Friday, February 8, 2013

but what is skin colour, really?

I've been meaning to write this for a while but I kept putting it off until a friend of mine told me to just post it because it might be somehow beneficial to at least someone. So here it is, friends of the world.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I will be talking about skin colour only and not racism but I might be wrong because it's confusing. Also, this might not be relevant to countries outside the southeast asian region. But I might be wrong again because I wouldn't know.


If you've grown up in Brunei, tell me you've never, ever heard anyone complain about their skin colour, or someone commenting on another person's skin colour. Try. Go ahead. Year after year I've been surrounded by girls and women who, understandably, take care of their skin. And a lot of people include the routine of whitening their skin.

Sure, okay, yeah, it's your decision, okay. But hold on for a moment. Can we ask ourselves why? I'm genuinely curious, why do people feel the need to go a few shades lighter?
I always, always hear "oh my God! I'm so black!" or "I'm soooooo tanned omg!" and in a negative way, even though said people are like 2 or 3 shades lighter than me. Having spent half of my adolescent years in an all girls school, I hear this all. the. time. Not trying to stereotype these girls, and I'm not saying that co-ed schools aren't the same, and that boys do experience these things too, but this seemed to be more prevalent among teenage girls. There would be conversations in the classroom, toilet, canteen about the 'Hottest Skin Whitening Face Wash' or the 'Best White Concealer Powder Thing'. And I've seen girls with the same skin tone as mine trying to look a few shades lighter by smearing white powder unevenly all over their faces. "As long as I'm white, it's fine," they're probably thinking.

I don't know about other schools, but in all the ones that I've been to, surely, the popular people were almost always light skinned, got the most attention, had the most friends and would be considered pretty or hot or beautiful. And this happens every time. Trying to describe someone really attractive? "hm.. smart.. umm.. light skinned" Trying to compliment someone? "Wow I like your skin, it's so fair!" or "wow her skin is SO white she's SO PRETTY".

I don't get why not being fair skinned is good. Although I admit, I was once under that mentality too. Whenever someone commented on "how fair I've became over the holidays" (because I would stay in my room and not go outside) I'd reply, without even thinking, "Thanks!" until I realise, why is 'thanks' always the response to this statement? Because just like my weight, I was always pushed around for my skin colour. And some people would be racist towards me because they would always assume I was of a different ethnicity, even though I'm Malay. So when someone said things like that to me, I would think of it as some sort of achievement. Like, "ah yay! Finally! A compliment! I'm doing something right by looking like everyone else! I'm not so different after all!"

If you think about it, why is it a good thing to be fair skinned? Why should it be a compliment? Why is calling someone dark skinned an insult? It's just like calling someone gay to offend them. I've come to realize that either I've matured or that I just recognize how poor insults they are. Like, they are facts.. So what? It shouldn't matter as much as people make it out to be. I'm aware that the Asian culture promotes fairness of the skin and considers darker skin as inferior (though I'm not saying everyone's like that) which is why we've been constantly surrounded by this mentality. And this reason stems from the British colonization in Asia of the whites being more superior, and obviously this has left an effect on us. But can we change it? A lot of Asian people naturally don't have light/fair/white skin, so can we start to acknowledge that fact?

And all these commercials we see on tv don't help either, it's unbelievable. How fair do these people expect themselves to be to reach that level of 'pure beauty' that doesn't even exist? It just perpetuates the cycle of girls being insecure of their skin and it makes people think that they're not pretty or good enough because they don't have the 'correct' skin pigmentation. Additionally, it's a clever way for business people to fish out money from our wallets by promoting product after product that probably don't even do anything BUT damage our skin and health.

Some commercials to illustrate my point:

This one is the most ridiculous, because obviously women only get jobs by having fair skin and not by their abilities and intelligence or effort to do their work.

The number of times the word "white" was mentioned in this commercial (below) is insane.

It's just been bugging me a lot lately and I cringe every time someone complains about the pigment of their skin. I understand that each individual has their own choices and I respect that and they can whiten their faces as much as they like, but I just really want to stop this whole mindset of The Fairer You Are, The Prettier You Are. As if skin colour is this magical thing that automatically makes you a successful, attractive human being. Let us embrace our natural skin, alright?


  1. Light-skinned privilege is real. It borrows from white privilege and the denotations of the words black and white. Here it's supposed to be illegal to sell skin lightners or products marked as such.

    For the longest while i've unwittingly used on and off (but now permanently off) a product that often lightens skin marked and "clarifies impurities" it's not fun. I didn't pay much attention to it because from my mid teens my body grew a shade lighter so when I used this product later on it didn't click that it was eating at my melanin or whatever. Now I'm two-tone face. SMH. Anyway.

    1. I'm aware that it's real, it just never occurred to me that it happens here too. I don't think it's going to be illegal anytime soon around here judging by the copious amounts of products selling EVERYWHERE and commercials promoting said products as well as the idea of having lighter skin as 'ideal'. I don't know, the obsession with skin colour bothers me so much.

      Aw man, they do those things though, the chemicals have side effects that ruin your skin (and organs, from what i've heard/read?) But at least you're not using those things anymore so yay for that.

  2. Wow, I'm from france, and I honestly wasnt aware that this existed, I think that it would be very interesting to understand where it all comes from, also it's great that you're brave enough to put it out there, to talk about it, it's the only way to change peoples way of thinking about this.

    Charlie xx

    1. Yeah, I think it has something to do with the spiritual side in certain subcultures, too. Thank you! I agree with you, the only way to change something like this is to be aware of it and to discuss it.

  3. I think it's ironic because in America most of the girls try to get super tan. Like the darker the better. I'm black and legit my white friend got a tan and was very much darker than me. It's very interesting to hear that on the other side of the globe girls are trying to lighten themselves. I'd love to hear more about this.

    1. I think it happens in Europe and some parts of Northern Africa too, because my step mum is from Morocco, and she said that in her younger days, when people were tan it was a sign of wealth, ie. they were able to afford to travel for vacations and what not.

      Whereas in Southeast Asia, a lot of us are naturally tan because of our tropical climate and people who worked in the farm would be even more tan because they would always be under the sun, but the ones who were fairer meant that they had better jobs where they worked indoors. Hence the desire to be lighter skinned. But then that also has to do with classism. That is just a general example though, and it is not likely to happen as often now because majority of us -- in Brunei anyway so I can't speak for other countries -- work indoors/lean towards the service industry.

  4. I've watched this Thailand movie about a teenage girl trying to catch her crush's attention. Anyway, the movie portrays how fair-skinned girls are usually the most popular in the school. For example, these dark-skinned girls tried to audition for a dance club, but the teacher in charge (also fair-skinned) insisted them to try out for the drama club instead, where the dance club is for pretty fair-skinned girls whereas, the drama club is for dark-skinned girls (with a dark skinned teacher in charge), or "not good looking enough" they would say.

    And when I was in the UK, I find it ironic how these whites prefers to be tan instead, while in Asia, people wanted to be fair. But then again, for me, I prefer being tan cos it makes me look healthy :-P Golden glowing skin! Studying bio also taught me that being tan or dark skin are beneficial because these people have more melanin (skin pigment) and reduces the risk of getting skin cancer.

    That makes me sound like I'm anti-fair-skinned people, but no, I would say...... embrace and appreciate your own skin!

    1. Hmm, interesting thought about the movie.

      Yeah, again on the whole fair/tan thing. It's like some sort of reversed mentality between the two sides of the world. Like me too, I love my skin and it being brown :-p Yeah that's true, which is why whitening products can be harmful because they limit the production of melanin causing the skin to whiten and thus increasing the chances of skin cancer. Some products also contain mercury and other chemicals that is toxic to our bodies.

      And yes, just because we are on the opposing side to people who whiten their skin doesn't mean we are against people with fair skin be it naturally or not, right? Team hashtag no filter hahahah. Thanks for commenting!!!



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