Skin Lightening Facebook App Sparks Controversy

A new Vaseline skin-lightening application is facing backlash by some Facebook users who are condemning the app as “racist” and “insidious”. CNN posted a response from Vaseline who stated, “Much like self-tanning products in North America and Europe, skin lightening products are culturally relevant in India”. Some of the issues appear to be more with the government of India who encourages the promotion of such products.

The application called “Vaseline Men BE PREPARED” enables users to upload their photos and have their skin “magically” lightened. Numerous Americans are taking to the application to voice their anger with the app. One woman writes:

This is some BULL! I’m very offended at the mere thought that a BRAND SUCH as Vaseline would even for a MOMENT think this is appropriate. What ever happened to loving the skin you’re in? I personally think this is very offensive and would life to know what GENIUS is behind this marketing FAIL!

However another user is calling this campaign “brilliant marketing”. Wilson Mesa writes:

The “wash” is in effect. What makes this so devilishly-brilliant-the ppl that it’s marketed to (in part) defend it, if there was no need then there wouldn’t be a product-right? It is buisness after all-right?! That’s what the company will say…it’s supply and demand. BUT it is a lot more simple and black n white (pun intended).Kudos for being so subtle yet direct, so careful yet clear-if this was an isolated incident then maybe it would have a chance “to pass” but this is “light is wright” in its next incarnation…Is anyone else aware of the long-establihed-blatant-history of “whitening” advertising in India… this is not a case of what came first-chicken or egg? This crossed the road with a specific purpose…sorry this is not a coincidence, not taken out of context, this is a well-though out plan-it is Advertising after all. NOt my inention to offend anyone just calling it as it is.

We’re not sure which way is right. What do you think? Is this app racist or is it simply culturally acceptable? Do you think such culturally sensitive apps should be limited to the countries where they were intended to be used?