Race and Visual Appearance

by Kohsei Ishimoto

The idea of how one thinks of another (first impression) can mainly come from how one looks. We all have our own beliefs of various cultures, which can also alter who we choose to be with. In “Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual Tropes of Racial Difference,” Terry Kawashima (2002) explains the relationship between ‘beauty’ and ‘race’, focusing on “light skin”.

Many cosmetics companies are now promoting “whiteness”, selling products that can lighten one’s skin. Many people in Asian countries now focus on these products, possibly feeling that beauty is to “look white”. When looking at make-up as well, fashion magazines (mainly in Japan) promote the image of looking “white”, or “ha-fu”, by showing how to do make-up in a certain way.

Hair dye can also be put into this idea. When walking the streets of Japan, there are many Japanese people that have dyed hair, usually brown or blond. Although having “too light hair” does not have a positive image, the number of people with dyed hair has obviously increased greatly.

But does having light skin, doing make-up in a certain way, and having colored hair mean that one is “white”? Personally, I would say no to this. It cannot be said that being “white” is being beautiful; there are many different races in the world, and everyone should be considered beautiful.

I also dyed my hair in high school, starting with a dark brown color, but later on to a bright close-to-white color. In Japan, this can be considered ‘unusual’, leading to situations in which people would avoid you. It is also close to impossible to get a part-time job with a light hair color. It is usually prohibited to dye hair in Japanese public schools, but since I had attended a private school, the society I had been in allowed me to dye my hair. However, I did not dye my hair because I wanted to look “white”; I dyed my hair because I wanted to look like an individual.

When looking at western countries, it can be said that not all people try to stay light skinned. Having “too light” skin can be a sign of sickness, and most people must have the desire to get a tan during the summer. When considering hair color, my Non-Asian friends dye their hair to exotic colors, such as red or blue. This can be because they already have a natural tone of color, compared to the “dull” color of black in Asians.

In conclusion, I believe that the act of doing make-up a certain way or dyeing hair is done through the individual’s decision; our personal experiences in society can alter our own belief’s of “beauty”.

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One thought on “Race and Visual Appearance

  1. Pingback: Selling whiter skin for beauty | JAPANsociology

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