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April 18, 2010

Cosmo's Guide to Racist Skin Care

Dear Cosmo,

We appreciate that you're finally acknowledging the fact that not all women in the world are white or look the same or have the same skin care issues. However, your "Sexy, Glowing Skin Secrets" article really misses the mark.

1. "Caucasian" is not an ethnicity.

It's a race. (Although even the U.S. Census doesn't use the word "Caucasian", they use "white".) Although a lot of people feel that race is a socially constructed concept, it usually includes physical characteristics such as skin color. On the other hand, the term "ethnicity" implies a shared background, genealogy, or cultural history.

2. Not all White women have the same skin tone or skin care needs.

The model for the article is an image of stereotypical white beauty - blonde hair, blue eyes - and the concealer guide recommended "pinkish beige" to cover up freckles on Caucasian skin. I personally identify as white (and I might be the palest white person on earth for that matter), but the color base of my skin tone is more yellowish/olive. A very very very pale yellowish/olive but still... no "pinkish beige" for me. When I do get some color (or when I used to) I definitely don't freckle, so basically this entire article was useless to me.

3. Not all "Hispanic" women share the same race. 

I personally know quite a few "Hispanic" women who identify as white, some who identify as black, etc. The 2010 U.S. Census clearly distinguishes "Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin" from race. According to the Census, "Hispanic" or "Latino" are cultural (and language) designations, not genetic and not always "racial". In the Census, people who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, of Latino may be of any race.


4. Not all "Hispanic" women have the same skin tone or skin care needs.

Here's just a sampling of women in the entertainment industry (we chose this category because of the abundance of photos available for each of them) who are of Hispanic/Latina origin... 

If you feel the need to "verify" their origins, you can look it up. From left to right: Sara Paxton, Alexis Bledel, Alexa Vega, Shakira, Daisy Fuentes, Maria Conchita Alonso, Vanessa Marcil, America Ferrera, Salma Hayek, Lourdes Benedicto, Rosario Dawson, Dania Ramirez, Melissa De Sousa, Judy Reyes, Christina Milian, Lauren Velez, Gina Torres, Zoe Saldana.
5. Not all "Asian" women share the same skin tone or skin care needs.

There are so many different countries and cultural groups in Asia. The 2010 U.S. Census actually lists nine separate categories in place of the usual "Asian" (plus two "Other" choices).

6. "Asian" women are not necessarily lighter than "Hispanic" women.

According to the article, Asian women's freckles are "darker in tone than on Caucasian skin but lighter than on Hispanic skin" because melanin levels in Asians "lie between those of the other two ethnicities". (It's not racist because it's science!) Sinnce melanin helps determine skin color... by saying that Asians have more melanin than white women and less melanin than Hispanic, women are they suggesting that Asian women's skin tones are typically darker than white women and lighter than Hispanic women? Because I think we all know that's not necessarily true. The vast array of "Hispanic" women I posted above proves that but so do the models they used in the photo spread for this article.

7. Not all "African-American" women share the same skin tone or skin care needs.

Do I need to explain this one too? Or have I made my point by now? Women who identify as Black, African-American, or Afro-Latino don't all look exactly the same, or even remotely the same. Black women, (like women of the other three categories mentioned above) come in a wide array of skin tones and colors.

8. There are some races or (or so called "ethnicities") left out of this list.

What about American Indian or Native Alaskan women? What about women of Middle Eastern origin? What about all the other varying shades of skin tones and features that women in the United States possess other than the four examples they gave in this article? Do they not exist in the world of Cosmo or do they just not have any skin care concerns?

You could make the argument that some of those women might fit into skin tone and characteristics of some of the categories they did give... which basically brings me to my next point:

9. Why did the categories have to be based on race (or so-called "ethnicity") in the first place?

I've seen plenty of beauty articles where it was just divided by skin tone or color, etc. Since the examples they gave are clearly not racially accurate for every woman - and so many people today consider themselves to be part of more than one ethnic group or racial background - it would've made much more sense to skip the generalizations altogether.

10. What's so horrible about freckles anyway?

I understand being concerned about skin spots and sun damage, but when did freckles become a horrible beauty concern? Some people even think they're cute. We're all for protecting yourself from UV rays and taking care of your skin... but come on, this is a little ridiculous. Go ahead, protect your skin but what ever happened to being happy with yourself, even if that includes being prone to freckles. Oh wait, it's Cosmo, that's right, the magazine devoted to not being happy with yourself.

We have to give you credit, Cosmo, for finally acknowledging that there are more than just white women out there. Recently you also accepted that there are married women and some day maybe you'll admit the existence of lesbians (other than on television). But we're thinking maybe it's better if you don't try to be more diverse if this is the way you're going to do it.

I guess it was a mistake to expect more awareness and sensitivity from the magazine that thinks it's hilarious to refer to an animal print fashion trend as "jungle fever".


Marika said...

What about mixed-race individuals? There are more and more of them in the world these days as people become more open to interracial couples. My boyfriend is half-white, half-black of Latino descent; good thing he doesn't wear makeup!

Or, if he did, I'm sure he wouldn't go to Cosmo for tips.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. The fact that there are more than one skin tone in the world is a good thing for Cosmo to acknowledge. But the assumption that those skin tones can necessarily be categorized by "race" is just wrong.

OpinionatedKait said...

Cosmo does realize that you don't necessarily have the same skin tone all year round, right? In the winter, I look like the Irish/Polish descendent that I am, all pale skin to the point where the palest makeup is still dark. In the summer, however, I get dark to the point where I look like my Cherokee cousins. What about people like me?

I guess we don't need to wear make-up, either.

And I completely agree about the freckles. I like my freckles, thank you very much. I'm a freckle rebel!

The Mad Dame said...

This why I just don't bother with these magazines. Its just all ridiculous.


We read Cosmo so you don't have to.

sexgenderbody said...

We read Cosmo so you don't have to.

...and I am thankful for both your doing so and your analysis afterward.

Kowalski said...

Oh wow. An article on skin colours that completely erases the existence of people with albinism.

"and I might be the palest white person on earth for that matter"
Clearly not, since you say that you do, or used to get some colour.

Anonymous said...

Well, in Cosmo's defense, the point of the article was to avoid freckles, dark spots, and other pigment overproduction which wouldn't really apply to people with albinism.

But you're right.

My joke about being so pale was meant to be facetious and self-deprecating. I apologize if it came off as offensive. I only meant to show that although I'm very pale, Cosmo's advice still didn't apply to me. I guess I should've said that I may very well be the palest melanin-producing white person on earth.

Albinism doesn't only appear in people of "Caucasian" origins, but I am sorry that I seemed to ignore people with albinism.

Kowalski said...

Oops, I totally missed that it was about avoiding freckles. At the risk of being a pedantic ass, people with albinism can have the most interesting spots (as can be seen in this nice slideshow.)
Thanks btw for not being offended by my tone. :)