7.18.2010

Seoul Searching: Standards of Beauty

I know I shouldn't be so surprised that there are many skin bleaching creams here in Korea but it doesn't make it any less horrifying and disheartening.

On Thursday, I went to the bank to deal with an incident I had earlier that week with the bank staff (you can read that on my journal if you want). My ISS program coordinator, Jamie took me to speak with the Bank manager. While we were waiting, I ventured to question the zealous fascination with pale skin in Korea. I found it ironic because Koreans seem to gawk at and resent foreigners while simultaneously wanting to attain at least European standards of beauty

I asked Jamie if pale skin was of cultural significance like in Japan. She sadly replied that it was an import from Europe and Globalization. She said that the Korean people have been through invasions, colonization, and war and are looking to embrace something that represents strength and power and success, and sadly that aesthetic is European.

We delved into a frank discussion on race and beauty standards in Korea. I told her that the seeds of White Supremacy are widespread into all the colored people of the world. I referenced the notion of 'good hair' and the field slave/house slave mentality and how skin bleaching creams were popular in the 50s and 60s in the Black community before the 'Black is Beautiful' movement; then it seems we digressed. She agreed that we people of color are being brainwashed by this insidious notion that White is Beautiful even though whites are only 12 percent of the human race.

However, here and around the world people of color try in vain to reach this status. I too am not immune. I am wearing a weave under the guise of low maintenance to cover my not 'good hair'. It seems sometimes we people of color are our own worst enemy.

What is most disheartening is that I look around and see Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn reverenced by millions of Korean girls wanting to attain this 'epitome' of beauty. Every time I go shopping, I am bombarded by ads with pale skinned Koreans telling me to get pearly white skin, or beckoned to spend money on a shirt with a random white girl emblazoned on my chest.

Jamie told me that the UOS buddy to one of the Finnish girls has an obsession over her buddy's skin and looks. Jamie said with her Nordic looks and blue eyes and incredibly pale skin, she is the epitome of beauty to Korean girls here. The buddy was lavishing praises on the girl's perfect looks and, as Jamie said, idolized her. Jamie pitied the girl, telling her to shake off these silly notions.

I told Jamie that people of color around the world need a movement: "White is alright, but colored is beautiful" She smiled sadly and agreed. We all need to be comfortable in our skin.

17 comments:

  1. Its like no matter where you go in this world, you will come across individuals who are not comfortable in their own skin. What hurts me is to see the younger kids get 'recruited' by their family/friends/institution/society into thinking they are not good enough & this is what he/she need to look up to or conform to... That kind of thinking & that kind of way of life is no good. Thinking about this just makes my skin crawl but I can't ignore it & I have to tackle it head on. Its somewhat the same way of thinking in Jamaica, that old colonial mindset. Oh when it comes to natural hair... that's when the truth come out from people... the looks, the gawks & overall attitude. Nothing wrong with wearing a weave, its temporary. Not so good hair is good hair, take care of it because its literally a part of you. You have hair so love it. So many people wish they had hair. Some even wish they had hair like us. People look at us & say to themselves 'She has the balls to wear her hair like that?! And she doesn't give a rat's a$$'...when people start thinking like that they will begin to apply it to themselves & their own life... When will people learn that this so called 'European aesthetic' is not the way. Some people don't understand that some/many yt people don't like to see people of color be themselves (including all the skin tones of various nations in this world). They don't. They love to see people of color hating themselves, confused, angry & in contention with each other... I can go on and on. This has been going on for an extremely long time. Only way for that kind of 'mindset/mob mentality' to go away is if the older generations of those people just die off but then again, many of the younger people are influenced & will flex their preferences & express who they want to be like... I'd like to burn a whole case of bleaching cream. This world is up to no good. What is wrong with some people?! Why are they afraid to be themselves?! And doesn't bleach cream burn?! Who really wants to burn themselves & bleach their privates?! So that means it has to be shaved then bleached?! Oh gosh. I'll stop.

    Ok, one more, do we really want to 'fit in' in this world?!... Its funny how nothing in this life lasts forever, yet mentalities do. Its sad yet scary.

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  2. Thanks for this, Bcbgrl33. Very insightful, and very true. We really do need a worldwide movement. We also need to take a cue from countries like Malaysia who go to great lengths to deter white-washing in their media.

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  3. Who really wants to burn themselves & bleach their privates?! So that means it has to be shaved then bleached?!

    wait a minute, they are bleaching their goodies? O_0

    The brain washing thing is so thorough. I mean youthful/fertile women are supposed to be the beauty standard yet the pale skin and bleaching leads to damaged wrinkled skin which takes away the youthful look and those of us with naturally darker skin are less likely to have wrinkles yet we are ignored. It does not compute.

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  4. From Abagond:

    A nice, big, round bottom makes a woman more desirable, just like big breasts do. In fact, a big bottom turns me on more than big breasts. I love the way it looks and feels, especially along with thick thighs.

    Even though it goes against current white American ideas of health and beauty, there are sound reasons for men to like that sort of thing in women: those are the two places – the bottom and the thighs – where a woman’s body stores the fat it will need to have babies. It is a sign they are fertile.

    Part of what drives white ideas of beauty is the demand of fashion designers for flat bodies. So, in a way, I am glad the fashion industry is so white and leaves black beauty so untouched – and therefore still beautiful.

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  5. @bcbgrl33 -She said that the Korean people have been through invasions, colonization, and war and are looking to embrace something that represents strength and power and success, and sadly that aesthetic is European.

    I think your acquaintance hit the nail on the head with this. Unlike Korea, Japan has never been invaded, occupied or colonized and it shows in how they perceive themselves and others.

    While it is true the US dropped two atomic bombs on this nation, they never occupied it. They didn't even know how. The Japanese were (and still are) extremely alien to WP. If you read the book First into Nagasaki, you'll learn that the Japanese "handled" the surrender. Some American prisoners of war were wondering who surrendered to whom. The Japanese are still "handling" the US government to this day. The business with US troops is an entirely different issue...

    In the end, the Japanese are like BORG. They assimilate what they want, modify it and improve it (i.e. Japanize). There's no reason for them to fall for Western propaganda. This is a complete and total fad nation. Whatever they like today might be easily tossed to the side next month (if not sooner)...

    When comparing the two nations it makes sense that the Korean people are in such dire circumstances when it comes to their sense of self. On the plus side, Korea is the current fad in Japan. Korean dramas, soap operas and historical dramas are taking over the television. This means less air time for WP shows. I'm not joking. As a result, more Japanese are learning to appreciate Koreans as people and as distant relatives. Perhaps in time, this will help the Korean people's self-confidence.

    Rain's new drama will also feature an iconic Japanese actor/comedienne. It's a sure bet that drama will air here.

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  6. @ Hateya

    >>In the end, the Japanese are like BORG. They assimilate what they want, modify it and improve it (i.e. Japanize). There's no reason for them to fall for Western propaganda. This is a complete and total fad nation.

    Yes, this is the best characterization of the Japanese. Many Koreans I talked to are upset that Japan seemingly sold their soul to Westerners (i.e. acted White in the extreme sense) by colonizing, raping, and killing Chinese and Koreans to assert their supposed European-ess (which is kind of interesting that they thought the only way to be White/European was to rape and pillage; says a lot about White characterization huh)

    The Koreans are trying to find an identity right now since theirs has been uprooted in modern history so now they are trying to find a niche, but that niche is leading to self-hatred. I hope we can all shed the chains of white supremacy soon

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  7. @bcbgrl33

    Many Koreans I talked to are upset that Japan seemingly sold their soul to Westerners

    In this case, I suggest they pick up a Japanese history book and learn otherwise. These people were quite proficient in destruction long before they met the "white man." These days young Japanese know very little about Korea or Japan's militaristic past. It's barely a footnote, yet these youngsters thrive without embracing "whiteness." They aren't being taught to hate others. They're being taught to love themselves. In many ways, they're being taught to be shallow; hence, their fad-tendencies.

    The Koreans made a very big first step towards their own identity when they discontinued using Chinese characters. This was huge and radical. I hope I'll be around when they learn to stand on their own two feet. Freedom feels so good.

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  8. Hateya & Bcbgrl33

    Replace "Japan" with "USA" and you've got this country's description down pat.

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  9. @Bcbgrl33
    Is seeing President Obama and the First Family in the White House having some kind of impact? I know he's only been in the WH for less than two years, but I would think that constantly seeing such a powerful image coming from the West has to be doing some kind of good. I hope...

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  10. @Ankhesen and Bcbgrl33

    Replace "Japan" with "USA" and you've got this country's description down pat.

    Let me backtrack just a bit. Perhaps I should have suggested that Koreans review their OWN history. The people who "founded" this archipelago, who introduced biological imperialism (via animals and plants) and who slaughtered the native peoples... were Koreans and their descendants comprise, I've heard, over 77% of this nation. You don't even want to know what those who still cling to their "Korean-ness" are doing in this country. Pots frequently call kettles black, don't they? ;)

    Seriously, while racism in America is a malignant cancer, we need an entirely new category to label the damage done by homogeneity. On the plus side, those of us who are "excluded" are probably the lucky ones. Will post on this soon.

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  11. @Cinnamon
    They love Obama and Black men here. All the Korean women I talk to gush when I talk about Ne-Yo or Usher. A Korean man became very flustered while talking about Beyonce (he has a crush on her). A drunk Korean man on the subway sang Obama's praises and hi-fived my friend Chris who looks slightly like Obama. I think their perceptions of blacks are changing but it's being drowned out by the constant perpetuation of "White is Right" ugh

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  12. Beyonce has that affect on me when she's performing. That Sista ain't lazy. I love how she puts 100% into her shit even though she knows she might go tumbling down the stairs and land flat on her big booty! That's the definition of work ethic.

    @Cinnamon

    Obama and another country - Did you know that there was a city in Fukui Prefecture called Obama? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama,_Fukui

    They are batshit insane about our president as an individual person and if you could read Japanese, you would see just how many thousands of Japanese women want to wax his pole and have his babies. Men, especially politicians, but not limited to them, wants to be as smooth as he is.

    Since Michelle is absolute perfection as First Lady, there are no complaints here. When she's televised giving advice, people take it without question. Her anti-obesity plan kicked off royally here.

    Did the Obamas change the average person's perceptions of black people in general? It does in the sense that the population can relate to at least two black parents who are raising children and handling extremely stressful jobs. The rest of us still need to make our individual marks.

    My friend and the German news makes it clear that they'd give Obama German citizenship in a heartbeat and elect him Chancellor ASAP! When his approval ratings go down at home, his ratings rise in the rest of the world.

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  13. @ Hateya

    I remember how Obama, Japan was really into him. He boosted tourism.

    When his approval ratings go down at home, his ratings rise in the rest of the world.

    As is the natural order when pertaining to American politics.

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  14. @Ankhensen
    He boosted tourism

    The former opposition party (DPJ) took control of the government on an Obama-like platform. They were not shameless when they evoked him either and the nation was hypnotized. They're already regretting the good intentions gone silly, but Obama could win the Prime Ministership here, too.

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  15. They're already regretting the good intentions gone silly, but Obama could win the Prime Ministership here, too.

    Seriously?

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