Embrace Your #KutisPinas Beauty
by Maria Romero, April 30, 2019 4:46pm
Art by Ahl Mirambel
Last April, Netizens slammed skin-whitening brands Skin White and Glutamax for their discriminating advertising campaigns, days after the #KutisPinas made traction online.
The brands’ campaign ads brazenly tell women that having whiter skin is advantageous than natural Filipino skin. The controversial campaigns suggest fairer skin is more attractive than the #KutisPinas—a rampant promotion of colorism.
Netizens, however, were quick to dismiss the ads as promotive of color representation; the brands have a history of perpetuating the culture of discrimination and shaming to catch the attention of the general public—as they say, bad publicity is still publicity.
SkinWhite: Here's a fucking stupid ad about skin whitening. With brown face! Haha TOP THAT!— MELISANDRE 3000 (@thysz) April 13, 2019
GlutaMax: Hold my beer pic.twitter.com/9ADkFXMnPO
Meanwhile, a statement by the Ad Standards Council(ASC) said ASC disapproved the brand’s campaign several times. Unfortunately, GlutaMax and its advertising agency pushed to post the ad despite the disapproval. This isn’t the first time GlutaMax and Skin White received backlash for their problematic campaigns, we don’t know why no legal action has been taken regarding this issue yet.
This 2019 when people are pushing for equality and flaunting their bodies regardless of size and color, why do we still have these discriminating ads? Nakakainis. Unfair ‘di ba?
Filipinos have naturally-brown skin
Geographically, the Philippines lies near the equator. While the sun shines almost equally in all parts of the earth, those countries near and in the equator have a higher amount of direct sunlight than the others. Meaning, Filipinos are expected to have a darker complexion with higher melanin pigment in order to adapt and prevent skin conditions. But despite these obvious facts, many Filipinos still believe people with fairer skin are more attractive. Is it because of our history or media’s poor representation of color?
The social discussion about Filipino colorism had already been brought to the table last May 2018 when half-Pinay actor and digital creative Asia Jackson made a Twitter thread on how she was bullied for having dark skin.
I was bullied for having dark skin when I lived in the Philippines. Everything I did, everywhere I went, it felt like I could never escape people’s harmful words. “Negra” was thrown at me everyday & it never stopped. (thread) #MagandangMorenxpic.twitter.com/gSfShn0ZYI— Asia Jackson (@aasian) May 31, 2018
The discussion started the #MagandangMorenx where dark-skinned Filipinos all over the world shared their experiences.
Looking into our history and origins, the preference for white skin beauty may have come from our colonizers (Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese) who used to associate dark-skinned Filipinos as lower class and those with fairer skin as upper class. Even Jose Rizal’s novels discussed these problematic perceptions.
Yet, a century later after freeing from the colonizers and we still hold on to this trivial mentality that even Filipino public figures with colored complexions can’t escape the color discrimination— among which are TV Host Bianca Gonzales-Intal and Miss Universe runner-up Venus Raj. With this, color discrimination and mockeries like negra and maitim will continue to be a Filipino household lingo unless we start educating ourselves on proper color representation.
The role of media
In a study called “Filipino Women and the Idealization of White Beauty in Films, Magazines, and Online” by Kristin Renault, “light skin” beauty remains as a “global standard” in all forms of media today. To be honest, the Philippine media doesn’t shy away from this problematic narrative.
Since the 1980s, the improper portrayal of dark-skinned people had already been aired through Blusang Itim, where a girl would only look beautiful if she wears a certain black dress that would make her skin fairer. In 2011, the blatantly offensive drama series Nita Negrita peddled discrimination against dark-skinned people. These are only two among the several problematic TV shows with inappropriate color representations.
When the Philippine media portray dark-skinned people, it’s always about casting fair-skinned actors and making them look darker with heavy make-up that they almost look like a mockery to the real dark-skinned people. We still have a long way to go in correcting these wrong practices in the media but we may take the small step of actually casting true dark-skinned actors. Not only will it empower them but will also open more opportunities for people of the same color.
Flaunt your #KutisPinas
Aspiring to have a fairer skin is never a problem, insulting the people’s dark skin is. For so long, Filipinos are caged in this archaic mentality when being comfortable with your skin tone shouldn't be an issue.
Just a note from a Filipina with brown skin since birth:— Bianca Gonzalez (@iamsuperbianca) April 13, 2019
There is no problem AT ALL sa mga gustong magpaputi. The problem is when whitening brands make us look "kaawa awa" dahil lang maitim kami. Kasi, hindi po kami kawawa, maganda ang kulay namin.
All skin types have their fair share of pros and cons. Mestizas or mestizos usually have finer pores, but is sensitive and age earlier while darker skin tones are more resistant to aging, but have oilier skin prone to dark spots. So love the skin you’re in. You are you.
In this fast-paced society, we should not stay ignorant and insensitive when it comes to representing and dismantling the century-long prejudice, marginalization, and political disempowerment the dark-skinned Filipinos experience.
In their controversial ad, GlutaMax repeatedly asked the question: Unfair ‘di ba? Yes, it’s unfair to promote systemic discrimination while capitalizing on the people’s struggles and insecurities. So in the fight for diversity, representation, and breaking negative stereotypes, we might have to pass on all these GlutaMax and Skin-White products.
Colorism is systematic and it literally affects a person’s quality of life—ability to get a job, the types of jobs they can get, and how severely one is punished for a crime. That’s why it’s important to start healthy conversations about colorism and its effect on people not just in social media but in the mainstream media, too. Let’s all contribute to creating a culture and environment we all will be proud of.