Sunday, May 14, 2006

Racism - the ugly side of the Malaysian advertising industry.

On a chilly afternoon last winter, the atmosphere inside Club USA--one of New York City's hottest nightspots--matched the outdoor temperature, but for a different reason: America's Black supermodels were in revolt.

Also present were more than 100 members of the press representing Black and White American and European publications, who got an earful from the Black beauties gathered to expose the industry's ugly side.

Among the specific grievances addressed: the gross underrepresentation of African-Americans in fashion advertising (television commercials, billboards, magazines, catalogs, in-store promotions), designer shows and even the editorial pages of consumer magazines. "People don't realize there are hundreds of jobs related to the fashion industry, from being a makeup artist to scouting locations for a photo shoot," said a Black fashion editor at a women's magazine. "But you can practically count on both hands the number of Blacks who have any of these jobs in what's become a very closed arena." (Essence, September 1993)

Change the words 'Black' or 'African-American' to 'Indian' and voila! the ugly side of racism 'Malaysian-style' stares you in your face. These are the 'invisible people' to the ad industry and the 'couldn't care less' general public. However it does affect the self esteem of the entire community when you are blatantly ignored and the only explanation forthcoming from the advertising folks is "that is what our clients want." Easy way out, no more questions asked and no more answers required.

I quote from Essence, and Michele Wallace, author of the book Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory (Routledge, 1990). Quote: "Not seeing our images reproduced--in particular in ads that constitute such a visible medium in our society--suggests to our children that we have no power, that having power is inconceivable." Unquote.

The above is very true and who is responsible for institutionalizing this type of apartheid and perpetuating it? The Information Ministry couldn't care two sen about this issue. They would probably be more concerned if some poor singer sports shoulder length hair than worry about a substantial portion of our citizens being not represented at all. For that matter go through some of the 'national unity', 'patriotism' and 'Malaysia truly Asia' hype on TV sponsored by the Information Ministry and Tourism Malaysia and see for yourself how many Indians you can spot.

Are we so ashamed to have dark-skinned persons in our ads? Don't we have dark people in our country - among the Malays and even the Chinese? What is so wrong in being dark that you cannot bear to see these people on your TV screen, your magazines, newspapers and your fashion shows? Must every woman look Caucasian and every man have a Roman nose? The advertising agencies have a social responsibility whether they agree or not. If you're in the business of the visual media with saturation coverage of the country then you cannot behave irresponsibly. You must depict the entire Malaysian people more accurately on your pages and in your advertisements.

Half a century ago the whites in South Africa could justify apartheid and convince themselves that they were indeed superior to the subjugated races which included Blacks, 'Coloureds', Indians, Chinese and Cape Malays. The very same justification can be used to discriminate any race in Malaysia or elsewhere even today. However these explanations will not hold water any longer and we must see it for what it really is - pure and simple racism.

Finally please read the last paragraph of the article in Essence; Only when "buying Black" becomes a regular part of our economic lifestyle will mainstream style setters get the message and recognize that racism is not only out of fashion in the beauty business but also will not be tolerated by all those people of color who help keep the bottom line black in a multibillion-dollar clothing industry

Knowing a little on attention span I intentionally keep my posts brief and this one is no exception. However before I bid adieu I would like to request those of you who have felt strongly about any of the points that I have raised in this article to please give your comments. It serves two purposes; firstly as feedback to the author and secondly your comments widen the perspective of the topic.


Blogger Nameshkaram said...

Actually the industry players are blind. Walk around Bangsar on weekend nigths and spot the real beauties and the sculptured ones...

Anyway advertising here is really backward. It the dumb-fair-skinned model-lip-synching method which is really out-dated. Not sure if anyone pays attention.

The 'Malays' featured are more of a mix-blood type.

Even there locals are being muscled out by foreign ads with mat-sallehs.

But the point on the other jobs not available to Indians is an eye openner.

10:05 AM GMT+8  

Post a Comment

<< Home

!-- End #sidebar -->
Malaysia Blog Sites Listing Check Web Rank World Top Blogs - Blog TopSites hits Blog Portal