White Beauty- Propaganda and Objectification

           As white Western society is so prominent in media all around the world today, it has widely become the desirable depiction of life. The glamorization of Hollywood, filled with thin, white, beautiful actresses and actors. The lives of these people, and the majority of those living in Western society reflects the privilege that we have. As explored by Peggy McIntosh in White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, it is clear that the privilege of white people existing in Western society is something that those living in different parts of the world strive for. McIntosh’s dissection of media and white privilege shows the objectification of those of other ethnicities, as she writes “I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented” (1988). Women all over the world dream about having white skin in order to fit into Western society and look like the people in Hollywood. Advertisements for skin lightening products are prevalent in Eastern societies, particularly India, promising to give women the skin of an American white woman.

            In this Ponds advertisement, we see a man leaving an Indian woman and supposedly breaking her heart. After 3 years apart, this woman sees a picture of this man and another woman on the cover of a magazine. This man’s new love interest is a white woman. One day she passes the couple on the street and is embarrassed by her darker complexion. The man stares at her in an objectifying way. The woman then sees an ad for a new Ponds product, called “Ponds White Beauty.” This product claims to lighten skin to a “radiant pinkish-white glow”.  After seeing the advertisement, the woman looks more confident and seems as if she is on a mission. The commercial ends with a “to be continued” message. This advertisement seems to claim that the only way for this woman to get her true love back is to lighten her skin to a white colour. She will then be viewed as beautiful and can win back the man. This propaganda tells women that the only definition of beauty includes white skin. Although highly racist, this claim is present in the minds of women all over the world. Skin lightening is a very popular trend in India, and the commercial for this product reinforces this idea of white beauty. While the advertisement doesn’t directly state it, the underlying message tells women that if they use this product, they will be beautiful like white women. If they don’t use this product, their men will leave them for white women. This sexual myth stating that women with darker complexions are undesirable to men seems to be the prominent factor pushing women into lightening their skin. All women want to feel beautiful and desirable, and advertisements like these spread messages that the only way to achieve that is to be white.

            It is interesting how women who are of darker complexions strive to be white, while white women strive to be different also. As seen in the television show The Swan, we see primarily white women going through multiple procedures in order to achieve what they consider to be beautiful. These women end up looking like totally different people, and commonly look fake. The sad reality of our society is that women never seem to be satisfied with the way that we look. It seems that if we are Indian, we wish to be whiter yet if we are white, we are still not happy with the way that we look and must go to great lengths to achieve our misconception of what beauty is.

           I am curious as to why all of this media is focused on women. As outlined in the Ponds advertisement, the woman strives to be white in order to gain the love of the man. And in the television show, The Swan, the women strive to be more sexually desirable. It seems that the objectification of women is so prominent in today’s society, whether it is in America or in India, while the objectification of men is seemingly non-existent. This Ponds product has a clear link between race, gender and sexuality. By portraying the Indian race as ugly, women are made to feel that they must be of a different race in order to be sexually desirable. This propaganda is degrading to all women of races other than white. Media should be making women feel beautiful in their own skin, not make them feel like they must change themselves in order to be desirable.

 

 

McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Wellesley: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1988. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies. Ser. 189. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. <http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html&gt;

 

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3 Comments

  1. I enjoyed your perspective on beauty and the racialized, gendered misconceptions of sexuality and how women think the only way to be beautiful and desirable is to be white. I thought the point you made about all woman wanting a different skin tone than their natural one was interesting when thinking about society’s perception of beauty – woman with darker skin want whiter skin to look “Western” and woman with lighter skin want to be more tan to look more exotic and European. That being said, in what ways do you think beauty is racialized? In terms of gender, do you think men experience the same kind of pressure to look a certain way to appeal to woman?

  2. I really liked how you used many different examples to showcase white privileged. The point about people wanting different skin tones is very interesting and I can see some truth to it especially in our generation, many people of colour stray from the sun so that they do not get darker whereas many white girls look for self tanners and tanning beds to darken their colour. I feel that it is very dependant on the neighbourhood and family you grew up in also what is happening in society and the strives they are making. In my personal opinion being a woman of colour I actually dont strive for another pigment of skin and I think the only reason that is, is because of the dominate influences of people of colour in todays society for example; Beyonce, Obama, Oprah. However if I did not have such successful dominate figures to look up to in my life I can see where the temptation and societies pull can lead me to wanting a different pigmentation. I love how your article made me think and open my eyes.

  3. Great posting, another great point of view for Pond’s ads! I would say, there should be something in society that should boost up women’s self perception and satisfaction. As I attached in my posting, I have posted Dove’s self perception video, and it explains how only 4%of women thinks that they are beautiful the way the are. And it is ridiculous to see Pond’s out in the media trying to devalue individual’s characteristics to a massive population in order for them to sell their products. And yes, I also wonder why media is so obsessed with changing the appearance of women. It is very rare to see men changing their appearance severely (skin color, plastic surgery, etc) to stand better in front of their significant other. It’s very sad to realize that I was blind to the presence of male dominance in beauty.

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