The great white pressure

Published November 3, 2012

I’m in Singapore with a friend of mine – a 38-year-old Philippino man. Yesterday we decided to go shopping in a vast shopping area called Orchard Road. This road reflects a variety of different people, cultures, foods, and countries. On one street you could bump into Indians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Chinese, Japanese, English, and Tamils.

We decide to go shopping in one of the many malls.  I needed some toothpaste so went into a sort of chemist / make up / toiletries shop run by Philippino women.

As I browsed the shop we noticed everything – body lotions, face creams, face washes, hair removers, even toilet roll – had skin whitening ingredients in them.  I’ve been to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Thailand and seen this kind of thing before. But this ridiculous psychological pressure on women (as all the products in this shop were specifically for women) has reached new heights.

Shelves were stacked with armpit and bikini lightening cream. What man desires his woman to have some areas whiter than the rest of her body, so much that they might not even match her face or legs? And what man is checking the armpit of a woman on the first date?

If there are women out there with dark faces and white armpits, someone out there doesn’t look quite right.

-Photo by author

I picked up some toothpaste, which of course had whitening agents in, and as I went to pay, there was a whole shelf full of ‘Virginity Soap’.

My friend and I started laughing and taking photos. Then I decided to buy a bar to take back to England to show my friends – who I know would never believe me if I told them about it. The shop was full of Asian women, as I went to the till; one of the women held up the soap and said, “This is great. Cut it in half. Save half and use half and it will tighten everything up”. Five other women stood behind me in the queue all joining in to say, “It’s great, it will make you feel like a new woman”

I told her it was just a souvenir and that I wouldn’t be using it at all. She said, “Don’t be ashamed, your husband will be very pleased and he won’t cheat on you”.

“Is that why you use it?” I said.

“Yes. I do it partly for my husband and partly for me.”

This obsession with Eastern women feeling the pressure to be white and tight has gone too far. I noticed there were no products in this shop for tightening up men’s parts which is a shame because many male cyclists around London could do with some extra help.

Here in the west, my English friends are happy being dark and loose, and would never waste their money trying to become whiter and tight.

It’s a class, power, colonial and self esteem issue. The idea that if you’re white you have money, class, power, a better chance of a better class of husband and therefore, a better life. Traditionally people from lower castes were poorer people who worked in the fields and never married out of their castes, so produced generations of dark skinned children who struggled for progress. As time goes on, and people become better educated, this must change.

Women are destroying their beautiful bodies in an attempt to get lighter skin and tighter parts. Advertising is a huge problem, and in places like India and Pakistan, darker women need to be featured more in ad campaigns and magazines, but the self esteem of a nation must grow. Dark skinned women need to know that they are just as beautiful as light skinned. This extends to all parts of the world; I’ve noticed Beyoncé is turning more Michael Jackson by the day.

As we walked out of the shop we saw an Asian woman with a white face and black hair. My friend pointed her out to me and said, “Now she’s gone too far”. She was like a slightly tanned Father Christmas; it didn’t look right or attractive.

Someone tell these women, people in the west are dying to have their tanned skin and they are beautiful just the way they are.

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