lipstick for slaves

I was introduced to Radiant Cosmetics’ “Kiss Slavery Goodbye” campaign through a fashion blogger I’ve been following for some time. As I mindlessly scanned the blurb (because no one actually reads fashion blogs), I was suddenly forced to engage when I read the following:

For every lipstick purchased, we’ll donate a lipstick on your behalf to a survivor or current victim of trafficking. 

lipstick

Wait. What? You will donate some lipstick to a prostitute or child slave?

I can imagine how that conversation will go:

“Hey! Are you a slave?”

“Yes. I suffer daily at the hands of tyrants. I am violated, stripped of human rights, treated like a dog.”

“Great! Leah in Charlottesville donated this lipstick to you. It’s definitely your color.”

I’d like to give Radiant Cosmetics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a typo? Maybe they’re giving lipstick to Texas preteens in the hopes that they’ll recruit them for the virtuous cause of ending human trafficking?

Except they don’t say that. They say they’re going to hand sexually violated and demeaned and desperate people some lipstick, then maybe smoosh their glossy lips together and blow them a kiss before bidding them adieu.

I hope they realize that something as serious as human trafficking doesn’t really pair well with the American beauty industry, that it’s inappropriate – and frankly, bizarre – to put a cutesy spin on slavery. (To their credit, they do donate 20% of all proceeds to charities that work to end human trafficking.)

(On only a slightly different note, I recommend watching the documentary, Whores’ Glory)

Revision 1/5: My husband discovered this excerpt from a British soldier’s journal that has a very different firsthand take on giving lipstick to slaves. I don’t know if this particular incident directly correlates to the one above, but it’s still worth a read for reflection’s sake.

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4 thoughts on “lipstick for slaves

  1. Indeed, point taken. Such a gesture is easy to make, but it’s a small step and better than none at all. Well done on your efforts to raise awareness in the fair trade area Leah.

  2. I was about to post a mitigating comment then the linked article sort of backed me up. Freed slaves are at the lowest ebb possible and every little gesture that begins the process of normalisation helps. I guess a cosmetics company is therefore doing what it feels best, even though it sounds a bits nuts to start with.

    1. Yeah, I appreciate every angle and I feel a bit guilty for posting something negative when they’re sincerely trying to help. But I left this post up because I think it serves as a good contrast to other, completely flippant posts about the campaign. You can read them if you do a google search on “kiss slavery goodbye.” I take issue with companies that trivialize global human rights issues by plugging them into cute advertising campaigns. I think it’s great that companies are interested in helping out and spreading awareness, but I want people to really feel the pain of the suffering and not just buy lipstick to ease their temporary guilt.

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