ArticlePDF Available

Skin lightening and beauty in four Asian cultures



"Whiteness" or having white skin is considered an important element in constructing female beauty in Asian cultures. A dramatic growth of skin whitening and lightening products has occurred in Asian markets. Contemporary meanings of whiteness are influenced by Western ideologies as well as traditional Asian values and beliefs. In this study, we analyze print advertisements for skin whitening and lightening products in four Asian societies - India, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. We compare the verbal messages and visual images for both global brands and local brands and across countries. We find that whiteness in these Asian cultures is both empowering and disempowering as well as both global and local in character.
Labovitz School of Business & Economics, University of Minnesota Duluth, 11 E. Superior Street, Suite 210, Duluth, MN 55802
Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures
Eric P.H. Li, York University, Canada
Hyun Jeong Min, University of Utah
Russell W. Belk, York University, Canada
“Whiteness” or having white skin is considered an important element in constructing female beauty in Asian cultures. A dramatic
growth of skin whitening and lightening products has occurred in Asian markets. Contemporary meanings of whiteness are influenced
by Western ideologies as well as traditional Asian values and beliefs. In this study, we analyze print advertisements for skin whitening
and lightening products in four Asian societies -- India, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. We compare the verbal messages and visual
images for both global brands and local brands and across countries. We find that whiteness in these Asian cultures is both
empowering and disempowering as well as both global and local in character.
[to cite]:
Eric P.H. Li, Hyun Jeong Min, Russell W. Belk, and Junko Kimura, Shalini Bahl (2008) ,"Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four
Asian Cultures", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35, eds. Angela Y. Lee and Dilip Soman, Duluth, MN :
Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 444-449.
[copyright notice]:
This work is copyrighted by The Association for Consumer Research. For permission to copy or use this work in whole or in
part, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at
444 Advances in Consumer Research
Volume 35, © 2008
Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures
Eric P. H. Li, York University, Canada
Hyun Jeong Min, University of Utah, USA
Russell W. Belk, York University, Canada
Junko Kimura, Hosei University, Japan
Shalini Bahl, University of Utah, USA
Whiteness or having white skin is considered an important
element in constructing female beauty in Asian cultures. A dra-
matic growth of skin whitening and lightening products has oc-
curred in Asian markets. Contemporary meanings of whiteness are
influenced by Western ideologies as well as traditional Asian
values and beliefs. In this study, we analyze print advertisements for
skin whitening and lightening products in four Asian societies
India, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. We compare the verbal
messages and visual images for both global brands and local brands
and across countries. We find that whiteness in these Asian cultures
is both empowering and disempowering as well as both global and
local in character.
White skin has emerged as a central desideratum of con-
sumer culture in affluent Asia. Not only does skin lightness affect
perceptions of a womans beauty, it also affects her marital pros-
pects, job prospects, social status, and earning potential (Ashikari
2003b; Goon and Craven 2003; Leslie 2004). The beauty ideal of
white skin in Asia predates colonialism and the introduction of
Western notions of beauty (e.g., Wagatsuma 1967). Contemporary
meanings of white skin combine Western mass-mediated ideolo-
gies and traditional Asian cultural values. The popularity of Cauca-
sian and Eurasian models reflects the postcolonial structure of
commoditization and consumerism and is still influenced by a
colonial past (Goon and Craven 2003). Western-centrism and
cultural hegemony interact with Asian ideologies like Confucian-
ism in strengthening the ideal of whiteness (Russell 1996).
Asian countries have long histories of utilizing white skin as
a key criterion of personal beauty. In Korea, flawless skin like white
jade and an absence of freckles and scars have been preferred since
the first dynasty in Korean history (the Gojoseon Era, 2333-108
B.C.E.). Various methods of lightening the skin have long been
used in Korea, such as applying miansoo lotion and dregs of honey
(Jeon, 1987). In Japan, applying white powder to the face has been
considered a womans moral duty since the Edo period (Ashikari
2003a; 2003b; 2005). In India, white skin is considered as a mark
of class and caste as well as an asset (Leistikow 2003). Historically,
women (especially married women) in South India bathed with
turmeric. Apart from the health benefits involved, it also has skin
lightening and anti-inflammatory properties. In China, milk-white
skin is a symbol of beauty and some Chinese women used to
swallow powdered pearls in the hopes of becoming whiter (China
Daily 2006). Although there are cultural variations, the desire for
light skin is universal (Isa and Kramer 2003; Russell, Wilson and
Hall 1992).
Whiteness remains an important element in contemporary
postcolonial Asian understandings of beauty and has become a
commodity in the marketplace (Goon and Craven 2003). Skin
lightening products are popular not only in Asian cultures, but in
other non-white cultures as well (e.g., Burke 1996; Del Giudice
2002; Duany 1998; Hall 1995; Lovell and Wood 1993). Fueled by
increasing Asian wealth and growing consumer cultures, skin
whitening and lightening products have recorded dramatic growth
in Asia during the past several decades (Ashikari 2005). Mass
media and the fashion industry play important roles in reinforcing
the yearning for white skin. Advertisements also play important
roles in shaping ideal self images for consumers (Belk and Pollay
1985), and are the focus of our research.
We studied how advertisers portray skin color to women in
Asian cultures. Content analysis and semiotic analysis were used in
exploring the notion of white skin in four Asian societies (India,
Japan, Korea and Hong Kong). We compared the cultural similari-
ties and differences in advertising skin whitening and lightening
products by both global brands and domestic brands. We also
studied the metaphors used in advertisements in order to understand
the process of constructing the meanings of whiteness in different
Asian cultures.
Globalizing Notions of Beauty
In India, the words for fair and beautiful are synonymous
(Franklin 1968; Hall 1995). In one view whiteness and pale-
ness are distinct but related concepts, signifying both distinction
between, and collusion with, the historical myths of paleness
associated with feminine discourses of beauty, and whiteness as
an imperialist, racialized value of superiority (Goon and Craven
2003). Although, as we have already noted, ideals of whiteness
embedded in Asian notions of female beauty predate colonialism
and other forms of contact with the West, the prevalence of
Caucasian models in many Asian advertisements for beauty prod-
ucts raises the possibility that beauty ideals are or are becoming
global. According to a study of the Human Relations Area Files
more than 20 years ago, of 312 different cultures, 51 used skin color
as a criterion of beauty, and in all but four of these lighter skin was
preferred (Van den Berge and Frost 1986). Russell, Wilson, and
Hall (1992) note that while white is associated with purity, righ-
teousness, decency, and auspiciousness, black is associated with
wickedness, villainy, menace, and illegality. In Asia, skin lighten-
ing as well as cosmetic surgeries that provide a more Western
appearance (e.g., Kaw 1993; Miller 2003) have been taken by some
as evidence of the global appeal of Western and Caucasian stan-
dards of beauty (Goon and Craven 2003; Isa and Kramer 2003). But
others reject this conclusion, pointing for example to the desire of
white Western men for the dark exotic Other (e.g., Hunter 2005).
This is a weak argument however in that the transgressive desire for
Otherness may offer an element of perceived danger and excite-
ment but has hardly brought about the homogenization of skin
pigmentation through widespread intermarriage of dark skinned
and light skinned people.
During the colonial era, and arguably before and after as well,
rather than a homogenizing blending of skin color, there has instead
been an attempt to distinguish the dark Other as primitive and
inferior, thereby supporting the mission of the light skinned
colonialist to conquer and control the natives of Africa, the Ameri-
cas, Australia, New Zealand, and Polynesia (Torgovnick 1990). A
Advances in Consumer Research (Volume 35) / 445
part of this project has entailed equating dark skin color with dirt,
filth, and defilement (Spurr 1993). When Charles Darwin (1839)
encountered the natives of Tierra del Fuego, he described them as
stunted in their growth, their hideous faces bedaubed with white
paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their voices discordant, their
gestures violent and without dignity. As Torgovnick analyzes
William Rice Burroughs Tarzan series, she finds that As the series
develops, it increasingly affirms existing hierarchies, including the
hierarchy of male over female, white over black, West over rest
(1990, 46). And McClintock (1995) shows how advertisements for
Pears soap depict its ability to magically cleanse the body of a black
child and make it white, vividly illustrating the association of
darkness with dirt. At the same time, advertisements suggest that
the colonial mission of civilizing native populations necessarily
involves imposing a global standard of Caucasian beauty.
Cultural Meanings of Whiteness
In Japan, the Tokugawa government effectively sealed off the
country from Western influence in 1639. It was not until 1853 that
Commodore Perry and his American black ships forced Japan to
reopen its ports. During the subsequent period of the Meiji Resto-
ration, both Japanese men and women began to self-consciously
imitate the clothing, hairstyles, and appearance of Westerns
(Wagatsuma 1967). While early paintings of Western sailors show
the men with dark tans (note too the image of black ships), Western
women were shown as pale and white. By the 1920s, anything
Western was regarded as modern and desirable (Wagatsuma 1967;
Kinmonth 1981). This was also the case during and following
World War I and World War II (Kato 1965). Wagatsuma (1967)
reports a survey of Japanese men that found that they valued white
skin as a significant element in judging the beauty of Japanese
women and associated it with femininity, chastity, purity, moral
virtue, and motherhood. In addition he found that the quality of
mochi-hada (skin like pounded rice) had sexual connotations for
many of these men. However, this is a beauty ideal that is not the
same as the Western use of cosmetics to enhance or change
appearance. Instead it is a uniform fitting-in that has only become
somewhat less severe than the use of lead-based face whitening in
the Meiji era (Ashikari 2003b). More than 90 percent of middle-
class Japanese women adopt this face in public and even those who
tan their bodies avoid tanning their faces and use the standard color
of foundation makeup (Ashikari 2003b). Japanese whiteness is thus
about Japanese racial identity and according to Ashikari (2005) it is
seen as quite different from and even superior to Western white-
ness. Caucasian women are regarded as beautiful in Japan, although
Caucasian men are more likely to be described as big-nosed hairy
barbarians. Still, they are regarded more positively than blacks
who are described by some Japanese as bestial and animal-like
(Russell 1996; Wagatsuma 1967).
In traditional Chinese culture, the idiom one white covers up
three uglinesses (Bray 2002) still has currency. Most of the
portraits of goddesses and Buddha have white skin. But in China too
there was an historical influence of Western notions of beauty and
fashion during from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with
strong similarities to contemporary China following the open
door policies introduced in the late 1970s (Belk and Zhao 2003).
Shanghai, along with four other Chinese treaty port cities and
Hong Kong, was forced to open to the West after losing the Opium
War in 1843. Western goods, fashions, films, and inventions
flooded Shanghai as a result. This was a jarring development
compared to previous periods when China regarded itself as the
center of the universe and was largely impervious to attempts to
import foreign goods. Womens appearances became increasingly
Westernized in the 1930s and incorporated high heel shoes, furs,
bobbed hair, and Western beauty products. Chinese women who
adopted such fashions also became the target of an anti-foreign and
anti-consumerist movement, the Kuomintang or New Life Move-
ment. The Japanese invasion of China and World War II intervened,
but this movement eventually led to civil war and the establishment
of the communist party in China. Womens looks and clothing
became decidedly less consumerist and Western under commu-
nism until the late 1970s. The recent rise of consumerism in China
has brought about a resurgence of Westernized fashions. But the
legacy of foreign conquests and humiliations of China have also led
to a simultaneous love/hate relationship with the global and foreign
in contemporary China (Belk and Zhao 2003; Zhou and Belk 2004).
In the long tradition of Korean shamanism, a person with white
skin is respected. The myth of the Buryat Mongols of South-Central
Siberia, where Korean shamanism originated, tells that the first
superhuman was born white. In Korea, people who have white skin
have long been told that they look noble. In the upper class of the
Koyro dynasty (918-1392), children washed their faces with peach
flower water to make their skin clean, white, and transparent, and
girls before marriage were desperate to have white skin. Even for
men, the skin complexion of a noble man was almost always
expressed as being like pale jade (Jeon 1987). After the opening of
its seaports to the foreign Powers since 1876, Western clothing,
accessories, hairstyles, and make-up were distributed in the cities of
Korea. New women, who were also called modern girls, were
very active in embracing Western standards of beauty. Names like
Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo were mentioned often describ-
ing beauty (Yoo 2001).
In Indian culture, black is associated with underprivileged
people and is a symbol of dark, dirty, wrong, hell, and
unfairness and is opposite to good, bright, and well-being.
White skin is always associated with positive messages in Indian
and Hindu culture. It is taken as s sign of beauty, purity,
cleanliness, and happiness, and is a symbol of power and
privilege (Arif 2004). In Hindu religion, Kali, a dark-skin goddess,
is a symbol of ugliness, cruelty, and destruction (Arif 2004; Leeming
2001) and manifests the negative association of dark skinned
women in Indian society.
In sum, whiteness is an important sign in presenting and
constructing beauty in many non-white cultures. Also, whiteness is
associated with perceptions of gender, virtue, and cultural identity.
Desires for whiteness, under this chain of associations, is pursued
for mixed reasons by women in everyday life. In the social context,
white face and white skin can be identified as a form of performance
(Goffman 1967, 1979), which presents and re-represents the beauty
and virtue of an individual within the community.
Classism and Racism: White Privilege
Differences in skin color are not only perceived as marking
physical differences between and among groups of people, but also
to mark social and cultural distinctions in terms of racial and
historical background. Classism and racism develop socially rather
than biologically, but markers may be artificially coded in terms of
differences in skin colors. In color-ranking societies like America
(Hall 1995), double-consciousness (DuBois 1969) and a dual
perspective (Norton 1993) were common social phenomena in
inter-ethnic interactions. The light at the top phenomenon spread
over non-white cultures. Those with light skin and Caucasian-
looking features have also enjoyed more respect in their communities
(Russell, Wilson, and Hall 1992). Euro-centric ideology took root
in many cultures with the rise of colonialism in the eighteenth
century and with the spread of mass media and consumer goods in
446 / Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures
the twentieth century. White males occupied the top of the social
hierarchy while non-white females, especially black females, were
at the bottom. People from non-white cultures, like African
Americans, bleached themselves (first with folk preparations and
later with commercial skin lighteners) in an attempt to blend in the
dominant society (Hall 1995).
As Banton (1967) observes, race and ethnicity become the
signs that lead to the assignment of positions in the overall system
of exploitation. Mass media and marketers have aided and abetted
this phenomenon by portraying distinctions between races and
ethnic groups. Hollywood movies and mass media in the West
frequently portray darker skin people as lower class, dirty, and evil,
while white or light skin people are depicted as morally purer, better
educated, more intelligent, and cleaner. Even Spike Lees 1988 film
School Daze emphasizes this prejudice. Dark skin continues to be
associated with unpleasantness, dirt, crime, and disruption of
society (Russell, Wilson, and Hall 1992; Hall 1995) as well as lower
social status, while light or white skin is associated with purity and
higher social class. This social stratification process exists in non-
Western cultures as well. Dark skinned people in Japan are per-
ceived as lower class (or farmers) since they work under the sun
while light skinned people are more likely to have been sheltered
indoors rather than working outside.
According to Lipsitz (1998, p. 3), the power of whiteness
depended not only on white hegemony over separate racialized
groups, but also on manipulating racial outsiders to fight against
one another, to compete with each other for white approval, and to
seek the rewards and privileges of whiteness for themselves at the
expenseliterallyof other racialized populations. Stereotypes
among whites and non-whites spread from the inter-cultural arena
to intra-cultural contexts. Civilized White and Barbarous Black
(Russell 1996) ideologies became internalized in non-white cul-
tures. Light and fair skin tone become the desired skin tone and was
perceived as sign of prestige within the non-white cultures on
each of the worlds continents.
Data Collection
Advertisements for skin-related products are the focus of our
analysis. As advertising is one of the important archival records for
storing cultural images and texts (Belk and Pollay 1985), we sought
to study how brands project ideologies and create or reinforce new
standards via their images and messages. Six magazines (Cosmo-
politan, Elle, a local high fashion magazine, a similar magazine for
working women,1 a movie magazine, and a bridal magazine) were
collected from each of four Asian societies (India, Japan, Korea and
Hong Kong) for a fixed time frame (March, June, September, and
December issues in 2005). We focused on advertisements for
cosmetics, skin care products, skin care services, foods and bever-
ages claiming to improve skin quality, and other skin-related
products and services. We did not include advertisements for
shampoos, hair products, or plastic surgery. After removing dupli-
cates, 620 advertisements were coded for comparison: 108 ads from
India, 103 from Japan, 225 from Korea, and 184 from Hong Kong.
Promotional articles, advice columns, and editorials were also
examined, but are not analyzed here.
Data Analysis
Content analysis and semiotic analysis were used in this study.
In the initial content analysis we recorded: information about (1)
models identity (Caucasian or Asian; local or foreign), (2) back-
ground color, (3) skin color of the model(s), (4) slogan, (5) product
depiction (present or not present), (6) brand and product name(s),
(7) function of products, (8) technology/ingredient(s) claims, (9)
language used, and (10) appearance of model(s) (posture, body
parts included, hair-style, hair-color, accessories). Skin color was
coded using a standardized color wheel and involved fourteen
possible categories ranging from soft ivory to cocoa. Each adver-
tisement was coded by a research team member from the country in
which the ad appeared. We then met to present, compare, and
discuss the results of the analysis. This lead to more qualitative
comparisons of the ads, cultural background discussions, and
refinement of the codes employed.
In the subsequent semiotic analysis we focused on studying
the metaphors invoked in the advertisement. Here we explored the
implicit messages of the advertisements. We identified the signifiers
and signifieds in the advertisements following Barthes (1964). We
compared similarities and differences between global and local
brands as well as cultural differences between ads from the four
societies studied. The research team made these comparisons as a
group following individual analyses of ads from each country.
Notions of Good Skin and Bad Skin
Skin care advertisements in each country emphasized that
good skin should be smooth, young, pore-less, line-free, bright,
transparent, white, full, and fine. Bad skin is referenced in the ads
as skin with fine lines, wrinkles, aging marks, pores, or yellow
spots, and skin that is dark, scratchy, dry, dull, loose, or rough. The
major causes of bad skin are presented as being aging, dryness,
ultraviolet radiation (or exposure to strong sunlight), stress, air
pollution, slow metabolism, lack of rest, overuse of cosmetics, and
the formation of melanin.
Functions/New Technology/New Ingredient
Product advertisements typically made multiple claims for
their products. The main functions claimed for the skin care
products in the advertisements are repairing skin, smoothing/
removing wrinkles/lines/deep spots/yellow spots/black eyes/baggy
eyes, itching/dullness/oil/grease/dirt, improving fairness of com-
plexion, rejuvenating, brightening, cleansing, whitening, smooth-
ing, or restoring skin, increasing moisture retention, maintaining
elasticity, and preventing the formation of melanin. Statistics and
survey results as well as government approval certifications were
found in the skin color ads across the studied countries in order to
suggest scientific proof of the efficacy of the products. Examples of
these claims include the percentage of users who agreed that they
had improved skin quality after using the product. Results of
experiments were also cited to show effects, including increased
moisture retention levels and reduced pore size. In Korea, although
a few skin care advertisements included survey or lab test results,
they were not emphasized as much as in the Hong Kong and Indian
ads. Instead, acknowledgement of official approval of claims (e.g.
wrinkle reduction, UV screening, and whitening) by the Korean
Food and Drug Administration was common. Some of the ads
emphasized formulation for Asian womens skin specifically.
Technologies referenced included the use of Nano-technology in
extracting essences from natural materials, dissolution of dirt, UV
protection, and the addition of a protective layer to the skin. At the
1A magazine for housewives was used instead in Korea because a
prominent magazine for working women is not available.
Advances in Consumer Research (Volume 35) / 447
same time, there were frequent claims of natural ingredients and
extracts or essences of natural ingredients in the ads. Emphasis was
very commonly on natural beauty as opposed to artificial or
man-made beauty.
A Lighter Shade of Pale
Caucasian models were most often used in ads for global
brands like Estee Lauder and LOreal. Forty-four percent of Korean
and fifty-four percent of Japanese ads used Caucasian models.
Local models did not often appear in global brands ads in Korea,
Hong Kong or Japan but eighty-two percent of the Indian ads used
Indian models or celebrities. One reason for this may be the recent
globalization of Indian beauty as affirmed by a number of Indian
winners of such global beauty contests as Miss World and Miss
Universe. From 1990-2006 Indian models won 11 of these titles.
The dominance of Bollywood film in India also diminishes the
impact of Hollywood ideologies in Indian culture. Indian celebri-
ties appear to be the dominant body ideals for Indian women.
Domestic and regional brands (including Asian brands like Shiseido)
use more local models in each of the countries studied. In Japan,
celebrities who participated in Hollywood movies, including Kaori
Momoi from Geisha and Koyuki from Last Samurai, are used in ads
for global brands (e.g., SK-II). In contrast to the global brands
localization strategies (e.g., for Asian skin), here the Hollywood
reference claims a more global status for local brands, playing on
local pride. In other words, local models in Asian cultures are
moving upwards towards the global standardthe western standard
(Wilk 1995).
In the case of Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, the skin color of
the model, whether Caucasian or local, is primarily soft ivory,
classic ivory, and natural ivory. In the case of India, the skin color
of models (who were predominantly Indian) tended to be more fair
and Caucasian-looking. The skin color of models in advertisements
that emphasize natural tended to be moderately lighteither soft
ivory or natural ivory. Models in these ads had minimal make-up,
conveying a natural beauty look. The skin color of models for
prestige brands, and ads emphasizing a somewhat older classic or
elegant image, tended to be a lighter classic ivory. Thus, skin
color is conflated with class and whiter skin costs more.
Globalized Products, Localized Slogans/Themes/Metaphors
Global brands like Estée Lauder and LOreal distribute the
same product lines in each Asian market studied. Variations of their
product lines occur, but are minor. But localized advertising mes-
sages are used. We focus on Chinese ads for illustration in this
section. For example, advertisements referencing Chinese tradi-
tions found in the Hong Kong magazines included: inner-body/
internal treatment, the power of white tea, claims of herbal ingredi-
ents, and combinations of herbal medicine and Western technolo-
Metaphors used in Hong Kong included collagen derived from
sharks, presumably because shark fin soup is a luxury food served
at Chinese banquets. Pandas were used to present the black eyes
since Pandas eye is commonly used to describe a person who
lacks sleep or is in an exhausted and extremely tired condition.
Internal treatments of blood and the importance of harmonizing the
body internally were often emphasized. This relates to Qi and the
balance of yin and yang as well as the basic elements in Chinese
foods and medicines. Also, skin care advertisements sometimes
claimed that they follow the traditional Chinese Imperial Palace
secret formula. Pearls, gold, and platinum were used to emphasize
luxuriousness in these ads, while water, clear sky, and natural
environment were used to suggest naturalness. Symbols like gold,
aristocrats, and luxury foods like sharks fins and birds nests were
found in the skin care advertisements in Hong Kong. Other
ingredients like Ling Zhi and Song-Yi mushroom (Matsutake
tricoloma), which were used traditionally by upper class families
and emperors for retaining the skin whiteness are now touted in skin
whitening ads (Onions 1998).
Natural was found repeatedly in advertisements of each
country, In Hong Kong these appeals were also localized with
natural ingredients like the essence of white tea (Origins), Chinese
herbal medicine (like Ling Zhi and Agaricus), and minerals from
volcanoes or hot-springs. Common slogans for skin lightening
products and services included rejuvenating yourself, brightening
and lightening your skin, stopping time (associated with aging),
perfecting your skin, creating pearl-like (MaxFactor)/water-like/
baby-like skin, climbing the peak of beauty, controlling your future
(Olay), increasing confidence and attractiveness. For example,
Misshas Illuminating Arbutin Skincare collection emphasizes
that the product can turn users skin as white as the snow. Many
messages ask for close attention to the deeper level of skin.
Seemingly unproblematic skin turns out to be the problematic when
it is seen from its roots. The detection of early symptoms of bad skin
and the correction of defects as early as possible is emphasized.
Technology also played an important role in these messages with
frequent references to advanced technologies bringing in new
methods to skin care and magical effects to the skin. For example,
Sofinas Whitening Deep Science emphasizes the newly devel-
oped technology that can avoid the formation of melanin. The
appeal to advanced technology emphasizes belief and trust in
science to minimize poor or declining skin quality.
White Skin as Cultural Capital in Asian Society
White Skin, in our findings, combines with other socio-
cultural symbols such as the natural environment, fresh air, blue
sky, and water, in order to emphasize purity and naturalness. Also,
in Asian cultures, white skin is perceived as a sign of luxury and
prestige. Asian celebrities with white/fair skin also link their
success with whiteness/fairness. Altering skin color implies success
in controlling the body and thereby achieving an ideal body image
(Miller 2003).
Thompson (2004) introduced the Gnostic mythos, which
refers to the ideological wedding of technology and transcendence
(Noble 1999; Thompson 2004). A similar emphasis on technologies
in skin care and whitening industry played an important role in
building consumers expectations for the Cinderella-like
transformative power of the products advertised. Natural ingredients
or essences create a sense of natural health for consumers (Thompson
and Troester 2002) and emphasize the natural beauty of the skin.
Since ingredients were frequently touted as derived from naturally
existing organisms (especially plants), it was also implied that our
(consumers) bodies can adapt to these components with minimal
side-effects like allergies.
At a theoretical level, whiteness is a source of symbolic
cultural capital (Bourdieu 1984, 1986) that is associated with upper
class images, luxury, prestige and success in Asian cultures (Rhada
2007). Also, a natural white skin is associated with advanced in
technology, while at the same time claiming natural ingredients,
and body control as discussed below.
Body Control, Empowerment and Disempowerment of Asian
From our findings, white skin is always linked with naturalness.
In naturalizing skin it is implied that this is the natural order of
things from which we have departed. Women who have white and
448 / Skin Lightening and Beauty in Four Asian Cultures
fair skin were perceived as normal and others who fail to achieve
a fair complexion are suggested as failing to manage and control
their bodies. Internal factors that are accused of causing bad skin
include aging, stress, inadequate relaxation, and abnormal body
conditions, while external factors are suggested to include air
pollution, dryness, humidity, and strong sunlight. In Thompson and
Troesters (2002) study, restoring the harmony of the body is one of
the conceptual goals of natural health. Having a healthy skin,
according to Crawford (1985), is a matter of self-control, self-
discipline, self-denial, and will power. Skin care product
advertisements frequently call consumers attention to tiny defects
of skin or invisible sources of troubles and ask them to control these
things in order to have good skin. In order to have good skin,
consumers are required to apply the advertised products every day.
This self-surveillance and internalization of skin care regimens
underwrite most of the advertisements. Fear of the invisible enemies
of the skin creates skin care disciplines and exemplifies strategies
of modern governance (Foucault 1984, 1985). Skin care products
are advertised as capable of improving skin quality as well as
controlling the skins quality under extreme conditions. Naturalness
is essential in the skin care context, and advertisements use words
like recover, rejuvenate, repair, prevent, refresh, retain,
and revitalize to emphasize that the product will help to regain
and maintain the users skin rather than change and alter it like
plastic surgery. Flawless skin is presented as the fundamental
skin type of humans and any flaw is therefore unnatural. Success in
controlling the human body and reversing the natural order is
appealed to through controlling and altering skin color. It is the
outward sign of inner beauty. The emphases on technological
advancement and new ingredients promise to enhance this control
by adopting Western technologies, but also celebrate the broader
human control over nature.
Whitening and lightening skin has both empowering and
disempowering functions for women. In Asian cultures, women
were oppressed for long periods of time. In China, women were
labeled as mere attachments to men. The Confucian Doctrine of
Threefold Obedience (san cong) was established in Li ji, and held
that women were subordinates to their fathers as girls, to their
husbands as wives, and to their sons as widows (Raphals 1998).
Likewise in Korea during the Choson dynasty (1392-1910) middle
class women were sequestered within the center of the household
and were not allowed to venture forth uncovered or on their own
(Song-mi 2003). The ability of whitening and lightening skin to
empower women lies in delivering power in controlling their own
skin tone as well as bodies. This empowering action also liberates
women from mens control. Along with the increasing social status
of women in contemporary Asian societies, women become
important agents both at home and in the workplace. However,
contemporary women are disempowered in the same manner.
Women, even when empowered to control their bodies and skin
tone, still follow the external control of a beauty standard. As noted
above, they also succumb to a strategy of modern self-governance.
In this sense, women are still following the social norm and are
working hard to achieve social acceptance in order to secure their
social status as well as accumulate social capital in society.
Whitening and lightening skin products have recorded a
dramatic growth in Asian markets over the past two decades and are
the best-selling product categories in the Asian beauty industry.
The long histories of the desire for white skin and fair skin has
collided with technological developments and marketing forces.
Skin whitening and lightening products not only promise to fulfill
the desire for white and fair skin as a route to higher status, but also
empower women to control their own bodies and alter nature. On
the other hand, whitening and lightening skin are a social norm that
forces women to follow such trends and standards as well as
marketplace mythologies (Thompson 2004). Failure in following
this norm will result in low self-esteem and social status. In social
interaction contexts, white and fair skins are social symbols and
regimes. The notion of beauty is socially constructed and its
meanings are changed and maintained by social forces.
The desire for white and fair skin is a global phenomenon
especially in non-white cultures and is not limited to Asian con-
texts. African, South American and Middle-Eastern cultures also
have their own traditions of skin whitening and lightening. This
study explores how skin whitening and lightening products con-
struct the contemporary notion of whiteness in Asian countries and
interprets how this notion reinforces the embedded meanings of
whiteness and beauty in Asia.
Arif, Hakin (2004), Womans Body as a Color Measuring Text:
A Signification of Bengali Culture, Semiotica, 150 (1/4),
Ashikari, Mikiko (2003a), The Memory of the Womens White
Faces: Japaneseness and the Ideal Image of Women, Japan
Forum, 15 (1), 55-79.
Ashikari, Mikiko (2003b), Urban Middle-Class Japanese
Women and Their White Faces: Gender, Ideology, and
Representation, Ethos, 31 (1), 3-37.
Ashikari, Mikiko (2005), Cultivating Japanese Whiteness: The
Whitening Cosmetics Boom and the Japanese Identity,
Journal of Material Culture, 10 (March), 73-91.
Banton, Michael P. (1967), Race Relations, London: Tavistock.
Barthes, Roland (1964), Elements of Semiology, London: Cape.
Belk, Russell W. and Richard W. Pollay (1985), Images of
Ourselves: The Good Life in Twentieth Century Advertis-
ing, Journal of Consumer Research, 11 (March), 887-97.
Belk, Russell W. and Xin Zhao (2003), Chinas First Encounter
with Global Brands: Pre-Communist Shanghai, in The
Romance of Marketing History, Eric H. Shaw (ed.), Boca
Raton, FL: Association for Historical Research in Marketing,
Bourdieu, Pierre (1984), Distinction: A Social Critique of the
Judgment of Taste, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
(1986), The forms of Capital, in Handbook of Theory
and Research for the Sociology of Education, John G.
Richardson (ed.), New York: Greenwood Press.
Bray, Marianne (2002), Skin Deep: Dying to be white,, accessed on January 23, 2007. http://
Burke, Timothy (1996), Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women:
Commodification, Consumption, and Cleanliness in Modern
Zimbabwe, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
China Daily (2006), Some Are Prepared to Go Beyond the
Pale, Peoples Daily Online, May 25.
Crawford, Robert (1985), A Cultural Account of Health:
Control, Release and the Social Body, in Issues in the
Political Economy of Health Care, John B. McKinlay (ed.),
New York: Tavistock, 60-103.
Darwin, Charles (1839), Journal of Researches into the Geology
and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by the
H.M.S. Beagle, London: Henry Colburn.
Advances in Consumer Research (Volume 35) / 449
Del Giudice, Pascal (2002), The Widespread Use of Skin
Lightening Creams in Senegal: A Persistent Public Health
Problem in West Africa, International Journal of Dermatol-
ogy, 41 (2), 69-72.
Duany, Jorge (1998), Reconstructing Racial Identity: Ethnicity,
Color, and Class among Dominicans in the United States and
Puerto Rico, Latin American Perspectives, 25 (May), 147-
DuBois, William Edward Burghardt (1969), The Souls of Black
Folk, New York: New American Library.
Foucault, Michel (1984), What is Enlightenment? in The
Foucault Reader, Paul Rabinow (ed.), New York: Pantheon,
(1985), The Use of Pleasure, The History of Sexuality,
Volume 2, New York: Random House.
Franklin, John H. (ed.) (1968), Color and Race, Boston: Beacon.
Goffman, Erving (1967), Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-
Face Behavior, New York, Pantheon Books.
(1979), Gender Advertisement, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Goon, Patricia and Allison Craven (2003), Whose Debt?
Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia, Intersections:
Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, 9
(August), accessed on March 20, 2007. http://
Hall, Roland E. (1995), The Bleaching Syndrome: African
Americans Response to Cultural Domination Vis-à-vis Skin
Color, Journal of Black Studies, 26 (2), 172-84.
Hunter, Margaret L. (2005), Race, Gender, and the Politics of
Skin Tone, New York: Routledge.
Isa, Masako and Eric Mark Kramer (2003), Adopting the
Caucasian Look: Reorganizing the Minority Face, in The
Emerging Monoculture: Assimilation and the Model
Minority, Eric Mark Kramer (ed.), Westport, CT: Praeger,
Jeon, Wankil (1987), The Cultural History of Make-up in Korea,
Seoul, Korea: Yeolhwadang [in Korean].
Kato, Shuichi (1965), Japanese Writers and Modernization, in
Changing Japanese Attitudes Toward Modernization, Marius
B. Jansen (ed.), Princeton: Princeton University Press, 425-
Kaw, Eugenia (1993), Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian
American Women and Cosmetic Surgery, Medical
Anthropology Quarterly, 7 (March), 74-89.
Kinmonth, Earl H. (1981), The Self-Made Man in Meiji
Japanese Thought: From Samurai to Salary Man, Berkeley,
CA: University of California Press.
Leeming, David (2001), A Dictionary of Asian Methodology,
New York: Oxford University Press.
Leistikow, Nicole (2003), Indian Women Criticize Fair and
Lovely Ideal, Womens eNews, April 28, accessed on
January 22, 2007.
Leslie, Deepak (2004), A Darker Side of Fair, Watertown,
MA: Documentary Educational Resources.
Lipsitz, George (1998), The Possessive Investment in Whiteness:
How White People Profit from Racial Politics, Philadelphia:
Temple University Press.
Lovell, Peggy A. and Charles H. Wood (1998), Skin Color,
Racial Identity, and Life Chances in Brazil, Latin American
Perspectives, 25 (May), 90-109.
McClintock, Anne (1995), Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and
Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, London: Routledge.
Miller, Laura (2003), Mammary Mania in Japan, Positions:
East Asia Cultures Critiques, 11 (2), 271-300.
Noble, David F. (1999), The Religion of Technology: The
Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention, New York:
Norton, Dolores G. (1983), Diversity, Early Socialization, and
Temporal Development: The Dual Perspective Revisited,
Social Work, 38, 82-90.
Onions, Allan (1998), The Skincare Advantages of Herbal
Ingredients, Manufacturing Chemist, 69 (8), 13-5.
Raphals, Lisa (1998), Sharing the Light: Representations of
Women and Virtue in Early China, New York: State
University of New York Press.
Rhada, Chada (2007), The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside
Asias Love Affair with Luxury, Nicholas Brealey, Ltd.
Russell, John G. (1996), Race and Reflexivity: The Black Other
in Contemporary Japanese Mass Culture, in Contemporary
Japan and Popular Culture, John Whittier Treat (ed.),
Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 17-40.
Russell, Kathy, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall (1992), The
Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color among African
Americans, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Song-mi, Yi (2003), Women in Korean History and Art, in
Wrappings of Happiness: A Traditional Korean Art Form,
Julia M. While and Huh Dong-hwa (eds.), Honolulu, HI:
Honolulu Academy of Arts, 25-37.
Spurr, David (1993), The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Dis-
course in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Adminis-
tration, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Thompson, Craig J. and Maura Troester (2002), Consumer
Value Systems in the Age of Postmodern Fragmentation: The
Case of the Natural Health Microculture, Journal of
Consumer Research, 28 (March), 550-70.
(2004), Marketing Mythology and Discourses of
Power, Journal of Consumer Research, 31 (June), 162-80.
Thompson, Maxine S. and Verna M. Keith (2001), The Blacker
the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-
Efficacy, Gender & Society, 15 (3), 336-57.
Torgovnick, Marianna (1990), Gone Primitive: Savage Intel-
lects, Modern Lives, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Van den Berge, Pierre and Peter Frost (1986), Skin Color
Preference, Sexual Dimorphism, and Sexual Selection: A
Case of Gene Culture Co-evolution? Ethnic and Racial
Studies, 9, 87-113.
Wagatsuma, Hiroshi (1967), The Social Perception of Skin
Color in Japan, Daedalus, 96 (2), 407-43.
Wilk, Richard (1995), Learning to be local in Belize: Global
Systems of Common Difference, in Worlds Apart:
Modernity through the Prism of the Local, Daniel Miller
(ed.), London, UK: Routledge, 110-33
Wood, Julie T. (1999), Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender
and Culture (3rd ed.), Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Yoo, Sun-young (2001), Embodiment of American Modernity
in Colonial Korea, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 2 (3), 423-
Zhou, Nan and Russell Belk (2004), Chinese Consumer
Readings of Global and Local Advertising Appeals, Journal
of Advertising, 33 (4), 63-76.
... The visibility of skin symptoms and imperfect physical appearances may contribute to social prejudice and discrimination that holds patients responsible for the disease and further arouses disgust and fear that their skin problems are contagious [25,26]. Individuals living with chronic skin diseases may be the target of public stigma, especially when smooth and light skin is socially valued [27,28]. ...
... Consistent with previous studies suggesting that visible skin disease may render patients vulnerable to public stigma (e.g., [20,28]), this study found that children living with AD were also discriminated against and experienced verbal and physical bullying at school due to their visible skin symptoms and impaired appearance. In Chinese society, smooth and light skin is considered one of the key criteria for defining beauty [16,27]. As a Chinese saying goes, "One white complexion hides three flaws" (yi bai zhe san chou). ...
Full-text available
Background: Stigma has been recently identified as a crucial factor associated with the psychosocial burden of those who have chronic skin diseases. The self-stigma experiences of children living with atopic dermatitis (AD) have yet to be fully investigated, and questions of how these children respond to public stigma and how AD symptoms further affect their self-stigma experiences remain unresolved. The current qualitative study aimed to (1) describe the main manifestations of self-stigma in children living with AD; (2) investigate factors that might influence their self-stigma experiences; and (3) explore the potential mechanisms underlying the impacts of AD on their psychosocial well-being from the self-stigma perspective. Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of the qualitative literal transcription data which were collected earlier by using the participatory, drawing-based qualitative interviews with 17 children aged 8-12 who were diagnosed with severe or moderate AD. Results: The qualitative findings indicated that the visible and invisible symptoms of AD and its management exerted unique influences on self-stigma in children living with AD, which manifested in cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects and ultimately affected their psychosocial well-being. Conclusions: Findings of this study allowed us to advocate for eliminating public stigma of people with skin diseases and propose recommendations for helping children living with AD relieve their self-stigma.
... Notions of whiteness are in much of East Asia connected to socioeconomic normativity. Beauty standards are much influenced by these views, with an obsession with pale skin being especially prevalent in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan (Li et al., 2008). ...
Full-text available
Social media and the rising popularity of English have generated a global mobility and a demand for English teachers, which more than ever permits people to meet other cultural arenas. This chapter examines experiences of discrimination among black people in Taiwan. As critical reflection, the chapter serves as an example of fostering awareness as a tool to address inequality and marginalization. We enter arenas that traditionally have had no focus on these issues. Ethnic discrimination is a global phenomenon. It may be structurally hidden as in Taiwan, or through more visible dichotomies it can segregate groups due to differences in socio-economic categorisations and ideologies. One consequence is the development of activist movements. In Taiwan, however, racism seems not to be a hot topic in the public sphere, and none of the nation’s governments have recognised it as a social problem. We perceive discrimination as socially constructed, which we from an intersectional perspective can dig deeper into. In this perspective, the focus is not only on the social exclusion itself, but also on diversity and identifying with a multitude of perspectives like gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, class etc, which can be used to explain hierarchies on micro and macro levels.
... On the contrary, an individual's failure to perform a particular activity makes them experience guilt or a sense of self-dislike ( Van den Broeck et al. 2010). In Asian countries, dark skin is associated with negative moral qualities (Li et al. 2008). The social pressure to look fair is resulting in the high usage of skin-lightening products (Shroff et al. 2018). ...
The obsession with fair skin in India has prompted the Ministry of Health and Welfare to propose an amendment in the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act of 1954. This amendment proposes to impose a ban on advertisements promoting skin‐fairness products. However, with the proposed amendment, companies have adopted innovative strategies to rebrand their products and shift the spotlight from fair skin to glowing skin. Yet, the underlying message remains the same. The burgeoning growth of skin‐whitening creams in India calls for urgent attention to study the Indian consumers' motivations to purchase these products. The research study utilises self‐determination theory (SDT) to develop a grounded framework. The study results highlighted that intrinsic motivation and the two types of extrinsic motivation, namely, introjected regulation and external regulation, were positively associated with consumer buying behaviour. Surprisingly, attitude has no association with consumer buying behaviour. The results of the first moderator gender suggested that females are under social pressure to look fair for better jobs and marital prospects. The second moderator country of origin revealed that Indian consumers prefer foreign brands compared to Indian brands.
... For example, skin colour remains one of the primary visible markers of racial groups that are aesthetically disvalued. Some authors claim that it is common for Asians and African Americans in the US to view having a white or fair skin as both beautiful and "normal" (Li, Min & Belk, 2008;p. 448). ...
Full-text available
My dissertation critically examines the practice of pathologising ugliness in cosmetic surgery. ‘Pathologising ugliness’ refers to the use of disease language and medical processes to foster and support the claim that undesirable features are pathological conditions requiring medical or surgical intervention. The first four chapters offer a conceptual analysis of the conflation of health and aesthetic norms that potentially contributes to pathologising ugliness. The conceptual analysis is based on competing philosophical accounts of health, disease, beauty and ugliness. The final two chapters offer a critique of the practice by using Daniel Callahan’s goals of medicine as an ethical framework. I argue that aesthetic judgments, which underpin the pathologisation of ugliness, fail at establishing robust processes of disease determination, standard diagnostic evaluation and legitimate clinical indications. Furthermore, I contend that the practice of pathologising ugliness, which relies on prejudicial standards of beauty, legitimises oppressive attitudes based on sex, race and disability. Thus, my analysis shows that pathologising ugliness raises ethical conflicts that ultimately undermine the goals of medicine.
... Although individuals from Southeast Asian countries typically showed a relatively light skin tone of 18-23, the highest prevalence of skin lightener use was found in these places. Other studies showed that skin-bleaching products is popular in Africa (Adebajo, 2002;Ly et al., 2007;Wone et al., 2000), Middle East (Alghamdi, 2010;Hamed et al., 2010), and Asian countries (Li et al., 2008), which suggests that the preference for a lighter skin tone is not unique to women of African descent, but it represents a widespread global phenomenon. ...
Full-text available
This experimental study examined the effect of skin-based appearance compliments on cognitive performance as well as its moderator and mediator. Participants were 213 adolescent girls (Mage = 14.24, SD = 0.45) who were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions: (a) appearance compliment, (b) character compliment, and (c) no compliment conditions. The appearance compliment group, compared with the other groups, showed higher levels of state self-objectification and poorer cognitive performance in a Stroop task after receiving positive feedback on their skin tone. Individual differences in appearance contingent self-worth exacerbated the effects of appearance compliment. The conditional indirect effect of appearance compliment on cognitive performance occurred via an increase in state self-objectification. These findings suggest that skin tone is a concern of body image for Chinese adolescent girls, particularly among those who stake their self-worth on physical appearance. We have also provided direct evidence for the mediating role of state self-objectification in the adverse impact of appearance compliment on cognitive performance.
... Such practices are also very popular in Asian countries such as India, China, Japan, Korea and Arabia. In these cultures, having a fair complexion is considered an important element of female beauty, partly based on traditional values and partly due to the influences of Western colonial heritage [16]. In India, the words 'fair' and 'beautiful' are synonymous, and fairness is a distinctive feature. ...
Full-text available
Abstract: The use of bleaching products can have a medical or cosmetic purpose; in the latter case, skin whitening is most widespread in countries where darker skin tones prevail and can be driven by psychosocial, cultural and economic reasons. Skin-whitening products containing highly toxic active ingredients (in particular mercury derivatives, hydroquinone and corticosteroids) are easily found on the market; the use of these depigmenting agents can be followed by a variety of adverse effects, with very serious and sometimes fatal complications, and is currently an emerging health concern in many countries. This article concisely discusses the reasons for the current prevalence of skin lightening products and provides an overview of the skin lightening agents that pose a threat to human health. The review also reports market surveillance data on the circulation of banned skin lighteners in Europe, obtained through the Safety Gate system.
... The attitude and practices of the participants towards sun exposure were not explored but might have deterred them from securing an adequate vitamin D status. Whiter skin complexion had been associated with beauty, attractiveness, higher socio-economic advantages, and prestige among females from some populations, particularly in South Asia and Africa [65][66][67][68]. Lastly, genetic factors are also an important element to consider in such research owing to the contribution of genetic variants within vitamin D metabolism to the vitamin D status [68]. ...
Full-text available
Vitamin D is important for bone health, and vitamin D deficiency could be linked to noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its associated risk factors among female migrants from Philippines, Arab, and South Asian countries residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We used a cross-sectional study to recruit a random sample (N = 550) of female migrants aged 18 years and over in the city of Al Ain, UAE. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations ≤20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). We used multivariable logistic regression analysis to identify risk factors associated with vitamin D deficiency. The mean age of participants was 35 years (SD ± 10). The overall prevalence rate of vitamin D deficiency was 67% (95% CI 60–73%), with the highest rate seen in Arabs (87%), followed by South Asians (83%) and the lowest in Filipinas (15%). Multivariate analyses showed that low physical activity (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 4.59; 95% CI 1.98, 10.63), having more than 5 years duration of residence in the UAE (aOR = 4.65; 95% CI: 1.31, 16.53) and being obese (aOR = 3.56; 95% CI 1.04, 12.20) were independently associated with vitamin D deficiency, after controlling for age and nationality. In summary, vitamin D deficiency was highly prevalent among female migrants, especially Arabs and South Asians. It is crucial that health professionals in the UAE become aware of this situation among this vulnerable subpopulation and provide intervention strategies aiming to rectify vitamin D deficiency by focusing more on sun exposure, physical activity, and supplementation.
... The need to be thinner is consistent with previous findings such as the one by aforementioned, Reategui and Palmer (2017). However, the 12.8% result of interest in skin lightening products is rather inconsistent with previous findings which highlight how lighter skin is perceived to be a sign of beauty, stature, and success (Li, Min, & Belk, 2008) and thus, despite being aware of certain adverse effects they might face from using skin lightening products, users still persisted on trying their luck in getting the desired skin tone (Shankar & Subish, 2016;Shroff, Diedrichs, & Craddock, 2018). Fortunately, Malaysian emerging adults at this institution are not overly preoccupied with the notions of fair skin definition of beauty. ...
Full-text available
Body image includes two aspects which are one’s perceptions towards one’s body size, weight, shape, as well as physical attributes or movements and feelings about these attributes, which consequently impact one’s behaviour. In this regard, the media plays a key role in defining emerging adults’ self-beliefs about themselves and how these attributes are further translated into behavioural outcomes. Guided by the Sociocultural Theory, this study is undertaken to probe the extent of media influence on Malaysian emerging adults’ body image and how this influence exerts on their emotions and behaviours. Through purposive sampling technique on 227 emerging adults enrolled at a Malaysian public university, a questionnaire probed the causal role of the media and its effects on the body image of these young adults. The study found that the media, particularly social media has a strong and significant influence on Malaysian emerging adults. However, a noteworthy finding is that the emotional states experienced by young adults are not always negative. Despite the constant flooding of advertisements on ideal beauty, weight and skin tone, the majority take the more rational and positive route in improving themselves and their body image by opting for exercise and change in diet regime. This implies that educators, parents, policy makers and the society at large need to constantly awaken the minds of the youth about the inevitable impact of the media and care should be taken to ensure frequent reinforcements and mitigation approaches.
Full-text available
Movies can implicitly promote social and ideological norms on a mass scale, making them powerful socialization agents, especially among children. However, Hollywood movies are no longer confined to the influence of American ideals, as media companies now have to consider the growing influence of markets such as China. With this in mind, we explore the portrayal of gender, power, and gendered roles across two versions of Disney’s Mulan (1998 and 2020). Specifically, we explore male-coded and female-coded characters’ talk for portrayals of gender and the enactment of assigned roles through conversational strategies and the content of talk. Findings indicate a subtle shift in the distribution of “dominant” discourse between the two versions, despite female-coded characters being framed as dutiful wives, brides-to-be, and/or mothers in both movies. Specifically, in Mulan 2020, male-coded characters are portrayed as more “feminine” through their talk, while female-coded characters—particularly Mulan and Xianniang—are portrayed as more “masculine”, further highlighting a recent trend for more nuanced portrayals of gender in Disney movies. Based on these results and others, we argue that the portrayal of gender in Mulan 2020, while still primarily associated with heteronormative roles in service of a patriarchal world, has undergone subtle changes that may reflect American and Chinese influences.
Full-text available
The advent of Instagram has driven women to desire stereotypical notions of beauty and higher self-esteem. Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and other members of the South Asian diaspora living outside of their countries are often looked up to for their empowered and 'superior' personas. However, this classed, neoliberal, aesthetic representation of NRIs might have plethora of impacts on the discourse of empowerment, and rather, widen this gap for subaltern groups. While previous studies have focused on the impact of Indian diasporas on lower-classed populations, the beauty representations of NRI women on Instagram and its influence on empowerment is yet to be studied. Therefore, this essay aims to study how the young upper-class NRI diasporas utilise post-feminism on Instagram as a framework to sell empowerment to women as an enhanced version of self-styling, self-confidence, and self-love. This essay critically analyses the South-Asian activist trend on Instagram by delving into the rise of postfeminist beauty, and the role that confidence and privilege play therein. I further study how beauty is integrated into the psyche of life and a state of mind, through twelve in-depth, semi-structured interviews. This essay demonstrates that with the appropriation of postfeminist activism, discursive politics of confidence and its relationship with desi cultural politics of appearance, elitist NRI women actively replicate and reinforce oppressive patriarchal and colonialist mentality under the guise of modern feminism. Although post-feminism constructs a tight-knit community on Instagram for desi women, it provides the subjects with a double-edged sword as they practice new femininities, with a newer set of terms and conditions.
The body is not only a cultural object in illness or affliction. Bodily experience is also structured through the symbolic category of health. Health, like illness, is a concept grounded in the experiences and concerns of everyday life. While there is not the same urgency to explain health as there is to account for serious illness, thoughts about health easily evoke reflections about the quality of physical, emotional, and social existence. Like illness, it is a category of experience that reveals tacit assumptions about individual and social reality. Talking about health is a way people give expression to our culture’s notions of well-being or quality of life. Health is a ‘key word,’ a generative concept, a value attached to or suggestive of other cardinal values. ‘Health’ provides a means for personal and social evaluation.
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
This paper examines the popularisation of skin-whitening practices amongst 'non-white' cultures that has occurred in recent years, with relation to historical and colonial contexts. In the paper, we refer to the practice of skin whitening as a discourse of recognition and of 'repayment' of an historically-imposed value of 'whiteness'—both 'by' the subaltern, and in debt to, the subaltern. With regard to this, we also explore the growing popularity of the 'Eurasian' model and representative as one symptom of a postcolonial structure of commoditisation and consumerism which is still influenced by a colonial past. In making our arguments, we incorporate readings of the skin-whitening phenomenon through references to advertising and product literature, to debates about skin-whitening practices, and to constructions of 'Eurasians' in some cultural discourses.
Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone tackles the hidden yet painful issue of colorism in the African American and Mexican American communities. Beginning with a historical discussion of slavery and colonization in the Americas, the book quickly moves forward to a contemporary analysis of how skin tone continues to plague people of color today. This is the first book to explore this well-known, yet rarely discussed phenomenon.