Symbiosis in the World of Beauty: The Cosmetics Industry and the Western Beauty Ideal

English: Super Skin Lightener skin lightening ...

English: Super Skin Lightener skin lightening cream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kyungyeon Chung

Upon walking into a drug store in Japan, one will find an array of cosmetic products that promises hopeful transformation into what today’s Japanese society perceives as beauty. These end results the products promise – fairer, whiter skin, brighter teeth, bigger eyes, and longer eye lashes – all embodying the ideal that originated from the Western, Caucasian-centric beauty standards.

The cosmetics industry, even on a global scale, operates on the platform provided by Western standards of beauty, and especially by the colorism ideology that has penetrated into deep corners of modern society. At the same time, the beauty ideal and colorism are not self-sustaining. Their presence and growing prevalence are made possible by numerous industries that profit from the growth, with the cosmetic industry being a major stakeholder in play. By constantly being made to consume products designed with a limited set of objectives and outcome, the consumers are constantly reminded of the beauty ideals behind the products. The global cosmetics industry and the Western beauty standards based on colorism, mutually reinforce each other’s existence and influence.

In order to fully understand the core of modern society’s beauty standards, it is imperative to know the colorism ideology that frames the entire discourse. Colorism refers to “the preference for lighter skin and social hierarchy based on skin tone”, and has been widely expanding throughout the globe (Glenn, 2009, p.166). Being one of the main axes behind inequality today, it occurs at societal, systemic level through social structure that permits systematic discrimination towards darker skinned people. In many different regions and nations around the world, light skin tone has historically been preferred to dark skin tone, and given higher social status and easier access to social and economic resources (Keith, 2009, p.25). Although the beauty ideal does include other phenotypic aspects than skin complexion such as desirable weight, body shape, and facial structures, skin tone does hold significant importance, if not the most.

This ideology of colorism has been directly translated into the Western beauty ideals. Up high on the list of what composes the ideals is ‘fair’ skin. Having lighter, fairer, and whiter skin gives a great advantage in one’s life, and is central to the very definition of beauty. Having been spread as part of the ideological rationale for slavery and colonial imperialism of the European powers (Keith, 2009, p.27), the “white is better” or “white is right” idea still pervades modern societies thanks to mass media. Today, these ideologies are strongly embedded in ways we admire, desire, and look upon fair skin. Its importance can be easily understood and highlighted by the popular practice of skin whitening, which will be elaborated further later. It is also important to note here that females are subjected to these standards much more frequently and strictly than males (Keith, 2009).

In modern societies with capitalist economic system, the beauty standards manifest themselves as profitable industries whose products promise the achievement of ideal beauty via consumption. As societies are deeply instilled with consumerism, selling and buying beauty have been a huge, popularly sought-after business than ever. Plastic surgery is one of the most common and provocative examples. Cosmetic surgeries have spiked up in number and scale around the world: 14 million surgery procedures were performed in the US in 2011 (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2012); close to 7% of the population has undergone knife in South Korea in 2010 (Bates, 2013). A wide range diet-support programs, machines, and food products are readily available to help people lose weight.

Among many industries that thrive on our search for beauty, the cosmetics industry deserves particular attention. For instance, unlike plastic surgery, which may seem invasive, dangerous and rather extreme, putting on makeup is seldom-questioned practice for women. While showing up at school after a holiday with larger breasts may cause a stir, putting on mascara would hardly be an issue. For many, it is a daily routine, an ordinary and even expected behavior. It is also continuous – women who use skin care products will probably continue to do so for years to come. While it may seem trivial at first, considering the commonality and regularity of skin care and makeup, the cosmetics industry is massive, universally pervasive, and commercially successful.

The cosmetics industry owes much of its existence and enduring popularity to the beauty standards. An impressive array of products is available to help people achieve beauty as prescribed by the Western ideal. Eye makeup products are a great example. A dozen different types of products are readily available to make one’s eyes look bigger and more defined: mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, eyelash curler, eyebrow shaper, highlighter, etc. In East Asia in particular, the desire to have the Western look has also led to the popularity of double eyelid (Bates, 2013). In Korean and Japanese cosmetics shops, one can easily find glue or sticker-like products that hold the skin of upper eyelid together, creating an illusive double-lid. For those unwilling to undergo surgical procedures to create double eyelids, those products are a way to go.

Yet, the segment within the cosmetics industry that is perhaps the most influenced by, shaped by, and reflective of the Western ideals, is skin whitening products. Colorism has effectively produced a social view that associates whiteness with superiority and darkness with primitiveness, something to be avoided and fixed. In her book Shades of Differences, Evelyn Nakano Glenn argues that light skin has come to hold symbolic capital that furthers one’s life chances (2009, p. 166). This relates to the concept of beauty queue in society, whereby the level of beauty and social status are judged by the shades of complexion, the lightest at the top and the darkest at the bottom. For such reason, men and women from all parts of the world have strived for lighter complexion by consuming copious amounts of skin whitening products, supporting a multibillion-dollar global industry.

In the Asia Pacific region, the skin lightening market was valued at over US$13 billion in 2012 (Tan, 2012). In African continent, studies have found that up to 50% of population use skin lightening products in Dakar, Senegal; and even up to 77% in Lagos, Nigeria (Ntambwe, 2004). Almost all major cosmetic brands have a product line specifically dedicated to brightening care: Estée Lauder’s ‘CyberWhite’, Shiseido’s ‘White Lucent’, Clarins’s ‘Bright Plus’, Vichy’s ‘BiWhite’, Chanel’s ‘Le Blanc’. The list is endless. The prevalence and magnitude of the industry indicate how the widespread Western ideal of beauty and reverence for lighter skin tone has led to increasing demand for skin whitening products. The unabated expansion of the skin whitening products is a clear manifestation of colorism in action.

The highly interrelated relationship between the cosmetics industry and the Western beauty ideal can also be traced back from the other way around. The cosmetics industry work to constantly and persistently reinforce the ideal into the mindset of people, making it into an accepted social norm. Commercials by cosmetic firms continuously remind the consumers of what they should look like, and thus eventually what they should consume in order to achieve the said goals. These commercials tactically employ models that will spark the feeling of desire, which make the viewers think the goal – of looking like the model – is attainable. In essence, the models will look Caucasian enough to fit the White beauty standard, yet still possess enough ‘local’ features not to alienate the viewers too much. For instance, in Japan, half-Japanese and half-Caucasian models have rose to prominence for such reasons, brining the ‘ha-fu boom’ in entertainment and media (Krieger, 2010). In such manner, the constant bombardment of strategically produced advertisements on TV, magazines, and in shops, works to ensure the beauty ideal is here to stay.

As seen in the case of skin whitening products, the industry ushers consumers to fix their blemishes and dark spots, to get rid of undesirable features, and to become closer to the ideal beauty. Prominent cosmetic manufactures reveal supposedly bettered, new products every season. The products are ‘upgraded’ in a sense that they claim to produce better results, such as longer eyelashes, darker eye lines, more durability, brighter effects, to name a few. Consumers absorb such ideas: those results are good; those results are better; those results are what they should seek after. Through this process, the beauty standard gets repeatedly ingrained in the subconscious of society as a whole.

There is a wide range of factors at play that help maintain the global obsession with the White ideal of beauty, and especially that of light skin tone. One of the perpetuators is the cosmetics industry. In modern capitalist economy in which consumerism has become the social norm, the cosmetics industry prospers, thanks to the consumers’ ceaseless quest for beauty as dictated by the Western ideal. The quest for fairer skin, in particular, embodies the reality of colorstruck world – to borrow Verna Keith’s words – where colorism is firmly established as part of social structure.

The cosmetics industry and the White beauty ideals function as lifeline to each other. The ideals condition society for the industry to profit from, while the industry works to reinforce the ideals. It is a mutually interdependent, symbiotic relationship. If we want to start tackling the racially charged foundation behind the White ideal of beauty, we must first understand how it is perpetuated and internalized by consumption of products that cement the said ideal. Only when both ends are understood and questioned, can the process of deconstructing the colorstruck world begin.

References

  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons (2012, September 2). 13.8 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures performed in 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.plasticsurgery.org/News-and-Resources/Press-Release-Archives/2012-Press-Release-Archives/138-Million-Cosmetic-Plastic-Surgery-Procedures-Performed-in-2011.html
  2. Bates, C. (2013, January 31). 15 million people worldwide had plastic surgery in 2011. Daily Mail Online. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2271134/15million-people-plastic-surgery-world-just-year–SOUTH-KOREA-leading-way.html
  3. Glenn, E. N. (2009). Consuming lightness. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 166-187). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  4. Keith, V. (2009). A colorstruck world. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 25-39). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  5. Krieger, D. (2010, November 29). The whole story on being ‘hafu’. CNN. Retrieved from: http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/whole-story-being-hafu-722376
  6. Ntambwe, M. (2004, March). Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Science in Africa. Retrieved from: http://www.scienceinafrica.co.za/2004/march/skinlightening.htm
  7. Tan, D. (2012, September 18). Who’s the fairest of them all? Asian Scientist. Retrieved from: http://www.asianscientist.com/features/skin-whitening-products-asia-2012/ 
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Oldness is goodness: Is it truly a tradition?

by Sheena Sasaki

What is Japanese traditional food? What is Japanese worldwide known food? I am sure some people would tell me the answer sushi. However, sushi (vinegar rice topped with piece of raw fish), famous Japanese food, began to be eaten since Edo Period. Compared to relatively new nations such as the United States, 400 years of history for food may be long “tradition.” However, compared to Japanese history, which lasts since era of B.C., it is not significantly long. More important, sushi had been eaten only in limited areas of Japan since it uses fresh fish. Referring to Japanese geography as a mountainous land, it is impossible for some parts of Japan to come up with food such as raw fish. However, as the nationalization and globalization have taken place in Japan, sushi has become domestically and internationally known as a ‘traditional’ food of Japan. Thus, nationalization and internationalization have played a significant role in the invention of tradition in Japan.

This invention of tradition is becoming an issue in Japan today. In September 2013, the Japanese Supreme Court finally accepted that the law that limited  children born outside of marriage to inheriting only half the amount of “legitimate” children, as discrimination and a violation of Japan’s Constitution. Japanese denial and rejection of “illegitimate” children, adopted children, divorce, and married couples having different surnames is quite strong even now. It is not surprising to hear that children born outside of marriage were bullied in the school they attended during their youth. Also, some parents tell their children not to play with such children just because they lack real parents or their parents use different surnames.

Why do Japanese citizens strongly oppose different styles of family? Many people answer: “Because we do not want to destroy the traditional family system of Japan.” This traditional system of family is based on “ie (家)” and “koseki (戸籍)” which respectively mean house and family legislation. Thus, many Japanese citizens resist changing what is written on their koseki, with the exception of when a woman is married. However, the history of koseki is not so long as to be called traditional.

Influenced by Germany, Japan created the koseki system during the Meiji Period, the era of Japanese nationalization. The system was to support one royal family, imperial family of Japan. The imperial family is unchangeable, meaning one single bloodline is considered to be imperial. Thus, for this family to hold stronger and more important meaning, member of one koseki was also to pass down one blood. The Meiji-era civil code also stated that an ie must consist of single surname, single koseki, and single bloodline. Here, we see the family system putting an emphasis on one bloodline, which is considered as tradition today. In opposition to the word “tradition,” before the Meiji Period and the creation of koseki system, it was common to see adopted children reign as the head of the household. Compared to the ie system today, the family system used to emphasize more the surname of the household rather than bloodlines. Therefore, what is said to be the traditional family system in Japan has existed for only 100 years.

There is Japanese phrase “furuki yoki (古き良き)” which means that “old is good.” However, the invented tradition of the Japanese ie system does not seem to bring good anymore. Year by year, there is an increase of divorce, child adoption, and single parenting. These shapes of family are not considered proper families, and are targets of discrimination. Although the Japanese government has admitted that the law discriminates against certain children, the law itself has still not changed. The curse of “furuki yoki” still dominates the sense of discrimination.

Some links to news reporting issues of rights for illegitimate children

“家族とは?親子とは?揺らぐ法制度” http://www9.nhk.or.jp/gendai/kiroku/detail_3408.html

“婚外子差別の撤廃へ 民法改正案を閣議決定、戸籍法の改正は見送り” http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2013/11/12/kongaishi-minpo-_n_4258246.html

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How could social media transform racism?

by Miho Tanaka

Could internet communications change the structure of race? The revolution of media has changed how people communicate and connect with the others, and forms of media have been constantly changing as internet technology has been developed. Internet communications have enabled us to communicate each other without borders. In other words, people have gotten unrestricted tools to get to know the others having far different cultures and backgrounds.

In this post, I attempt to discover the relevance between media and race and how the emergence of social media could make changes, especially in the United States. Therefore this post looks first at the development of media from tangible products to intangible services, secondly how race awareness or consciousness has been transforming as the forms of media have been changing, and thirdly some expectations that could positively or negatively influence race structure in relevance to the changes of media.

Development of media: Imagined communities

Media is one of the strongest tools to foster and penetrate some ideas, biases and stereotypes to its viewers and construct their perception toward their world. Newspapers, magazines and printed advertisements were the major media for the last centuries, however new types of media such as online media, social media and so forth have appeared in the last decade and these dynamically influence people’s lives. Jessie Daniels (2013) posted on Racism Review that newspapers used to play a role to function for creating “imagined communities” among those who engage with the communities. However Joanne L. Rondilla (2009) argues that globalization and technological advances have changed the formation of imagined communities (p.64-65). Rondilla borrows Hall’s description of globalization and cites that globalization is:

the process by which relatively separate areas of the globe come to intersect in a single imaginary “space”; when their respective histories are convened in a time-zone or time-frame dominated by the time of the West; when the sharp boundaries reinforced by space and distance are bridged by connections (travel, trade, conquest, colonization, markets, capital and the flows of labor, goods and profits) which gradually eroded the clear-cut distinction between “inside” and “outside.” (p. 64-65)

Online media has enabled us to shorten our communication style and has released the West-dominated time-frame. An imaginary space platform, in the case of online media, works as an intersection of people in different areas. She concluded that “globalization involves the flow of ideas, products, images, and so forth, that, through technological advances in the media, closes the gap between perceived differences among people” (p. 65). Considering how media has been changing especially in the 21st century the range of imagined communities must have expanded. Now social media has started to function just like newspapers, as people go to online in order to affirm their racial identity and to seek community around that identity (Daniels, ibid).

Media’s objectives

Popukin, Kabashima, and Taniguchi (2008) point out that public media controlled by national institution and private media owned by private companies take different roles (p.71). Public media seeks societal objectives including political and national purposes, since it considers the viewers or listeners as voters for next elections, while private media seeks profit since it considers the customers as buyers (ibid). As Harris (2009, p. 1) insists, racism is constituted through “economies of difference.” In other words, “economies of color” have great power over market capitalism. Before the emergences of social media, the messages of media were always sent from companies or institutions to consumers based on the senders’ objectives, which are often “selling more products and increasing revenue” or from public organizations to the supporters to achieve some kinds of political goals.

However social media totally broke the previous rule and now the senders of message also include individuals or users on the internet. They do not have to seek certain outcomes because they can send any messages even if they are not tied from some groups, therefore their messages might be sometimes emotional. Racial minorities also got a chance to speak out their feelings and experiences on the internet.

Changes of race awareness

Daniels clarified the fact that “people go online to affirm their identity and to find community, often along racial lines.” In 2009 the chart of popular social network sites shows BlackPlanet.com was ranked in as 13th (Daniels, 2013). There are further more social networking sites focusing on the encouragement of African Americans and the other minority groups in the U.S. For instance, Atlanta Blackstar is one of the media which strives for becoming the central voice in black media. It applauds black peoples’ achievement and self-esteem, and simultaneously analyzes and reflects black culture or its representation in societies, which is often considered as a negative phenomenon.

Especially some media focusing on encouragement of isolated minorities such as BlackPlanet.com and Atlanta Blackstar are considered an enhancement of self-esteem among them. According to Verna Keith, self-esteem is defined as “the evaluative dimension of the self” (2009, p.33) and borrowing Porter and Washington’s definition, it is “feelings of intrinsic worth, competence and self-approval rather than self-rejection and self-contempt” (ibid). Among black people in the United States, media would be used for both sides, in negative and positive ways. In negative ways it is used for accelerating black culture and its representation, and the images are often applied to all black people without considering characteristics of the individuals. However in positive way it could be used for encouraging themselves and applauding black culture and its experiences. In this case the idea of “double consciousness” would be related.

Double consciousness is presented by W. E. B. Du Bois and according to Craig (2009), the concept “provides a useful way to think about the interrelationships between white and black systems of representation” (p.84). Double consciousness is two dimensions of how black see their world from their view. One dimension is that blacks have to see themselves and judge themselves as whites see them, which describes the internalization of racist systems of representation. Another is an internalization of dominant views of oneself and a critical awareness of the structure of racism along with an ability to recognize the presence of racism (ibid, p.84-85).

Until the emergence of social media, only the former dimension had covered people’s viewd, but social media gave them an opportunity to share their second insight, a critical awareness of the structure of racism. If it might have been the great chance to recall black consciousness and lighten their self-esteem, what kind of positive aspects would appear?

Positive and negative aspects

Now this paper will look at whether the emergence of social media is positive or negative. Grasmuck, Martin, and Zhao (2009) explored racial issues which often come along with injustice frequently included by the African American, Latino, and Indian students on their Facebook wall. The authors theorize that these wall postings accelerate “a sense of group belonging, color consciousness, and identification with groups historically stigmatized by dominant society” (ibid). That means racism still occurs in social media.
However Daniels also examined that some dominant groups rarely signed up as their racial categorized group and they foster an idea of “racelessness” through it. In addition according to Popukin, Kabashima, and Kawaguchi, the internet doesn’t work for erasing racism and even ignorance is very dominant on the internet (p.64). Though the internet has been penetrated and larger number of people now have access to talk openly about issue of racism, the open network works not only to improve the issue but also to foster blindness toward racism and colorism.

Through this post, I have looked at the relationship between media and racism and how it has changed. As media has been developing, the racial awareness and consciousness has changed, however media could not only influence racism in positive way. In social networking sites and social media, people have started to get around with the others belonging in the same group but simultaneously race blindness and racelessness have gotten bigger power than before. Whether the feud between more powerful voices and encouragements which minorities got in social networking and racelessness that racial dominant group of people often foster would weaken or not will be the next challenge of racism we will face.

References

  1. Craig, Maxine Leeds. (2009). The color of an ideal negro beauty queen: miss bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press (pp.81-94).
  2. Daniels, Jessie. (March 2nd, 2013). Race, Racism & Social Networking Sites: What the Research Tells Us. Retrieved on December 23, 2013 from http://www.racismreview.com/blog/category/social-networking-sites/
  3. Gordon, T., Jones, J. & Morris, S. (2014) Atlanta blackstar: about us. http://atlantablackstar.com/about-us/
  4. Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  5. Harris, Angela P. (2009). Introduction. In Glenn, N. E. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  6. Keith, Verna M. (2009). A colorstruck world: skin tone, achievement, and self-esteem among African American women. In Glenn, E. N. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, CA : Stanford University Press.
  7. Popukin, L. S., Kabashima, I., & Taniguchi, M. (Eds.) (2008). Changing media, changing politics. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.
  8. Webb, L. S. (n.d.). How colorism affects light skinned girls and women. Retrieved on December 21, 2013 from http://www.npr.org/2012/09/13/161082306/william-julius-wilson-ending-poverty-is-possible
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Globalization of Names

by Aki Yamada

Have you ever heard English names for non-English speakers? Or, have you ever introduced your friends like “Here are my friends, Christine, John, Sophia and Mason. They are all from China!!” Actually, this was my experience when I studied abroad in America and I wanted to introduce my friends to other friends. I did not feel strange about their names at that time, however, now I think it was greatly impacted by globalization. Globalization is the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries. As one of its influences, globalization has made huge impacts in cultural areas in countries, such as music, movies, radio, books, and also people’s and companies’ names. Therefore, I want to discuss why people (especially Chinese) can change their names to English names, and to compare to the Japanese case.

Firstly, in Japan, it is quite rare for Japanese people to change their names by themselves because Japanese names are so simple and easy to remember for English speakers. Thus, they do not feel necessity to change their names. In addition, if you want to change your name, it is possible, but you need to go to a domestic court to get permission for that. However, usually it is difficult to go through these processes because you need a clear reason to change your name. As another reason why Japanese keep their name is that they have own pride and honor of their names. We think this name was given from my parents so we should keep our name carefully.

On the other hand, in China, there are some reasons that why it is easy to change their names into English names. First, for English speaker, it is really tough to read and pronounce Chinese names such as Yeo Wern Xin and Yanxiao. Second, changing their names is a right and duty of Chinese people, which is defined by the Chinese constitution, article 99. They only require doing some paper work to change their name. So, I can say it is much easier and carefree things to change their names. Third, people change their names for their job hunting, which is deeply related to the tough pronunciation of their names. Above, those reasons, compared to Japanese, it is quite common to change their name in global society. And, possibly, it is good way to change their name to get used to global (English speaking) society sometimes. However, as Japanese, to know real name is most important thing to communicate other culture in global world.

Equality = Abstemiousness + munificence

Happiness

Happiness (Photo credit: Rickydavid)

by Glenn Soenvisen

In the contemporary societies of developed countries, most people agree that every individual should be equal to one another: we should have the same rights and possibilities in life no matter who you are and where you come from. Isn’t it strange, then, that we still struggle with poverty, hunger, racism and gender issues, not only in the world as a whole, but in our own respective countries as well? “In principle it’s easy, but you can’t apply any kind of idealism to the real world,” you might argue, and I would have to agree, because indeed, nothing is perfect; there will always be inequalities.

However, I would argue that we are nowhere near perfection in regards to equality issues, and therefore able to lessen these issues tremendously by doing simply one thing: to turn from greedy materialism to moderate abstemiousness and munificence, not only of food, but of everything that the term “materialism” includes – and money. I would even say this approach will increase our happiness in the long run. This text is especially for those that are better-off in our societies.

Just think about when you were most happy in your life: people, even the relatively young ones, reminisce about their their childhood and teens; for elderly people it’s a trademark to do so. Then, what is it that makes us so incredibly happy in our earlier years? I would say it is forced abstemiousness. Remember that doll your parents didn’t buy for you, but gave you as a present on your birthday later that year? Or the time when you finally bought the video game you couldn’t afford after weeks of saving up money? Oh, how worn that doll is now and oh, how many times you played through that game, and most important of all: oh, how you enjoyed it.

Then you grew up, and finally you could mindlessly indulge in your hobbies and interests. Maybe you’re sitting there with a collection of rarely touched, clean dolls on display, or have a whole shelf lined with unplayed and half-finished games wondering where the happiness you had as a child has gone. In short, money spent on yourself can only go so far in making you happy. You don’t need twelve pair of shoes; you don’t need the newest version of iPhone; you don’t need two two-weeks’ vacations a year in Spain at a luxurious hotel; you don’t need everything you buy.

However, we all know that spending money on other people is a delightful feeling: we all like to make one’s girlfriend/boyfriend happy by taking them to a movie or dinner, for example. Even so, this too has its limits regarding happiness. If you spend too much, you’d be worrying if you are dating a gold-digger only after your money, and unless the other person actually is that, he/she would likely feel guilty for accepting your expenditure on him/her.

So what should you do with the leftover money (that is, if you have any)? If you’ve decided to become abstemious yourself and munificent towards your dearest, surely you could put them in a bank for interest along with your other funds, or maybe invest them into stocks to earn even more. But what’s the point? What we’re talking about is leftover money. Why do you need more? You could spend it on insurances and other measures for social security, but considering you have the leftover money in the first place there’s no particular need for that. In short, money can’t do anything more for you; it can’t increase your happiness.

Then, what should you do? I, for one, would say that you should spend it on social welfare. Not only does it benefit you, but it benefits the society as a whole. Donate money to voluntary organizations, vote for higher taxes, and buy a meal to a poor person.

These small things that all of us are able to do to some degree are certainly not going to change our societies in a flash. Inequalities won’t disappear overnight. However, there are benefits: by buying less, massive international corporations will have less incentive to press prices down and move production to impoverished areas. By spending leftover money on social welfare, you will firstly help to reduce social exclusion, which is an important factor for being able to make social contacts and get a job. Secondly, you will help to increase the social security in a non-radical way. Thirdly, you help making social issues known through the support of organizations who promote them. In short, you help people to be able to acquire the same rights and possibilities as yourself, and you hinder people living in impoverished areas to be trapped by long hours of hard work and low income.

You might not see much to the results of your support, but changes cannot always be radical. They cannot always be “neither/nor,” like many social movements portray solutions to issues, since that would throw a society in complete turmoil. Instead, inequalities will gradually lessen through abstemiousness and munificence, which hopefully will seep into our heads and become the norm. In the end, you’ll get happier and you’ll help both yourself and others to stand on equal footing.

Promoting a More Lively Planet

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Kyle Phan

When the earthquake damaged Fukushima a couple years ago, I knew something big had occurred because radiation is not a simple matter. It was only when I came to Japan that I learned from a documentary that the aftermaths of the earthquake are indeed, really bad. People are protesting against nuclear power and the Japanese government must decide where to throw away its nuclear waste. It appears the situation got way out of control, and some people are ignoring the situation. I can’t really blame the people of Fukushima for feeling powerless, but I think everyone, especially countries who use nuclear power, should brainstorm solutions and learn from the situation instead of ignoring it. To prevent future scenarios involving nuclear radiation, the situation must be approached both locally and internationally because an environmental crisis could happen at any given time to any country that uses nuclear power.

In order to improve the conditions at Fukushima, it is really important that the government first stops denying the situation. The people with power need to take responsibility for their decisions of building the nuclear plant at Fukushima and start developing perspective of the unequal treatment of the people of Fukushima. Japanese politicians and any person with power needs to move away from their self-interests (tragedy of the commons) and realize the injustice of the situation because environmental crisis can happen to any person regardless of social background. If the Japanese government has the money, then why not fix the situation and help the victims of Fukushima? Allowing the nuclear waste pile up somewhere or discarding the waste to some poorer area in Japan or even China (environmental racism) is no solution.  If they decide to get rid of the waste like that, the politician must make sure no people inhabit the area, but doing so, either way has implications for the environment which must be handled internationally.

Since dealing with nuclear waste is easier said than done, I think the top scientists of every country that uses nuclear power should collaborate for some feasible solutions because they are the experts on the subject. The Earth is our home and we should work together to alleviate pollution! If we can’t fix the problem right now, we must strive for the future: people all over the world must start pursuing alternative sources of energy! Maybe we should invest in solar panels, or better yet, better funding for STEM research might be the answer. Since Jeffrey Jousan has said the US is partially the reason why Japan first began using nuclear power, I also think US could offer some assistance in cleaning up the waste.  I think everyone would agree that both the poor and the rich are alive because of what the Earth offers: the water you drink, the air you breathe, the food you eat, you’re alive because of the Earth.

Clearly, the current issues goes deeper than what has been mentioned. It is obvious that something must be done with the power differences among the power companies and the Fukushima victims. With that being said, only the Japanese can fix their own problem. The people with power must develop the perspective of the victims and realize that Fukushima are “Japanese” people too. In order for progress to be made, the younger generation needs to stop isolating themselves from the polluted environment (inverted quarantine) and start being getting their voices heard by those with power! Maybe we can’t fix Fukushima, but in order for environmental conditions to change for the people of Fukushima, there needs to be more support for environmental change. The Fukushima moms can’t be out fighting by themselves. Being aware is not enough, it is time for people to start being active in the process! However, it is difficult because of limiting factors such as the cultural values of Japanese people not wanting to appear troublesome to other people and the “lack of freedom of press in Japan.” People internationally also need to start being active with environmental movements because nuclear waste has implications to our home, the Earth.

References

Press Freedom Index 2013″ en.rsf.org. 2013. 11 Dec. 2013. http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

Globalization in Japan

by Kaho Nagao

Since our generation has been in school, teachers, the media and so on often say that “Globalism is important and you guys might to be an global person.” On the other hand, the definition of globalism and globalization are very vague and huge. Actually I still do not know what globalization is. In addition, Japan often said that we are not globalized and we need to be hurry and adapt globalization. However, accepting globalization is really important and do we need to be so?

The specific example is mobile phone. For a long time, in Japan many people use normal mobile phone. Main work for them is calling and sending text in special way, which using e-mail address. On the other hand, the other countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Korea, sending text through the telephone numbers was most popular. The introduction of smart phone was delayed both spreading and developing even though Japan was one of the most famous countries for these technologies. Some people said that Japan need to catch up and develop more and more.

In here, the problem is that is it important to catch up to other country or not. Of course, we sometimes need to understand what is happened on the earth and think about problems. However, in Japan, even though some says that some realize and move towards, most people are not move and do not understand the importance of that. Changing people is very difficult about knowing importance is more difficult.

Globalization is recently speed up and some are confusing about that fact, however, cherishing and knowing our own culture and learning about different way of thinking and view will be help understand one of the best way to what is globalization and how to survive international society.

How can we build an “equal” society?

by Yuki Muto

In class, we talked about how much salary baseball players should receive. Someone said they should be paid depending on their ability and achievements. Others said they should be paid basically the same amount. Both ways are “equal ways.” In the professional sports world, a stronger one and winner get much merit. We usually don’t complain when a gold medalist get more money than a silver medalist. So, I think a merit system may be admirable in professional sports word. However, given the social system, we cannot build equal society when we think this way.

There are huge gaps and inequality in our society, and some people suffer from poverty. In class, I learned that poor people are poor not because they are wrong, but because they are socially vulnerable. The social system makes wealth and poverty. In our society, we have different environments and backgrounds by nature. People can’t conquer the problem of low incomes, unemployment, sickness, disability, gender, poor health or old age by their efforts. We need to provide security to people who are suffering from these problems in a social system, and that is why social welfare and education are important in our society.

I worry that the Japanese social system tends to be a merit system. Like a professional sports athletes, people who have power and wealth get more power and money, and poor people can’t overcome the poverty. We say our society is a stratified society. I’m surprised that Japanese level of income inequality is high and more close to the data of the U.S. than other developed countries. When I talked with Nordic students in our class, I always wondered why we can’t do like these countries! “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.” That is an article in Japanese constitution. Japanese social welfare system is not enough to secure the all people’s “minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”

So, what can we do to improve our social system? I think there are 3 steps. First, people (especially who are socially vulnerable) must recognize they are poor because of social structure and system. Second, these people insist to the society the system should be changed, as shown in the film “Women of Fukushima”. When I watched the movie, I thought, to change the social situation, people in trouble need to think, insist and make an action. Third, we need listen to their assertion and support them. It is impossible to make perfect equal society, but it is possible to advance forward equal society.

Environmental Racism – A problem with no visible solution

Save our water

Save our water (Photo credit: uusc4all)

by Jonas Horvei

The world as we know it is still very much an unequal society.  It is unequal because how others will treat us in our lives is already to a certain extent pre-determined on the day when we are born. Where we are born, our nationality, our family’s background, one’s looks, and the color of one’s skin and so on all plays different in how others will perceive and treat you. A few weeks ago I learned of another new concept related to inequality and discrimination called “Environmental Racism”. According to the USlegal (2013) definition, environmental racism can be defined in the following way:

Environmental racism refers to intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. It is the racial discrimination in the enactment or enforcement of any policy, practice, or regulation that negatively affects the environment of low-income and/or racially homogeneous communities at a disparate rate than affluent communities. (2013, USLegal)

Hand in hand with the concept of environmental racism, we also have the concept of environmental justice. In short, environmental justice can be said to be a movement’s response to solve the issues of environmental racism. It is more or less a social movement who strives to put an end to environmental racism, or at the very least to create a more even distribution of both the benefits and burdens.

According to the basic principles of Environmental justice, the movement strives towards the following goals:

  • For everyone to be protected from environmental harm
  • The elimination of environmental threats
  • That everyone has the freedom to participate in environmental decision making

Whether it is possible to realize these ideals or not is a completely different question. What we can conclude so far though is at least, that social movements such as these do help, and they do have results. Pellow and Brulle (2007) describe in one article how the environmental justice movement has been able to fight against cases of environmental racism in the United States. They describe first how researchers managed to provide conclusive evidence that there was in fact a large bias in hazardous waste sites being located in communities where the majority of the citizens were minority groups. Through years of long battles the environmental justice movement helped stop the construction of over 300 garbage incinerators in the United States just in the period short period from 1985-1998. At the same they also influenced the large decline of municipal waste and medical incinerators also in the United States.

In such cases, we can clearly see that social movements do provide a very important element on the local level to stop the construction of sources of hazardous emissions. They highlighted the issues of environmental racism, and the dangers associated with chemical waste incinerators. Without the environmental justice movement, it is hard to say what the situation would be like, but it is evident that social movements do help.

As can be observed, the movement of environmental justice in America has had a strong impact on American society and has had a positive effect, whereas many of the most hazardous polluters have either been shut down or forced to relocate, and has made it difficult in the creation of new such polluting sources in America. Nevertheless even with such incredible results achieved, I cannot help but having this pessimistic view that there is still a long way to go and that future outlook certainly might not exactly be optimistic as many are to believe.

Then comes the problem, what do we actually do with the waste? With larger volumes of waste being produced, where do we put it, what do we do it? We put it somewhere else and ignore the problem. In my opinion, it seems like we are simply witnessing a relocation of the problem itself, that is to say that the problem is instead being transferred to somewhere else. Due to the influence of globalization, more and more industries take the leap abroad, often to developing countries. In such countries not only are labor costs cheaper, the emission restrictions are often much more relaxed. As a result the developed country can remove its pollution problem from its own border, while at the same time gaining profit from not having it in locating it their home country. So even if we might see an improvement in terms of hazardous waste and pollution in our local culture, it does not necessarily mean that the problem has disappeared. In fact in many cases it is highly likely just that it has simply been relocated somewhere else. America does it, Japan does, China does it, even Norway does it, and every country is guilty of it. For instance you have the case of Thor Chemicals, Inc, who during the 1980s moved its mercury reclamation processing facility from the corporation’s home in England to a village in South Africa. (Harper, Rajan 2004, p.3) Cases on international scale where the Northern countries move production, or move the waste disposal to southern countries are unfortunately far too common.

Then what is the solution to environmental inequality and environmental racism? Environmental emissions, pollution and hazardous waste are some of the biggest problems we are facing on a worldwide scale. There is no easy fix, it is as simple as that. Stricter restrictions, finding more environmental friendly solutions, raising awareness of the problem, and stopping making companies benefit from polluting rather than operating environment-friendly are some of the solutions off the top of my head. That is how we I believe we can minimize the problem. As long as issues of environmental pollution exist, inequality will also exist. As sad as it may sound, this is a natural part of human nature, we discriminate against those who are different. As long as we can get away with it, we discriminate, and as long as it remains more profitable to dump waste in neighborhoods with minority groups, or shipping off tons of waste to the Philippines or Bangladesh, environmental inequality will persist, without taking into account the health of other human beings that do not belong in our local environment.

References

Harper, Rajan. “International Environmental Justice: Building the Natural Assets of the World’s Poor.” University of Massachusetts, August 2004. Web 18.December. 2013. http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_51-100/WP87.pdf

Brulle, Pellow. “Poisioning the planet: the struggle for environmental justice” the American sociological association, 2007. Web 18 December. 2013.

Fast food and globalization: between export and adaptation of flavors

Japanese McDonald's fast food as evidence of c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Marin Enault

Every 3 hours a new McDonald’s restaurant opens in the world. This simple figure allows us to glimpse the power of the fast food chains, a pure product of the globalization. To study the influence and the development of these restaurants allows us to see most clearly the face of globalization. If we understand this concept as “the emergence of worldwide markets and communications that increasingly ignore national boundaries”, it is interesting to notice that at the same time as they ignore national barriers, these multinationals also adapt themselves to countries’ specificities. It then seemed interesting to me to study these restaurants. First of all I shall concentrate on the creation of the fast food as a consequence of globalization. Then, the opposite viewpoint will be examined, that is how fast food owes or wishes to adapt itself to local frames.

Globalization in the culinary domain is the export of a food and its specialities towards foreign countries. More particularly, in the field of the fast food it is necessary to notice the major origin of this export: the United States. In the post Second World War Era, the United States has exported its culture massively, in particular its culinary culture. So the first one McDonald’s outside the United States opened in 1967 in Canada, before arriving in 1971 in Europe (the Netherlands). Since then, the burger has continued to see growth in popularity.

Nowadays the chain McDonald’s possesses more 31,000 restaurants in 120 different countries. This increase in importance comes along with a standardization of the tastes. The plurality of the tastes is questioned by these multinationals, creating a unique taste, intended for mass production. Acculturation for some, the superior power of the industry of the fast food exports its idea of  food. So, the “Big Mac” is known all over the world and acts like an ambassador of American cooking, to the detriment of the rich local cooking, passed from generation to generation. Through the globalization, fast food proposes a standardization of the cooking and export the same culinary standards everywhere around the world.

Nevertheless, if the fast food is well and truly a product of globalization, it remains dependent on the host country’s culture. If globalization allows a distribution without barrier, it is left by standards which do not fade. To conquer new markets, restaurant chains have to adapt their product. The unique taste does not any more succeed in seducing only by its exotic image. The first adaptation that fast food have to make concern the product in itself, that is its taste. McDonald’s very early understood this necessity, so the examples of “glocalization” are not lacking. This neologism born in Japan proposes a new definition of the globalization. It is a concept allying the global trends to the local realities: think global but act locally.

So, to seduce the French consumers, fervent followers of their national food, McDonald’s proposed burgers with real French bread (McBaguette) and with real cheese, benefiting from a label checking their French origin (AOC: controlled designation of origin). Outside Europe, this strategy has a lot of success, particulary in Asia. So, Indonesia possesses a burger with rice (McRice) whereas Japan possesses its own teriyaki burger. This glocalisation of products is a new fact entering in a global protest movement of the permanent Americanization of fast food. Firms are no more content with exporting the same product but begin to analyze the real demands of countries, in particular to mitigate a lack of novelty.

The second adaptation also establishes itself on a deeper request of the consumers but in another domain: religion. So, Indian McDonald’s burgers do not possess pork but chicken, to not hurt the faith over this animal. Globalization also pulls a plurality of the religions mixed within the same country. North Africa mmigrants’ strong presence in France, often of Muslim faith, brought the chain of fast food Quick to propose burgers with hallal meat. This adaptation made for the various religions proves well that globalization creates its own limits. A unique product is not exportable any more in the same way everywhere around the world.

Globalization thus allowed the fast food industry to develop. Nevertheless, if during numerous years, fast food meant Americanization of the tastes, things changed. It is necessary to see from now on this phenomenon between globalization and glocalization: export while adapting itself to the local cultures. This movement was impulsed by the customers, not being satisfied with an unwavering uniqueness of products.

What is interesting with the study of the fast food in touch with the globalization is that it does not concern only the food, but much more the culture. The phenomenon of globalization cannot break all the barriers to create a homogeneous international culture. To convince yourself, you just have to eat sushi outside Japan. If the taste is different from the original one, it remains that we eat them with chopsticks. So the export of the cultural codes is often easier than that of the tastes, that what explains the new importance given to the glocalization in fast food restaurants.