Monday, May 18, 2009

"You are not my daughter"

When I do decide to go home during the weekends I seem to always get criticized about my appearance by my mother. However, the one thing that bothers her the most is my skin color. "Anak, you're getting too dark! With that dark skin, people will think you are not a daughter of mine." She'd always complain, because she was blessed with light skin. The odd thing is that she’s the only one with light skin in my family but she ONLY complains about the color of my skin.

My mother came back from a trip to the Philippines in January and came back to home to greet her since I did miss her. I was not really greeted by my mother but with a box full of papaya soap. For those who do not know, papaya soap is a "special soap formulation that contains the enzyme "papain" from papaya, which helps whiten and soften your skin. Complexion becomes fair and acne-free."

This has been going on since I was a child since I loved staying out in the sun. Unfortunately, I got darker every year during the summer and never got lighter in the winter. IT NEVER WORKED! My mother even got friends and family who visited the Philippines to get papaya soap for me. She just continues to waste money, hoping that this papaya soap works eventually. But I think of this ritual of buying the papaya soap can be compared to Chinese footbinding (I know, hella late). Like the Chinese views, I believe that skin whitening (though not limited to just Filipinos) is another notion that body as attire and that dressing is such an embodiment (Ko 93).

I still find it weird that my mother complains about my dark skin but when I read Ko's article I sort of put two and two together. Footbinding is considered part of the female attire, so I believe white skin is also part of the female attire.

Though I do like to blame colonialism for bringing pale, flawless skin to the Philippines, I also blame the media for making the problem worse by putting either mestisa (half Filipino half-other but usually white) celebrities on the channels my mother ONLY watches. Completely brainwashed her but I must admit that it sort of brainwashed me too. I don't avidly watch The Filipino Channel or GMA as my mother, but I do have Hallyu fever.

Korean dramas, Korean pop, Korean... everything. I have noticed that all their celebrities are pale skin. Even if they go into the entertainment business a little on the "dark" side, they get their skin bleached. I have compared a few pop stars pre-debut and present pictures and I see a big difference in skin tone, though it could just be my eyes and the lighting. You do not find many tan or dark skinned celebrities in Korea or the Philippines (but there are a few exceptions).

I find skin bleaching to be in the extreme part of the skin whitening spectrum but it is part of the whole "white is beautiful." But it's so damn expensive. Honestly, why would anyone want to spend a ridiculous amount of money just to be pale as a ghost. There are limits as to what your body can handle but just as Ko states, "perception of the boy as primarily a social body" (93). Though humans are all social beings, many of us are not as pale as the celebrities.

If "naked and unadorned feet were fitting attire for animaldom" (Ko 13), does that mean that dark skin is also associated with being a barbarian? If it does, I guess I'm a barbarian then. But just like my mother, I complain about my dark skin and have been using my pasalubong (gift) from my mother profusely. I'm still hoping to get lighter though I doubt that will happen. Hey, I guess I'm not putting my mother's money to waste since she likes to complain that I waste her money by not using the damn soap.

Christine Erfe blog #3
Ko, Dorothy. The Body As Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeenth-Century China. Class Reader.

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