This weekend, I received BDJ’s April Box, and was disheartened to see that most of the items were aimed at skin whitening. It’s probably harsh and callous to say, but it felt like a KKK theme instead of an “Oh, So Fresh!” box. It’s not that it’s really a surprise at this point. I’m aware that a large part of the Philippine population want to be whiter. It doesn’t mean that it frustrates me any less.
I understand it from the business point of view… People want to be whiter, so companies want to sell them something they will buy.
Already frustrated with the box chock-full of whitening products, I was further saddened by a trip to the mall the next day. I had to pick up a few things (i.e. a hairdryer, cotton buds, wipes, sun block) and was constantly peddled whitening lotions and creams. Every corner I turned, I was offered some kind of whitening product. I had just come back after one day at the beach and am sporting a slight tan and sellers flocked to me as though I was a leper that needed a cure.
It was kind of sad, so I bought a glow-y bronzer in protest. Take that, Philippine beauty industry.
I wonder if part of why these things sell so much is because of the culture’s inherent fixation on the idea that “White is Better.” Before the boom of whitening products, people would often pat on too-light shades of foundation and powder, making flash photography an endless embarrassing pool of pictures where the faces don’t match the color of the necks.
Some people actually do look better when they are paler, in the same way that some people look better when they are darker. I personally think I look better tanner, but that’s just a matter of preference. I don’t know… I think the root of all this anger and annoyance is the fact that being white is such a big deal here, people forget that other skin colors are be beautiful, too.
I think the obsession with being white is what’s irritating to me. It’s reached a point where I actually have trouble finding non-whitening products at the drugstore. It’s reached a point where women who embrace their natural skin color is a “refreshing change.” The goal to become whiter is so deeply ingrained in our society. How the heck did that happen?
Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that a vast majority encourages this kind of thinking. I don’t really know, and I don’t think I can go into the scary details, because this issue obviously has roots that go beyond reasons of vanity… The Philippines, for most of its life—at least, the history we remember and have documented most extensively—was a colonized country. It’s been drilled in our collective consciousness as a country and a nation that inferiority is linked to the color of our skin. White people have tried to “help” us because we were thought of as savages, inelegant, and unintelligent.
The thing is, I don’t think we’ve gotten rid of this sad and scary complex. I don’t think that most of us truly believe that our skin color is beautiful. Filipinos actually even treat mestizas and “halfies” (half-“white”) better… which is, again, kind of sad. Anyway. That was a mouthful, huh? I didn’t mean to drag this on and ramble on about the politics of race and self-perception, but I did want to share what happened to me this weekend, and how disheartening it was.
Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your skin color, even from people with the same heritage? Did you ever wish you had a different skin color because of something bad that happened to you?