Thursday 17 November 2016

The 'Hypocrisy' of Skin Bleaching

I think it's time to end the hypocritical condemnation of women who bleach their skin.
Whilst I personally am not a fan of skin bleaching, I am even less of a fan of the hypocrisy that is highlighted within each critical statement against women's choices.

Firstly, for many women, skin bleaching (aka rubbing) is not the 'choice' that many may think it is.
Believe it or not, in many parts of the world ( even in 2016) darker skinned women remain vilified, ostractcized and marginalised in areas of marriage, employment and other life opportunities in favour of their lighter skinned counterparts.
In many parts of the 'developing world', women are reliant on finding a husband to provide an income for the family. For some, an unmarried women is a source of pain and shame on a family, hoping as they often are, to benefit from the marriage of their daughters, and any subsequent grandchildren.

In some parts of the world, including across the Carribean, historically, lighter skinned women ( and men) occupied the best jobs, and held powerful positions in society, over their darker counterparts, much in the same way that we in Europe experience institutional racism.
Across the Caribbean, 'Ghettos', (economically poor areas) are rarely occupied by lighter skinned individuals, and more often than not, it is also where you will find that 'bleaching' is more prevalent.

Now, If we can accept that racism remains an issue across Europe, and that discrmantion exists with regards to societal and political racial bias which actively works against black and other ethnic minority people, then surely we can come to grips with the reality of bleaching also.

Whilst many countries across Africa have now begun to ban skin bleaching products, In truth, I fear it will have little impact.
Because the issue is not with the actions of women, or the purchasing and rubbing of bleaching creams.
Skin bleaching is a physical manifestation of our all too often combined and collective belief systems, which when practiced long enough, become an established fixture within our numerous African and Caribbean cultures.

Changing the law alone will not change those long standing beliefs.
and the issue, I repeat, is not the women

It remans true that despite the 'bans', Skin Bleaching across Africa Is as common as the selling of yams in Ridley Road Market.

In fact, skin bleaching although rooted in ideas of whiteness and racial purity, expressed further during colonialism and slavery remains deeply embedded across many African and Caribbean cultures, despite earliest tales of use being by Elizabethan women way back in the 1500's.


Recent pictures of the African American rapper Lil Kim, have prompted much opinions.

Why did she do that? how could she do that? and so on...Yet I fail to be able to recall much (if any) disapproving comments made, when she posed seductively with her legs spread eagled.

Lil Kim aside, I also haven't heard much said about men who bleach.
Now my argument that many women bleach for marital, socialpolitical reasons may not hold much sway with regards to men who bleach, but it remains possible however, that their reasons for bleaching are actually, quite similar.
Little, if anything, has ever been said about the President of Congo Brazzaville, the esteemed Denis Sassou Nguesso

or the numerous Jamaican men ( usually dancehall fans who occupy a lower social class ) who also proudly bleach.

Well, clearly the issue of bleaching is gendered, and is another 'stick' to beat women with, and as such, appears to be an additional form of oppression against women who seek to overcome oppression. ( whether they themselves realise it or not)

Advocates of bleaching may say ..'it's simply style'.. 'just fashion', just like 'changing your shoes', or earrings
but what we cannot do, or run away from, is our history, and the story of colourism, which remains ever present in our society.

Whilst I'm no advocate of finger pointing, I would suggest that if there is any pointing to be done.. it is now time for that finger, to be directed squarely at.. men
The real question ( which we tend to avoid asking) is not; 'Why do women bleach?', rather, 'Why do some men continue to make the choices they make, if, or when, clearly steeped in racial ignorance?'.

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