Can The Beauty Industry Ever Be Ethical? 0 744

The beauty industry has been a permanent feature in the business market for as long as most of us can remember. Different industries may be more popular from time to time but the constant that prevails is the need for individuals to be beautiful. From graphic eyeliner to a bejewelled brow and an over-lined lip, we have seen beauty trends change and expand to the times we live. As these trends change, so does the messaging behind them. In the fifties it was all about glamour with Marilyn Monroe-esque makeup, in the early 2000s it was more about embodying the pop stars of the decade, with glossy lips and glittery eyes. Now in 2020, makeup trends have adapted to embracing our own beauty, with beauty icons like Rihannah and the Hadid sisters. In these ‘woke’ times, it is not about using makeup to cover up or look different, but rather about enhancing what is already there. 

This shift in messaging comes about at a time where women are more empowered than ever before. Society is pushing back on the patriarchal notions of beauty while supporting more ethical and sustainable products. More companies are going green with vegan and cruelty-free makeup lines, while makeup artists opt for artistic looks vs the typical caked on cover-up trends we’ve seen for many years. However, the question stands: can an industry that is significantly based on exploiting the insecurities of (mostly) women ever truly be ethical? 

To decipher this issue and unpack it would take essays upon essays because it is deeply historical. Tracing back to the time of the Egyptians, how can we truly understand why makeup even became something that we cared about? How did it come to a point where so many of us feel like we can’t be seen without it? How has billions upon billions of dollars been made from something that is seemingly frivolous and unimportant? Is it the patriarchy? Is it just the way history has evolved? It’s hard to place what allowed it to come to this point but regardless of that fact, here we are.

For the beauty industry to survive it requires people to feel as if they are not enough without these products. If the majority of society felt good about how they looked without what these companies sell, it would be unlikely that the market could exist to the extent that it does now. It is ingrained within us that when a woman leaves her home to participate in society, she does so having her hair and makeup done to a certain preordained standard. If this standard didn’t exist then would the industry thrive the way it does? Unlikely. 

In addition to the insecurity-breeding standard that has been perpetuated by the beauty industry, there is also the issue of how these products are created and tested. In the past, animal testing and mass-production had been the norm. As consumers, we accept these practices because alternatives were scarce and knowledge of the damage was not widespread. However, we yet again see how the influence of social media has allowed information to be disseminated to a widespread audience and consumers becoming more mindful on the production of their favourite cosmetics.

When it comes to such a historical industry that dates back to days of Cleopatra and the French Court, it is hard to truly decide what constitutes an ethical beauty industry and a non-ethical one. The progress we’ve seen in messaging gives us hope that eventually society will move to embrace more body and beauty positivity with makeup being a tool for embracing what we already have. To answer the question, can the beauty industry ever truly be ethical – Yes, but it is going to take a long time and a lot of reconditioning for us to get there. 

What do you think?

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Crossing Into 5 Digits 0 358

The Covid-19 situation in Malaysia continues to deteriorate with cases reaching an all-time high on the 15th of July at 13,215. A milestone Malaysians did not want to achieve, crossing into 5 digits was something most hoped would be avoided. Despite the movement control order, strict targeted lockdowns and an increase in vaccination rates, the cases kept climbing until a slow decrease started showing in the past few days with today totalling at 10,972. Malaysians everywhere have grown impatient to the slow improvement and are rightfully demanding answers to some burning questions:

1- WHY have the cases not decreased despite the MCO?

2- WHY haven’t factories been shut down despite the majority of the cases coming from there?

3- WHEN will the lockdown end?

4- WHY are cases still going up despite such high vaccination rates?

5- WHO is going to be accountable for the mishandling of this pandemic?

6- HOW are people going to be supported through this time?

Even though the government has given answers to some of these questions, they have not satisfied the rakyat at the grassroots level. They explain that the increase in cases is due to the increase in testing. Although this may be true, it still does not give an explanation as to what is causing the continuous growth. With this time being our lowest lows as a country and the highest highs in cases, we have still yet to receive a satisfactory statement from the government providing some guidance to the people. 

Hope is dwindling, the economy is crashing and people are dying from Covid at an alarming rate. If the situation does not improve in the next couple of weeks, Malaysia is said to be in the uncharted waters of a failed nation. Many of the rakyat are severely affected and this is clearly seen in the Bendera Putih initiative where volunteers are coming back with stories of how so many people are really desperate for basic necessities, as jobs have been lost and there does not seem to be a solution in sight. The state of mental health among the rakyat is definitely being challenged and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of suicides.

Despite the fact that the government has been providing statistics showing that most cases are asymptomatic to low symptoms, the daily death rate has still been over 100 a day on average. The rakyat’s lack of confidence in the government is ever-present, and understandable, given the severity of the situation. 

With the new Delta variant scare of a high infection rate, the only solution seems to be vaccination and this has been increasing within the country with 14,347,285 being given at least their first dose. A plan is set in place to ramp up the vaccinations with hopes that this will cause a significant downturn in the daily cases. We can see the improvement in the daily numbers of vaccinations of all those who have signed up, even opening up walk-in vaccination for all Malaysians over 60. The next challenge will be to address all the Malaysians who have not signed up for vaccination especially in the rural areas.

The weeks to come are going to be vital for both the government and the people.

Effective Altruism: What is it & does it work? 0 333

Effective altruism is a niche term mainly used within the humanitarian and social responsibility community, we don’t often hear it in our day to day but it is something worth exploring because it brings about a unique perspective to doing good.

 So what exactly is effective altruism?  

Effective altruism is a concept that puts forth the notion that everyone ought to not only do good but the most good they can possibly do. However, when it comes to defining what doing the most good is, Peter Singer – one of the originators of the movement – takes a very cut and dry approach. He believes that when given two choices, a person ought to choose the option that does the most good for society without consideration to your emotional needs or preference. In a perfect world this may work but humans are intrinsically imperfect and most likely will do what is morally right for them but may not be entirely ethical on a larger scale. 

An example that well explains this is that of picking a job. Following the principles of effective altruism, when deciding whether to choose a career in social work or corporate work, choosing the corporate job and donating all the money you earned would be the correct choice. This is because you’d likely be able to contribute more and have a bigger impact through donating hundreds of thousands vs impacting a few lives in the non-profit field. Although picking the high-paying corporate job may be the best choice for society, it is nowhere near as emotionally fulfilling as working in a non-profit. This is one of the biggest downsides of effective altruism, it fails to consider the emotional aspects of people. 

Although the concept is a hopeful one, it thrives off a philosophy that doesn’t understand human nature. In our capitalistic society, individuals have no obligation to do good; let alone the most good that they possibly can. Earning money takes hard work and expecting them to put aside their own emotions to do what is of the most utility for society is unfair. In this sense, effective altruism isn’t all that effective since it cannot truly be put to practice.

To bridge this gap, a happy medium needs to be found. One where individuals are doing some good, likely not the most good they could possibly do but still some good nonetheless. Integrating the practices of effective altruism with those of modern-day capitalism will not be dependent upon individuals doing the most good themselves, rather, consume products that do the most good for them. This is where a conscious capitalist model comes into practice. Imagine a world where all necessities abided by a certain standard of social responsibility. They are mandated to “do the most good”. In this world, by just buying your daily groceries, as an individual you are doing your part because most of the products you bought contribute to something bigger. This solution takes the pressure off all of us and puts it onto the large corporations who have no reason to operate out of emotion. Corporations have enough money to abide by the standards of effective altruism and are able to make cut and dry decisions to do the most good. 

“A corporate shift to incorporating this philosophy is a shift from traditional capitalism to conscious capitalism”

So does effective altruism actually work? Yes and no. No, it doesn’t work for individuals – it is just not possible to get individuals to abandon their emotional and human nature to do the most good they possibly can. However, it does serve as a considerable starting ground for further thought on how individuals should approach doing good. If tweaked to fit into the corporate world, yes, effective altruism can work to create an equitable world where individuals are doing good in their everyday practices. A corporate shift to incorporating this philosophy is a shift from traditional capitalism to conscious capitalism, something we are already slowly seeing. But can this system ever work, or is it too optimistic to believe that corporations will ever work to do the most good?

What do you think?

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