This discussion on Racialicious reminds me of those horrible skin lightening product commercials I saw on television the last time I was in Manila. If you’re Filipina, you know the brand I’m talking about. Block & White. And if you’re not Filipina but Asian, you probably have equivalent products and brands.
I was no longer surprised that the skin whitening ads—largely aimed at women, btw—equate fairness with beauty, popularity. Nor was I surprised that milky white skin is equated with being healthy. The ads aren’t even subtle about their colorism. The Block & White deodorant stick ad, for example, repeats the phrase “So dry! So white!” like a mantra.
But I admit being taken aback by the following ads:
I think it’s juuuust wonderful—really!—that these ads go beyond outer beauty, don’t you? Being fair-skinned is a virtue. ‘Cause having white underarms allows a Filipina woman to rise above the rest, reach out, and inspire others.
Edited to add:
I just made my partner M view a slew of Block & White ads on YouTube (aww, the things he does for me!), and he pointed out the insidious language used in the other ads. In one ad, a pretty young woman rubs Block & White lotion all over her body, as the voiceover promises whiter skin in just two weeks. But the phrasing is notable — “Ilabas ang natural na puti.” Or in English, “Bring out your natural whiteness.”
Whoa. Whiteness is natural, just lurking beneath the surface of your brown skin. (So what’s the brown layer? Dirt? It’s something to be removed and expended.) Not fairer skin, but puti, whiteness. Even in a country of brown people, whiteness is the norm.