Perhaps it was the numerous advertisements for skin-whitening products shown on TV or the nasty remarks I have gotten about my looks from family members on my East Asian side—maybe even both that had made me feel insecure about the color of my skin. Growing up surrounded by a Chinese-Filipino community that heavily idolized having white skin made me feel alienated. These feelings of exclusion got to my head and made me exert effort to change my appearance to fit in.
I am more than 100% sure that I was not the only one who experienced this pressure to adapt to societal standards.
There is still an ongoing stereotype against brown-skinned Asians. Many of those who do not fit into the East Asian beauty standard of having pale, porcelain skin are subjected to a negative image.
We can take the K-pop industry as an example. Most idols are heavily whitewashed in their released photos. Some companies even make them use skin-whitening products just to fit in the K-beauty standard. Aside from that, some naturally tan idols are made fun of by their other members for their complexion. There are dozens of videos on the internet that call these members out for their colorist jokes and insensitive behavior. These people are IDOLS: they are public figures that are meant to be looked up to, and people pay great attention to the way they act. Sadly some of these idols have influenced fans to live by the industry’s harsh perspective on skin tone.
Colorism in Asia does not just impact the Asian entertainment industry but those in Europe and America as well. The majority of media marketed to Western audiences usually portray their Asian characters as pale-skinned East Asians, not giving enough exposure to other ethnicities of Asian descent. The lack of representation for other Asians is the problem itself. It undoubtedly contributed to why some people, especially Westerners, have a very close-minded perspective of who Asians are. It creates this whole stereotype of Asians that they are only limited to having white skin or slanted eyes.
The colorism issue in Asia uplifts and enforces unrealistic beauty standards on other Asian individuals. Aside from the events of history, the different forms of media and entertainment play a huge role in intensifying the problem. Though it is just one of the many issues that fall under the discrimination paradox, it is still important for us to raise awareness and fight against society’s toxic ideologies to promote inclusivity and diversity. Together we can create a world where we can finally relinquish ourselves from the stereotypes and celebrate our own Asian identities.
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Written by Katrice Cuason
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphics by Maya Kubota