Vaseline launches "skin-lightening" Facebook app in India

Want to have a lighter complexion in your Facebook profile picture? Now, there's an app for that, too! Vaseline India has recently launched a new Facebook application which allows users to digitally lighten their "online" skin. Recent reports have stated that the app is only available in India -- but anyone with a Facebook account can use it! Score.

And, the Vaseline Men Facebook page also offers helpful advice like this:

"Style Tip: Don't shave for a day or two and let the stubble grow in rakishly. Combine this with sunglasses to look utterly mysterious, rakish and thoroughly attractive."

Jokes aside, skin-lightening -- an unfortunate vestige of colonialism -- is a worldwide trend. The industry for whitening creams and lotions is booming in Kenya, Nigeria, the Caribbean, and particularly in India where the market expands nearly 18 percent a year and the politics of skin color are especially troubling.

A spokesman for Vaseline in India claimed the app is a "culturally relevant and engaging way for Indian men to interact with this product." Ethics, anyone?


Beijing cracks down on migrants

The Chinese government has instituted a new anti-crime measure dubbed "sealed management." In less euphemistic terms, it's a handy new policy of effectively putting migrants on nighttime lockdown in their already decrepit villages. Though the targets of the policy are themselves Chinese, it's enforcement is reminiscent of some of the world's harshest immigration laws.

How has it worked in practice? Beijing officials have installed gates around migrant communities and forcibly locked the residents in from 11pm to 6am, all with the goal of reducing the city's hike in crime rates -- which the officials conveniently attribute to low-income civilians. Lest the padlocks and security cameras provide insufficient protection from the artificial enemy, the government has taken an additional cue from Jan Brewer: police patrol the gated neighborhoods at all hours to check the migrants' identification papers. Now there's xenophobia at its finest.

Only sixteen neighborhoods have been enclosed and locked down so far, but local officials are campaigning ardently to expand the system throughout the city. The ruling Communist Party has disseminated propaganda to portray the neighborhood compounds as a mutually beneficial social program (rather than, say, a thinly veiled quarantine of the poor):

"Closing up the village benefits everyone," read one banner which was put up when the first, permanent gated village was introduced in April.


"Eighty percent of the permanent residents applauded the practice," said Guo Ruifeng, deputy director of Laosanyu's village committee. He didn't say how many migrants approved, though they outnumber the locals by 7,000 to 700.

"Anyway, they should understand that it is all for their safety," he said. Guards only check papers if they see anything suspicious, he said.

"If they see anything suspicious?" But the assumption underlying the creation of the gated communities is that the migrants themselves are inherently suspicious -- and the police aren't likely to deviate from that deeply flawed rationale when choosing who to hassle. We've watched the descent down this slippery slope before, and it isn't pretty.