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Pet Sins January 2005

Eurocentric standards of beauty for women in Asian societies?

In Asian countries, like India and the Philippines, light-skinned, part-European-looking women are portrayed as the epitome of feminine beauty. If you don't believe me, check out a "Bollywood" film, where the female leads often have light colored hair and eyes and look very European. Now, how many Indian women look like that? The sad thing about these images is that many females of color internalize them. A case in point: the other day I was in a local fabric store when I noticed an attractive Asian woman with her young daughter. They were both brown-skinned. The girl, who looked to be about ten, kept on holding fabric up to her face and saying, "Oh, buy this, it will make me look lighter." She said this several times. It saddened me to see such a young girl - she can't have been more than ten or eleven - was already brainwashed to think that she could only be attractive with light skin. We can't control the media, but we can affect the way the media's images influence our children. Instead of worshipping Anglo-Saxon images of beauty, why can't we proud of our "ethnic" features? Why not say to a child "you have beautiful almond-shaped eyes," or "you have such nice, thick, kinky hair?" In this racist society, the only way that parents of color can impart a sense of self-worth to their children is to instill it in them ourselves.


While traveling in Asia, I ran out of face wash and had to buy some locally. I noticed that many skin care products in the Philippines, Thailand and Korea contained skin-whitening ingredients. In fact, it was very difficult for me to locate skin-care products that did *not* contain skin whitener. Often, I'll see a Korean woman with a very white face and darker legs. The unnatural pallor could be due to her facial make up, but I was wondering if it could also be the effect of skin-whitening creams. Naturally, most people would have paler legs than faces as their legs don't get as much sun as their faces.

I think it is sad that people place such a premium on light skin when people of all colors can be beautiful.One of my Filipina friends even said that she wouldn't make friends with fellow Filipinos who are darker-skinned!