[Paleopsych] Counterpunch: Amina Mire: Pigmentation and Empire

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Amina Mire: Pigmentation and Empire: The Emerging Skin-Whitening Industry
[Thanks to Laird for this.]


    Skin-whitening or skin-bleaching is a practice whereby women (and some
    men) use various forms of skin-whitening products in order to make
    their skin appear as white as possible. As an anti-aging therapy,
    skin-whitening promises to "restore" as well as to"transform" the
    aging skins of women and make them smooth,
    wrinkle-free-younger-looking. In this context, the natural aging
    process is systematically framed as a pathological condition which
    must be interrupted through measures such as "elective surgery" and or
    by bleaching out the signs of aging such as "age spots." In this way,
    in the case of white women, skin-whitening is presented as a
    legitimate intervention designed to 'cure' and mitigate the disease of
    aging. Skin-whitening as a biomedical intervention is predicated on
    the pathologization of the natural aging processes in all women, white
    women in particular.

    At least in the United States, racially white eastern and southern
    European women have used skin-whitening in order to appear as 'white'
    as their 'Anglo-Saxon' "native" white sisters. In the United States,
    women of colour also have practiced skin-whitening. Many of the early
    skin-bleaching commodities such as Nodinalina skin bleaching cream, a
    product which has been in the US market since 1889, contained 10 per
    cent ammoniated mercury. Mercury is a highly toxic agent with serious
    health implications. According to Kathy Peiss , in 1930, a single
    survey found advertising for 232 different brand names of
    skin-bleaching creams promoted in mainstream magazines to mainly white
    women consumers in the United States.

    If dark skinned eastern and southern Europeans can "pass" for white
    with a little help from skin-bleaching creams, those with sufficiently
    light skin tones but who are legally categorized as racially black by
    their invisible " one drop" of "black blood", could also "pass" for
    white as well. The "appearance of whiteness" is the key to accessing
    the exclusive cultural and economic privileges whiteness accrues. The
    fear of the infiltration of "invisible' blackness has fuelled both the
    marketing strategies of industry and the anxieties of white women that
    they may not appear "white enough". Peiss writes:

      Dorothy Dignam's ads for Nadinola skin bleach and Nadine face
      power, appearing in mass circulation women's magazine, resurrected
      the Old South. "This line made in the South was largely sold to the
      Negro market; the advertising was a planned attempt to capture the
      white market also. Her paean to "the beauty secret of Southern
      women," featuring plantations, magnolia blossoms, and hoop-skirted
      bells, erased any hint of Nadinola's black clientele. Although
      usually rendered obliquely, racial prejudice was an explicit
      talking point for manufacturers Albert F. Wood: "A white person
      objects to a swarthy brown-hued or mulatto-like skin, therefore if
      staying much out of doors use regularly Satin Skin Vanishing
      Greaseless Cream to keep the skin normally white (Peiss 1998,150).

    But even though the anxiety of bearing the invisible mark of black
    blood has, in part, fuelled white women's skin-whitening practices,
    Peiss rejects the actual possibility that some women of colour may
    have passed for white by using skin-whitening creams. This is because,
    according to Peiss, African American women had "disabling" African
    features that would not allow them to pass for white. In this way,
    while skin-whitening helped 'dark skinned' eastern and southern
    European immigrant women to blend into the "secure" domain of
    whiteness, the racial border between whiteness and blackness is
    magically secured by the social and political order of the colour

    Women might purchase a skin whitener that covered and colored the skin
    and simultaneously disclaim its status as paint. For women of European
    descent, whitening could be absorbed within acceptable skincare
    routine and assimilated into the ruling beauty ideas, the natural face
    of white genteel womanhood-although, as Jessie Benton Frémont
    testified, one glance at the hands could undo this careful effort to
    naturalize artifice. For African Americans, the fiction was
    impossible: Whitening cosmetics, touted as cures for "disabling"
    African features, reinforced a racialized aesthetic through a makeover
    that appeared anything but natural.

    What these more than "skin deep," uniquely "disabling" African
    features were is not stated by Peiss. However, this crude insinuation
    hints at Peiss' refusal to entertain the possibility that
    skin-whitening may have been used not just by eastern and southern
    dark skinned women to "pass for Anglo-Saxons," but that women of
    colour who were sufficiently light skinned have also practiced
    skin-whitening in order to "pass" for white. Since appearing white is
    the "only game in town," there are no other grounds outside of
    appearance on which whiteness as an exclusive racial identity can be
    secured. Piess's historical documentation of the history of the
    formation and consolidation of the American beauty industry clearly
    demonstrates that skin-whitening has facilitated the "racial passing"
    of certain dark skinned women from eastern and southern Europe. In
    this context, the practice of skin-whitening is implicated in the
    American history of racial segregation and racial "passing."

    Peiss's analysis precludes the possibility of African Americans with
    light skins passing for white by using skin-whitening creams, while
    claiming that eastern and southern European women with "dark skin
    tones" could do so, implicitly offers skin-whitening as 'legitimate'
    when practicd by 'white' women and as 'illegitimate' and futile for
    women of colour. This is also the paradigm of much of the published
    medical literature on the health risks associated with the use of
    skin-whitening creams with toxic chemical agents. Even though white
    women have been using both lead and mercury based skin-whitening
    creams in order to whiten their faces and bodies for centuries, when
    it comes to warning the public about the dangers associated with this
    deadly practice, it is often the terribly damaged faces of women of
    colour which are used for visual illustration.

    For example, almost all the medical literature published by western
    medical and dermatology journals offer us women of colour as victims
    of the dubious desire for unattainable corporeal whiteness. This same
    unattainable desire is often reinforced with horrifying images of the
    damaged faces and bodies of women of color after using cheap
    skin-whitening creams containing toxic chemical agents such as
    ammoniated mercury, corticosteroids, and hydroquinone.

    The faces of Black South Africans permanently damaged by long-term use
    of Over-the-Counter (OTC) 2 per cent hydroquinone based skin-whitening

    The emphasis on such 'health risks'has facilitated the production, and
    marketing around the world, of new and, conceivably, 'safer' but
    highly expensive skin-whitening commodities and combatant
    technologies. The emerging 'high-end' skin-whitening commodities are
    marketed mainly to affluent Asian women to modify skin tone, also to
    white women as anti-aging therapy.

    So, as one might might expect, race, class and gender dynamics inform
    the marketing strategy of the new skin-whitening corporate drive. The
    symbolic and literal 'whitening' of darker bodies still conditions the
    advertising rhetoric for skin-whitening products.

    In Africa, the practice of skin-whitening is traditionally associated
    with white colonial oppression . Those who practiced skin-whitening,
    were and are still condemned as self-hating dupes, suffering from an
    inferiority complex. Consequently, those engaging in this practice
    often do so covertly. So it is only when users of skin-whitening seek
    medical help from the devastating effects of bodily damage caused by
    the use of toxic skin-whitening creams that news about this practice
    gets to the public domain. Tsitsi Dangarembga's novel Nervous
    Conditions (1988) succinctly captures the contradiction between the
    colonizing effects of white supremacy and African women's yearning for
    respectability and idealized feminine aesthetics of beauty.

      Lucia was my mother's sister, several years younger than my mother
      and a wild woman in spite of or may be because of her beauty. She
      was dark like my mother, but unlike my mother her complexion always
      had a light shinning from underneath the skin, so she could afford
      to scoff at the skin-lightening creams that other girls used.

    The association in the above quote of girls with "bad skin" with the
    use of skin-lightening cream is interesting. On the one hand, it
    suggests that skin-whitening has a therapeutic function. On the other
    hand, it may be referring to one of the sinister side effects of the
    use of skin-whitening: the systemic darkening of the affected area of
    the skin due to the accumulation of toxic skin-whitening residue
    inside the skin called exogenous ochrinosis (cf.2). Currently, many
    African countries have banned the commercial trafficking of
    skin-whitening. However, skin-whitening products, including those
    containing highly toxic chemical agents, are currently aggressively
    marketed to white women in North America as "anti-aging therapy." It
    is not clear how 2 per cent hydroquinone based skin-whitening cream
    can cause a permanent disfigurement of African women's faces and
    bodies while 4 per cent hydroquinone based skin-whitening cream can be
    promoted to white women as anti-aging therapy. The following ad is for
    a skin-whitening cream called Lustra which contains 4 per cent

    This is the same chemical agent which has caused the disfigurement of
    the South African woman in the above image and of countless other
    women around the world. This product is manufactured by a major US-
    based pharmaceutical company. Lustra skin-whitening cream is
    extensively promoted on internet shops, beauty salons and dermatology
    offices in the United States. The primary clientele of Lustra are
    white middle-class women

    Currently, transnational biotechnology, pharmaceutical and cosmetics
    corporations are engaged in the research and development and the mass
    marketing of a plethora of new forms of skin-whitening products which
    can "bleach-out" the "dark skin tones" of women of colour and can
    remove corporeal evidence of the aging processes, 'unhealthy
    life-style' and overall pollution from the skin of white women. In
    North America and Europe, the emerging high-end skin-whitening
    products have been promoted as new 'therapeutic' regimes which can
    'cleanse,' 'purify' and 'regenerate' aging skin. Consequently, in
    North America and Europe, skin-whitening commodities aimed at white
    women are often sold under the bannerof 'anti-aging skincare.' In
    other parts of the world skin-whitening commodities are promoted to
    'whiten' and 'brighten' the 'dark skin tones' of women of colour.

    This growing industry is a lucrative one whose reach is greatly
    facilitated by systematic use of the internet as the main medium for
    the dissemination of advertising messages for skin-whitening products
    and related technologies. Some of the leading transnational
    corporations engaged in the 'trafficking' of skin-whitening products
    have extensive e-business domains. Often these companies set up
    internet domains and e-shops in specific countries such as China,
    Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, just to name a
    few. In addition to such e-business sales drives, extensive use of the
    internet allows these corporations to avoid both the negative
    political implications and legal regulatory restrictions they could
    face if they were to openly promote skin-whitening commodities in
    North America and European markets.

    The 'ethnic' skin-whitening market around the world is decentralized
    as well being covert. This is because many of the skin-whitening
    products which target poor women, particularly black women, including
    women of colour living in North America and Europe, are relatively
    cheap but often contain highly toxic chemical agents such as mercury,
    hydroquinone and corticosteroids.

    In Europe and North America, the 'ethnic" skin-whitening products are
    usually sold in 'ethnic-oriented' grocery stores and "beauty" salons.
    Many of these low end' but toxic skin-whitening products are
    manufactured in the Third World and are imported both legally and
    illegally to North America and Europe. Even though the western health
    authorities are well aware of the health risks associated with these
    toxic skin-whitening products they have taken very littlem if any,
    action to control their importation or to regulate their sales.

    The other, more robust trend is the marketing of expensive
    skin-whitening products to affluent Asian women in living in Pacific
    Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore,
    Malaysia, Indonesia and others. This represents the largest slice of
    the skin-whitening global market.

    Partly because of the covert nature of the trafficking and informal
    circulation of toxic skin-whitening commodities, it is hard to gain
    accurate estimates of the market share of the 'low end' but highly
    toxic skin-whitening market. Similarly, because the 'high end' and,
    presumably less toxic skin-whitening commodities targeted to whites
    are promoted under the purview of 'anti-aging therapy,' it is as
    difficult to gain an accurate or even a generally reliable estimate of
    the North America and European market shares of skin-whitening
    products targeted to white women. However, in Asia, where the
    skin-whitening market outside of Europe and North America is anchored,
    in 2001, in Japan alone, the skin-whitening market was estimated to be
    worth $ 5.6. billion. According to the same report, the fastest
    growing skin-whitening market in Asia is China. In 2001, China's
    skin-whitening market was estimated to be over $ 1.3 billion.

    Based on the readily available mass of online advertising for emerging
    'high end' skin-whitening products by transnational corporations,
    these products claim that they can 'improve' the 'appearance' as well
    as the 'health' of users. These skin-whitening commodities have
    powerful pharmaceutical properties; they can penetrate the skin and
    suppress the synthesis of the skin pigment, melanin . Indeed, the
    suppression of 'dark' pigment, melanin, is listed as an explicit
    example of skin-whitening health promotion benefits. Frantz Fanon
    wrote about the "corporeal malediction" of dark skin and here's the
    antidote! The damned of the earth can thus swiftly alleviate their
    condition by peaceful, albeit commercial means.

    In many of the advertisements for skin-whitening I come across during
    my research, a discursive link is made between youthfulness and
    whiteness and whiteness and racial superiority. Second, in these
    advertisements, the aging process of white women is often implicitly
    racialized by the construction of 'hyper-pigmentation,' 'age-spots,'
    'dull' skin tone,' as signs of "pigmentation pathologies".
    Consequently, skin-whitening advertising directed to white women often
    promises to 'cleanse,' 'purify,' 'transform' and 'restore' white
    women's 'smooth' and 'radiant' youthful white skin. Such advertising
    tries to expand the skin-whitening market with the covert rhetoric of
    racializing aesthetics. One recurring theme which runs through most of
    the promotional ads for skin-whitening posted at Asia registered
    internet sites is the claim that skin-whitening cosmetics can
    transform the 'yellow' skin tones of Asian women to flawlessly
    'radiant' white. These advertisements often deploy the visual
    technique of 'before' images of 'unhappy,' 'dark' faces of
    'Asian-looking' models and 'after' images of smiling 'whitened' faces
    of the same models .

    I now want to take the reader to the internet-based advertisements for
    skin-whitening products by the world's largest cosmetics company  a
    leading promoter of new skin-whitening cosmetics  the L'Oreal
    cosmetics company. L'Oreal's advertisements for skin-whitening
    products posted at internet sites run by L'Oreal subsidiaries such as
    Lancôme, Vichy Laboratories and L'Oreal Paris systematically deploy a
    mixture of racializing rhetoric and dazzling visual images.

    Many of these advertisements which are directed mainly to Asian women
    use images and narratives with implicit references to the aesthetic
    'inferiority' of 'dark' and 'yellow' skin tones of Asian women. In
    these ads, this implied is often reinforced with illustrations of the
    pathological nature of 'dark' and 'yellow' skin tones of
    'Asian-looking' models.

    With over US$14 billion sales in 2003, L'Oreal is the largest
    cosmetics company in the world. The company can be best understood as
    an economic 'super-structure' consisting of, at least, 12 major
    subsidiaries such as Lancôme Paris, Vichy Laboratories, La Roche-Posay
    Laboratoire Pharmacaceutique, Biotherm, L'Oreal Paris, Garnier,
    L'Oreal professional Paris, Giorgio Armani Perfumes, Maybelline New
    York, Ralph Lauren, Helena Rubinstein skincare, Shu Uemura, Maxtrix,
    Redken, SoftSheen-Carlson(TM). Not all of the above listed L'Oreal
    subsidiaries deal with the promotion of skin-whitening cosmetics.
    However, this extensive list of L'Oreal subsidiaries illustrates the
    company's economic power and structural complexity. L'Oreal is also a
    20 per cent shareholder of a major French based pharmaceutical firm,

    A recent merger worth 60£ billion with another European based
    pharmaceutical firm, Aventis, makes Sanofi-Aventis the third largest
    pharmaceutical company in the world behind Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
    I emphasize the financial link between Sanofi-Aventis and L'Oreal
    cosmetics in the present work partly to highlight L'Oreal's close
    connection with the pharmaceutical industry. Skin-whitening, in this
    context, can be thought of as a lucrative 'spin-off' both for L'Oreal
    as well as a way to valorize research and development of
    pharmaceuticals outside the highly regulated biomedical domain.

    The influence of the pharmaceutical industry is evidenced by much of
    L'Oreal's promotional rhetoric for skin-whitening cosmetics and
    related technologies. L'Oreal's ads for skin-whitening cosmetics
    increasingly blur the line between cosmetic and pharmaceutical claims.
    Such close integration between the cosmetics and pharmaceutical
    industries has serious social, medical, and political implications. In
    fact, L'Oreal has already designated some of its subsidiaries, such as
    Vichy Laboratories and LA Roche-Posay Laboratoire Pharmaceutique, as
    quasi-pharmaceutical outlets through which the company can
    successfully promote skin-whitening and other cosmetics under the
    rubric of skincare biomedicine. The following ads for Vichy
    Laboratories attest to this opportunistic cosmetic/pharmaceutical
    industrial cross-fertilization.

      Discover your healthy skin profile: skin type and hydration. Make
      an appointment with your Vichy dermatological skin care consultant
      to identify your skin type, its hydration level and receive a skin
      diagnosis and personalized skincare recommendation. Vichy
      Laboratories are devoted to the health of your skin. Backed by
      dermatological research, Vichy offers you a complete line of
      skincare products containing Vichy Thermal Spa Water. Dehydration,
      dryness, skin aging and dull complexion. Vichy, health skin's
      answer to all skin conditions.

    Not all of Vichy's advertising messages are couched in such biomedical
    rhetoric. For instance, when targeting women of colour, Asian women in
    particular, their 'dark' or 'yellow' skin tones are often
    conceptualized as pathological targets amenable to 'fixing' and
    transformation. L'Oreal's internet domains registered in South Korea
    and China, Singapore, Taiwan aggressively promote skin-whitening
    products with such provocative brand names as "BI-White," "White
    "Perfect" and "Blanc Expert." In one of the most stunning acts of
    commodity racism, an ad for Vichy's skin-whitening brand, "BI-White,"
    features what appears to be an Asian woman peeling off her black
    facial skin with a zipper. As her black skin is removed a new
    'smooth,' 'whitened' skin with no blemishes takes its place. The
    implications of this image are blunt and chilling. Blackness is false,
    dirty and ugly. Whiteness is true, healthy, clean and beautiful.

    "BI-White:The skin Pigmentation ID."
    Source: [221]http://www.vichy.com/gb/biwhite.

    L'Oreal calls this marketing strategy 'Geocosmetics:

      More than half of Korean women experience brown spots and 30 per
      cent of them have a dull complexion. Over-production of melanin
      deep in the skin that triggers brown spots and accumulation of
      melanin loaded dead cells at the skin's surface create a dull and
      uneven complexion. Vichy Laboratories has been able to associate
      the complementary effectiveness of Kojic Acid and pure Vitamin C in
      an everyday face care: BI-White.

    Another L'Oreal advertisement for skin-whitening brand is called
    "White Perfect." This particular skin-whitening brand is sold in
    L'Oreal's Asian markets and online e-shops. In that way, those who
    live outside Asia can purchase this and other L'Oreal skin-whitening
    brands over the internet.
    In this ad, the racist aesthetics of "White-Perfect" reinforces the
    biomedicalized intervention of Asian women's skin coded by the sign of
    "Melanin-Block(TM)." L'Oreal's advertisements for skin-whitening
    cosmetics are often reinforced by constant interplay between the
    ideological precepts of white supremacy and the
    technologically-mediated suppression or "blocking" of the capacity for
    Asian women's bodies and skins to produce skin pigment, melanin.
    One of the ways in which L'Oreal enacts the biomedicalization of
    women's bodies and the racialization of the aging processes of women
    (gendered degeneracy) is through the visual technology of dismembering
    women's bodies. A close examination of L'Oreal's advertisings for
    skin-whitening products shows a systematic fragmentation of women's
    bodies. Almost all the L'Oreal advertising images which I have came
    across use cropped faces of women. One of the visual techniques used
    by L'Oreal is the pairing of two cropped faces: one of which bears
    certain pseudo-pathologies such as 'age spots,' premature-aging,'
    'hyper-pigmentation,' and 'wrinkles.' The other cropped image would
    feature the whitened, 'smooth, wrinkle-free' face of a woman.

    As a result, L'Oreal's advertising often visually conceptualizes the
    practice of skin-whitening both as a violent technological
    fragmentation of women's bodies as well as an instrument of bodily
    transformation. As the following advertising for L'Oreal's
    skin-whitening brand, Blanc Expert, shows, the visual fragmentation of
    women's bodies is often reinforced by the claims of the power of these
    skin-whitening products to penetrate deep inside the body thereby
    transforming both the inside and the outside of the users of these

    Lancôme's exclusive Melo-No Complex(TM) limits the activity of the
    messenger NO, a newly-discovered stimulator of melanin, produced by
    keratinocytes. The complex, by targeting keratinocytes, boosts
    whitening action by 15 times. A powerful combination of active
    whitening ingredients targets melanocytes to more effectively inhibit
    the source of melanin production and as a result, diminishes the
    skin's yellowish tone.

    The image symbolically illustrates the technological prowess of
    advanced skin-whitening biotechnology; its ability to penetrate,
    fragment, colonize, and discipline the bodies of women. In this image,
    the fragmentation of women's bodies is symbolically illustrated by a
    beam of light shot through a tube. Upon penetrating the skin, this
    phallic beam of light produces a new "radiant," white face.

    In this powerful visually fragmenting technology, the symbolic order
    of masculinist technology and the aesthetics of white supremacy are
    rendered as flesh in the "flawless", perfectly whitened and fragmented
    face of a woman of colour.

    In this context, the aggressive world-wide marketing of skin-whitening
    commodities can be legitimated as benevolent 'cures' designed to
    transform and transcend the "dark" "diseased," bodies of women of
    colour. Ironically, not all women of colour can afford the "radiant"
    whitened faces this technology promises. The following is a price list
    for L'Oreal's Blanc Expert line. As I indicated earlier, this
    particular skin-whitening brand name is aggressively promoted to Asian
    women. Blanc Expert Mela-No Cx Blacc Expert Advanced Whitening Spot
    Corrector (30 ml= $125 US), Blanc Expert Mela-NO Cx Supreme Whitening
    Spot Corrector (30ml= $100 US ), Blanc Expert Advanced Whitening &
    Anti-Dark Circles Eye (100ml= $ 77 US), Blanc Expert Mela NO Cx
    Advanced Whitening Night Renovator (100ml= $ 83 US). This one has the
    'cutest' and the most ironic name: Blanc Expert Mela-No Cx UV Expert
    Extra Large Double Protection SPF 50/PA+++ (30 ml= $59 US).

    This list clearly demonstrates two important points: that these
    products are highly expensive and that they contain relatively small
    amounts of skin-whitening products. There is a common joke in Africa
    to describe the practice of face whitening: "Fanta Faces & Coca Cola
    Bodies." Fanta, in this context, refers to the orange colour of a soft
    drink. The dark colour of the Coke soft drink in contrast refers to
    the unbleached bodies of African women. This analogy is particularly
    apt because, like skin-bleaching cosmetics, Coca Cola and Fanta soft
    drinks are western products which are extensively marketed in Africa.

    In its broadest sense, skin-whitening as 'anti-aging therapy' aims at
    intervening, 'halting' and if possible, 'reversing' the aging
    processes of mainly white women. I have suggested earlier that
    advertisements for skin-whitening products which are marketed to white
    women often use language suffused with the racialization of the aging
    processes of white women and the biomedicalization of women of
    colour's skin tones.

    In this market, the paradigmatic face against which both women of
    colour and middle aged white women must be appraised, and ultimately
    found wanting, is the 'smooth/ radiant/youthful-looking' white face
    unmarked by age, labour or class. This technologically-produced
    'radiant,' 'age-spot-free,' 'pigmentation-free' young-looking white
    face is now the universal standard for the "beautiful" face.

    The cover of the 2002 L'Oreal Annual Report underscores the emergence
    of the "smooth". 'radiant', technologically produced, "air brushed"
    white face. In this image, a female with exceedingly blue eyes and
    perfectly white skin gazes vacantly. Her face shows no hint of life or
    emotions. This image is simultaneously as frightening as it is
    ambiguous. It is difficult to tell whether we are confronting a
    computer-generated animation or an image of an actual woman. This
    ambiguity is not innocent. The image at once suggests the corporeal
    possibility of a perfectly white skin and also whiteness as an
    abstract aesthetics. The ambiguity of the corporeality of this image
    can be read as an ironic comment on the image itself. In this reading,
    this computer-generated visual simulacrum recuperates the exclusionary
    aesthetics of whiteness.

    L'Oreal has also developed other powerful tools which are designed to
    monitor the states of women's skin and bodies. One instrument of
    surveillance is a silicon-based semiconductor sensory device called
    SkinChip®. First developed for biometric fingerprinting ID and related
    surveillance technologies, this technology has now been adapted as a
    'diagnostic' tool designed to monitor changes in the 'interiors' of
    women's skin such as "pigmentation" and "hydration" levels and other
    'pathological' signs. Monitoring the "interior" of women's skin to
    gauge their "pigmentation" status has the potential to usher in a new
    and sinter form of eugenicist white supremacist aesthetics. The fact
    that SkinChip has been imported from biometric surveillance technology
    is not insignificant.
    Surveillance technologies such as SkinChip also reinforce the
    aesthetics of white supremacy and the global expansion of
    skin-whitening as a capitalist commodity. L'Oreal is currently
    developing a personal-size version of the SkinChip device so that
    women can regularly monitor what is happening "inside" their bodies
    and on their skins.

    I hope that I have demonstrated that the emerging skin-whitening
    industry is a lucrative globalized economic enterprise with profound
    social and political implications. L'Oreal's advertising for
    skin-whitening commodities reinforces and consolidates the globalized
    ideology of white supremacy and the sexist practice of the
    biomedicialization of women's bodies. It is in this specific context
    of the continuum of the western practice of global racism and the
    economic practice of commodity racism that the social, political and
    cultural implications of skin-whitening must be located and resisted.
    Consequently, feminist/antiracist and anti-colonial responses must
    confront this social phenomenon as part and parcel of our old enemy,
    the "civilising mission" ; the violent moral prerogative to cleanse
    and purify the mind and bodies of the "dark/dirt/savage". On March 10,
    2004, two weeks prior to the American invasion of Iraq, Time
    magazine's cover featured the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
    The caption reads: "Life After Saddam: an inside look at Bush's
    high-risk plan to occupy Iraq and remake the Middle East" . Hussein's
    face is painted white by a white man wearing a white casual shirt with
    matching casual white pants and a white baseball hat using a white
    paint brush. The colour of the dictrator's unpainted skin looks
    exceedingly black and menacing. The lower half of the dictator's face
    and neck are riddled with bullet holes.

    Amina Mire is at the University of Toronto and can be reached at
    [222]amina.mire at utoronto.ca

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