Is White Beauty the Right Beauty?
When I first watched the commercial for “Pond’s White Beauty” I could not believe that people would actually buy such an oppressive and ridiculous product. I asked my roommate who was born and raised in India to watch the commercial with me and she confirmed that she even knows people who use this and similar products in hopes of ‘whitening’ their skin.
The commercial depicts a white, heterosexual male who, of course, has the power to pick up and dump any girl whenever he choses, leaving them to fawn over him until he changes his mind. It clearly oppresses the non-white female who is left by her boyfriend for a white woman. It shows her using this “Pond’s White Beauty” skin cream to lighten her skin in order to try and get back her ex-boyfriends attention. It leaves the awful message that darker skinned women are not as beautiful as white women when this could not be more false. The commercial uses the oppression that non-white women feel by women of white privilege. This product is almost trying to give these women a way out of their oppression. It is not telling them to be proud of who they are, but that they can try and change their appearance to seem more beautiful.
The message of this commercial is telling females that they must change their appearance in order to impress hegemonic males. Not only does this commercial encourage the concept of having to improve oneself to win the battle for a male’s attention, but also it tells the viewer that in order to be more beautiful, you must be white. That is what really threw me off, because growing up in a dominantly white community; I am very used to the constant aspiration to be as tanned as possible. I am a culprit of buying tanning oil while on vacation or getting a spray tan for my high school graduation. Yet is this not the same as this pond’s cream, but in reverse? It is the same concept, but in this commercial it uses non-white women’s oppression to sell the product. We automatically think it is normal for white people to aspire to be darker, then are shocked when we see creams to make darker peoples skin lighter because it is oppressive.
In lecture we learnt about culture appropriation and I found it really interesting and think it can relate to this commercial. Culture appropriation is the adoption of some specific features of one culture by a different cultural group. We were given different examples of victoria secret models dressing up to imitate first nations for fashion shows, and other white models who yellow or black-faced themselves for fashion purposes as well. These white models are chosen over darker skinned models for these photo shoots and that really reinforces the idea that white models are considered more ‘versatile’ or more ‘beautiful’ than any other race. That is why these products of lightening ones skin is so popular. Flavia Dzodan stated that, “The problem with cultural appropriation is that it replaces the original with a copy created by the dominant culture.” That is essentially what this pond’s cream is doing. White dominance is replacing darker skin with the favored white skin appeal.
Intersectionality is also featured in this commercial. They show the oppression of a non-white female whose life revolves around trying to get the affection of a white heterosexual male. The commercial plays on the oppression of not being white by basically telling the audience that being darker will not help get the man of your dreams; lightening your skin will give you more of a chance. This brand actually had 4 more commercials after the one shown to us. The last four episodes show the woman as her skin gradually gets lighter which correlates with receiving more and more attention from the man.
I think there is an obvious correlation between race, gender, sexuality and the product. The commercial oppresses the non-white female and places all the power in the hands of the white heterosexual male. The commercial basically gives the perfect ‘way out’ of some of this oppression by lightening your skin in order to limit the oppression that is being placed upon you. However, in the commercial, even if you are white this still does not make you equal to the male. He easily discards his white, beautiful girlfriend at the end of the five series of commercials. The white male will always have the power and can triumph over the women because these oppressed women are portrayed as weak and will do anything for his affection.
Tolmie, Jane. “Cultural Appropriation.” BioSci Complex AUD. 4 Mar. 2014. Lecture.