The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

An open letter to the makers of Aussie hair products

Racist shampoo advert by Laura A. Brown
Racist shampoo advert, a photo by Laura A. Brown on Flickr.
(I put this on their Facebook page, but I've a feeling it may get deleted, so here it is for posterity.)
I have a few questions about your most recent Tube advert (picture attached).
1. Which specific people are you identifying as "ancient Aussies"? Do you mean one of the several hundred Aboriginal tribes, or the Torres Strait Islanders? It is estimated that up to 750 indigenous Australian languages have existed at one time or another; which one does "killibinbin" come from?*

2. Referring to the Aborigines and/or Torres Strait Islanders as "ancient Aussies" implies that these people are long gone. Are you aware that this is not the case? Over 500,000 Aboriginal people live and practice their traditions in Australia today, despite the best efforts of white settlers. Even the Tasmanian people were not completely wiped out by genocide until the late 19th century - hardly "ancient."
3. Is your reference to "ancient Aussies" meant to imply some connection between these peoples and your brand, which was founded by a white American and is currently owned by Bristol-Myers-Squibb?
4. Did you consult with any representatives of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities before approving this ad? In particular, were they happy with the reference to them "killibinbinning around the bush" in wonder at your product, and with your lighthearted attempt to make up a fake Aboriginal word?
5. Out of curiosity, does your company make any products designed for Aboriginal or other non-white hair?
Thank you.
* I did some Googling after writing this, and eventually worked out that it's probably Awabakal.


Mina Manik said...

Sorry i've stumbled upon your blog by accident. But YES! you are so right, agree with you completely. I'm about to attempt to send a formal email to the company.ignorance.

Mina Manik said...

actually, i can't put it in better words than you! hope you get a respons from them!

Laura Brown said...

Thank you! I'm glad to know I wasn't the only person to react that way.

nikki said...

Hey Laura, I also tweeted to you about this (sorry for multiple platform annoyance!) -- I'm working on a story for an online magazine about racism in hair/beauty advertising, and came across your post. Could I interview you about it? I'm particularly curious whether there was any response from the company.


Laura Brown said...

Sure - I've just e-mailed you at the address you gave on Twitter. Thanks for your interest!

Lauren said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found this advertisement horrible - and you're right, it's most likely Awabakal.