Colorism and Discrimination in Japan’s Marriage Scene

Kiyohara no Natsuno (清原夏野) was a Japanese Heia...

Kiyohara no Natsuno (清原夏野) was a Japanese Heian era courtier and bureaucrat.This picture was drawn by Kikuchi Yosai(菊池容斎) who was a painter in Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Seimu Yamashita

The concept of “white supremacy” has spread almost everywhere around the world, along with colonization. This concept of deeming lighter skin as better has been problematized since it contains aspects of racial discrimination, compared to other physical traits, such as height. This paper will deal with colorism, which can be a form of racial discrimination, but is simply discrimination according to skin color. It is not common to find a distinct lighter skin color preference or privilege in Japan like that in India, possibly because of its mostly homogeneous population. However, a preference for a fair complexion as a form of beauty still exists in Japan. This paper will address colorism in Japan by looking at Japan’s marriage scene, which is assumed to have a clear connection with colorism. This paper will analyze how Japan’s marriage scene relates to the concept of white supremacy, addressing how fair complexions are preferred over other skin colors, and treated as a trait of beauty in women.

The first part of this essay will describe the history of fair skin as a beauty trait in Japan. The second part of essay will explain Japan’s marriage scene, and the role fair complexions play in the shifting scene. The third part of the essay will describe how there is still a preference for fair skin in modern Japanese society. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn by comparing the situation of the preference for fair complexions in Japan with other multi-racial countries.

It is crucial to know the origin of the preference for fair skin in Japan. White skin is actually a traditional concept of beauty, with the notion of fair complexions as beautiful in Japan started in the Heian Era, from 794AD to 1192AD (Graham-Diaz, 2001). The reason for the preference of fair skin back then is quite different from today. The lifestyles of rich, noble women who were considered sophisticated and classy during the Heian Era consisted of just staying indoors in their residence without going outside, waiting for the men to be back. In this era, it was semi-dark inside the residence even during the daytime and there was not enough light at night thus women needed to have extremely white complexions, so that the face would stand out and be attractive in such environment where there is not enough light. That is why the tradition of putting powder on their face to make it look white began. White powder thus became a common make-up to look beautiful in the Heian Era. However, the trend of applying heavy make-up on the face did not last long, and died out after the Heian period. It was in the Edo era (1603AD to 1868AD) that such make-up became popular again. This style of make-up still remains in Japan on maiko and geisha who are now symbolic of the traditional city of Kyoto (Graham-Diaz, 2001). Although the standard of other physical preferences in Japan differed in different times of history, women with fair complexion have been always preferred, not just during the Heian and Edo periods.

In this second part the focus will shift to Japan’s marriage scene, which is a great scene to view the preference of fair complexions even through the many shifts and changes over time. In Japan, there have been two types of marriage: arranged marriage s and love marriages. Although more than 90 percent of today’s marriages in Japan are love marriages, arranged marriages were more common until a few decades ago. Data show that the shift of the percentage from arranged marriages to love marriages in Japan has been dramatic. Arranged marriages accounted for nearly 70% in the 1930s, but the proportion of love marriages gradually increased, whilst arranged marriage decreased relatively. The number of love marriages surpassed the number of arranged marriages only recently in the 1960s (National Social Security, Population Problem Research Center, n.d.).

The traditional Japanese style arranged marriage is called miai. In the process of miai, a written profile with a picture called tsurigaki is used as a marriage resume that helps find a marriage partner (Hendry, 1981). A person who wants to get married gives his/her tsurigaki to a matchmaker. The matchmaker tries to find a good partner for them either from other tsurigaki he or she has or from tsurigaki other matchmakers have. The matchmakers pass the tsurigaki to the potential couple, and if they are interested, they can arrange a meeting.

In miai, there has been racial, class, and genetic discrimination. The most common discrimination was against members of the Burakumin. A matchmaker requires candidates to submit a family history to prove that they are not a member of the Burakumin. Many Zainichi Koreans were also discriminated against for being non-pure Japanese. Members of the Ainu, an indigenous people in Hokkaido were usually avoided as well. As a genetic discrimination, descendants of hibakusha, those who were exposed to radiation from the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were avoided since there were stories of possibilities of rare diseases (Uchida, 2002). Due to such discrimination, those people could not even have the opportunity for having miai.

There was also a preference for women with a fair complexion; however, this did not mean people of darker complexions could not participate in miai. The existence of a preference for a white skin was because of its beauty, and a belief that can be seen from an Japanese old proverb: 色の白いは七難隠す, which literally means a fair complexion hides faults (Old Proverb Dictionary, n.d.). It is basically saying that as long as a woman has fair skin, she can be forgiven for her faults. Thus even if a woman’s other features are not considered beautiful, having a fair complexion is the most important in determining her beauty.

This third part will address a preference for a fair skin in modern Japanese society. As stated in the introduction, it is not really common to feel and find white supremacy recent days in Japan. As can be seen by the explanation of white skin as form of traditional beauty, this may be because white skin is not associated with Europeans or being a different race. It only means having a fair complexion compare to everyone else in society who are mostly Japanese. As the form of marriage shifted to love marriage and people desperately look for love, the online matching site became popular in Japan (Tokuhiro, 2010). Getting deeper into the online world, more casual version of matching site, online dating sites also appeared. People especially young generation use the site to meet new people. On the website, they make profile for other people to look at. Thus, modern days tsurigaki is online and more casual. Same as a miai picture, a picture is important for the profile to give good impression on both matching site and online dating site.

Recently, girls use apps to edit their photos to make them more attractive. For example, they make their face look whiter and make their eyes bigger. Another type of edited photo that is used for profile is purikura. Purikura is a type of photo that is popular among girls in Japan.

Purikura automatically edits the people to look prettier. For example, it makes eyes bigger, makes legs longer, and sharpens chin and nose. The most obvious change purikura makes is the skin. It makes skin look brighter and whiter. Those effects of purikura reflect a physical preference for women. Hence, recently in Japan, we can acknowledge the existence of a fair complexion for women by looking at technology.

In conclusion, the form of marriage has shifted from arranged marriage to love marriage in Japan. Comparing to the marriage scene for example, in India, Japan’s preference in fair complexion seems to not be as prominent, but still exists. This may be because it is a relatively homogenous society, so everyone has a similar level of skin colour, whereas in India, there are different races that have differences in complexions. In Japan, the concept of white skin as beautiful has existed since the Heian period in the 1st century, and still exists today as can be seen in the purikura machines that automatically make girls have features that they believe are beautiful. The marriage scene reflected how women’s beauty were determined only by how fair their skin was, and how having darker skin put a woman at a disadvantage of being wanted as a bride, which in the end, is not so different to the discrimination in a country like India.

References

  1. Graham-Diaz, N. (2001). Make-Up of Geisha and Maiko. Immortal Geisha. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://www.immortalgeisha.com/makeup_01.php
  2. Hendry, J. (1981). Marriage in changing Japan: community and society. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  3. National Social Security, Population Problem Research Center. (n.d.) Basic research for trends in births. Retrieved December 23, 2013 from http://www8.cao.go.jp/shoushi/whitepaper/w-2009/21webhonpen/html/i1112000.html
  4. Old Proverb Dictionary. (n.d.). Ironoshiroiwa shichinan kakusu(A fair complexion hides faults). Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://kotowaza-allguide.com/i/iroshiroishichinankakusu.html
  5. Tokuhiro, Y. (2010). Marriage in contemporary Japan. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  6. Uchida, T. (2002, October 26). Research Institute about discrimination in marriage. Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute. Retrieved January 3, 2014, from http://blhrri.org/kenkyu/project/kekkon/kekkon_0002.html
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From arranged to love marriages in Japan

by Seimu Yamashita

I researched the relationship between Japan’s marriage scene and race and ethnicity by comparing the cases of Japan and India. The vast majority of marriages in India are arranged marriages, in which usually a family member initiates and determines the marriage partner. However, more than 90 percent of marriages in Japan are love marriages. If we look at the data showing the shift of the percentage of love marriages and arranged marriages in Japan, we see that arranged marriages accounted for nearly 70% of all marriages in Japan in the 1930s. The proportion of love marriages gradually increased (and that of arranged marriage decreased relatively), surpassing arranged marriages in the 1960s.

Japanese-style arranged marriage is called miai. In the process of miai, a profile with a picture, called tsurigaki, has been used as a marriage ad. It functions as a curriculum vitae for marriage. A person who wants to get married gives his/her tsurigaki to a matchmaker. The matchmaker tries to find its partner either from other tsurigaki he or she has or from tsurigaki that other matchmakers have.

In the miai process, there was racial, class, and genetic discrimination. The most common discrimination was against members of the Burakumin. A matchmaker requires candidates to submit a family history to prove that they are not a member of the Burakumin. Many Zainichi Koreans were also discriminated against for being non-pure Japanese. Members of the Ainu, an indigenous people in Hokkaido, were usually avoided as well. As a genetic discrimination, descendants of Hibakusha, those who were exposed to the radiation from the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were avoided since there were stories of possibilities of rare diseases. Due to such discriminations, those people could not even have the opportunity for having miai.

There were preferences in ascribed characteristics such as class and family standing in miai. Moreover, in miai, there was a preference for women with a fair complexion, but not as much as India’s case. The existence of a preference for a white skin can be seen from Japanese old proverb: 色の白いは七難隠す, which literally means a fair complexion hides faults. It is basically saying that as long as a woman has a fair skin, she can be forgiven for her faults.

In conclusion, the form of marriage has shifted from arranged marriage to love marriage in Japan. Comparing to the marriage scene in India, Japan’s preference in fair complexion seems to not be as prominent, but still exists.

References

  1. National Social Security, Population Problem Research Center. (n.d.) Basic research for trends in births. Retrieved December 23, 2013 from http://www8.cao.go.jp/shoushi/whitepaper/w-2009/21webhonpen/html/i1112000.html
  2. Hendry, J. (1981). Marriage in changing Japan: community and society. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  3. Ironoshiroiwa shichinan kakusu (A fair complexion hides faults). (n.d.). Old Proverb Dictionary. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://kotowaza-allguide.com/i/iroshiroishichinankakusu.html
  4. Uchida, T. (2002, October 26). Research Institute about discrimination in marriage. Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute. Retrieved January 3, 2014, from http://blhrri.org/kenkyu/project/kekkon/kekkon_0002.html
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The Role of Skin Tone in Konkatsu (Looking for a Marriage Partner)

by Mitsumi Yamamoto

In 2007 sociologist Masahiro Yamada proposed a new term “konkatsu” to describe the act of looking for a marriage partner (Yamada & Shirakawa, 2008). Konkatsu is an abbreviation of “kekkon katsudo”, which means marriage hunting. Since the first use of this term in a weekly journal AERA, there has been a big boom in konkatsu with mass media actively broadcasting about this phenomenon in Japan.

Today there are around 3,700 websites aimed to support people in konkatsu and Yahoo! has sponsored two websites that encourages konkatsu and arranges parties for unmarried people (Yahoo! JAPAN). The number of single men and single women in konkatsu who have struggled, and currently are struggling, with selecting their marriage partner is not small.

By studying konkatsu we can see what kind of qualifications people are looking for in their prospective marriage partners. This blog post will highlight how skin tone plays a role in the process of choosing a future wife or husband in Japan and how there is a correlation between race and gender regarding skin color.

Firstly what kind of qualifications and requirements do people set for choosing their partner? According to a survey released by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, both men and women tend to consider a good personality (honest, kind, considerate etc.) as the most important factor. Personal values come in second (Co. dentsu, 2004).

Although both men and women consider personality and values as major points when choosing their partner, there are differences in how they evaluate the possible candidates. The same study indicates that the third most common qualification men tend to consider is their partner’s appearance while women rather ask for financial stability. Possibly due to the importance men place on their partner’s appearance, women themselves seem to take good care of their appearance for konkatsu.

For example, the ladies’ magazine FRaU featured an article about konkatsu-hada (skin for marriage hunting), explaining how women can make konkatsu-hada with skin care products such as liquid foundations, body oils and cheek blushes in order to succeed in konkatsu (X BRAND, 2013). The article suggested that they help to make your skin whiter and clearer, showing your purity and honesty like Cinderella appearing in a fairly-tale.

It seems that the article implies that light and clear skin is regarded as favorable for finding a marriage partner. How about men’s skin tone? According to an investigation carried out by Panasonic, 70% of women answered they prefer men with tanned skin rather than men with white skin (Co. Panasonic, 2007). The electronic commerce and Internet giant Rakuten Inc. also researched about the connection between the use of sunscreen and maintaining white skin. When comparing results between men and women in their twenties, it seems that only 13% of men use sunscreen in order to maintain a lighter skin tone, while 60% of women answered that this is their main goal. In fact, as many as 50% of men answered that they do not even care about sunscreen, whereas 90% of women were keen on using it (Rakuten, Inc., 2013). The results of this survey that show men are often not concerned about the lightness of their skin.

It can be said that men and women consider different attributes in konkatsu and that skin color is gender-specific, with skin color playing an especially important role for women. Having lighter skin is considered an important factor for women who are looking for future husbands. This shows us that there seems to be correlation between skin color, race, and gender, since favorable skin color varies greatly between different races and between genders. For example, recently it seems that tanned skin is favorable among Caucasian men and women, however in Japan and India women with lighter skin are preferred. On the other hand in Japan it seems that men who have tanned skin are preferred over men with light skin tone, showing that there are great variations between ideal skin tones.

References

Yamada, M., & Sirakawa, M. (2008). Konkatsu Jidai [KONKATSU Period]. Tokyo: Discover 21

Yahoo! JAPAN. Retrieved from http://omiai.yahoo.co.jp/

Co. dentsu. (2004). Syoushika ni kansuru ishiki chousa [survey about decreasing birth rate]. Retrieved from http://www.mhlw.go.jp/topics/bukyoku/seisaku/syousika/040908/

X BRAND. (2013). Kirei no takurami [trick for beauty]. Retrieved from http://xbrand.yahoo.co.jp/category/beauty/10947/1.html

Co. Panasonic. (2007). Otokomae Chousa [survey about man’s good looking]. Retrieved from http://panasonic.jp/beauty/men/chosahoukou/chosa/

Rakuten, Inc.. (2013). Shigaisen taisaku ni kansuru chousa [survey about UV protection]. Retrieved from http://research.rakuten.co.jp/report/20130802/

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Changes in the beauty standard for men and women

by Satona Kato

Jyotsna Vaid’s research shows us that lighter skin is a requirement for marriage. We learned many people think lighter skin is better and is one of the conditions of beauty in various countries.

However, it is also true that the standard of beauty varies by regions or countries. In Japan, it also has changed depend on the generation. There was the time when the skin browned by the sun was seen as more beautiful. For example, in the ‘ganguro’ boom or ‘komugihada’ boom, people preferred dark skin and many people went to tanning salons. When I was 3 or 4 years old, many Japanese high school girls made their skin dark and I longed for their skin and I wanted to be like them. In that time, the models who had sunburned skin were popular and that was the standard of ‘kawaii’ for young girls. But when I became a high school girl, there were no girls who made their skin dark and the standard of “kawaii” was having white skin. Most advertisements of cosmetic products also uses models with white skin.

More and more people come to think we want white skin, not only girls, but also boys. Surprisingly, recently the boys who have white skin are increasing. In the Japanese drug store, there are many sunscreens or whitening lotion for men and many men use that, especially young boys between the ages of 15 and 30. Nippon TV interviewed 55 boys whether use whitening lotions, and 33 boys answered “Yes”.

Then, which do women like better, white skin boys or sunburned boys? The answers about this question were different depending on the women’s age. Young girls (10~30) tend to like boys who have white skin better, but most of women over 30 years old like boys who have sunburned skin. The reason why that difference exist is the influence of media. Today, many young actors and models have white skin. But, it was different 20 to 30 years ago. You can see this difference if you compare the popular actors 5 to 10 ago with actors who are popular now.

As you can see, the trend of skin color has changed. In Japan, both boys and girls become to more and more like the white skin. Last year, we were surprised the publication of the popular young men’s magazine “Men’s Egg” was suspended. When I was a junior high school student, many young boys read this and tried to be “Gyaru-o” by having browned and meshed hair, and tan skin. The reason for suspending the publication was that young people’s trend were changing. Today, most Japanese people like white skin better, and use whitening lotion. But there are possible that standard of beauty “white skin is beautiful’ will change in the future in Japan.

Are such changes in views toward skin color occurring in countries that have a connection between skin color and social status?

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Matrimonial Advertisements Reflecting Social Values

by Yuan Mingyang

Vaid (2009) researched matrimonial advertisements in India, and by immigrants from India. Values that are promoted in the society can be found in the matrimonial advertisements. For example, the advertisements stressed caste, class, education, appearance, and the one that is the main subject of Vaid, the skin complexion (p. 148).

Vaid’s study showed that the preference for light skin tone has a continuous influence on the perception of beauty and other behaviors of the Indian immigrants. The study also showed a clear gender difference between the importance of “fair” skin complexion for men and for women, which may prove that the skin complexion is rather a criteria of beauty for the females (Ibid).

There are some similarities between the situation in India and that in China. According to Vaid (2009), “marriage is a central aspect of societal functioning in South Asia” (p. 148). Marriage is also very important in China due to the strong bonds of and pressure from the family. Vaid also mentioned that arranged marriage is the major form of marriage in India. According to Zhou et al. (1997), arranged marriage is a long lasted tradition in China, and after the economic reform in the 1980s, people started to find their marriage partners on their own. Matrimonial advertisements also started to appear in newspapers and magazines after the reform (ibid). China also has a long history of skin lightening (Leong, 2006). Therefore, similar characteristics may be found in these matrimonial advertisements in China, as Vaid did in the study in India.

Zhou et al. (1997) pointed out that several terms are frequently used in the self-description, for instance, age, height, appearance, and education (p. 68). The social values in a changing society can also be detected in the advertisements. For example, Zhou et al. mentioned a discrimination against short people and an increasing concern with one’s financial status.

There is also a clear division in the roles of different genders expected in the matrimonial advertisements (Ibid). Not much about the skin complexion was mentioned by Zhou et al., and their study is quite outdated due to rapid changes in China.

Nowadays, people can post their advertisements online in some special websites (The website viewed by the author: http://www.r680.com/). These advertisements usually have photographs, which led to fewer people describing their physical features in their self-description. However, even though the advertisements are with photos, a small proportion of people still mentioned their light skin tone, and they usually relate their skin tone to youth. Moreover, photoprocessing to make skin color lighter has become a business in China (Anon, as cited in Leong, 2006), and the common use of photoprocessing software should also be noticed, for there is a possibility that the photos used in the advertisements have been processed, although there is no concrete evidence.

In conclusion, the preference for light skin tone can be detected in the recent matrimonial advertisements online in China. It should also be concerned that the use of photographs in the advertisements may also change one’s perception of skin color. One can also have a general image of the nature of matrimonial advertisements by comparing the situation in China with that in India.

References

  1. Leong, S. (2006). Who’s the fairest of them all? Television ads for skin-whitening cosmetics in Hong Kong. Asian Ethnicity, 7(2), 167-181. doi: 10.1080/14631360600736215
  2. Vaid, J. (2009). Fair enough?: Color and the commodification of self in Indian matrimonials. In E. N. Glenn (Ed.), Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 148-165). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  3. Zhou, N., Yau, O. H. M, & Lin, L. (1997). For love or money: A longitudinal content analysis of Chinese personal advertisements, 1984-1995. Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 19(2), 65-77.
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Tanned skin: the new look?

by Kyungyeon Chung

clarinsToday, open up any international beauty magazine – you will find models that are dominating the colorful pages are not all so pale boasting ‘porcelain’ complexion. Instead, beauty sites and entertainment pages have been filled with new trend – tanning. Just take a look at some gossipy newspaper articles based on curious speculation how Mitt Romney, who must have been so busy at the time, maintained the glowing tanned skin throughout his presidential campaign. Kate Middleton and her sister Pipa Middleton also captured the gossip followers with their bronzed skin complexion. Whether it happens on the stunning Greek beach, or while backpacking in Vietnam, or in a sunbed salon in New York, the result, tanned skin has become the new trendsetting skin complexion.

Among those who can afford and dream of tanned skin, the darker complexion comes with numerous labels: sun-kissed, glowing, bronze, naturally tanned… If you examine, all these words used to describe tan, entail a deep implication that tanned skin is healthy; that it is a product of healthy practice, perhaps swimming in the open ocean, hiking under the sun, or out playing by the beach. No long ago were these associated with toiling in farms under the sun, a mark of laboring, lower class. Yet in 21st century when most of people in industrialized countries, people are usually spending most of their days in their offices, then on cars or public transports, then in shops and their homes, all under the fluorescent lights and hardly under the natural sun rays. And that is exactly why “sun-kissed’ skin is glorified and sought after.

clarins2Popular legend holds that Coco Chanel first initiated this world-wide boom of tanned skin, which she got while vacationing in the Mediterranean in the 1920s. It was a look that signified health and vitality. From then on, tanned skin became associated affluence and luxury of, in short, having enough money to go on holidays and lay under the sun. This was also in such direct contrast with ‘others’ who were unfortunate and had neither time nor money to enjoy such holiday.

However, as mounting medical and scientific studies find the clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer, the trend did not end – instead, it simply turned from ‘natural’ to fake. Today at cosmetics shops, one can find an array of products that promise you evenly tanned skin and beautiful glow. So many different types of products are used to serve different purposed, from tanning lotion to bronzer powder, and fake sprays to imitate tans. You can walk into aesthetic shops and salons in your natural skin color then walk out a few shades darker in a matter of few hours and days of efforts.

The important thing about the logic behind the popularity of tanning, is that, it has fundamentally the same idea as skin brightening. It is the idea that skin complexion is a mark of certain class or socio-economic status, and that can be bought and fixed with money. The idea that beauty queue exists based on skin complexion, and consuming certain products will make you move up along the ladder. So at the end, who ‘wins’ at this game? Think about it – the same company that produces tanning creams and bronzers have different lines for skin brightening and whitening. Whether light skin or tanned skin is the trend of the year, they will never have a problem marketing either product.

Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.

Color complex and constant degradation

Sign for "colored" waiting room at a...

Sign for “colored” waiting room at a Greyhound bus terminal in Rome, Georgia, 1943. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Miho Tanaka

In our class on racism and colorism, we have been talking about how light skin is considered as one of the crucial elements of beauty in and how the idea is fostered all over the world. Not only people with dark skin but also all people, especially women, try to lighten or whiten their skin color without any specific necessaries and reasons to be light. Overall the main issue is how the idea of colorism is getting fostered then racism has taken its place on this capitalism world. As everything can be bought by money, wealth is literally measured by how much economic power people have. “Power of consumption” (Rondilla 2009, p.78) is then directly connected to “economies of color” (Harris 2009, p.1).

Under this condition, people with dark skin would try to be lighter by consuming skin lighteners if they had money to consume these. Therefore impoverished people would stay in a lower status since they wouldn’t be able to buy skin lighteners, and it is the problem that people with dark skin are often needed to stay in poor communities where many problems such as crimes, drugs or robberies exist. According to Rondilla (ibid), “controlling images are designed to make racism, sexism, poverty and other forms of social injustice appear to be natural, normal, and inevitable parts of life” (p.65). Regarding African American communities in Detroit, I’ve heard from my friend the images are so natural that even inhabitants of the community cannot get rid of them. “People are so caught with personal aesthetic and social positions, than actually embracing their own features, cultures and talents” (Brandosoul 2013), and I would call it a “constant degradation of certain racial people.” As Atlanta blackstar (2013) shows, unfortunately it might be true that young African Americans are often targeted as people who resort to violence but the system in which they are stuck should be transformed.

As Angela Harris explains in the introduction to the book Shades of Difference, “[o]ne of the challenges for scholars and activists concerned with colorism is thus to disrupt―and if possible prevent―’Latin Americanization,’ in which color hierarchy is pervasive yet its relationship to racism denied” (Harris, 2009, p.5). Racism exists and the first step we could take is not to deny it and not to be ignorant.

References

Atlanta blackstar. (2013). 5 reasons young black men resort to violence. Retrieved on November 29, 2013, from http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/11/26/5-reasons-young-black-men-resort-violence/2/

Brandosoul. (2013). Colorism: the jaded mystery of race and skin color. Retrieved on December 9th 2013 from http://misedublack.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/colorism-the-jaded-mystery-of-race-and-skin-color/

Harris, A. P. (2009). Economies of color. In Glennn, N, E. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford University Press.

Rondilla, J. L. (2009). Filipinos and the color complex : ideal Asian beauty. In Glennn, N, E. (Ed.) (2009). Shades of difference : why skin color matters. Stanford University Press.

Manipulation by Cosmetic Companies Changing Habits towards Skin Lightening

yes, men need whitening lotion, too.

(Photo credit: Sophiakristina)

by Naresh Kumar

People around the world are constant consumers of skin whiteners and different cosmetic products. Even if the products have harmful effects, the consumption of these products is rising day by day. Large cosmetics companies around the world make billions of profits and it is not hard to see how they are using different sources to promote their products and make people use them. The media plays a vital role. The interesting thing is that whatever comes up in mass media, most of it is in favor of these companies. They are profit-motive companies and are strongly engaged into making more profits. It is interesting to see different beliefs in different communities around the world. People relate light skin with social status, money, education, pleasure, wealth, winner, etc. We talk a lot about western ideologies that “white is right”, but the fact is that its us who want to have a peace of that lightness. People like to consume more western culture and products, ignoring their own. More and more emphasis is given to light skin.

Currently the world market is dominated by skin lightening products with billions of dollars of transactions happening each year. Multinational companies are manipulating the market by using media. More and more ads are shown according to different  locations and cultures. The interesting thing is that very less is shown in media about the bad effects and negative side of skin whiteners. If we look at India, it is not hard to see that youths specially women are being obsessed by light skin. In cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, people are trying to accept their natural color tone. They are promoting things such as “dark is beautiful” and “beauty beyond colors”. This is a very slow action but definitely, people are starting to realize that “white is right” ideology is a complete myth.

It seems that people are not just making their face and arms light, but they are going beyond. The intimate skin lightening creams and other cosmetic things are becoming popular. People are going for their intimate areas and are being extreme. Bleaching one’s skin is becoming a common practice.  I wonder how will be the skin lightening trade after 5 or 10 years. Those who are more concerned about racism and discrimination are acting to solve the problems but that is not enough. We need to embrace and appreciate who we are, rather than trying to be who we are not. We need to see the problem from a different side. With the increase in intimate skin whitening, I wonder what will be the next, would it be lightening of your eyeballs or feet or something else.

Mzungu and Colorism in Africa

by Miho Tanaka

Reading “Skin Lighteners in South Africa: Transnational Entanglements and Technologies of the Self (2009)” by Lynn M. Thomas, I was reminded of and reflected on my experiences in Africa. It was inconsiderable that South African care so much about their skin color even though skin lighteners sometimes bring problems to their skin.

However it is true that the people I met in Kenya put value on light skin and they connect it with high social status very much. The other internship students from Europe, the United States, and Asia and I were called Mzungu by Kenyans. I saw Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans, Americans, Brazilians, Swedes and Germans all called Mzungu. Mzungu is the Swahili word that describes rich and White people from African people’s perspectives. More specifically, not only Caucasians but also people from developed countries with light skin of color are Mzungu. It seems that many Swahili-speaking countries use the term Mzungu, as some websites and blogs show on the internet (Hoff n.d.; Duara 2008). Both Hoff and Duara write that Mzungu is used in central and Southern Africa. When I visited Rwanda this summer Rwandan also called us Wazungu, the plural way to call Mzungu.

Interesting are those African people who are eager to have networks or connections with Mzungu people. For instance, while I and the other internship students were in a community in Kenya and belonged to a Community Based Organization, some Kenyans suddenly joined the organization and many HIV-positive people started to attend our meetings as well. However according to local members in Kenya, they began to be absent from meetings after all of the Wazungu left. However, some of them have tried to maintain their connections with Wazungu. Most importantly, they strongly connect idea of economic and social status mobility with being Mzungu. If they could have been married with a Mzungu woman or man, they would not have to be in trouble of impoverished in Africa anymore. They would be able to get out of their homeland and have a better life.

Considering the case of South Africa, the tendency that they would like to have lighter skin color must be much higher than the other countries since they were harshly segregated by skin color during the period of apartheid. Even though they might have skin troubles from using skin lighteners, upward mobility would be more important for them since it would determine their entire life and success. Therefore, they care more about their skin tone rather than their health. However the status in South Africa must be changed since the abolition of apartheid. Nowadays there are poor Whites going begging in South Africa, and it also might be a factor that changes preference of white or light skin. I suppose the tension between Mzungu and Black Africans, which connects social upward mobility with light skin color, would not change because Black Africans regard Mzungu as coming from totally different background and statuses. However, it might create new black movement as their economic status changes with economic growth.

References

Duara, D. (July, 19th 2008). The Mzungu term : get it right! Retrieved on November, 22nd 2013 from http://pernille.typepad.com/louderthanswahili/2008/07/the-mzungu-te-1.html

Hoff, W. (n.d.). Mzungu Design. Retrieved on November 22nd 2013 from http://www.mzungudesign.com/welcome/

Thomas, M. L. (2009). Skin lighteners in South Africa: transnational entanglement and technologies of the self. In Glenn, N. E. (Ed.), Shades of difference: why skin color matters. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.