comment on the Urban Decay statement

[UPDATED + see tomorrow’s post too]
Comments and critique: this may be a bit rapid, main points only:

1. I don’t like the decision and I am no longer going to buy their products. I will sacrifice future hypothetical purchases of Cannonball Waterproof Mascara. Individual human vanity is never worth more than ethics.

2. Nice try and clever, but I’m not convinced by the feminism of their argument.

(a) Feminism doesn’t mean more women in industries whose intention and purpose is to demean women, make them worry about their appearance, feed their anxieties, and ensure that they spend more time on that, time that they could otherwise be spending on actual feminist issues like being in the WHOLE labour-force (not some ghetto), revolt against patriarchy (and hey, we’re talking China here), and taking over the world.

(b) Nor does it mean giving women further choice of beauty products on which they can expend further time, effort, and brain-capacity–otherwise better spent on changing the world, and on which they can spend more of their money. That’s a false empowerment.

3. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. These excerpts from the statement are going to be very important, I think (and hope):

The news that animal issues don’t even register with the average Chinese consumer was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go there. During Urban Decay’s infancy, we worked hard to inform consumers about animal rights in the United States and Europe. The battleground for animal rights is now in China, and we want to be there to encourage dialogue and provoke change.

[…] we believe that change cannot and will not happen by outside pressure alone in a closed market. Change can only happen from within. When we enter the Chinese market, we will do our part to help make those changes.

I’ll be following what happens next with interest. What will be very interesting will be seeing if Urban Decay (and anyone else who throws in feminism and other rights arguments, as a move towards rights-respect, eventually those of animals too) does manage to say and do anything, and if those words and actions can be seen to have any tangible results in subversion and non-subversive above-the-board change. If that works, and if animal rights can be part of that, I’ll be impressed.

Good luck to them. This will include exercises in translation, including careful cultural translation. As you’ll see from 4 (c) iii/ below, it looks as though a shift into a less ethical way of thinking and being has already happened; which could also translate as more comprehensible in China, or indeed, audible and registering on the radar at all. Like certain sounds and intonations in Chinese are (or rather: are not) to an Indo-European ear. Could be better than invisibility, imperceptibility, inaudibility. Communication always has to start somewhere and progress, and the journey from mutual incomprehension (and indeed mutual teatment as barbarians or even non-beings) to respect and understanding; you don’t go straight from degree zero to the Babel fish.

4. But in the meantime I’m not buying from such companies, for three reasons:

(a) mammon is mammon is mammon

(b) I smell hypocrisy, and scepticism has kicked in: I’m not the sort of person who “trusts” or “believes in” brands and companies at the best of times, and this is far from a good time for Urban Decay in my good/bad books.

(c) A move in position on animal testing:

i/ the shift away from [UPDATE] this previous credo (March 2012, emphasis mine):

Urban Decay is, and always has been, a cruelty-free company. You’ll notice that every box bears our cruelty-free credo: “We don’t do animal testing. How could anyone?” We insist on producing beautiful, irreverent, high-end cosmetics without conducting animal testing. Some of our animal rights allies provide symbols to companies they trust to make cruelty-free products easy to identify, purchase, and support.

Although this statement is still there:

we are a cruelty-free company


  • from ” animal testing is wrong” + “we are committed/dedicated to the fight against animal testing” + “we are against animal testing”
  • “we don’t like animal testing,”

ii/ followed by the impossibility of these two mutually exclusive statements being logically compatible:

  • “we don’t like animal testing” / “we are a cruelty-free company”
  • “our products will be tested on animals”

iii/ a move from

  • “we are against animal testing”
  • “we don’t like animal testing”

Weakening what was previously a strong ETHICAL statement and position: “for/against” = “right/wrong”
—to a matter of aethetics and mood: “like” = “feel/opinion/view.”
Judgement has mutated in a downwards shift into value-judgement.

See in the following excerpt how UD has thrown ethics out the window:

Urban Decay is going to sell our products in China. […] the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. The government has not told us if they have exercised this right with our products. So, our brand does not test on animals, but the Chinese government might conduct a one-time test using our products. Do we like China’s policies? No…and that is really the point.”

Some comments from MakeupAlley, from a discussion yesterday through today:

One comment

  1. anna3101

    It’s a good thing I never bought anything from Urban Decay. Luckily, we still have a lot of choice when it comes to cruelty-free companies. Do they really think consumers are going to fall for their “we are doing this because we want to educate the Chinese” message? We want to ban animal testing, that’s why we will give our products for animal testing? Huh?

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