Saturday, February 19, 2005

Whiteness

Now, some background here.

My complexion is very fair, and I am very fond and proud of it. I actually like it so much that I never sunbathe, and not just because of skin damage. In fact, I never ever put self-tanning lotions on it. I do, however, put all the moisturizing and nourishing creams I need, since my skin is pretty dry too. Anyhow, I am white candid and like to be as white as the milk is.

Some days ago, I had a bad reaction to the sun. I don't know exactly if it was because I hadn't be out in a while or because of some pollutant being activated on my face by the sunlight. I wasn't wearing make up and my usual creams weren't enough. So, I started browsing the net for an appropriate sun-block screen. Then I thought I'd check into a whitening product cause anytime I get a sunburn my skin stays uneven for a while, and it's really yukky (to me anyway, who am the only person whose tastes I am concerned about).

Trying to decide which one to buy between a Lancome and a Dior product (and I ended up with a Chanel in the end), I was browsing the net more and more, till I found this article, which really enraged me. I am going to comment on several nonsenses I found there.

First of all, the supposed "popularisation of skin-whitening practices amongst 'non-white' cultures that has occurred in recent years" did not occur in recent years. Go to China, go to Japan, and you'll find ancient tales of Princesses that were said to keep their complexion fair with special herbals. No, wait a moment, by their own admissions authors contradict themselves later when they wrote: "In ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman societies, mercury and lead compounds were used to whiten the face of high-class women". Authors claim it all is "with relation to historical and colonial contexts", strategically forgetting how ancient Chinese and Japanese masks are and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN as white as ancient Greeks'.

They also claim to explore "the performance of 'whiteness' by young women in Southeast Asia, who are encouraged to whiten their faces with cosmetics to become 'paler'". Well such encouragement dates WAY back, so long ago that you can find it present in ancient Indian tales (again, not born yesterday, or with colonialism).

Asian skins, other than being oilier than white one, are much more dermatologically vulnerable to dark spot, so there are scientifical reasons to doubt that "changing skin colour possibly fulfils a role in the maintenance of literal and symbolic debt structures". Very probably, what was sought after, was the extreme eveness of white skins (the way white people envy Asian's resistance to wrinkles).

"Lipsitz coins the phrase the 'possessive investment in "whiteness"' to describe how European Americans have used whiteness to create and secure economic advantages, while 'white power secures its dominance by seeming not to be anything in particular'.": how could I forget THIS????? The white man made the awful mistake of inventing racism and therefore now he has the culprit of being white, in a sort of "reverse racism". He is even to blame for others' (SUPPOSED) inferiority complexes.

For some reasons, the authors decided that skin-whitening cannot just be "the old feminine ideologies that still [have] power to control women" as Wolf's proposes: That is mainly because their critique is a feminist one, which translates into "whatever you woman do, what's in between your legs influences your actions and make them different NO MATTER WHAT YOU DECIDE ABOUT THAT -- did I say chauvinism -- with an important corollary: "The uglier you are, the better you are to us" cause being ugly means you don't give a d*mn about what your father, brother and husband think of you but you also don't even give a d*mn about the most important person to you, YOU, liking YOURSELF). They even go so far to define being white "passive, non-threatening femininity associated with whiteness", as if being tanned and full of wrinkles to sun damage were a beauty to behold.

"In analysing the meanings of whiteness in colonial economies, Richard Dyer argues that the construction of 'whiteness' is dependent upon belief in the mind/body split, and on Christian spiritual values that support imperialism.": don't you just love these things? I understand it's a hypothesis, but usually they should make sense to be held as credible.

On one thing they are right though: being white expresses a priviledge, not just figuratively, meaning that's what people think when look at a very white person. If you are that white, chances are you either don't expose to sun or you have bad reactions if you do, so usually your skin is younger, more beautiful. In any case, even in Europe, being that fair is not usual. It is considered being special.

It sounds to me as if all the supposed bad intentions behind the whiteness are out of a misperception of the priviledge "less-whites" see in whiteness.

Coming to think about it, don't you find persons as white as Nicole Kidman or Greta Garbo to "feel" somehow superior, snotty, snob, while "darker" (like, say, Penelope Cruz or JLo) persons are seen as "less distant"?

I don't mean authors are right, I mean the reverse.

They blab endlessly about those "critiques" just to sell you a (SUPPOSED) justification for a mere prejudice against very white people, explaining in details why you should think what your guts already do... that they are distant, icy, and isolated. Yeah.. I think somebody else tried to prove that black people stink too...

Next step is to pick all snobby whities up, shove them into a train like anchovies (so that they stop being so isolated) and send them to Russia to have their brain reformatted in a psychiatric ward compliant with the regime...

Wait a moment! Hasn't it already happened??????????

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