In Asia and Africa, advertisements for skin lightening products are prevalent as pornography is in America. They are everywhere. In Asia, these advertisements feature Asian women with glowing skin, jet-black hair, and delicate, almond-shaped eyes. There is a clear message in these ads: You can be a perfect Asian woman by using our beauty products. You need this because you are not enough. Your eyes are not big enough, your nose is not pointy enough, and your skin is not light enough.
A month ago, I was watching an Asian cable channel and saw an advertisement for face soap. It gave the idea that the soap could wash away the ‘stigma’ of having dark skin and one could become more beautiful, have men fall in love with them, and be successful socioeconomically with the lighter skin color that appears. Margaret Hunter wrote about this in “If You’re Light You’re Alright: Light Skin Color as Social Capital for Women of Color.” She observed that most literature on skin color hierarchies point to the ideology of white prestige and how having a lighter skin color is like “social capital” for women of color since it gives preference to light skinned women, so they have more opportunities to be successful in the areas of personal income, education, and spousal status.
So, how far will these advertisements go? In India, there was a commercial for skin lightening cream—not for the face—the vagina. The commercial showed a husband ignoring his wife, until she washed with vagina wash. The makers of the bleaching product believed it was “Indian women’s hope in a tube.”
Eleanor Roosevelt was once quoted as saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” but with multinational companies reaping the benefits of the skin-lightening phenomena, the likelihood of self-acceptance slips further away and enforces racism, sexism, and other forms of injustices to make them seem like a natural part of life for women.