Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Bleu, Blanc, & Rouge” All Over

The cosmetic company L'Oreal was found guilty of racial discrimination by the The French High Court for its all-white recruitment policy for its Garnier shampoo sales teams. Earlier this year, L'Oreal was accused of whitening Beyonce Knowles' skin in an advertisement for the company's make-up line.
A fax sent out by a division (called Districom) of the recruitment agency Adecco that hired the models for the campaign read that the model should be BBR — “bleu, blanc, rouge” — which are the colors of the the French flag. This term is commonly used in the French modeling world as code for white French people born to white French parents, which would in effect exclude anyone of an ethnic minorities.

L'Oreal's defense in this case was that Garnier wanted to exclude ethnic minorities because consumers would be less likely to buy its shampoo from ethnic models in French shops.

The Paris Appeal Court fined both L'Oreal and Adecco £25,500 (or about $40,649) and ordered them to pay the same again to SOS Racisme, an anti-racist campaign group in France, who have been fighting the case for three years.

I am glad that people are starting to look at how companies market products, especially to women, in a new, more critically-aware way. I remember in 2006 when Italy banned models with a body mass index of less than 18 in response to their concern about the "too-thin" models that it was sending down the runways. Unfortunately, it took the death of Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian model, to get the attention of designers and people in the fashion world to take note.

As consumers and citizens, we have the power to fight back against big companies who think that they can do whatever they want at the expense of whoever might get in their way. I applaud groups like SOS Racisme and the French government's action to not stand for such blatant discrimination. This case sends the message to other companies considering committing such overt acts of discrimination for business gains, that consumers do not find this acceptable.

When I see products or companies that market in a discriminatory way, I use my power as a consumer to not buy their products and to tell my friends about the way that a certain company markets. Consumerism has significant influence over big businesses and is a powerful way to make a statement.

If you see acts of discrimination in marketing, let these companies know that as a consumer, you will not support such companies who discriminate against anyone. This can be done through taking your business somewhere else, writing a letter directly to the company, or even just tell your friends about it.

A fellow FMF intern posted a similar article on discriminatory ad campaigns about Burger King. Check out her post to get more information about standing up against businesses that tote discriminatory messages.


Lauren said...

also check out my post about modeling since it's related...

Anonymous said...

The saddest part of this whole story was L'Oreal's defense. How could they think that saying "but French people won't buy from black people" would save their case? Not only are they blatantly admitting to racism, they are forgetting that "french" people are not all BBR themselves. This case (and L'Oreal's disgusting defense) points to a much deeper issue in French society, where race relations are at a volatile point. If French institutions don't start promoting a new definition of "French", the inter-ethnic/racial situation might reach a scary tipping point. Too bad the High Court's just actions have to be tempered by Sarkozy's insensitive discussion of head and body coverings for Muslim women. Seems like 1 step forward, 2 steps back.