Baby Powder Ethnic Targeting

Did Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder target minorities?

Did johnson & johnson's baby powder target ethnic minorities?

While it is meant to eliminate friction against the skin, produce a “clean, classic scent” and has been “dermatologist and allergy tested”, according to the  Johnson & Johnson website, Johnson and Johnson's Baby Powder is meant to create a comfortable feeling to the skin. Yet, this product meant for babies has also been used by many women, particularly African American women to maintain feminine hygiene over the years. The talcum based product may have created a fresh feel for the day, but in the long run, for many women, it may have also been a factor in developing ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson lawyers recently lost a lawsuit when a Missouri court ordered the company to pay $72 million in damages to Jacqueline Fox’s family. Fox, an African American woman who died of ovarian cancer, joined a group of over 1,000 women suing because of cancers related to baby powder and other talcum-based products. These talcum powder lawsuits along with the Baby Powder lawsuits have attorneys fighting against the company’s lack of label warnings, negligence and also conspiracy. 

While the talcum powder attorneys and the Baby Powder attorneys continue to fight against these lawsuits, there may be another issue at hand. With the lack of labeling, these products have been constantly used by Black women and Latina women. In her deposition Fox even stated how she was raised on using Baby Powder and sprinkling it in places such as her underwear. 

Historically African American women have used baby powder under breasts, on areas close to the vaginal area such as underwear and other areas to stay fresh, fight off sweat and odors. “Like pressing our hair and lotioning our legs, douching and deodorizing vaginas is something black women teach out daughters and sister-friends teach our friends,” Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in a Time article. She stated that more Black women douche and deodorize in comparison to white women. 

She also referenced Michelle Ferranti’s article, “An Odor of Racism: Vaginal Deodorants in African-American Beauty Culture and Advertising” in which Ferranti wrote about how Black woman and their ideas of hygiene and taking extra care of their bodies stem from slavery times when Black people were believed to smell among many other negative stereotypes. Tinsley wrote that not only is racism a factor, but standards put on women by men that “vaginas are rank” also contribute. “Johnson & Johnson and other companies are ready to profit from these myths of the excessive black vagina,” Tinsley wrote. “They’re willing to capitalize on our internalized misogynoir even if we die in the process.”

Only time will tell how these Johnson & Johnson lawsuits will end for the other hundreds of women, but until then, hopefully there will be a better education of the dangers products containing Talc may contain.

By Janeal Downs

Legal Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to be used as medical information or diagnosis. The sources of the information presented in the article have been researched and are linked within the article. Please seek out medical advice from a licensed medical professional if you are experiencing a problem with any of the drugs or devices mentioned in this article. 

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