Melanin and Confidence (Part 1)

The desire for fair skin or the existence of a billion-dollar industry in skin whitening in Asia isn’t new or striking, and this influences every Asian culture, from East Asian societies, like Chinese; to South Asian societies, like Indian; to everyone else in between: Southeast Asian societies, like Burmese (that’s me!). However, it’s only after I return from the US that I realize how much we collectively obsess over fair skin.

Implication is dark is dirty.


I can understand some of the basis of the preference for fair skin. Dark skin is associated with exposure to the sun, which is associated with manual labor, so it’s considered a marker of low-status. So obviously, fair skin represents its converse in society: being able to shelter oneself from the elements, and simply being able to stay indoors. Therefore, skin color is a status symbol, but it is also an indicator of power. Recall that most of Asia and the Middle East were former European colonies. China was split up by the colonizers, swaths of the Middle East, South Asia, and Burma (my country!) were under British rule; and “Indochina” (that’s the patch of land between Burma and China, so it includes Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam) was under French rule. We have lived under European conquest and seen inventions by Europeans, especially in the military front during WWI and WWII, so we associate fair skin with power. Also, since Europeans tend to have fair skin, we associate them with people of higher status, so put another way, cultural imperialism did not cause discrimination based on skin color, but rather amplified existing pre-conceptions. So, when I returned back, I was in for a complete shocker.

The following day after returning home, I decided to check out the local grocery store because I’m out of milk. Then as I pass through the aisles, I come across the cosmetics section and see the usual assortment of moisturizers, shampoos, hair gels, and face whitening lotions. But something else caught my eye as I lulled along: whitening deodorant.

If you ever thought women are the only target of skin whitening ads then I have some news for you.

I may have rolled my eyes at the sight of whitening face-wash or lotion yet I can see why people would buy this. Obviously your face is among the first things people look at when they see you so if you’re feeling that your face has blemishes in any way, such as having dark skin, or concealing birth marks or freckles, then you would be inclined to purchase this product. But what about whitening deodorant? Who looks at my armpits?!?





23 thoughts on “Melanin and Confidence (Part 1)

    1. For real though! I think it’s probably based on how I felt while growing up but when I arrived in the States I thought that was the most bizarre thing ever.

      No one really is happy with what they’ve got and at the same time there are critical differences in perceptions of skin color and marketing for whitening and tanning products. So for example, tans are usually perceived as a temporary condition of the skin (“I got a tan”) whereas in SouthEast Asian cultural discourse, fair skin is associated, somehow, with a shift in identity (“I became fairer”). This perception is reinforced in the products available for each market. We have spray tans where people literally just put on a tan but we don’t have spray whitening cans, basically implying that tanning is something that comes externally, through UV exposure, and skin whitening is something from within, removing our own melanin (which we don’t have to, and which we can’t).

      Thanks for stopping by my budding little blog and have a great day!! 💃

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello!

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I’ve heard about it before, how people in fair skinned societies would love a tan xD. I think some of the differences lie in marketing though. In particular, we can literally put on a tan with spray tans but we have no equivalent for whitening. Haha

      My internet was off yesterday! I’ll be checking your blog today though!!
      Have a great, restful Sunday!!! Monday’s are always rough 😭

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is so funny. I burst out in laughter! I mean, who needs whitening deodorant? Obviously some people. In Nigeria, we have people with such issues. They want to be light skinned, the light skin person wants to attain the white man skin and it becomes a bleaching process. We should be comfortable with our skin and not be influenced by what we see and what others think of us. I really like your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I am in full support of your statements! 😍 Did you check out the follow up for this post though, in Part 2? 😀 To go beyond in the movement of body positivity, we need to reexamine many factors that hold us back and most of it is ourselves.

      Many thanks for checking out my blog and I hope you have a good day!! Stay blessed 😇

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whitening deodorant??????? What in the world is it???????? In addition to rolling my eyes and shaking my head and human behavior I looked it up. I guess some people’s underarms darken and they don’t like it. I wonder if they darken because of all the deodorant they use during their life time. Thanks for letting me know about this. I may write a post about it myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahha I know, I know there are so many products in the skin whitening industry, which will sound completely absurd to those unfamiliar with it. Actually that industry is worth upwards of 10 billion USD (sources on the Internet say 13-18). I don’t know if deodorant is the cause of the skin darkening, but apparently there’s a remedy for that 😂😂

      Many thanks for stopping by! My internet was off yesterday #thirdworldproblems so now I’m visiting everyone else’s blogs from FirstFriday today hahaha have a great upcoming week!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Precisely so! That’s the main idea but we need to go beyond the need for body positivity, the need to be comfortable with our own skin (that’s a pun). We need to examine why exactly we feel bad about ourselves and introduce steps to make ourselves feel good, and examining how advertising persuades or coerces us into buying their product is a good first step.

      Thanks for visiting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a funny thing ain’t it. The oppressors want to look like the oppress and the oppress want to look like the oppressors. White people controlling the media has done a great job at brainwashing Indians, Asians and blacks to believe that the fairer you are the better off you are hog wash/ brainwash cause at the end off the day you will still be seen has a Indian, Asian and black no matter how much you bleach your skin or whiten your skin tone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is one of the worries I have of engaging in an interracial relationship with a white person! There is a poem about this I’ve seen before. I’ll post it on the blog to share later, I promise, but basically no matter how hard we try, we will never “assimilate” and with terms such as “jungle fever” or “yellow fever” thrown around, I just don’t want to be seen as part of a phase, or more importantly, an exotified fetish.

      Thanks a million for stopping by and I hope you check out some other content around my blog. See you later!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The wife and I really love this blog and appreciate the creativity and inspiration you provide. Our minds are marvelous and capable of amazing feats, yet most people use them to do little jobs because they lack the confidence you identified in this article. If you ever want to take this blog to the next level by offering a Mobile App version my company Zenlight would love to help for an extremely low price, we appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.

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