Say 'No!' to whitening
Here we see one of the more interesting products available on Guam: Sheep placenta. What is it used for?
The explanation on the package says that it will “whiten your skin” and goes on to say that it will “make your skin more whiter.” Once you have stopped wondering why these guys can’t be bothered to get someone who speaks English to proofread their label you might start asking about how they know that sheep placenta makes skin more whiter.
Possibly a shepherd, or maybe a veterinarian, or whoever it is that helps the sheep to give birth to their lambs, and thus finds himself bespattered with sheep placenta on a regular basis, began to realize, to his delight, or to his horror, depending on his point of view, that his skin was becoming more whiter.
When I saw that the white people who seem to like sheep placenta say nothing about its whitening effect, and speak only about the way it makes the skin look younger, I began to wonder about all of this whitening talk. I also began to wonder why anyone would want to become more whiter.
It seems that the people of some parts of Asia have gotten it into their heads that being white means being beautiful. Skin whitening products are big business in India, raking in about 400 million a year, and the business continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Obviously no attention is paid, whatever, to Mark Twain, who visited India and commented on the subject in his book Following the Equator, published in 1897. After admiring the brown complexions of the people of India, he wrote of the “disadvantage of the white complexion” and went on to say:
“It is not an unbearably unpleasant complexion when it keeps to itself, but when it comes into competition with masses of brown and black the fact is betrayed that it is endurable only because we are used to it. Nearly all black and brown skins are beautiful, but a beautiful white skin is rare. How rare, one may learn by walking down a street in Paris, New York, or London on a week-day particularly an unfashionable street—and keeping count of the satisfactory complexions encountered in the course of a mile. Where dark complexions are massed, they make the whites look bleached-out, unwholesome, and sometimes frankly ghastly.”
Mark Twain went on to describe white people as “people whose skins are dull and characterless modifications of the tint which we miscall white. Some of these faces are pimply; some exhibit other signs of diseased blood; some show scars of a tint out of a harmony with the surrounding shades of color. The white man’s complexion makes no concealments. It can’t. It seemed to have been designed as a catch-all for everything that can damage it. Ladies have to paint it, and powder it, and cosmetic it, and diet it with arsenic, and enamel it, and be always enticing it, and persuading it, and pestering it, and fussing at it, to make it beautiful; and they do not succeed. But these efforts show what they think of the natural complexion, as distributed. As distributed it needs these helps. The complexion which they try to counterfeit is one which nature restricts to the few—to the very few. To ninety-nine persons she gives a bad complexion, to the hundredth a good one. The hundredth can keep it—how long? Ten years, perhaps.
The advantage is with the Zulu, I think. He starts with a beautiful complexion, and it will last him through. And as for the Indian brown—firm, smooth, blemishless, pleasant and restful to the eye, afraid of no color, harmonizing with all colors and adding a grace to them all—I think there is no sort of chance for the average white complexion against that rich and perfect tint.”
Mark Twain’s words, written in 1897, continue to be true in 2013, not only of the Indian, but of the ‘rich and perfect tint’ of the complexions of the Chamorro and the Filipino. Here is an example for your consideration: a Filipina-Chamorro native of Guam.
The Japanese tourists and American residents who wish they had her rich and perfect tint would no doubt agree with Mark Twain, and with my suggestion, to say ‘No!’ to whitening.