Companies Continue Sanitizing Language as 'Whitening' and 'Master Bedroom' Come Under Fire


L’Oreal and the Houston Association of Realtors have joined companies across the country that are changing the language and branding they use that could be considered controversial.

The world’s largest cosmetic and beauty company announced on June 26 that it would stop using “whitening” and “fair” to describe its products, CNN reported.

“The L’Oreal Group has decided to remove the words white/whitening, fair/fairness, light/lightening from all its skin evening products,” L’Oreal said in a statement.

The Houston Association of Realtors announced earlier in June that it would replace the phrases “master bedroom” and “master bathroom” with “primary bedroom” and “primary bathroom” on its listings, according to KPRC-TV.

The change reportedly came after several members asked for a review of the terminology.

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“The updates to Primary Bedroom and Primary Bath were among nine requests for review that were submitted by members and considered at the most recent meetings,” a statement from HAR to its members read.

“The overarching message was that some members were concerned about how the terms might be perceived by some other agents and consumers. The consensus was that Primary describes the rooms equally as well as Master while avoiding any possible misperceptions.”

The HAR’s change is not a ban on the term “master” and members can choose to use the term as they “feel appropriate.”

These are just the latest organizations to change their terminology in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for roughly nine minutes during an arrest.

Do you think these companies have gone too far?

Johnson & Johnson announced on June 22 that it would be pulling two product lines that were promoted as dark-spot reducers but used to lighten skin, Fox News reported.

The products were a Clean & Clear Fairness line sold in India and the Neutrogena Fine Fairness line sold in Asia and the Middle East. Neither product was sold in the United States.

“Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

“This was never our intention — healthy skin is beautiful skin.”

The Quaker Oats Company announced on June 17 that it will permanently pull its Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix for promoting a “racial stereotype.”

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“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, the Quaker Foods North America vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a media release.

“While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.

“We are starting by removing the image and changing the name,” Kroepfl said.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith