by Emilie Hui Ting Soh
Reading Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s “Consuming Lightness: Segmented Markets and Global Capital in the Skin-Whitening Trade” brought back my memories on the first time I went to the drug store looking for a suitable skin care product to use. I was a young girl, at thirteen years old, with no prior experience or knowledge, was instantly bombarded with the wide range of brands, functions, benefits. I had no idea where to begin. A sales lady then came up to me and asked if I needed any help. I replied yes, and she began introducing the range of products that she was selling. Words such as moisturizing, radiating, whitening, and beauty were used as she explained in detail about the products and how they are used. I, on the other hand, had no idea and did not understand any of what she was talking about. I was just looking for a product to wash my face with, and did not know that I have to consider so many other problems that I possibly have. That made me felt very troubled and I left. Now looking back, I look at this incident as part of a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of once you get sucked into the industry.
At that time, I did not think that being fair or white was beautiful. I was considered to have dark skin and did not have any issues with my own skin until I began having influenced by consumerism thinking that dark skin is a problem that I need to fix with the use of a skincare product. The media, through advertisements and posters, act as constant reminders to the consumers that we have to do something about the ‘problem’ we have. If not for media portrayal and influence made by businesses and the society, I believe the majority of us would definitely not think that dark skin is anything negative or inferior. It is in fact, through our life we have been constantly ‘programmed’ to think this way, thus it creates such an issue in this present day.
In addition, as I was reading this chapter, I could not help but feel very annoyed and was seriously questioning the reason why are women always the one being objectified by the media and the society? It is ridiculous to compare how much women and men spend per month on their own cosmetic skincare products respectively for themselves. Why should women be made to comply with the beauty standards set by the people trying to sell us the products that they claim can make us beautiful? If we look at some of the tribes in the mountainous regions, who have limited exposure to the media, their standard of beauty is very different from the standard of beauty that we have.
Beauty, I believe, is when you learn to appreciate what you have and not to remake or alter the way you look to try and become someone else whom you are not.