Melanin and Confidence (Part 2)

In my first post, I’ve pondered on where our desire for fair skin comes from in Asian societies, which ended on my finding whitening deodorant at the grocery store. Here, I continue on the effects this product has on my culture and I conclude my post with a poem that encapsulates what I said (and also I’m practicing how to write poems!)

This stuff actually exists!

I think this is where the desire for fair skin is most insidious. The question of who looks at my underarm, or who sees it regularly is none other than myself. For example, I see them every time I take a shower, or when I wear a tank top. Contrary to features such as your face, your arms, your legs, which everyone can see, no one really see other parts of your body like your underarm or your genitals. But we have whitening products for these parts of our body! To illustrate, we have anal bleaching, gels to whiten vaginas, and apparently whitening deodorant! And therein lies the problem because at this point we are not just buying whitening products to be desirable; we are policing ourselves because we have internalized that dark is inherently unattractive and we must remedy our own flaws. Through this example, I realize the most poignant aspect of the cosmetics industry: it was never meant to empower us. Through aspirations towards false ideals, (this is exactly what we are referring to when we use the easy catchphrase “unrealistic standards of beauty”) the industry feeds on our negative body image. This is why we have an instilled need to lose weight, or shave body hair (legs, back, pubes), or whiten our skin!

Pointing out something that’s wrong is an important first step, but only a first step. The next thing we need to do is to try to address it. In this case, I guess here is one action step I’m planning to take. If I browse through a beauty product, I’m going to see how it’s advertising itself. Is it meant to empower me, make me feel good about myself? For instance, sunblock will help protect me from skin cancer, and moisturizer will help unclog pores and remove excess dirt and grime. Or does it make me want to think that I dislike myself so greatly I can’t help but buy it? I hope through this exercise I learn more about positive self-talk and unlearn the cultural constructs of beauty, of “white is right”, of “fair and lovely”, that have been embedded in my society and in myself.




My beauty

Fuels on

My self-hatred.


We beautify ourselves

Through our bleach.

We bleach ourselves

Through our erasure.

We erase our selves

To assimilate.


I have to learn

Beauty differs

From self-worth.

If I wait for someone

To tell me I am beautiful,

beauty will consume me whole

And leave me ravenous, ashen.

If I tell myself of my self-worth,

I feed myself forever.










3 thoughts on “Melanin and Confidence (Part 2)

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