Women’s Disempowerment and Preferences for Skin Lightening Products that Reinforce Colorism: Experimental Evidence from India

39 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2016 Last revised: 1 Mar 2021

See all articles by Arzi Adbi

Arzi Adbi

National University of Singapore

Chirantan Chatterjee

SPRU-Sussex, U-Sussex Business School; Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad

Clarissa Cortland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Zoe Kinias

INSEAD

Jasjit Singh

INSEAD; INSEAD

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 21, 2021

Abstract

Global racism and colorism, the preference for fairer skin even within ethnic and racial groups, leads millions of women of African, Asian, and Latin descent to use products with chemical ingredients intended to lighten skin color. Drawing from literatures on the impact of chronic and situational disempowerment on behavioral risk-taking to enhance status, we hypothesized that activating feelings of disempowerment would increase women of color’s interest in stronger and riskier products meant to lighten skin tone quickly and effectively. In two experiments (Experiment 1: N = 253 women, 264 men; Experiment 2: replication study, N = 318 women) with distinct samples of Indian participants, we found that being in a state of psychological disempowerment (versus empowerment) increased Indian women’s preference for stronger and riskier skin lightening products, but not for milder products. Indian men’s interest in both types of products was unaffected by the same psychological disempowerment prime. Based on these findings, we recommend increased consideration among teaching faculty, research scholars, and clinicians on how feeling disempowered can lead women of color to take risks to lighten their skin, as well as other issues of intersectionality and with respect to colorism. We also encourage the adoption of policies aimed at empowering women of color and minimizing access to harmful skin lightening products.

Keywords: Disempowerment, Behavioral Risk-taking, Gender Bias, Colorism, Economic Disadvantage, Intersectionality

Suggested Citation

Adbi, Arzi and Chatterjee, Chirantan and Cortland, Clarissa and Kinias, Zoe and Singh, Jasjit and Singh, Jasjit, Women’s Disempowerment and Preferences for Skin Lightening Products that Reinforce Colorism: Experimental Evidence from India (January 21, 2021). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2021/02/OBH/STR, IIM Bangalore Research Paper No. 527, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2862997 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2862997

Arzi Adbi

National University of Singapore ( email )

15 Kent Ridge Drive
Mochtar Riady Building
Singapore, Singapore 119245
Singapore

Chirantan Chatterjee

SPRU-Sussex, U-Sussex Business School ( email )

Brighton, BN1 9SL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://profiles.sussex.ac.uk/p535606-chirantan-chatterjee

Hoover Institution, Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.hoover.org/profiles/chirantan-chatterjee

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad ( email )

Vastrapur
Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380 015
India

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.iima.ac.in/web/faculty/faculty-profiles/chirantan-chatterjee

Clarissa Cortland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Zoe Kinias

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex
France

Jasjit Singh (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex
France

INSEAD ( email )

1 Ayer Rajah Avenue
Singapore, 138676
Singapore
+65 67995341 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.insead.edu/singhj/

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