Ad for Fair and Lovely Skin Cream
Beauty is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight” (Oxford Dictionary, 2010). Those who are considered beautiful are perceived to have good qualities, greater employment suitability, higher income, and greater popularity. .Beauty can also be equated with youthfulness and is perceived differently in certain societies and cultures. This is why some women experience so much inner conflict with it.
Throughout history, the whiteness of a woman’s skin has been an empowering and disempowering function within Asian cultures. In the Confucian Doctrine of Threefold Obedience, it states women were subordinates to their fathers as girls, to their husbands as wives, and to their sons as widows. Since women had little control over their lives in the past, the ability to whiten their skin, allowed women to liberate themselves from the control of men by increasing their social status through work and marriage. However, the whitening of skin has also disempowered women by placing large amounts of pressure on women to follow the standards of beauty, in order to gain acceptance.
In the past, whiteness equated being part of the upper class who did not have to work in the sun like the poor people. Even though time has passed and there are more indoor jobs available for women, the stereotype of what a fair skin means, has not changed. Those women who have it are seen as more beautiful, successful, and worth noticing than someone with darker skin.
I have a daughter who is eight-years old. Last year, she was started modeling professionally and has already been in different print ads. Whenever we go to auditions, she constantly receives comments about her long silky hair, unique dimples, and attractive almond-shaped eyes. She is beautiful on the outside, but she is also attractive because of her charming personality and soft heart toward hurting people.
Though she usually has Korean classes on Saturdays, I allowed her to stay home last week to spend time with her father and just hang out. She played in the yard, went swimming, and even learned to ride a bike. She really enjoyed the time because she had her papa to herself and could spend the day frolicking in the sun.
When we arrived at church the next day, my daughter and I got out of the car first and walked hand in hand, as she excitedly retold me every detail of the previous day. When we were walking closer to the church, there were a group of women who were talking and enjoying the fresh air outside before service was about to start. As we were passing them, they all turned and gasped at my daughter. One woman loudly said, “She looks like a little black child.” Another woman scorned me for allowing her to play in the sun and not putting enough sunscreen on her face.
When my daughter heard these things, she immediately covered her face with her hands and then hid behind me. As we walked away quickly from these women, I could hear them still discussing their disapproval of her skin color and complaining how I should have done a better job of maintain her whiteness, especially since she was “more beautiful pale-skinned.”
Instead of heading to her Sunday School classroom, my daughter went to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. I stared at her and felt my mind running with what to say to her about what just happened. Yet, before I could open my mouth, she looked at me and said, “I think my skin color is beautiful and it makes my cheeks rosy. What is wrong with those ladies?”
Our culture and the thoughts of others have made it challenging to be ourselves and feel good about it. Just like my daughter, we shouldn’t worry about what others think, and compare ourselves to what is considered a beautiful woman in society. True beauty lies in our spirit, the part of us that God sees and feeds. The sooner we take a stand and accept who we are, and are happy with how God created us, the sooner we will see past what others think and truly understand how we are unique and beautiful.