Beauty Standards in the White Imagination

by Shinoko Itakura

The phenomenon of changing skin color has been happening all over the world. Some attempt to get lighter skin and some attempt to get tan skin. The reasons behind those two attempts seem opposite yet, the purpose is the same, “high class”. The symbol of high class depends on where you are, and how the standard of the beauty has been created in your society, because the standard of beauty  includes class status.

But who created the standard of beauty and how? We tend to describe people who have straight jet-black hair, and large, double lidded, almond-shaped eyes as “Asian beauty”. Even though we are Asian, whenever we see people who have those facial features, we say, “You are beautiful like Asian beauty!” In fact one of my colleague just described another colleague as an “Asian beauty” the other day. It just feels weird when Asian people describe another Asian as an “Asian beauty”. This is because the idea of Asian beauty has been created in the white imagination. We do not say European beauty or Latin beauty, because the standard of beauty is already based on European (white) features. What is more, something which is called a “universal standard” or “universal beauty” is just not universal. It always based on physical features of white people.

The standard of beauty seems to be controlled by mass media and the marketing of cosmetic products. Cosmetics companies use many strategies to gain more and more profits. “Relatable” is one of the important key concepts; if consumers find any similarity to the advertising models, for example “Asian-ness”, they believe that they can achieve those models’  look, and the universal standard of beauty. Those advertisements do not directly say “you guys can be like this model, if you use this products!” yet they are implying this by using racially ambiguous models. In order to sell the products, they also give us images of dark skin as dangerous, unhealthy, bad, and wrong by using terms such as aging or skin cancer. But what really matters is “skin color”.

I feel wrath about how skin-lightening products are marketed. It is so depressing that somehow we have to feel pressure of skin color or looking, and have to try to look like someone else, just because we are not white. This situation must be stopped and there should be the world which do not judge you by your skin color.

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2 thoughts on “Beauty Standards in the White Imagination

  1. Reblogged this on Ci+(ribi)² and commented:
    When I first came to Japan in 2006 I wondered about the “Whitening” Label I found on every cream in the Beauty aisles. Because it was just a short visit I thought it to be a trend that had not yet caught up with Europe. Then in 2007 when I came back to Japan the Label still hadn’t changend and was on every facial cream. It took me quite some time to find a cream for my skin which did not have “whitening” ingredients in it, which I didn’t want because I was (an am) already very pale.
    It really is always those things you don’t have that you want. I have very pale white skin and I admired the tanned skin on others while I was complimented for my white skin in Japan more often than I can remember.
    It is just another hint for me that it is important to step outside your comfort zone, visit other countries and learn about other cultures to challenge the beliefs that you were fed my media and advertising.

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