Week 11; March 24th-31st Blog Entry #3 (Done by R).

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.

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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.

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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.

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-R-

 

 

Works Cited

Tolmie, Jane. “Cultural Appropriation.” BioSci Complex AUD. 4 Mar. 2014. Lecture.

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4 Comments

  1. Similar to the L’Oreal commerical, this ad brings up the idea of what is considered beautiful. The idea that being white parallels being beautiful is socially constructed and in no means accurate. The concept of white privilege is also emphasized and encouraged in this commercial. To be successful and win a man’s heart, you must change your appearance in an attempt to gain a hint of white privilege. It’s a completely obscure connection. I also find their representation of the sough-after boyfriend to be ridiculous. Not only does this commercial promote whiteness as the only way to beauty, but it also enforces the idea that men are powerful beings that will pick and choose their women based solely on looks. This is a age-old stereotype that I think is definitely, and rightfully, fading within society. So why resurface it now is the question that puzzles me.

    – J.

  2. Week 11; March 24th-31st – Comment/Response (Done by S).

    Viewing the content of this ad and reflecting on your blog I am drawn to the article by Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and the list she created, itemizing 50 ways she experiences the benefits of white privilege on a daily basis; perhaps the message of this ad (getting a man) could be included. The root of white privilege is skin colour, you either have it or you don’t and if you don’t the activities of daily living become significantly more challenging. I was distressed when I read the response of your roommate but in truth I shouldn’t have been. Look at the messages conveyed through popular culture, given the ‘2 thumbs up’ by hegemony. To be white means to be able to make social systems work to your advantage; moving freely through this world (as small as your daily community and as large as the global village) without fear, knowing that whatever happens to you is not because you have the wrong skin colour but because you have the right skin colour. All the while existing in a conditioned state of obliviousness to the multitude of advantages and benefits freely offered. But are they freely offered? One look at this young woman’s face would indicate “no”, because every step forward into a white world of confidence, comfort and belonging is followed by a heel that crushes all other racial groups. The fact that Pond’s would create an ad where white supremacy reigns with such blatant arrogance is disgusting. Like McIntosh states, it’s not enough to disapprove; in itself that’s not enough to create change. Change comes by taking action, by opening the eyes of those who reap the daily advantages of being white in blissful ignorance, oblivious to the unseen dimensions where oppression flourishes; the likes of which we have seen in these commercials. Your question puts it right out there for all to see, “Is White Beauty the Right Beauty?”

    -S.

  3. I found it very interesting when you said people in the community you grew up in actually aspire to be less white through tanning and tanning products. I find it very ironic that the cultural white hegemonic advertisers pushing this product on everybody probably feel the same way as you and the people in your community. This said, I agree with you—it is still a massive problem that advertisers market a whiter skin as a plus, something women should aspire to, because it will get you the man who once ignored you. This is blatant sexism, racism, and general ignorance. It perpetuates a status quo that is unacceptable in the 21st century. You are spot on in your application of cultural appropriation to this commercial, as it is obvious, like i said, that the white culture is impeding on other cultures. Watching this commercial, i was legitimately shocked that it wasn’t a parody.

    – M

  4. The thought of this commercial even making it to television is disturbing. This advertisement is in no way subtle about what they are selling and the image that they are associating with it. I agree with your point about the obvious correlation between race, gender, sexuality and the product. The connection between the three is expressed clearly and unfortunately supports the belief of white privilege and power. Your blog does a good job of exploring the different the opposite effect that can be had on people with your connection to tanning cream. So many of my friends have used tanning oil and one of them recently died from skin cancer complications. She always felt like she was more attractive when she was tanned and commercials like this sending messages out leading people to believe these things is infuriating.
    -L

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