Working on the perfect . . . tan?

With Summer going full-tilt here in Jordan, my entire family has gone a skin tone or two darker in just a few short weeks (will have to post pics soon, I know).  It’s not that we are laying around the pool, or sunbathing on the roof (likely frowned upon in our neighborhood), no it’s more like standing in the bright Middle Eastern sun for a couple of hours each day waiting for taxis, or just houghing it from point A to point B.  Even Victoria and Noah, the fairer pair of our clan, have gotten a bit darker. Of course with Noah a good portion is probably dirt!

And despite all the warnings about skin cancer and such, I must say I am a little happier to be a little darker.  Even with today’s health conscious American society, it seems we still deep down inside like the glow of a “healthy” tan. We’veevendeveloped sunless tanning creams to chemically alter our skin tone without the cancer risk.

Enter here a recent article I read about a similar phenomenon here in the Middle East.  Cosmetic companies have been (for years apparently) selling creams and lotions that promise to provide that just-right skin tone along with a healthy glow.  But thet aren’t hawking sunless tanning creams, in fact it’s just the opposite.  Apparently skin-lightening creams are all the rage in this neck of the woods.  Yeah – that’s right skin lighteners!

I had never heard of such a thing – what about you?  If you google skin lightening (or whitening) cream you will find all sorts of links to different products in a matter of seconds.  These creams are the source of no little controversy as some say that the companies are marketing a product that encourages racism.  Others say this is simply an example of the corporate world scratching where there’s an itch (and profitable market).  These folks say that fair skinned people often wish to be darker and darker skinned folks often want to be lighter and cosmetic companies are simply playing to particular markets.

What do you think?  Are skin lighteners promoting some sort of racism?  Is there anything wrong with an olive-toned Middle Eastern woman wanting to be a couple of shades lighter?  What about all of the professional tanners back stateside?  Are the two situations analagous?  Let me know what you think!

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6 Responses

  1. Apparently vanity is a universally human issue not just an American one…greeting from the suntan midwest. BTw – I think I need proof to believe V is tan 🙂 Miss you all.

  2. Then again, people still skydive and eat at McDonalds. And neither of those have a true function or lasting benefit. So what do I know? 🙂

  3. See, Brian, I’d have to disagree… it may simply be semantics, but I think the difference is we can disagree or dislike cultures. We don’t have to assimilate. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate.

    I’m not a huge tolerance on all fronts kind of guy or anything like that, but especially when it comes to “ethnic diversity” (read: lots of colors living in an area, white, black, yellow, aquamarine, etc…)
    Then there’s going to be some places where those circles of culture meet. And sometimes those places meet in areas of conflict. I say I can eat that pickle, but a Jew says he cannot because it’s not Kosher. An urban area near Miami may have latinos practicing Catholicism along with small tribe-like witch-doctor practices, which I may find detestable, but it doesn’t make me dislike latinos. It makes me dislike that cultural statement, perhaps that the group may make, but it doesn’t classify the entirety of a race.

    I know you know what I’m saying, and I know that you likely agree. I’m simply saying that true out-and-out racism, the prejudice of someone based solely upon their color, or their heritage, is detestable and has no function in society.

    I can fully understand and sometimes even get behind the idea of disagreeing vehemently (perhaps even militantly if necessary in extreme situations) with cultural practices that are inhumane or simply evil, according to God’s standards. However, even then, I think to myself: “sin is sin” and therefore, I should hate my own sin just as much as I would hate that of another culture.

    My point still remains that I see no reason for it to grow. I really and truly think that racism will die out at some point (perhaps by then, we’ll all be “mutts” with no discernible heritage to mock, or perhaps the old will die out and the new will prevail) Who knows? But I do believe that simply by evolutionary standards (and no, I’m not talking apes-to-people evolution, simply the proven science that the simplest, most beneficial actions tend to prevail in society) racism has no benefit and no true function, and therefore cannot be justified. It’s hate-fueled. And while there’s no end to hate in sight for the world, there’s a resurgence of “reason”. And even if the reason doesn’t always come together towards the logical conclusions God makes for us in the Bible, there’s hope, in me at least, that it will translate into racism ending sooner rather than later.

  4. Yeah, Larry, I agree that racism makes very little sense, but it does seem to be systemic and depending on how one define it, hard to get away from even as a rational and culture-embracing adult. I find myself each day now wishing something was different about my new home and finding myself having to check myself on whether I’ve crossed a line or not.

    On the skin whitening issue it seems to me that there is a bit of playing on women’s (mostly, but also men I’m sure) fears that they are not good looking the way they are. However, one ad mentioned in the article did directly mention getting that promotion at work if your skin was lighter! To me it’s not that the ad or product is racist, but what is it saying about the underlying values in the society.

    Rebecca – thanks for the input on Japan – I hadn’t thought about the same issues being in play there until you mentioned it – thanks!

  5. I know when I was in Japan, the women there were very conscious about having whiter skin. I think that the darker your skin was, the more likely you’d be considered “working class.” These women were never seen without a parasol, and although I never witnessed it, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used whitening cream. At the very least, they used make-up that made them look whiter.

  6. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. If those same people were seeing tanning creams as racist then sure, I figure those people have the same right to call the opposite.

    But since that is rarely, if ever, the case… I would actually see calling “lightening cream” racist and tanning lotion as not, as an act of racism more egregious. I mean, to say “as a white person, I can go darker, but you dark-skinned people cannot go whiter” seems more of a sin against diversity than any cream itself.

    I know it sounds silly (although really, the whole topic is, in a way), but I am seriously more offended by people who would consider a lightening cream racist (yet would use a tanning cream or simply “get a tan”) than many other politically incorrect things.

    Not to mention, I simply don’t get racism. I grew up with racist jokes in the lunchroom. I had friends that were racist. Sadly, I told those same jokes and hung out with those kids when I was young. But as soon as I grew and thought for myself, any idea of racism seemed stupid and unnecessary to me. I simply grew up. Why alienate a portion of potential friends? Why ruin relationships with co-workers before they start? Why dismiss people before you know them? Why not befriend someone different from you?

    All of those questions rattled around my head, and I simply couldn’t justify it. It was simply an evil desire to be mean to people (and really, it was just a target that needed to be placed) and I had no desire to perpetuate that evil.

    While it’s Christ-like to be inclusive, it’s not because I was a Christian. (I wasn’t, when I eschewed racism). It’s simply because rationally and logically, it simply made NO SENSE.

    So can anyone explain to me why it’s still around at all? I know it’s a broken, sinful world… but seriously… we’re ALL in the same world. So, why single out people?

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. I am simply mystified by adults (not you or your expected readership, of course) that still hold on to racism. I simply don’t get it.

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