Sephora and Kat Von D: #DontBuyCelebutard

Sephora celebutard lipstickWhat is so wrong with the word “retard”?  Celebutard?  Is it really “just a f*ckin’ lipstick,” as Kat Von D says of her own product?  Well, nothing is wrong with those words, except… everything.  It is like waving a banner around.  A dirty, bigoted, cruel banner to announce that you have no respect for other people. 

Look.  It isn’t about the letters strung together in that particular order, pronounced in that particular way.  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a word that originally meant “to slow”.  It is the message.  Language has meaning, context, influence.  “Retard” has an original clinical meaning, sure, but is that how it is actually used in everyday language?  Nope.  It is used to compare something or someone to the image of disability to mock, denigrate, and insult.  Because, of course, being “mentally retarded” means you’re just stupid, and that is the worst thing ever, right?  (Yes, you’re correctly reading some sarcasm there.)

Let me make an explanatory confession.  When we started suspecting that our son might have Down syndrome, I remember feeling guilty.  What kind of mother would think her own son has Down syndrome?  During one of our moments of doubt, when we thought we might have been imagining it all, I thought, what if he doesn’t have Down syndrome?  What if he ever finds out what we suspected?  Ha.  Ha.  Yes, wouldn’t that be funny?  No one wants to be like that do they?  Soooo funny.

The word, and all the pieces of that word, are symbols for what I experienced in that moment with my son.  It was an ugly realization, when I finally understood how NOT funny that moment really was.  Not funny because for that moment that word flitted across my mind… retarded.  I didn’t want to think that he was an actual “retard”, because that would actually suck.  I might have never uttered the words, but I sure as hell thought it.

Using the words, or slang variants like “celebutard”, is like waving a banner for that kind of awful thinking in which I’d engaged.  It is an unmistakable, ugly banner that reads, “You are less worthy.”  It is like racism.  Erasing a racial slur doesn’t get rid of racism, but choosing certain words is a clear sign of it.  No one argues that it is ok to use racial slurs, then why is it ok to use slurs towards people with disabilities?

You see, people with disabilities are not around to be mascots for everything that is considered dysfunctional, unintelligent, or broken. 

You, person out there, who is reading this, thinking, this woman needs to grow up and get a thicker skin, what’s your name?  Jennifer*?  Do you want to try being that mascot?  What if the world figured you were so unintelligent, or so disgustingly and tragically broken, that your name became synonymous with all things “stupid?”  What if children used your name to mock their classmates who didn’t learn in the same way, or called your name when imitating what it looks like to stutter, or have cerebral palsy?  What if parts of your name became an insulting banner word?  Jennidouche.  Celebejenn.  People would hear these names and burst out in laughter, because no one wanted to be like you, ha ha ha.  Does flying that banner feel right to you?  Would it feel good to defend that banner?

Sephora and Kat Von D: As long as you keep selling that lipstick, you’ll be flying that banner as well.  Neither of you can claim the ignorance card; you’ve been on social media digging in your heels for days.  I see that banner and get the message loud and clear.  You don’t give a crap about respecting other people.

I, for one, think that your banner is ugly and bigoted.  I suggest you take it down and do some soul-searching.  I did, and it worked out just fine.


SIGN THE PETITION.  Tell Sephora to stop selling this product and issue an apology.

* Apologies to all the Jennifers out there it was a totally random draw and it is a common name.  xo

UPDATE: Sephora has agreed to remove the lipstick from their stores and website. This is awesome sauce. Power in numbers, y’all…

35 Comments on “Sephora and Kat Von D: #DontBuyCelebutard”

  1. Thank you for this post, Jisun. I signed the petition and included this piece in my comments. I couldn’t say it any better.

  2. Lori says:

    Signed. Thanks for the eloquence of your post, Jisun. This stuff makes my blood boil.

    • jisun says:

      Thank you. Sometimes I don’t even know what to do with this stuff but shake my head and have a good rant. I’m cautiously hopeful about their comments about stopping the sale of this lipstick. Let’s hope I’m not being naïve…!

  3. Galit says:

    Seems like a stupid way to advertise lipstick. Is that really a name that would attract purchasers? Or was it done intentionally to push buttons and attract negative publicity because that would still increase sales? It sounds like a chemical name, or like a carburator…

    Frankly, at first I thought she was making a play on “leotard”.

    • jisun says:

      Well, no, KVD was on Twitter confirming its meaning, and defending it. Definitely was meant in the offensive way. Why she thinks that is ok, is anyone’s guess. :(

      • Galit says:

        Yeah, I got that by now… Just seems like a strange way to attract business. Seems like part of a trend these days, to get “fame” by just being offensive. Never mind that once the public attention has moved on to the next thing, no one remember you except as yet another immature attention-seeker (if that). I don’t really think she deserves the attention she is getting.

        • jisun says:

          Well, the lipstick has been on the market for years already, and this is the first real attention she’s gotten. Would you feel the same if she’d named her lipstick after a slur against Jews? Would you walk away?

      • wheeler55 says:

        The reason why Kat Von D doesn’t understand, or understands but prefers to keep “doing her own thing”, is because she is your typical hard-core punk princess/metal chick. Unfortunately, one of the prerequisites of being accepted into that particular circle of people seems to be acting hard-core, selfish, insensitive, and uncaring to other people’s needs/desires. Unless of course, it caters to the “cool factor” of your peers.

        As someone who has had experience in that circle, I can say that she is so into “being cool”, that she thinks it’s “uncool” to be sensitive to other people. As someone who actually used to be a fan of hers (she and I have communicated personally), mostly because she is a great tattoo artist (I like tattoos), I’m appalled at some of her behavior. Some of her behavior, I personally attribute to her substance abuse. She is an alcoholic, who was on the wagon for a few years, then fell off the wagon over the last year or so.

        Believe me, I’m not saying this as some type of excuse for her bad behavior, but I honestly believe it’s a factor. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I am the last person who ever make any excuses for drunken behavior, simply because there isn’t any excuse. You wouldn’t believe some of the insensitive, stupid stuff I used to do before I got sober.

        Congratulations on getting that company to withdraw that product. That’s quite an accomplishment that I hope you’re proud of, especially since most corporations are lacking in sensitivity and awareness, especially with people with disabilities.

        • jisun says:

          Well, I can’t take credit at all, I was just one voice of many who tried to do something.

          I understand what you are saying, and I agree, she’s part of a culture that is deeply flawed. I can see that in her charity work, that seems so in conflict with the attitude she took with her lipstick name.

          I suppose the saddest thing is that we seem to all be trying to fill holes in ourselves by taking from others.

  4. momshieb says:

    I signed, Jisun. I’m sorry that you have to face this kind of crap (sorry, but what else can one call this level of coarseness and stupidity?). I applaud you for taking them on and for writing so passionately about it.

    • jisun says:

      Really, if this were the ONLY thing I worried about, I’d be happy. Problem is, the kinds of attitudes that cause the language are so pervasive, and that is the bigger, more complicated battle that keeps me up at night. Anyways. Thank you for signing. Sephora has said it is no longer going to sell the product, but it hasn’t officially been pulled. Hoping they are going to make good on it…

      • momshieb says:

        The whole battle of who accepts whom is an ongoing struggle…..I get huffy about these topics, and I am only defending my students, not my very own best beloved.
        Still, I think that it is such an important and worthy conversation for all of us to be having with each other, every single day. Who is “worthy” anyway? The beautiful? The “smart”? The wealthy? Who?
        A very important conversation for every single human being on the planet to be having.
        And that stupid makeup is plain old ugly anyway!!!!

  5. Corrie says:

    Now where is the cause telling Kat Von D to stop being an inconsiderate self absorbed B*#%&?

  6. Latke says:

    I love the readers’ derogatory use of the word “stupid” in replying to this post. Seems like you really got your point across, wife!

    • jisun says:

      Husband, I can’t decide if you’re just being snarky, or taking a dig at my writing. The writing that you proofed. Now I’m forced to contemplate deleting my own husband, and I blame you. <3

  7. Patti says:

    Signed and shared!

  8. Heather Bradley says:

    Wonderfully said my friend!

  9. Jenny Di Benedetto says:

    Nailed it. Thank you!

  10. Tia Echterling says:

    I signed the petition and gave them a rather large piece of my mind in the ‘comment’ section. While my own children don’t have special needs, I am a nurse for children and adults who do. I truly believe that I have the best job in the world and, like you, am equally disgusted by the blase attitude of everyone regarding this degrading word. I think you hit the nail on the head and I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  11. Tammie Fleming says:

    Well, some people just don’t think. It’s sad. Words hurt and I hope and pray that it’s fixed. I like Sephora and I currently need stuff from the store, but I’ll wait to see if they do the right thing. I want to feel like my $ goes to kind companies who do kind things in thought and deed. Thank you. I’ve personally stopped friends and family from saying that word. I normally start out by saying, “I know you probably do not mean what you are saying, BUT, how would you feel if someone you knew, loved and/or respected had a brother, sister, friend, cousin, etc. that had special needs, delays, DS, etc?” I thank them and move on to the next topic.

  12. i was going to sign the petition but it’s been closed. there’s an announcement on the petition site that sephora is pulling it off their shelves.

    good job on spreading awareness about this.

    • jisun says:

      I know the petition says they’ve announced it, but other than comments on their Facebook page, I can’t find anything else. The lipstick is still available to purchase online. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it doesn’t seem that hard to remove something from your website, does it?

      Still, I’m remaining cautiously optimistic…

  13. krlr says:

    This is pure awesomeness. Jennidouche and celebejenn are my new go to examples.

  14. Great stuff, momma! You couldn’t have said it better. We’re on the same page :)

  15. […] Sephora and Kat Von D: #DontBuyCelebutard ( […]

  16. wheeler55 says:

    Reblogged this on Crippled Politics and commented:
    I highly recommend reading this thoughtful blog piece.

  17. […] and it feels all that much more violent, denigrating, and ugly.  That’s why I’ve written before that using the word is sort of like flying an “I make fun of intellectual disability” […]

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