The Quest for Lighter Skin

The media plays a crucial role in setting out the idea of what is considered as “ideal female beauty” in South and East-Asian countries.  Ponds Flawless White, a branch of world-renowned company Ponds, is a fairness cream which specifically targets the young female audience in countries in these regions. In these areas, female beauty is not considered by the features of the woman, which includes facial features, height, body structure, etc, but rather the paleness of her skin. These Asian women have been finely tuned to a certain idea of female beauty, believing that tanned skin represents the impoverished, whereas those with pale skin represent wealth, class and luxury.  The campaign’s tagline, “7 days to Love,” a preferred reading, blatantly reveals to the audience that the only way they can achieve the ideal look is by using the advertised fairness product, ensuring a “radiant” complexion. If not, they will never find someone who will “love” them. The advertisement therefore discriminates women using stereotypical female traits, oppresses and conditions them into a constant state of paranoia.

In short, the advertisement, broadcasted on various forms of media around Asia, depicts a young couple splitting up where the girl is still evidently in love with the boy. After many years, she sees his picture in a magazine with his beautiful and “fair” fiancée. He later sees  her on the road but does not approach her (possibly because she is not as “radiant” as his fiancée). She later texts him, and without him knowing, his fiancée replies with a rude message. This incident urges her to start using the fairness product, where after exactly seven days of usage, she becomes “fair” and “radiant” and her love interest begs to be with her again. The female protagonist in the ad is seen wearing pink throughout the ad, a stereotypical feminine colour as well as the colour of the cream itself, which gives a “pinkish glow” to its users. She constantly thinks about her love interest despite their break up and later texts him with good wishes after knowing that he is engaged, revealing a typical “caring” and “affectionate” female nature.

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The socialization process in these Asian nations is such that, from the very beginning of their lives, females are taught to believe that they are inferior to their male counterparts. They live in accordance with the patriarchal system of society, conditioned to believe that they were born inferior, both physically and mentally, and will always remain that way. In the advertisement, the female protagonist only starts using the cream in order to please the eyes and gain the confidence she never had, reinforcing patriarchy. The male, however, is empowered, having two girls to choose from.  There is no depth to her character- she is merely an object displayed for visual pleasure to men (Sellnow 99).

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The ads have been reproduced according to country, using renowned actresses who act like models to the younger female population, (i.e. ex Miss World’s). The ad is targeted towards very young audiences, probably aged fourteen to their mid-twenties, who are yet to enter a relationship. Watching such ads at such a vulnerable age conditions and makes them more susceptible to using such products to ”enhance their beauty.” Their psychology is thus greatly affected once they feel as if they do not live up to the social expectations of the ideal woman.

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Therefore, the social stigma, beliefs and oppression on Asian women with darker complexions by this advertisement handicaps them, creating a constant state of paranoia and frustration regarding their skin complexion.

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Ponds Flawless White 7 Days to Love. Advertisement. N.p., n.d. Web.

Sellnow, Deanna D. “Feminist Perspectives.” The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. 98-99. Print.

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2 thoughts on “The Quest for Lighter Skin

  1. Advertisement for women’s beauty products is rich with messages enforcing perceived female ideals and roles and this commercial is no exception. This artifact was a great choice for the Feminist Perspective. Although during this course, we mainly dealt with North American pop culture and dominant ideologies, your explanation on some of the South Asian views on women and beauty makes your blog much more informative and interesting to someone who isn’t familiar with South Asian culture.

    Although your introductory paragraph did a good job of introducing the advertisement, I think you should have also outlined the arguments you wanted to make throughout the post so that the reader has the structure of your post in mind. I also felt that your separate arguments could have transitioned into each other a bit better which an outline in the introduction would help with.

    I feel that your arguments on socialization of young women leading them to believe they are inferior to males is not only true to South Asian countries but a large portion of our civilized world including North America to some extent. I strongly agree with you that this particular advertisement enforces the “ideal” of lighter skin and the paranoia of not having lighter skin. I feel that beauty advertisements in general tries to enforce some specific “beautiful” attribute and oppresses individuals (especially female) who does not have it. Like you mentioned in your post, this negative psychological effect subtly force individuals into purchasing these products which causes them to sell and gives them economic value.

    I think you post was very interesting because it looked into a specific aspect of South Asian ideologies that can be generalized to other cultures as well.

  2. To be honest I saw this add this time first, and for me it looks like if it was a move on a tv channel interrupted with advertisement of Ponds. I cannot imagine why Ponds thought this is a good add. Even if someone would think that the guy chooses the girl over the other due to her white skin: if that someone has a higher IQ than 80, she will very fast come to the conclusion that the guy doesn’t worth a penny, because he will leave her as fast as he finds a girl with an even more lighter skin tone…
    Otherwise I agree that these companies doesn’t do too much good with young girls’ confidence, if they see the same patriarchal lifestyle in their family – which is very likely the case in Korea. But if they have a loving father, he will sure tell them to focus on other qualities if they want to get a boyfriend that worth of their love. Trends change, but I believe that family, if it is functioning well, can have the best impact on a kid.
    Another topic: I feel that nowadays the issue of having too much sun turned around to having less than healthy. I would love to see and hear more information all around the media about the importance of sunshine due to its ability to make the skin to create vitamin D. I had an experience having thyroid malfunction due to its seriously low level in my body. (You cannot even conceive if you have too high level of some hormones created by malfunctioning thyroid, plus you feel depressed, etc. so it is really serious!) Before that I barely went to the sun for years and always used high SPF sunscreens. Now I even go to the beach to let my whole body to have a little bit of sunshine. – Of course you have to know how much is too much as well. – Now I don’t have such a beautiful skin as before (unfortunately it is not just the skin tone, but wrinkles, etc.), but I am healthy, and have a chance to have a baby!!! 🙂 And of course my BF loves me for more than just the skin on my face…

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