Cosmetics and White Privilege

I caught a show last week, I think it might have been Steve Wilkos (yeah, I know, lol) – it caught my eye because it was about a teen and her brother who picked up the habit of skin bleaching (they also lived in an area that wasn’t very diverse and most of the people are white). Steve mentioned something about the dangerous chemicals in the bleaching creams and how they are risking their health for vanity.

And it got me thinking – how is it any different from any other kind of cosmetic? Well, it’s not. MOST forms of make-up, lotions and perfumes used today are toxic. They have carcinogens, toxins, hormone inhibitors and all kinds of scary crap that no one can pronounce in them…

Yet for some reason it’s WORSE when someone is risking their life to look white (it’s totally an issue of privilege when all of the other vanity based practices are ignored). Why is it looked at in such a different light (no pun) then tanning? I’ve seen SOME shows about tanning but people seem to be less critical of it – unless it’s obsessive tanning (like Dr. Phil had a show about a woman and her daughter who tanned twice daily – but he completely ignores the millions who tan four times a week). Women who tan are a lot more likely to end up with skin cancer (probably even more so then bleaching creams)…. Ya know? And pretty much all the products used for tanning (bronzers and such) are also toxic – and they are being BAKED into the skin…

Like why isn’t Steve Wilkos doing shows on the dangers of cosmetic surgery or even regular ole – non-permanent cosmetics – which are applied almost always DAILY. It just seems really out of place to narrow in on this ONE beauty issue. Like that “natural” mineral make-up that is always being promoted – it has nano-sized particulates of silica – silica poisoning is IRREVERSIBLE. You can’t clense that shit out. When I had to crush rocks in lab – we had to run special vaccuums, wear masks and took all these insane precautions to avoid breathing in these same exact particulates.

Not that I support skin bleaching in any fashion (I’m not trying to justify it because other women do similar things, they ALL irritate me and make me a lil sad) but it’s really weird to me how this topic gets zeroed in on very often and how white people everywhere are so shocked – when they do just as many petty and stupid things for vanity. People are SHOCKED that a woman would want to distort her skin color – but pretty much everything in our culture promotes it (one way or the other). Our entire view of what the “feminine” looks like is a distortion, a fake representation – not a REAL one.  

What really pisses me off about it, is that women are expected to distort their appearences anyway. What makes trying to look whiter any different than trying to look more “feminine”.  When women go to lengths to look more “feminine” (hair removal, breast enhancements, lip enhancements – eyelash growing chemicals, bleaching of the hair, hair dyes etc) they are rejecting their own appearence, their BORN appearence in the same way that this girl is rejecting her black skin.

She’s trying to fit the mold, she’s no more deluded than most women.

And it’s really fucking hilarious to me that when white men do shows on things like this (Wilkos and Dr. Phil), they IGNORE the beauty practices their wives uphold, that are also dangerous for the health. It’s so weird to me. Like – why not do a show on how women should accept how they look… as they are.

It’s coming from such a position of privilege for men to talk about these issues and completely ignore the ones that their wives uphold. In many ways – they ARE the problem. Instead of facing it HEAD ON and their wives own vanity practices – they pick up these little tid bits – the few that their wives aren’t pimping out. For example – I caught an episode of “Dr. Phil” that his wife took over and she was pimping cosmetic surgery and “mommy make-overs”. It just makes me so fucking sick – how can you denounce skin bleaching and promote plastic surgery in the same breath? It’s women like this that actually promote unhealthy body image and standards. Because they are REJECTING saggin’ breasts and stretch marked bellies… Just by bringing it up, at all – they are reinforcing the idea that women should give a shit about their “attractiveness” in the first  place.

In one breath they will say skin bleaching is wrong and in the next – claim that tummy tucks and breast augmentation are important for a womans self-esteem. But you know – the women who have the best self-esteems in the world, are the women who don’t give a shit about pleasing others with their image.

Women like this claim that they do it for themselves. That they feel ugly and can’t be happy without such surgeries… And isn’t that just promoting the message? I mean, I have to wonder how many women who never thought about it – watched a show like this one and  started to feel badly about how they look, when they never did before…

It’s why I hate TV so fucking much. And I generally watch it with a critics perspective… meaning that I’ll watch the ads and critique them. I’ll watch the shows and critique them. I’ll think about how shows entitled “I hate my small breasts” are probably being funded by plastic surgeons. Or maybe Dr. Phil’s wife gets a cut for promoting mommy make-overs. But most people are too stupid to put these things together in their minds. Or they are too preoccupied with this illusion of physical perfection that they just don’t even think about it.

But yeah – women who don’t put emphasis on their appearences are ALWAYS going to be happier. It’s a game that even women who are close to the mold can never win. One thing that I have noticed over the years – women who focus on their appearences and the closer they get to that mold – the more insecure they seem to get and the more addicted to physical affirmation they become.

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4 Responses to “Cosmetics and White Privilege”

  1. dedgurlcingztheblooze Says:

    While I think you hit on some excellent points, I feel like you are ignoring racial dynamics in this piece. Why are non-white folks who bleach their skin featured on Dr. Phil? Because it promotes the idea that non-white folks want to be white. This then supports the idea that “white” is right, which is why white people don’t adopt nonwhite beauty standards (tanning isn’t done because white folks can’t navigate life as white, and no one tans to look African). Why do non-white folks bleach their skin? Because in every area of the globe, skin that is closer to white is seen as more desirable and in some places actually effects whether or note you are considered middle or upper class, and whether or not you can be successful in the job force. Also note, it is non-white males and females who are bleaching. Additionally, femininity is associated with whiteness. It has become a global concept that having European features makes a woman more attractive. Lighter skin is just one issue, there’s also eye lid surgery, nose jobs (from wide to narrow), hair extensions and chemicals to hide one’s texture, etc.

    I agree with you that white women get all these cosmetics and lift and stuff parts of themselves because they’re taught to hate the way they look, but they’re not taught to hate whiteness (pale white, yes, but not white as a racial concept). Non-white people are, and thus vanity is simplistic, and completely writes off the reality of race dynamics, and does a disservice to women of color who suffer from more than just sexism.

    • truthvscompliance Says:

      hey thanks for the comment, you brought up a lot of points I probably should have gotten into (you did it better than I could have anyway, hopefully ppl read the comment section). Like all of the other features associated with whiteness. And you bring up a very good point about tanning (how it’s not done out of hatred for whiteness) – which I wasn’t really thinking about when I wrote this because I was more or less responding to Wilkos pointing at the health risks.

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