I was lucky enough to catch “The Business of Race” on CBC radio one while driving in my car running some lunch-time errands. It was such an excellent radio documentary (radumentary?) that had to listen to the rest of it on my iphone. It was a piece about how our perceptions on race shape beauty and in turn how power, and groups in power, influence this.
It was really interesting as it covered how different minority groups were even perceived in a different light based on their power dynamic. Apparently, Irish were said to be considered “dark skinned”, whereas today this imaging is not common (at least I don’t think it is). How the way “white” is represented changes with culture.
Asian Beauty, Asian Self-Hate
They ended with a lengthy talk about beautycare in Asia. As an Asian woman in the beauty industry I’m well aware of the popularity of bleaching creams and eye lid surgery – both of which were mentioned on the segment. I’m actually exhausted by it. It bothers me of course but it’s also uncomfortable as it forces me to examine my feelings about my own features, features that that so many people seem to want to surgically remove from themselves. But this piece also talked about the pervasiveness of lightening creams in beautycare in Asia – so much so that a line without lightening products seldom is successful. I get wanting to undo sun damage marks but wanting to so overall lightening is really hard on our little hearts. What’s even more compelling is that some families have set up funds for eye lid surgery similar to college funds as it is felt that attractiveness is a resource for success. This is as much a comment on power as I’ve ever heard.
While I was fortunate enough for the most part – I do remember being praised by older family members for having fair skin (as if I had anything to do with it) as well as being mocked for having Asian eyes (again, as if I had anything to do with it). I still remember children pulling at their lids to make “slits” to mimic what I apparently looked like. Oh, and then there were a couple of times that I was told my nose looked like a brick had fallen on my face. These things stay with you. As I imagine does conditioning surrounding kinky hair or darker skin. I’m not writing this for people to feel bad for me – or worse, to come across as self-righteous – but to highlight how far back this goes. Kids learn about these things somewhere and even as someone who is very conscious about the culture of beauty, its very hard to shake off.
Have a Listen…
So, today’s post is simply to share the link to such as great segment from CBC. If you’re interested, you can listen to it here. I’m sure you’ll find it goes beyond the usual discussions on beauty and doesn’t look at other cultures with pity or mocking but demonstrates how beauty is often a result of politics and power. Something all of us, whatever our race or skin color has been affected by.