Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Twitter lights up with 'Bleached beauty' debate after Kenyan socialite's comments

One African woman’s decision to speak openly about her skin lightening has blown up into an intense Twitter debate about western influences, female attractiveness, and the YOLO mentality.

Socialite Vera Sidika, sometimes dubbed “Kenya’s Kim Kardashian,” caused a social media storm recently when she spoke openly about the skin-lightening treatment she had done in an interview on Kenyan TV.

In an interview that aired Friday on NTV’s The Trend, she mentioned that African men preferred fair-skinned girls and that her new appearance has led to more job contracts.

“My body is my business, nobody else’s business but mine,” she said. “I feel like I needed change and the change is working out for me.”

Since then, Twitter has exploded with the hashtag #BleachedBeauty, where thousands of people have used their 140 characters to express their concern that Sidika is negatively influencing the younger population to change their appearance and become more westernized. Others were of the opinion that you only live once, and that skin lightening is a personal choice that shouldn’t be judged.

The interviewer was accused of “promoting or endorsing a white-centred view of beauty for African girls,” according to an interview he did with BBC Trending.

This prompted a follow-up program discussing the pros and cons of skin lightening. The interviewer also encouraged people to share their thoughts using #BleachedBeauty. And the Twitterverse did not disappoint.

Soon after, the hashtag was trending online. Photos of botched “skin lightening” treatments -- women with light-skinned faces and dark hands -- popped up all over the Internet. One person even compared #BleachedBeauty to the German flag: face is yellow, neck is red, and chest is black.
The issue of skin lightening is not new and is something practiced on a global scale.

A 2010 documentary called Shadeism, created by five undergraduate students at Ryerson University, outlines the harmful effects this fair-skin mentality has on the dark-skinned population.

Director Nayani Thiyagarajah spoke with CTV’s Canada AM about the film, pointing to colonization and the association of fair skin to power and beauty as the causes of this condition.

“Skin lightening products are available globally and in stores, but not everyone can afford them,” she said. “People are using household bleach, using products that are off the market and that have a lot of dangerous chemicals.”

The skin lightening treatment Sidika used cost 15 million Kenyan shillings, or close to $170 thousand U.S.

“We are not comfortable in our own skins, we are not liking what’s naturally there,” Thiyagarajah added. “And we are passing down that hurt.”

Thiyagarajah’s four-year old niece, who was featured in the documentary, is already developing the “shadeism” mentality. In the film, she says she doesn’t like her skin colour. When asked why, she responded: “Because I need to come white.”


No comments:

Post a Comment