Vaginal Bleaching... Oh Please No!




A few weeks ago, I posted this article featuring a vaginal lightening product on my Facebook profile, which apparently has gained widespread coverage, including this article in the Daily Mail and this very good video rant - she's right. Featuring the advertising strap line: 'Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and, more importantly, fairer and more intimate' - I thought it was crazy, and thankfully, I’m not alone.

But even more interesting than that, one of my Indian lady pals exclaimed it was pure and simple racism. Well that started off a bit of a discussion, because until that point, I would classify it as stupidism, whatthefuckism, and whatnextism for sure, but racism? We discussed why racism and not sexism, and essentially it’s the internal racism she knew all too well growing up in India – a place she has long since left – that she was referring to. 

For me, it was a reminder of ads from the 50s and 60s, all geared towards showing women how to be better housewives and not much else. However, for my friend Sasha, it reminded her of a lot of tough times as a dark skinned girl growing up in India.

The thing is, I am not an Indian lady, and I did not grow up in a country where the colour of my skin was a measure of my social standing. Skin colour just wasn’t an issue, and while the town I grew up in is more multi-cultural today, it wasn’t in the 70s and 80s. As such, I can’t recall any attention being given to the colour of my skin – although, if anything, white skin was bad because it meant you’d get sunburnt – much more of an issue in Australia! With that said, maybe some of my female friends would say bollocks, I experienced stuff, but more broadly, let’s face it, we were girls – there’s always some shite to deal with about the way you look, and not just when you grow up - always! 


The Ironic thing about this photo - look how pale her skin is?
However, my female Indian friends have very different experiences to tell – often blowing me away with their stories. The thing is, I can listen to what they say, but I can never really understand what it was like for them being part of a society that rated them on the colour of their skin. I really do find it very challenging understanding their life - because a woman’s worth is measured in such a different way to what I experienced in Australia. 

Suffice to say we come from different worlds, but thankfully today, we’re all mixing together and learning from each other. My conclusion - we both had great things growing up and we both had bad things, because when it comes to us girls, no single country has it right.


As a result of the original Facebook discussion with Sasha, I decided to ask a few of my female Indian friends what they thought about the advert.


Sasha came back first and said: “ads are just ads. Some you remember for aesthetic reasons, some because you want to actually use the product and some because there is a hot bod in it. But this one is just plain disturbing!!! Of all the body parts I thought needed whitening, I never imagined my vagina was in the equation. Sure my face comes instantly to mind, because three days before I got married, I had a gram of turmeric paste on it pretty much all the time to make it lighter… really pleasant!


“But I figured my essential core was all safe and good, as such, this advert was a rude awakening for me. Really? The white guy in the bar finds me less attractive because I don't match up to his vision of how my vagina should look? Or worse still, the man there, clearly of Indian origin, prefers the 'Chinese babe' because of my 'basic' coloration?


“My Indian friend tells me it's biological - important body parts turn pink/red during sex - so it's merely a reflection of that. My white friend sees it more as a sexist issue… because let’s face it, it’s not like an issue is ever made about the colour of a 10-incher! But I see it as a racist issue - probably triggered by the anxiety on the face of my relatives, who took one look at me and proclaimed – ‘I should have had my dad's coloration (he could pass off as a very ruddy Middle-Eastern male) and my mum's features’ (who could have been a model in Da Vinci's time with her classical features).  


“Alas, I'm me! An enlightened Indian woman, who's travelled the world, have found people from all races attractive, and have been hit on by men belonging to varied races. My message to the impressionable women is perhaps there’s a different 'core' you need to be working on?"


Alternatively, my friend Shradha didn’t experience the colour issue growing up in India: “being born and brought up in the eastern part of India, Kolkata, where most people share a common wheat-ish skin colour, I never felt out of place. Although I would still agree that men did fancy fairer looking girls/ladies. Maybe fair skin is more beautiful to men?”
According to an ad exec commenting in the Daily Mail article, apparently it’s not about being more beautiful when you’re fairer, it’s because your features can be seen more clearly?


“The only reason I can offer for why people like fairness, is this: if you have two beautiful girls, one of them fair and the other dark, you see the fair girl's features more clearly. This is because her complexion reflects more light.”


Crikey!!


Going back to my friends. One of my very dear friends, Reema, who grew up in Chandigarh, Northern India, responded differently again - in a way not dissimilar to what any girl would hear from her mother.


“Frankly speaking, this is the first time I’ve heard of men desiring a certain colour of vagina. I grew up being told that men prefer it clean, which nowadays I suppose is getting a Brazilian wax. So a lot of my friends went in for shaving or are getting laser done now. Bleaching is common too. My mother told my sister and I these stories but focused more on maintaining good hygiene. So I just keep myself well trimmed and clean because I want to NOT because I want my vagina to be more attractive.....”


Another wonderful new friend, Anu, replied: “truth to tell, I read more on the ad than I actually saw, since I don’t live in India now. However, it struck me as interesting in several ways. It’s obviously targeting the urban, successful and confident young woman, who perhaps is already too confident and successful, therefore knowing what they want. They travel widely and perhaps have seen stuff like this in stores world over?

"On the other hand, I am not sure if enhancements of sexual pleasure for men receive the same advertising attention. Are there similar ads for Viagra? I am not sure I would want to know this really. 


“I remember growing up, when in most parts of India, traditional sanitary napkins were used. Then television came in and there was a blitzkrieg of such ads. It embarrassed the older conservative members of ‘my’ family, but in a way it aroused awareness. But I see the ad for whitening vaginas as very different. On the one hand it takes the 'fairness bias' to the nether regions, but it would, in a very divided place like India, cause some degree of confusion.”  


Finally, a wonderful lady I know in Singapore, originally from India, but now a woman of the world said:


“I came of age in India in the late 80's - early 90's and back then it seemed like society reared women to be marriageable first and only secondly to fend for themselves. To be petite, demure and more importantly, to be lighter skinned than the next girl, was considered of paramount importance. The ideal woman was subservient, selfless and served... all her life.


“At 5'9", broad shouldered, outgoing and dark skinned, I was considered quite an outlier. Thank goodness for my great parents, because I never knew it, until I was married off and the stories of bridegroom hunting came out. Needless to say, my parents did not disappoint. They found me a great guy and I never looked back.


“It seemed for a while that India was progressing with women's issues as more women were educated and gaining wonderful career opportunities. It seemed as though some of the pettiness with the "ideal" woman had started to subside. I saw the advertisement and I wondered if anyone would actually take it seriously? In fact, the first time I saw it I thought it was a joke - I laughed so hard my eight and four year-olds came rushing to the computer, and so I hastily shut everything down. Surely not in modern times would a woman think her sole role was to please her husband? Or maybe India hasn't changed and the ideal woman WOULD sacrifice all for her man and family?


“All I can say is that I am so glad this did not come out when I was 10 years younger. I probably would not have noticed it, but only because my parents would have worked even harder to shield me from all this nonsense. I can only imagine many young women in India taking energy away from really developing themselves, and instead, focussing on whitening all kinds of body parts...sad.


“But then again, India has 5000 years of history and the one thing that has been consistent through all of this is the undying adoration of all those women who burnt themselves at their husband's funeral pyre as a mark of selfless sacrifice. Sacrifice - now that's the word.”


I often despair at the bollocks women will go through to be “beautiful.” From bleaching anuses to unecessary vaginoplasty or labioplasty, bulimia, anorexia and well, you name it. The message ‘beauty is within’ certainly doesn’t seem to be getting much traction these days. Don’t we know that we could rule the world if we stopped getting sucked into all this beauty shite? We’re mugs us girls, we really are. While we’re obsessing over bullshit, we’re leaving it to the men to run things, and guess what? They’re doing a SHIT job of it. So how about we all get our heads and vaginas out of our beauty and lightening creams and sort this world out – more rewarding, no?


Finally, I want to thank my dear friends for responding to this – all of them are stunning in their own special way, but more importantly, they all have a tonne of beauty within – which is why I love ‘em. I’ve found their perspective really interesting, and if anyone else has experiences they’d like to share, please do!!


I just hope girls DO NOT pay any attention to this. I can only imagine the risks (like vaginal cancer) caused by bleaching your vagina. It makes me shudder!


Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea   
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