Cibu responds to concerns about “Asian-inspired” beauty products

Content notes:anti-Asian stereotypes, media racism and sexism. 
Originally posted by Nikki at Irene’s Daughters.


geishalicious
Since I wrote this post, the manager of Cibu International has been in touch with me regarding their problematic product names.

While I’m still troubled by the names — including “Geishalicious” shampoo, “Miso Knotty” detangler, and “Take-out” clarifying shampoo — I also want to stress how surprised and how glad I am that a representative of the company is open to discussion. I’ve been assured that the president of the company and the marketing team is taking this issue “very, very seriously.” I have also been told that they are open to taking action, which cannot happen overnight.

I’ve never used Cibu’s products; they were completely unknown to me until a few weeks ago. But, like many people I know, I’ve been to Bubbles and bought other products at Hair Cuttery, and would certainly consider going back if this matter is resolved. The Cibu line is a big deal because its whole brand is based on cultural misappropriation, because the products are sold widely, because it involves millions of dollars in stock and marketing — which is how it caught my attention, and why I wrote about it. But none of my comments about the Cibu product names were made because I believed the company or its employees were terrible or racist people. Good people with no racist intentions can play a part in such problems and offenses without any malicious intent. If we’re honest, we know that none of us are unaffected by racism or cultural stereotypes; none of us do as much as we could to challenge and undermine racism, prejudice, or appropriation. But Cibu has a great opportunity to do just that by addressing their problematic branding, and I take them at their word that they are listening right now.

I wrote about this in part because I do live in the area where Cibu is based, and have visited the salons selling their products. I wrote about it because it is important and worthwhile to call attention to cultural stereotypes and appropriation. I wrote about it because I am a Korean American woman raising multiracial daughters, who doesn’t want them subjected to or hurt by pervasive and harmful racial/cultural stereotypes about Asian women. I also wrote about it expecting that Cibu wouldn’t respond at all. But they have chosen to respond, and I give them a lot of credit for talking.

We’re tabling our discussion till after the holidays. I just wanted to post this update to let people know about the response I’ve gotten thus far, and to stress that this dialogue is important and should be carried out respectfully. Most companies probably wouldn’t have engaged in any kind of discussion at all after receiving critical feedback. But Cibu has. While change may be a long way off — or it might not happen not at all — I did want to acknowledge them for taking this initial positive step.

8 Comments

  1. Glad to hear it. As someone with a graduate degree in East Asian studies, studying the constant Othering of women in general and Asian women is a constant source of exasperation–and more so when others can’t see why it’s problematic and offensive. Thanks for posting this!

    • Thanks, Leah! For what it’s worth, I do think Cibu should still hear from people about their highly problematic branding, in a way that encourages them to consider the necessary changes. I’d be very happy to see “Miso Knotty” and “Geishalicious” go, for a start.

      • I just emailed them a comment saying as much and suggested just using names like “lotus flower” or “cherry blossom.” I really, really hate exoticizing Asia–let’s just lump everything together and culturally misappropriate these “ancient cultures.” (And, as someone who studies Japanese culture, I have a lot of complicated feelings about my desire to immerse myself in elements of the culture without appearing like someone who misappropriates it…)

  2. Pingback: [Petition] Cibu: Stop using racism to sell products