Skin-whitening products are everywhere in Thailand.
Scratch that; they’re ubiquitous across Asia.
The inherent racism of international beauty standards sees fair, white skin held up as an ideal to aspire to, instead of just one shade in a spectrum of beauty and skin colour. The irony of course, is that darker, tanned skin is held up as the ultimate beauty standard in the West, where the women are generally much fairer.
But the tide is starting to turn.
We all remember the controversial Seoul Secret advert that was pulled following the criticism that piled in at their bizarrely insensitive blackface creative used to promote a skin-whitening pill:
And a backlash has now begun against other whitening products as Asian women share their experiences of so-called ‘colourism’ in a campaign called “Unfair & Lovely”.
The campaign was spawned from a recent Pax Jones photo shoot at the University of Texas where a pair of Sri Lankan sisters were photographed and shared their experiences of colourism, which went viral under the title “Unfair & Lovely”, according to Mashable.
From there, the campaign spread to social media with darker skinned women sharing their photos across Instagram and Twitter using the #unfairandlovely hashtag – a direct reference to the ‘Fair & Lovely’ skin-whitening branded products sold by Hindustan Unilever in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Thailand is well known for its devotion to skin-whitening products; as a woman, it’s even difficult to buy deodorant without whitening compounds in over here, let alone moisturisers and foundation makeup.
Part of the preference towards fairer skin in the Kingdom is a class issue, as well as an aesthetic one: darker-skinned women are typically assumed to be from poorer farming backgrounds, while lighter-skinned women are more often associated with Bangkok and branded with the HiSo tag, to denote wealth and class.
But while the #unfairandlovely campaign is gathering steam across South Asia, it doesn’t appear to have yet made much of impact in Thailand, although time will tell if the campaign catches on here or not.
Take a look at some of the tweets and Instagrams the campaign has garnered:
“Look at how tan she’s become” “Tell her to stay out of the sun” Actually Aunty , I love the colour of my skin , and I love the way the sun feels against MY skin. My Skin that I feel beautiful in , the skin that makes up who I am” #UNFAIRANDLOVELY #feminist #feminism #southasian #southasianbeauty #desi #desigirl #indian #bengali #pakistan #punjabi #tamil #kannada #telugu #marathi
A photo posted by Offical Page Unfairandlovely (@unfairandlovely) on
#unfairandlovely I LOVE THIS! Why is fair skin the ideal?? I rmb growing up wishing I was fairer and hence prettier! Now I’m woke!????????
— $andhya Pillai (@chasingtheSan) March 16, 2016
A photo posted by Abirami Ravichandran Pillai ☺️ (@abiii_18) on
— waizaes.in (@waizaesin) March 15, 2016
Do you think #unfairandlovely will catch on in Thailand?
Featured image is via Instagram/Pax Jones/UnfairAndLovely