March 18, 2009

"Slanties" based on snow goggles

The Racialicious blog brings a product with a racist name--Slanties--to our attention.

slantiesslanties are based on ancient Inuit eyewear. Each pair of slanties is handcrafted. Our light, durable finish shows off the natural wood grain. slanties are engineered to be sturdy and reliable, and each pair is reinforced with a layer of fiberglass. If cared for correctly, your slanties will last for 800 years. Wear slanties on the beach as functional sunglasses. Wear slanties to the club. Wear slanties to visit your grandparents, they’ll love them too. We hope that each pair will bring you great happiness.Some background on the Inuit eyewear:

Spectacle 20/20In the Arctic, the sun shines low on the horizon twenty-four hours a day for nearly 190 days during the summer. Snow blindness occurs when the sunlight reflecting off the surface of the snow combines with the light angled directly into the eyes to burn the retina. For the Inuit, snow blindness hindered hunting, travel, and trade. The painful condition could last for days.

According to the Canada’s National History Society, the Inuit constructed eyewear from caribou antlers, bone, leather or wood. Carved to fit the natural curve of the face, with a divot for the bridge of the nose and two slits for the eyes, it was held in place with sinew, the first snow goggles date back to the Thule Inuit, two thousand years ago. The slits allowed them to see, but blocked enough light to prevent snow blindness. As technology advanced, this Inuit design gradually evolved into the sunglasses and protective eyewear of today.
Some comments on Slanties from Racialicious:Leandra wrote:

What is wrong with people??? Who thought this was a good idea and HOW?

Fiqah wrote:

You know what hurts most about this?

A whole buncha people had to drop the cultural-awareness/common sense ball for this product to become a reality. That’s a LOTTA racism at product development meetings, working lunches, happy hours, etc.

Anlina wrote:

Not only is it incredibly racist, it’s not even descriptive…there’s nothing “slanted” about these--it’s all parallel lines. It’s pretty bad when the *only* reasonable explanation for a product name is a racist stereotype. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?
Comment:  Stupid no. 1: Using a stereotype from the wrong culture. (Asian, not Inuit.)

Stupid no. 2: Using a stereotype that doesn't match the product. (The slits aren't slanted.)

Don't the Inuit have enough stereotypes without having to borrow a stereotype about Asians? Sheesh. If I were an Inuk, I don't know if I'd be mad or glad that some stupid marketer can't even stereotype me correctly.

If you want a stereotypical name from the right culture, how about Icies ("I see" or "eye-see")? Or Eye-Glues (like igloos)? Better yet, how about something nonstereotypical like Slitties or Snowgogs?

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Eskimos: The Ultimate Aborigines.


dmarks said...

Marvel's Moleman has a version of these. Oddly enough, they are slanted in the image in the link. I think in older renditions of the character, his goggles were not slanted.

Rob said...

I thought of the Mole Man too. But I couldn't work him into the posting without digressing too much.

I think the slant you see is mainly the perspective. I don't think anyone has drawn his goggles with a real slant.

Apparently the Mole Man's goggles weren't inspired by the Inuit eyewear. Despite the slits, they do the opposite: increase the ambient light.

The Mole Man wears protective goggles which enhance his sight in virtually any environment.