try to see racism where it wasn't intended."

As always, Jay Smooth has enlightenment to drop on this shit
posted by Blasdelb at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I question that it's about the male gaze - because the people most interested in policing women's hair - and their smells and other earthy, bodily functions - are other women and girls. Women and girls pressure each other to be as un-earthy/bodily as possible.

Do you think they would choose to do so if there were no societal advantage to performing these rituals? It's a celf-perpetuating culture of Stockholm syndrome.

I don't think these issues are about men at all - just like women's fashions are not about the heterosexual male gaze, or models would look more like porn stars. It's about how women perceive and perform Femininity.

Beauty and sex ideals HAVE conformed to what the way women are presented in pornography, in quite a few ways.
posted by hermitosis at 10:24 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Or, you know, you could just let it go, rather than push your face into theirs and scream "Apologise, motherfucker, my foot is sacrosanct!"

Hey, how about first you get off my fucking foot, man?

Being so angry at the time must be really tiring."

Yeah, it is. But if you stop being so oblivious — and frankly, relishing your privilege to be oblivious — it'll be a lot less tiring.

posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Being oblivious is a European thing
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2011


Great explanation, PhoBWanKenobi. And on preview adding on to what GenjiandProust posted:

For black men, one traditional way of courting power is to act more "white," which is really more of a class thing than a race thing. I watched Fitzcarraldo this weekend, and there's a fascinating scene where a European missionary is describing the culturalization (or what they describe in translation as teaching patriotism) of Native Peruvian children - when asked if they are Indian, the children say no: "Indians are people who can't read and who don't know how to wash their clothes."

In white culture, having neat hair is a class signifier as well, but it becomes more loaded when we are talking about black assimilation. Because "neat" hair is also white hair, and if you can't get white hair (because longer hair is out of fashion for all men), then keep it short enough so your 'fro isn't noticeable.
posted by muddgirl at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"You see this I don't agree with at all. You're suggesting there's no place for peace-makers in this world, and that everyone is entitled to whatever response they personally deem proportional."

Is that how you see yourself? A peacemaker, pouring oil on the waters of racism by telling people to not worry about racism? Because you're doing a shitty job of making peace here. If you'd like to rephrase that as "You're suggesting there's no place for apologists for racism," well, then, yeah.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rosa Lowinger: " Bebo Valdez, the great Afro-Cuban pianist and arranger at the Tropacana in the 50's, would always be approached by tourists looking for prostitutes. 'The Americans from the South
wanted only black girls' he told me." from Vanity Fair magazine

an observation of sexism, sure...but is it racist?
posted by eggtooth at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2011


Being oblivious is a European thing

It all started with Constantius Oblivious (305-306 A.D.), Roman emperor. Dude just partied all the time, thought everybody else around the empire was, you know, not oppressed or anything.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:34 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cracked me up there when it was stated that white people *by definition* know less that non-whites about racism..because you would not believe the shit that actual, practicing racists will say to a white guy like me when there's no one else around to hear it.

Honestly it makes ads like this look laughably tame.

So yeah, if any of you want to stamp out racism you'd do better to ignore the Nivea ads and just go out randomly punching soccer moms and HVAC repairmen in the face.
posted by chronkite at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2011


"Speaking of shaving, I cut the hell out of my face this morning, and I really wish I could grow a beard that didn't look like crap. Re-Civilize that!"
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:09 AM


Dump the disposable razors, buy a Mach 3 or Fusion. And use shaving cream or foam - I recommend Barbasol. Wash your face, leave it wet, put on thin layer of shaving cream, carefully remove with blade using straight strokes. DO NOT SAW FROM SIDE TO SIDE WITH BLADE!!1!

I fucking hate disposables - they'll chew your face up because you can't get a good angle on the handle of the things and the blades are shit.

Fusion blades are expensive, but they'll last for months if you rinse them out good after you shave.
posted by JB71 at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2011


Cracked me up there when it was stated that white people *by definition* know less that non-whites about racism..because you would not believe the shit that actual, practicing racists will say to a white guy like me when there's no one else around to hear it.

It's not that people think white people haven't ever heard people being racist, they just haven't had to live and experience the effects like non white people have, in many parts of the world.
posted by sweetkid at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cracked me up there when it was stated that white people *by definition* know less that non-whites about racism.

In general, if a non-white person is complaining about something they think is racist, the best policy is to first listen and ask questions. Because they may have a perspective that you lack. And if you can't see how that's the case -- well then maybe you should avoid those kinds of conversations altogether.
posted by hermitosis at 10:44 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


What sweetkid said. You know what it's like to be appalled, but do you know what it's like to be, say, turned down for a job because you are non-white?

I'd say by definition, white people know less. Not nothing, but less.
posted by angrycat at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


So yeah, if any of you want to stamp out racism you'd do better to ignore the Nivea ads and just go out randomly punching soccer moms and HVAC repairmen in the face.

We have world enough and time, to ad-hate and punch racists. (Note: no punching actually advocated for.)
posted by kmz at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, stop shaving your face off everyday. Unless you have to wear a respirator or something, stop conforming to that emasculated Roman ideal of a baby face. Exude your manhood without irony.

.... and remain celibate all your days....
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:54 AM on August 22, 2011


white people *by definition* know less

I'm not interested in some hard and fast rule regarding this. I don't know how that helps me.
posted by cashman at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2011


You see this I don't agree with at all. You're suggesting there's no place for peace-makers in this world, and that everyone is entitled to whatever response they personally deem proportional.

We were tired of "peace-makers" like you fifty years ago. If you really wanted to help, you would be helping, not sneering at oppressed people for "being so angry all the time". Must be so tiring! Now, like the man said:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:02 AM on August 22, 2011 [38 favorites]


That's a great comment and quote, two or tree cars parked under the stars.
posted by sweetkid at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2011


by definition, white people know less

So thirty years of hearing thousands of racist things that family, co workers, cops, other members of the military etc say is trumped by X years of actually being black?

Seriously, you'd cry if you heard how hateful that nice looking gramma behind you in the Acme can be the minute you're out of earshot.

Anyway, it's not a contest. Non-whites have a particular perspective, and so do non-racist whites.

And from that second perspective I'd like to testify that racial issues in America run much, much deeper than that skin cream ad reflects.
posted by chronkite at 11:13 AM on August 22, 2011


And from that second perspective I'd like to testify that racial issues in America run much, much deeper than that skin cream ad reflects.

The idea that you think this would be news to anyone, especially a person of color, is not doing much for your argument.
posted by hermitosis at 11:17 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


oh my god he cut that guys head off
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:24 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


In general, if a non-white person is complaining about something they think is racist, the best policy is to first listen and ask questions.

Yeah, that's kind of the way that conversations with anybody about anything work. But you're still allowed to disagree with people when you think they're wrong.
posted by empath at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2011


by definition, white people know less

So thirty years of hearing thousands of racist things that family, co workers, cops, other members of the military etc say is trumped by X years of actually being black?

Seriously, you'd cry if you heard how hateful that nice looking gramma behind you in the Acme can be the minute you're out of earshot.



Do you think white people hearing racist things being said about non whites by white people is the same experience as nonwhites hearing racist things being said by white people? Because it's not the same, not even a little at all. When it's directed to you.
posted by sweetkid at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, you'd cry if you heard how hateful that nice looking gramma behind you in the Acme can be the minute you're out of earshot.

Yeah, I grew up on southern md and I was exposed to old school southern racism, including people in the klan, people using racial slurs in the open, work place discrimination, etc. This is absolutely not that kind of racism, which does still exist. I think this should be filed more under 'cultural insensitivity' and less under racism, but I can understand why people would disagree.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2011


And from that second perspective I'd like to testify that racial issues in America run much, much deeper than that skin cream ad reflects.

Some of the most pernicious and damaging examples of racism don't bear much resemblance to the old grandma who says something racist to your face (which is almost quaint in its racism). Racism went underground in polite society a long time ago; now it's more often systemic rather than individual, ingrained, sometimes so pervasive and subtle that non-whites don't detect it at all or make excuses for it. Sometimes it might even seem benevolent. This is the dangerous and effective stuff, not least because it damages in a certain way to make the 'peacekeepers' deny its very existence and to make the 'angry' ones seem like they're overreacting.
posted by naju at 11:33 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


So there are never any black women in Esquire? Shit, the magazine's more retrograde than I thought.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have a subscription. There have been some excellent non-fluff articles in the magazine over the past few years. Also, I use the fact that on a daily basis I violate at least a couple dozen of their needlessly fussy and constricting Rules for Men without losing the respect of my wife, my "bros", my female friends, or my kids as proof of my awesomeness.

Re the comment I quoted above, I have to say they've gotten a lot better about black women: they've gone from never having any black female models, athletes, or actors for most of their history to having 1 or 2 every other issue. There's still no indication that any of their writers personally knows a black woman, but the same could be said for a certain website I frequent....
posted by lord_wolf at 11:40 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So thirty years of hearing thousands of racist things that family, co workers, cops, other members of the military etc say is trumped by X years of actually being black?

Seriously, you'd cry if you heard how hateful that nice looking gramma behind you in the Acme can be the minute you're out of earshot.

Anyway, it's not a contest. Non-whites have a particular perspective, and so do non-racist whites.


It's not a contest, no, but I'd say that being the actual target of those racist things trumps hearing them when the people making them think that you are on their side because of your skin color, yes.
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, you'd cry if you heard how hateful that nice looking gramma behind you in the Acme can be the minute you're out of earshot.

Hey, make a blog and post in it every time you hear something. Post it to projects and memail me when it gets approved.
posted by cashman at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2011


that non-whites don't detect it at all - I meant some whites don't detect it at all.
posted by naju at 11:44 AM on August 22, 2011


Oh Christ, my cousin just posted pictures of her "Afro Party" to Facebook.

Was the bright red lipstick really necessary, Sabrina? Really?
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on August 22, 2011


So thirty years of hearing thousands of racist things that family, co workers, cops, other members of the military etc say is trumped by X years of actually being black?

Yes. Of course. The black person has to live with the negative consequences of what those people say and believe. The white person, as appalled as he or she may be, does not.

I don't know what is difficult to understand here. What's worse - listening to someone say they like kicking puppies, or being a puppy that gets kicked? Both are unpleasant.
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


by definition, white people know less

But some of us white people are also women, gay, disabled, poor, etc etc and so while we may not know what it's like to be denied a job over our skin colour we know what it's like to be denied one over our mobility status. Sure, being gay is not exactly like being black, but there are enough similarities in social experience that I think I might have a constructive thing or two to say about discrimination and oppression. And even those white people who do not belong to another social minority probably have friends and family members who do, and seeing your loved one get ignored by service people over and over and over (while not exactly like getting ignored yourself) could provide some enlightenment on the subject.

That said, I do believe that when members of the relevant group experiencing the discrimination are talking, anyone might learn a thing or two by listening. That doesn't mean I can't also contribute.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not, of course, equating people to dogs.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2011


only babies are like dogs
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


More shaving cream news.

Yes. Of course. The black person has to live with the negative consequences of what those people say and believe. The white person, as appalled as he or she may be, does not.

Y'all act like the only thing anyone gets discriminated against for is being black.

Like height, weight, sexual preference, skin condition, debilitating health issue, intelligence, social awkwardness, monetary success, religious affiliation, home town, etc. aren't possible points of discrimination.

Believe it or not, white people get marginalized too. Worrying about a shave cream ad is kinda, you know, triflin'.
posted by chronkite at 12:12 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quite the strawman you have there. No one said that people aren't discriminated against for reasons other than race.

... said the bisexual non-christian kinky disabled person.
posted by desjardins at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Believe it or not, white people get marginalized too.

You didn't really drag out the "But what about the white people?" nonsense, did you? For serious?
posted by MissySedai at 12:16 PM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes I did. Because again, it's not white or black people, it's just people.

And people face some ridiculous discriminatory shit, no matter where their grandparents are from.

Overtly racist stuff has been more or less stricken from mass media, though, and people are acting like they're Rosa Parks because they spotted a fucking shaving cream ad that's less than 100% culturally sensitive.
posted by chronkite at 12:25 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The ad is about grooming, but they framed it oddly. Unfortunate for them because it certainly does strike some racist tones. Although, I'm sure all the press they are getting is not exactly a bad thing.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2011


people are acting like they're Rosa Parks because they spotted a fucking shaving cream ad that's less than 100% culturally sensitive.

No, but we are having a discussion about it. I think you're the very first person to equate this to life-threatening activism.
posted by hermitosis at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2011


We'll know we've truly overcome racism when people no long try to see racism where it wasn't intended.

Can I tell you about my weekend in Seattle a couple weekends ago?

Friday night, at a bar outside Safeco Field. The Red Sox are visiting, and there's more Sox fans than Mariners fans in the city, so downtown is packed. I'm outside the bar smoking a cigarette and idly watching the throngs meander towards the park. On the sidewalk across the street, there is a pack of clearly aging white meatheads, with potbellies and bald heads where their football glory days used to be. A black scalper speeds past us on a scooter, in the middle of the road and not near them, hawking tickets. The porkbelly in the pink shirt looks outraged. "Hey! Nigger! Black people can't be on scooters!" he shouts. There is an audible "ssssss" as his five or six friends shush him immediately. The scalper whips the scooter around, and for a second I think there's going to be a scene, but it turns out the guy didn't hear him and was just shouting out for tickets. Then I realize there is going to be a scene, because pink-shirt is pushing through the crowd, towards the scalper. His friends are trying to restrain him, but he's dodging tackles and ducking under arms, until he gets to the guy. Pink-shirt grabs the guy by the arm and begins speaking, angrily, urgently to him. I can't hear what he's saying, but it only takes a minute before his friends forcibly separate them and move him along the sea of people. I finish my cigarette and go inside.

Saturday afternoon, in line for the Sounders game. I have my ticket in hand and am moving towards the bag check. I hear the clink of a coin near me, followed by a bit of jostling. A white man taps me on the shoulder and says, "Excuse me, I dropped a quarter under your foot." I nod, smile, and move so he can retrieve it. As he's pulling upright, he winks at me and says, "You know, not that I'm Jewish or anything."

Saturday evening, at the sake bar post-match. It's a quiet night, just me and a few other regulars, drinking and playing Wii Sports. Earlier there was a white club girl in, pleasant enough, and we exchanged a few words before she took off. As I'm throwing a fake frisbee, the door bangs open and the girl walks in again and sits down next to me. She's hitting on me, which is nice. I say something noncommittal to her. She grins. "Oh, I know who you are," she says. Her voice shifts to a broad Indian accent. "You are the kind of person who needs things to be just so," she exclaims, twisting her hand in a crude imitation of a Mumbai mannerism. "And you're a racist," I reply. She laughs, still accented. "No, I love Indian people." After she leaves, I share a rueful laugh with the owner. The other regulars look stunned. "Wait, you mean that's not a friend of yours or anything?" No, I reply. Sometimes, people just walk up to me and speak in a fake accent. It's not the first time.

I do not have to try to see racism. I don't even have to open my eyes. It'd be nice if you guys did, though.
posted by Errant at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2011 [39 favorites]


Heck, I don't even see anyone who's acting like they deserve a cookie.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was in agreement with hermitosis, not meant as any kind of response to Errant's great comment.
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


And people face some ridiculous discriminatory shit, no matter where their grandparents are from.

We're actually talking about racism, though. Discrimination against people of color.

Crying "What about the white people?" only shows that you're not at all interested in the topic at hand and want to make it all about you. Hint: It ain't about you. If you don't want to discuss the topic at hand, I'm sure there are other threads to go play in, rather than taking a dump in this one.
posted by MissySedai at 12:32 PM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can I tell you about my weekend in Seattle a couple weekends ago?

Yep, Seattle is a hotbed of racism.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2011


White woman, here, very obviously disabled. Went out with a friend a while ago, to a very fancy restaurant. The snooty waiter only made eye contact and spoke to my non-disabled friend. I rolled my eyes and then thought about 1930s Belgium cartoons, or whatever. My friend said to me later, did you notice that? Yes, I said, welcome to my world.

I know what THAT shit is like. What I don't know is what it's like to have the last part of errant's comment happen to me. There is a difference, a big one.
posted by angrycat at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


People do face discrimination for all sorts of reasons, and that can inform our responses to this. But racism is, specifically, discrimination based on race, and African-Americans have a very particular and specific history with it that informs them in a way those of us who are not black cannot directly know. And the only way we can become more informed about it is by listening when black people have something to say on the subject, based on their experiences.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


The higher, the fewer.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2011


Heck, I don't even see anyone who's acting like they deserve a cookie.

I always deserve a cookie.
posted by cashman at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, will there come a time when this won't be racist, because everyone has moved well past it and it just doesn't bother anyone?

I hope I live to see that day. But it's crazy disingenuous for anyone to suggest that it's true today, in whatever UK / US / Canadian market the ad was aimed at.
posted by aught at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2011


Also, the subtext of reminded me of the brouhaha over Joe Biden's description of Barack Obama as "clean" and "well-spoken" during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
posted by aught at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2011


Maybe cosmetics companies should just avoid featuring black people in ads.
It's the only way to be sure.
posted by sour cream at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2011


Maybe cosmetics companies should just avoid featuring black people in ads.
It's the only way to be sure.
posted by sour cream at 3:51 PM on August 22 [+] [!]


Eponysterical?
posted by aught at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2011


We're actually talking about racism, though. Discrimination against people of color.

No, you're talking about a shaving cream ad. Tell you what, just don't buy anything from Nivea and that should fix everything.
posted by chronkite at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


> .... and remain celibate all your days....

Huh? You think a beard keeps a guy from getting laid?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:56 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one of those threads where I get annoyed at the thread and then I remember that the larger world is so much worse and then I hate everybody.
posted by angrycat at 12:57 PM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


How about if ad companies don't raise the specter of the noble savage and the white man's burden by exhorting nonwhite people to reclaim civilization? That would probably be ok too.

Boycotts aren't the answer, most of the time. They make for simple and easy answers, though, because you're not privy to my spending habits and so it neatly removes the issue from your field of vision. Public conversations are the answer, like this one. They're messy, uncomfortable, occasionally offensive, frequently obstinate and deluded, but they're also, above all, public. I'd rather you were here participating than ignoring these things entirely, even if I disagree with you.
posted by Errant at 1:01 PM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


[bunch of comments removed - back it up and take it to email or just forget about it folks.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:40 PM on August 22, 2011


I always miss the good stuff.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:55 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, you're talking about a shaving cream ad

A shaving cream ad that has been accused of being racist. An accusation that has been supported with thoughtful discussion. You sounded just then like you were mocking the discussion. Is it really beneath you to contribute, even to just contribute a reasoned disagreement? Or is this the sort of thing, and the sort of discussion, that can be waved aside with a aingle sarcastic jab?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:15 PM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


sour cream writes "Maybe cosmetics companies should just avoid featuring black people in ads.
"It's the only way to be sure."


You got to wonder how many times progressive multicultural advertising is blocked in favour of a sea of white people for just that reason. "Cripes we're making a joke at the expense of this character and they happen to be _black_. Better pull it and put in some white folks lest we be pilloried in the press." At least the under represented GRAR is generally low key without specific examples to act as lightening rods.
posted by Mitheral at 3:35 PM on August 22, 2011


At least the under represented GRAR is generally low key without specific examples to act as lightening rods.

For a long time I have been meaning to start a Tumblr called something like "There's no place for women in...", and each post would be a link to some piece of meda which under-represents women (I think I got the idea when I heard an NPR retrospective of the 1968 Democratic National convention). I wouldn't mind getting beaten to the punch by some Tumblr called "There's no place for black people in..."
posted by muddgirl at 3:50 PM on August 22, 2011


a pack of clearly aging white meatheads, with potbellies and bald heads where their football glory days used to be.

Did you actually hear them speak of their glory days or did you just make up a life story for them based on their appearance?
posted by Dano St at 4:12 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did you actually hear them speak of their glory days or did you just make up a life story for them based on their appearance?

I made up their life stories, including their now unfulfilling careers as shoe salesmen, married to insatiable wives with beehive hairdoes and wastrel children.
posted by Errant at 4:26 PM on August 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


>> .... and remain celibate all your days....

>Huh? You think a beard keeps a guy from getting laid?


No kidding. I've spent time shaven, and time with a beard, and never noticed any difference in how many people wanted to flirt with me. As long as you don't have visible remnants of lunch in your beard, I don't think it's a huge problem on the dating scene. I have heard plenty of women say "ick, I'd never date a man with a beard," but then none of the men I know with beards are single, so clearly there are a few women out there with more flexible attitudes towards facial hair.

tl;dr: There's something for everyone in this world, and if you aren't getting laid I don't think you should blame your beard.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are women who like men to have beards and women who can't stand facial hair.

Aim to please your particular audience.


FFS it's not like shaving is the only way humans modify their natural appearance, in all human cultures.
posted by spitbull at 6:36 PM on August 22, 2011


I've been curious most of the night, so, given all the discussion, is tanning (and salons, creams, lotions etc) then also a matter of oppression?
posted by infini at 7:08 PM on August 22, 2011


Forktine wrote: none of the men I know with beards are single, so clearly there are a few women out there with more flexible attitudes towards facial hair.

I think the actual implication of "none of the men I know with beards are single" is that everyone dating is clean-shaven. So perhaps there are fewer flexible women than you think; perhaps they wake up every morning sickened at the thought of watching egg-laden toast maneuver its way through the dangling bristles around their partner's hairy maw.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:13 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


It depends, infini. Tanning can be a class marker for white people; it can show you have a lot of leisure time and money to take vacations. However, a blue-collar worker can also be quite tan from working outside. Skin color is not the only marker of race, though, and I have only rarely seen a tanned white person that could be mistaken for black. Hispanic, I suppose. I don't know anyone who avoids tanning because they think they'll be mistaken for another race. But I'm a pale pinkish person who can't spend more than 20 minutes in the sun without burning, so what do I know.
posted by desjardins at 7:16 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the coasts, at least, tanning is more a marker of class and social group than of gender.
posted by muddgirl at 7:17 PM on August 22, 2011


Forktine: it depends on the beard. Sometimes it's like kissing a brillo pad.
posted by desjardins at 7:17 PM on August 22, 2011


oh, maybe infini meant race? Whoops.
posted by muddgirl at 7:17 PM on August 22, 2011


So. I think something is missing from this conversation. There are different kinds of racism, and I think a lot of people in here are using different definitions of different kinds of racism. And they don't all look the same. ** And if there's something social scientists agree on, it's that if you don't agree what you're looking for, it's mighty hard to agree that you've found it.

The prevailing kind of racism that I see in this ad is usually called institutional racism. And if you want an idea of the kinds of problems inherent in discussing racism, look at this wikipedia article and the problems highlighted at the beginning of it. (Pro tip, it's racism out of habit, rather than out of intent to harm.)

Here is what the people at Solid Ground have to say about Institutional Racism.

Here's a 2009 commentary in HuffPo about Institutional Racism.

Of course, I would say this is also clearly Colorism. My justification of my making that argument is that attributes of a particular display of whiteness are being very visibly valued over attributes that suggest a particular kind "natural blackness." It seems some folks here disagree that this is happening. I find that disturbing, but understandable in light of my reading on the topic.

But my big point here is, we have a habit of saying that people should "be this way," "look that way," "talk this way" or else risk being "caught" in their blackness (or other otherness). And being "caught" is scary and dangerous. It's also scary, for many people, to "catch" an other. Sadly, the safest position for many "others" is invisibility. And a quiet, clean shaven, neatly dressed professional black man is more invisible than a man with an afro.

I think it's also pertinent to point out the difference between prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is having feelings about the superiority/inferiority of a person or group based on (usually) stereotypes. Discrimination is exhibiting behavior and making choices that favor members or groups, with or without feeling that one group is superior to the other. There are plenty of prejudiced people who are able to (at least sometimes) not act on that. There are lots of people who do not believe that one group is better than another, yet act in ways that conform to the greater social preference to have a particular "type" filling certain roles.

In short, racism is messy and uncomfortable, and a lot bigger than blatant name calling and violence.

**Think of racism as like cats. There are lots of cats. They generally have lots and lots in common. They generally lead to the same kinds of effects. Some cats are declawed (I know! I went there!), some shed, some are naturally hairless, some get shaved, some have extra toes, some are great mousers, others are big and/or lazy, some are big talkers, others are silent. And universally, cats are weird, and it's generally agreed that we are reluctant to answer very many questions about a given cat unless we have a picture of the animal in question, but we can try anyway. And some people don't need a picture of the car, or any other information about it.

As far as tanning goes, class indications are displayed in "evenness" and "quality." So. A wrinkly or orange tan would usually be considered unfortunate. Peeling is generally not well regarded, as it suggests poor judgement or lack of access to protective measures. There's also a stigma with flaky skin, that includes flaking resultant from tanning. A woman who is able to sunbathe topless is presumed to have the privacy and luxury to spend time in a place that enables her to be safely naked or topless in the sun for a prolonged period of time. Or the financial freedom to purchase tanning time at a salon. There are probably academic discussions of this, and I might look into it during my break from school tomorrow. Note there are plenty of derogatory nicknames for tans. Farmer tan, for the white shoulders and upper arms, usually with totally white legs. Redneck, for the sunburned neck. Trucker tan, for the sunburned/tanned left arm that sits in the window.

And I do know some South Asians who avoid the sun, to avoid being darker than they "are."

posted by bilabial at 7:26 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


desjardins, muddgirl et al

I was asking because last night it seemed that the consensus was pointing to many Asian cultures preference for untanned skin (supported by skin lightening and whitening creams) was a racist thing. (Somewhere up above is that Vaseline ad linked to by naju)

So it struck me whether the reverse had anything to race and if not, was that perhaps because it was a choice/preference of the dominant culture vs others?
posted by infini at 7:32 PM on August 22, 2011


Wait! Errant, you're INDIAN?
posted by gc at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2011


I didn't expect the skin whitening cream thing to be questioned so heavily, so maybe some explanation would help. In India, this is a huge deal and has been written about extensively. Skin whitening creams are incredibly popular. It's a different context and industry entirely from tanning (which, by the way, doesn't remotely serve the needs of anyone trying to look black, as far as I can tell). The creams affect the skin's melanin. This is in a context in which darker-skinned Indians are discriminated against openly. Matrimonial ads usually are searching for "fair-skinned" women. There's some tortured post-colonial thing going on (the oppressed want to be like the oppressors), and there's not even a taboo against it. Lighter skin is explicitly equated with power, higher caste, opportunity. It's actually clearly a racial thing there and in the diaspora as well.

It's a complex subject and worth reading up on. Here's an Al Jazeera documentary about it, if you're interested.
posted by naju at 8:07 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's some tortured post-colonial thing going on (the oppressed want to be like the oppressors), and there's not even a taboo against it. Lighter skin is explicitly equated with power, higher caste, opportunity

But naju, given what muddgirl, desjardins adn bilabial just mentioned about tanning being more of a class/status/leisure thing, as well as certain 'look' to aspire to, that's really what the whole 'gori' thing feels like in India. Its got so little to do with wanting to be European white but may have elements of class/caste definitely that while I can see its resemblance to kmz's point about foot binding in old China, I really can't see it as a racist thing.

/speaking as an Indian woman where this stuff is bandied about all the time
posted by infini at 8:13 PM on August 22, 2011


I'm not sure how colonial the Indian obsession with skin whitening is, although colonialism never helps. I'm pretty sure there's a tradition of viewing lighter-skinned people as higher status, as wearing the marks of higher caste, and even intra-caste as generally being more favorable. I seem to recall reading similar things about the Egyptian empire.

gc, you jest, but I'm only Indian to American white people. To many Indians, I'm American and an interloper attempting to claim a heritage that doesn't truly belong to me. Being first-generation Indian-American is occasionally tons of fun.
posted by Errant at 9:29 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being an inter-racial couple in heartland Singapore, my wife and I sort of have to dodge these race issues quite frequently. Less regular than I had presumed to be honest, but still more frequently than you would in an ideal world. We have this formulation; between us, we often try to distinguish racial moments, with racist moments.

So someone being bothered about getting tanned and instead preferring to limit melanin production through a "fairness cream" => racial. There's a certain aspirational element there; people have these notions of how to beat their social conditions to get ahead in the race. (See what I did there).

On the other hand, a hair-stylist telling a girl with curly hair (that most south Indians, for instance, have) that she's unlucky that her hair is difficult to deal with, but no worries, he can make it straight with geewhiz hair cream => racist. Shows a complete lack of awareness of how different people have different styles of hair, and worse, incompetence in dealing with different styles.

The second is racist because of intent; it's because someone else is trying to impose their notions of beauty, mostly driven by race, on someone else. While the first is also not kosher- even if you've initiated the change, you're still trying to change who you are based on a beauty ideal that may not be relevant to you - it is of a lesser degree. Hence racial, but not racist.

Relevant to the ad in question, it asks people to shed historically valid notions of attractiveness for a standard that's not entirely driven by the people in question. Hence racist, not racial.
posted by the cydonian at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Being first-generation Indian-American is occasionally tons of fun.

perhaps an FPP on ABCDs might be in order? ;p
posted by infini at 12:04 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall reading similar things about the Egyptian empire.

This fairness business with whitening/lightening creams - especially in context of what The Cydonian has so well articulated - is pretty common across Asia.

It is 'racial' (nice distinction btw) as in the cosmetic surgery by Koreans to open their eyes and raise their nose bridges rather than 'racist'.

I'm now curious to see who (what kind of names) are behind all the studies and reports on the race/oppression aspect of fairness as ideal in India. To me, given the far more serious challenges faced by the Indian girl child, the emphasis on cosmetics as oppression feels frivolous compared to dealing with changing embedded oppressive mindsets that permit dowry deaths, sexual abuse and general low status of women in society.

btw, I bleach my face. I have black hair and even if its fine facial hair it casts a shadow. Its a beauty treatment that I've never questioned as much as threading, pedicures, manicures etc

Is it oppression to not want to see your moustache? Re-civilize me!
posted by infini at 12:17 AM on August 23, 2011


Well, look, let's stop talking about the Indian experience for a minute and bring this back to the original ad. If the tagline here was "Get a haircut, hippie", I might have found that annoying, but I don't think too many people would have found that racist.

In other words, that cosmetics of these types exist is not the problem. It's your hair and your skin, do what you want. It's also not really a problem that cosmetics companies are trying to sell you these things, because, hey, capitalism.

The context surrounding these cosmetics and the ways that companies try to sell you these products, however, reveal the sorts of covert prejudice and implied discrimination that are a real problem. The ad implies that the natural state of the black man is an uncivilized one. By itself, again, not so bad; we could probably in a different context make that argument for anyone descended from evolution, which is everyone. But given the context of the historical treatment of black people as comparative savages, subhuman, especially monkey-like, etc, the message takes on some very ugly tones and points to, or at least props up, some very detrimental ideas and stereotypes.

Having done so, it then places the onus of avoiding identification with those stereotypes on black men, instead of on the holders of those prejudices. Your natural state of most black men is savage, the ad says. But you're not like that, you're not one of them. It's up to you to convince people that you're one of the good ones. We can help.

There are some pretty pernicious ideas floating around below the surface there, very few of which have to do with cosmetics at all. Are they as bad as forced immolation? Probably not, but not a lot of things are. It's still important to talk about, though, and I don't find it at all frivolous.
posted by Errant at 5:21 AM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Errant, you are absolutely right

(and I only mean re: skin lightening creams, not this ad etc)
posted by infini at 5:31 AM on August 23, 2011


jb: "I question that it's about the male gaze - because the people most interested in policing women's hair - and their smells and other earthy, bodily functions - are other women and girls. Women and girls pressure each other to be as un-earthy/bodily as possible - to eat less, to eat neatly, to not smell (except like perfume), to hide all forms of excretions, to not even touch menstruel blood (thus tampon applicators and people who don't like menstuel cups). I have never felt any pressure from a man about any of this stuff, and only the occassional man who cared about my unshaved legs (and he was British - both British men and women have a weird thing about leg hair, they think it's "unnatural). The vast majority of pressure was from girls and women, starting in middle school.

I don't think these issues are about men at all - just like women's fashions are not about the heterosexual male gaze, or models would look more like porn stars. It's about how women perceive and perform Femininity.
"

It's still sexism. It's just internalized sexism. Women can be sexist, even towards other women. And just because your personal experience with men has been that they don't care about your body hair (yay for you), does not mean that no men anywhere on earth care about it. I've actually heard men make comments about a woman's body hair. What's more, it's no wonder that women have internalized such ideas after a century of being told that female body hair is unsightly, unattractive, and undesireable, both by men, and by industries that up until very recently were almost solely controlled by men, including the media and fashion industry.
posted by katyggls at 5:36 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a person wants to shave their legs, bleach their skin, or straighten their hair, because they prefer how that looks/feels, that's great and I support that 100%. However, it's rarely a completely free choice. If I say no, I'm not going to shave my legs because it's too much effort, there is always a slight feeling of awkwardness if I wear shorts and a feeling that some people are judging me. I can think "fuck everyone, I don't care what they think," and that might feel true, but in that attitude there's still an acknowledgment that the social expectation (shaved legs) exists.
posted by desjardins at 7:40 AM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was 19 I went to my first big general-interest music festival (Coachella). On the first day, I was sitting next to these two guys - adult males, probably in their late 20s or early 30s - who were almost compulsively commenting on the body hair of every hippy-ish woman that walked past. "Look at her pits! Gross!" "Ugh, look at her legs!"

After awhile it was kind of funny - I mean, what an absolute waste of time. At the same time, every time I decide to wear a tank top without perfectly smoothing out my pits, I hear their voices in my head... "Disgusting!"

(In other words, "Men don't police women's femininity" is absolutely a myth)
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]




I'm still not sure why the folks at nivea thought they would win on this one:

If I follow the context:

-civilized Black men = groomed (shave, cut your hair) Black men (SO BUY NIVEA!)

-uncivilized Black men = ungroomed Black men.

It's annoying because it is absurd to suggested that all one needs to do to become civilized, and apparently appropriate for general society is shave. Because there are lots o' barbaric, well groomed men out there.

But the ad is an epic fail because in the White version, the ungroomed White guy is that way because he had a great time filled with ungroomed debauchery in Vegas. That's why he's ungroomed. But now he's back in a suit, back to business, back to that wallstreet job? He has a reason for his caveman look, and it's sin city.

The Black guy however - well, he's what, in a parking lot? What the heck is he doing in a parking lot? He doesn't even seem to have a car, so that's not why he's there. There's no 'other' reason for his ungroomed-ness - no Vegas, no good time, no successful trappings, no partner who wants him groomed, nothing. He was just ungroomed because, well, it's not clear why. And he's not in a suit. Does he have a job? It almost looks like he's some type of football player, with the lights, and the way he's about to throw the ungroomed head. But maybe not. It's not clear what his return to civilization is doing for him - it's not the wallstreet job, it's not objects of success, like trips to Vegas (the parking lot is EMPTY) - so why is he doing it?

I have to assume that marketing folks think long and hard about how to sell things to their public, and it's not clear to me, visually, why Nivea thought this would be a good idea - it's not edgy, and there is a historical context that can potentially insult your customer base.

I mean they are marketing people! It's not clear to me why correlations between 'civilization' or 'intelligence', etc., and minority populations is just one of those things if you're going to joke about you need to be sure that you're going to hit it out of the park, or you just need to go in a different direction. Isn't that like, 'selling people things they don't need rule 101' or something? How hard could it have been to swap the White and Black guy ads, making the rationale for the Black guy's ungroomed-ness to be Vegas, and the White guy's 'civilization'?

I don't know if all publicity is good publicity, because I know I've loved nivea's products, but I'm not buying them again. There are enough other brands out there that know how to cater to my business and dollars by hitting it out of the park. Nivea doesn't.
posted by anitanita at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have to assume that marketing folks think long and hard about how to sell things to their public, and it's not clear to me, visually, why Nivea thought this would be a good idea - it's not edgy, and there is a historical context that can potentially insult your customer base.

This is where you are wrong. Ad guys sit around and pitch ideas to each other all day long, tons of idea, some more crappy and more racist and more misogynistic than this one. Then they take the ones they think have the right flavor, the right edge, the ones they think they can sell to the executives in charge. Then the execs take about 5 minutes looking at the ads, listening to the pitch, and pick the ones they like based on a gut reaction.

There might be some intelligent, thoughtful human being somewhere along the process that saw what we see, but that person was not listened to, was drowned out, was thought to be a humorless person, was seen as a wet blanket, was told that they "don't get it."

Understand that everybody up the chain, from the copywriters up to the execs, are populated by boorish, insulated, uppercrust man-children who think they are not racist and who think they are forward-thinking and edgy. Many of them are complete douchebags, and they are decision makers.

Watch Superbowl ads, and you will see exactly that a lot of those slick ads was made by a boorish, insulated, upper-crusty man-child.

And that's why things like this happen.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:09 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or they're speaking to the lowest common denominator, which usually has a high success rate.

-civilized Black men = groomed (shave, cut your hair) Black men (SO BUY NIVEA!)

-uncivilized Black men = ungroomed Black men.


Exactly. From a standpoint of a purely superficial level you can see where the "how do we frame the idea of an unkempt appearance?" was poorly put together. I find it hard to believe that someone didn't see the racist overtones in the ad, but I also find it hard to believe the head of the KKK stopped by and personally pitched the idea the way some people here are making it out to be.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:05 PM on August 23, 2011


some people

Which people?
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on August 23, 2011


I think he meant "you people".

Ahem. I'll show myself out.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:08 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly, what bothers me isn't so much the tagline as the idea that a perfectly cute and normal hairstyle that, contrary to popular white belief apparently, actually probably would not look like that without some grooming and sweet attention is somehow equivalent to that tufty, matted parasitic organism Mr Sin City once let subsist on the crud from his face. The hell it is! That afro is maybe the black equivalent of this - not some tragic relic from an age before god made nail scissors.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


They want you to buy their shaving lotion. Maybe you will if you have a coupon for it.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 4:51 PM on August 23, 2011


It's a stupid ad. It is stupid, but it is not CONTEMPTIBLE. That is the difference between intentional and "unintentional" racism. What is "unintentional" racism, anyway? I seriously can't believe people are hating on nivea for publishing a culturally-clueless yet ideologically unrooted ad. Do we even know what racism means anymore? I guess it's racist to to call long hair and beards uncivilized if the skin under them happens to be black. I'm aware that Nivea pretty much ignored the possible connotations which could be retroactively read into this ad, but those connotations simply aren't there in the ad. They are in your minds. The least racist thing you can possibly do is look at this ad and not immediately see the issue of race as a major factor in it.
posted by tehloki at 10:17 PM on August 23, 2011


[Few comments removed - back it up and comment without calling other people stupid or come back when you can. Thanks!]
posted by jessamyn at 11:43 AM on August 24, 2011


Intentionality is in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective. That you *don't* see the ad as racist doesn't make you less racist than someone who does - for chrissakes. Any media-savvy white supremacist will tell you that he doesn't hate nonwhites - he just loves the white race, and wants to celebrate and preserve it! Is it "less racist" to take him at his word?

Nivea fucked up but good on this one. No one here can possibly know what was said when ideas were being tossed around for the campaign; we can only judge them by the ad itself. Some have judged it a stupid fuckup informed by ingrained/subconscious racism; some have judged it a stupid fuckup that showcases the ignorance of those who created the campaign; some have judged it flat-out, no-question-about-it racism of the cross-burning sort. Your declaration that "the least racist" thing to do is to not see any issue of race is no more correct than any of the others. In my opinion, for what it's worth (not even $20, I imagine), yours is wronger.
posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it "less racist" to take him at his word?

I guess it depends on his presentation? Kidding.

Seriously though, i don't think the problem is an overt racism like your example suggest but a lot of people seeing this in a gray area. The wording is what charges the ad, and if it had been something like "Throw away your bad grooming habits." I doubt this would've caused much of an uproar. But degrees of racism really don't matter here. The problem isn't a failing of some people to see racism, but the fact that many, many people do see it clearly. So we can go back and forth about how racist it is all day, that doesn't matter as long as there is an obvious and clear line for people to see where the racism lies.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2011


The problem isn't a failing of some people to see racism, but the fact that many, many people do see it clearly.

That's such a weird way to word that, let me try that again.

The problem that arises from the ad is because people do see it as racist, and It doesn't fail to be racist because people don't see it.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:59 PM on August 24, 2011


I didn't call anyone stupid, thanks. In fact, I said that tehloki wasn't stupid, but that he'd made a stupid comment.

It is a stupid comment — it implies that the least racist thing is to not care about racism, which is absurd, and it relies on a privileged position to dismiss the legitimate criticism of Nivea as unwarranted. Just because something's unintentional doesn't mean that there aren't consequences, and tehloki is defending this past what even Nivea is willing to do.
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do we even know what racism means anymore?tehloki

I dropped in previously to add some substance to that question, because I thought "what racism means" was an important part of this conversation that hadn't been, as we say "operationalized." It's hard to discuss something if it's not clear what that thing is. So, I pointed out some useful working definitions of this slippery thing, chose a sub-class that I think fits the topic well, and even made a labored analogy to cats.

Did you follow any of those links? Would you like to address any of the comments made in them? Would you like to refute the notion of Institutional Racism, which specifically notes the casual and regular nature of many types of racism? Would you like to offer up a broader, narrower, or conflicting definition of racism? Would you like to explain why you think an act has to be intentional and/or abhorrent to be upsetting?
posted by bilabial at 7:27 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think an act has to cause harm to be upsetting.
posted by tehloki at 5:08 PM on August 25, 2011


I think that's both an inane definition contrary to the vast majority of human experience and one that requires your perspective on harm to be the controlling one, in the face of people telling you that it upsets them.

You might as well say that you think an act has to cause you harm to be upsetting.
posted by klangklangston at 5:20 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it's not my place to tell people that they can't be upset by something. I just feel like there should be some kind of logical foundation for why they are upset by something before I am obliged to take them seriously. In this case, I just don't see it.
posted by tehloki at 3:32 PM on August 28, 2011


You're not actually obliged to take anyone seriously about anything, ever. True fact. The reverse is also true: anyone is free to dismiss your point of view for any reason, including whether or not it is logical.

Asking for logical reasons for why someone feels the way they do is a losing bid: 1) they don't owe you anything, since whether or not something upsets someone is never going to be contingent on your approval and 2) emotions are less about logic than they are about a complex amalgam of history (personal and otherwise), culture, privilege, and perception - it's what makes them feelings and not logic in the first place, and proposing that you are a better judge of whether someone "ought" to be upset than the person him- or herself is...illogical. It's also presumptuous as hell.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


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