Another Person’s Skin Color Is Really None Of Your Business
Society’s impossible beauty standards have turned people into bullies.
In our culture, giving a remark about one’s appearance – weight, color, hair length – as a casual form of greeting has dangerously become common. That it is said in admiration (Ang payat mo na!) or in disapproval (Ba’t ang itim mo?) is most concerning because it casts one characteristic as “good” and the other, “bad,” based on accepted norms in society. And although there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these traits, those who have them are made to feel uneasy about being that way. This is what body shaming is.
In popular media, celebrities are prone to online body shaming the most simply because they are in the limelight. When actors Sophie Albert and Vin Abrenica announced their engagement in February with a photo of their entwined hands (Sophie’s sporting a diamond ring), some Internet lurkers just had to comment on Sophie’s noticeably fair skin color.
“Mukhang bampira!” “Kulay bangkay,” were some of the nasty things hurled at them. Despite this, the couple took the situation lightly by posting a follow-up photo.
“What's the commotion all about? We love and appreciate all your warm and sweet greetings! Di ko maiwasang makita yung reactions and comments sa kamay ni @itssophiealbert kesyo sinasabi na: A. Sobra sa gluta, B. Anong brand ng sabon/lotion niya, C. Anemic, D. Kamay ng Vampire, E. Kasama sa Adam's Family at iba pa.” In an attempt to brighten the mood, he added, “Sa’n ba banda dito ang maputi? Hindi naman halata 😂😂😂 #NoFilter”
While the couple was unbothered by all the negative comments, this is not the case for everyone, especially for the younger ones who are impressionable.
Discrimination based on skin color
A survey conducted on 80,000 middle-grade students in U.S. public schools by Youth Truth reveals that around 16 percent of them are bullied because of their skin color.
Colorism, also known as “shadeism”, is a form of discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s skin color, which often leads to bullying. In the Philippines, a preference for lighter skin is prevalent, although the incident involving Vin and Sophie shows people will always have something to say.
Twenty-six-year-old Ara was bullied in high school for having brown skin.
“I have always been morena. Both of my parents have brown skin, I loved playing patintero in the sun when I was in elementary school, so of course, I had relatively darker skin too.”
Almost every day in her freshman year, Ara would receive comments like “Kulay uling!” and “Mukhang libag!” from her schoolmates. Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with her looks, the negative comments completely destroyed her confidence.
“It came to a point where whitening products were all I would use.” Ara shares that she had tried every brand of papaya soap and whitening lotion, and even bleached her skin once.
“Bleaching my skin was my wake-up call. It hurt so much that I questioned why I was even willing to go through this just because they want me to look a certain way.”
With the help of therapy and a support system, Ara learned to establish a healthy relationship with her body. “I did get better, yes, but what I went through was absolutely unnecessary. I will never romanticize my experience as something that made me stronger, because even though it did, it was something that I did not have to go through, especially at such a young age.”
Asia Jackson, a Filipino-American TV actress has also shared on Twitter her personal experiences of being bullied for her dark complexion and curly hair.
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) #MagandangMorenx pic.twitter.com/gSfShn0ZYI— Asia Jackson (@aasian) May 31, 2018
“Kids told me I couldn’t join their games because I was maitim,” Asia says in the Twitter thread. She could not have a single conversation without anyone mentioning her dark skin tone, and was even called “bruja” because of her curly hair.
In 2016, Asia started an online campaign called “Magandang Morenx” that aims to put a stop to a culture of skin color discrimination in the Philippines. She mentions that teleseryes and commercials perpetrating this kind of behavior greatly affect thousands of Filipino children, making them believe that their brown skin is something to be “ashamed” of.
This experience isn’t unique to me. Thousands of Filipino children were and ARE bullied for this exact same reason—they’re brown. Such an archaic mentality, established from hundreds of years of colonialism, are making people feel imprisoned by the color of their skin. pic.twitter.com/A5bOcUANEM— Asia Jackson (@aasian) May 31, 2018
“A multi-billion-dollar skin whitening industry exists because of it. Because of an entertainment industry full of light-skinned half Filipinos and millions of dollars being spent on whitening product ads & commercials, tan and brown Filipinos are made to feel ashamed of who they are,” Asia explained.
Are you guilty of discriminating against people who have brown or dark skin? Catch yourself if you do any of these:
The terms “negra” and “egoy” are hurtful, no matter how funny you think they are.
It is never okay to mock anyone for having morena skin, and we should abolish the thought that it is okay to bully people into thinking that there is something wrong with them.
Realize that uneven skin tone is normal.
Our folds and creases like our kili-kili and singit are darker than the rest of our body, and that’s okay! Do not let an industry saturated with whitening creams tell you otherwise.
If you are morena, wear your color loud and proud!
Wear clothes that will set off your beautiful skin tone. Take good care of your skin, and don’t be pressured into lightening it.
Spread the message.
Educate your kids. Let morena people know you appreciate their beauty. Of course, all of this has to come from deep within and will only ring true if you yourself believe it.
Let us strive to replace color shaming and similar toxic behaviors with values that recognize, appreciate, and promote a positive relationship with our bodies. No matter our skin color or size, we are powerful, and society’s impossible beauty standards can never change that.
Your feelings are valid. You are valid. And there is no shame in asking for help.
If you need someone to listen, call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotlines at 0917-899-8727, (02) 7989-8727 or 1553 (toll-free landline) anytime, 24/7.
You may also call hotlines 0917-8001123 or (02) 8893-7603 for free telephone counseling in the Philippines.