Sociology of shampoo

The success of Shiseido’s shampoo marketing offered me an opportunity to tell the story about Japanese women and their changing self-perception.
Beauty standards may seem trite _ more about self-asborbed conceit than anything else.
But the right to define beauty and see oneself (race, ethnicity, culture) as beautiful is an essential part of human rights.
One of the women I interviewed, Kaori Sasaki, a business consultant who has a Web page called ewoman, says today’s Japanese woman strives to be simple and organic in their lifestyles.
But that doesn’t mean she has to be digging around on a farm, growing vegetables.
The other key word is gorgeous, she says.
And so that ideal modern-day Japanese woman can be eating organic food and have down-to-earth values, but she may put on a glittering dress and go out.
She gets to have fun.
Still, looking at Race and Beauty never fails to get a bit depressing.
The combination seems to speak to the worst of our fetishes.
A feminist professor I spoke with, Teruko Inoue, told me the barriers of sex are especially pronounced in Japan because there aren’t as many other obvious non-gender ways to divide people for hierachical definitions as there are in other societies such as caste, race and ethnic groups.
So females have become synonymous with the underclass, the easiest to corner into exploitable labels.
Women have come to define the bottom rung of this allegedly (mythically) homogenous society.
This is insightful: Part-time workers are almost all female in Japan.
And women are grossly under-represented in Japanese management.
It’s hard being a woman in Japan.
And we’re so happy to be told, “Japanese women are beautiful,” we rushed out and bought shampoo!
Watch the TV ads here, and listen to the hit Smap tune, a Tsubaki original.
I don’t know why Unilever doesn’t retaliate with a Japanese version of the far more progressive Dove ads.
But maybe that concept won’t fly in Japan.
Shiseido meanwhile has more up its sleeve: a white Tsubaki.
The campaign blitz starts September: Stay tuned.