How I Came To See ‘Whiteness’ As Just Ordinarily Beautiful

I used to be one of those people who honestly thought and held the perception that white-skinned Caucasians were the ultimate epitome of beauty.

That is, when I was living in South East Asia, I genuinely regarded Caucasians and people with fair skin and blue eyes as physically attractive, thinking “whiteness” was what you needed in order to be beautiful inside out.

Whenever it was blazingly hot and sunny outside in Malaysia or Singapore and I wanted to go out, my mum would incessantly nag at me to stay in the shade or else I would “get all black” and ugly. I always naively obliged thinking she was Mrs. Know It All.

People in East Asia are known to use every means to shield themselves from the sun so as to not get tanned while outdoors. Photo by Replacing Ink.

I would also always gawk in admiration at Caucasians who strolled around here as the thought “oh wow, they are so beautiful” whirled around in my head.

I’m definitely not the only one who (used to) thinks this way. Over the past century and up until today, there is a craze amongst people of Asian ethnicity – Chinese, Koreans, Japanese etc. – living in East Asia to look as white or fair-skinned as possible. Whitening beauty products are all the rage here, abundantly stocked on supermarket shelves and advertised more than a fair bit in newspapers.

Quite a number of people in this region hold the superficial idea that being beautiful is equated to “looking as white as possible”. And this shallow trend in Asia shows no sign of slowing down.

Some reasons behind such a prolific phenomenon in East Asia struck me after a couple of years living in Melbourne. The so-called rigid aspects of Asian culture can be partially to blame (don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of my heritage).

Asians in general are taught to abide by traditions and exercise filial piety, and this in turn simply reinstates the long-held belief in every generation that fair skin is the quintessence of beauty.

Whiteness has always been a salient albeit a slightly evolving standard in Chinese history. During the Han period in China, women of court boasted unearthly white Moon-like faces. Later in the Tang dynasty, reddish-white faces were a common sight among the women of this era. Empress Wu Zetian passed down her royal skin whitening recipes to her daughter Princess Taiping who never questioned such techniques and emphatically sought to preserve them.

And today alabaster white skin tones are immensely popular in Asia for arguably this reason.

Don’t we all feel that inkling of ‘Asian shame’ if we are rebellious towards our parents or get a wigging from them? I would always fret over tan lines that materialised on my arms and legs after a school hiking excursion under the sun in Singapore and wondered what my parents would say.

As it has been for centuries in Asian cultures, we aren’t inclined to disrespect history. We aren’t exactly told to question but encouraged to adhere by traditional values and beliefs – think “study hard, get good grades” – and essentially shut up and listen most of the time. So the notion ‘whiteness equals beauty’ permeates today due to East Asians’ unconscious innate in-bred instincts to listen to repetitive advice on this subject and fervently pass these messages down to the next generation.

The preference and tendency to socialise with other Asians who share similar perspectives is also ostensibly another reason behind this whiteness craze. Bruce McConachie writes that sociologist Raymond Williams’ idea of “structures of feeling” designates the emotional bonding below the conscious level due to the collective experiences by a particular group. That is, we frequently gravitate towards and feel a sense of connection with those who possesses similar experiences as us.

While living in East Asia, most of my friends were of Asian background and we took much enjoyment in Asian-activities such as celebrating the Lunar New Year and yapping about traditional superstition.

And naturally we agreed that ‘dark skin’ is ugly given that it’s often associated with being ‘poor’ or dark skinned peasants planting rice in paddy fields under the scorching sun, and ‘whiteness’ pretty as it tends to be equated with high economic statuses or Caucasians decked out in spiffy business attire working in comfortable air-conditioned office buildings. Just like in the movies.

In essence, the more us Asians who had similar mindsets stuck together, the more the mentality ‘white is beautiful’ stuck in our heads – no one challenged this idea.

This frame of mind can also be said to persist today due to the presence of relatively few gwei los or gwei muis in Asia. I gawked whenever I spied one of them in Singapore. Thinking back, I stared because compared to most of the other people around me that were of Asian descent, Caucasians simply looked different feature-wise. Exotic almost. And exotic is always attractive and eye-catching.

When I moved to Melbourne, I was immediately riveted by how everyone is constantly encouraged to be creative, to inquisitively think outside of the box. Individual opinion is highly valued in the Western world. During class discussions, I was always asked to speak my opinion on the topic thrown up in the air. Once my class was asked to deliberate the stereotypes of whites and non-whites and that got me thinking:

Is skin colour really justified as the benchmark for beauty? A beautiful personality?

No. As I’ve mentioned, at the end of the day, just as age is just a number, skin colour is just a colour.

I began thinking even more broadly as I met people from different backgrounds with different beliefs. Although I did meet people who did think “white was beautiful” at school, most were very proactive about sharing alternative opinions.

As such, I eventually developed a penchant for looking at both sides of the coin and not confining myself to thinking about one perspective in any given situation.

And when I walk out of my Melbourne flat, I see Caucasian after Caucasian person on the streets – alongside speckles of people of Asian ethnicity. A very common, bland sight that I’ve gotten used to seeing on an ordinary day.

So much so that I’ve come to realise “whiteness” and “non-whiteness” are both merely physical features.

What’s more interesting is having a spontaneous conversation with a white or non-white person, and seeing the nice things that they do. Which are never the same and always one-of-a-kind.

And that’s where real beauty emanates from.

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217 thoughts on “How I Came To See ‘Whiteness’ As Just Ordinarily Beautiful

  1. The irony is that to be pale and white in European cultures is a bad thing. You should be tanned and out in the sun all the time. ‘Tall, dark and handsome’ is the saying. I’m blond, average height and average looks 😉

    We want what we are not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The saying ‘tall, dark and handsome’ doesn’t mean dark skinned it means someone should have dark hair however I guess it now depends on who is saying it so an African American woman saying this might mean something else. You need to look at the origins of where this saying comes from to understand its original and still widely used meaning.

      Also being pale and white in European cultures historically wasn’t a bad thing, the Victorians used to have fire guards/screens in houses to stop women loosing their pale complexion when they sat near the fire place. When women went outside sometimes they would use a parasol so that they wouldn’t get a suntan. If a woman had a paler complexion this meant beauty and not just in Europe but across many parts of the world this view is still held including China. In today’s world if a white person for example from Europe has a tan then this could mean that they have gone on holiday recently which shows that they have money. International travel is still a relatively new thing. Tanning salons have also become popular over the last 10 years or so too.

      I saw something on TV a while ago about African women using dangerous face creams (using harmful ingredients) to make their skin look lighter because their boyfriends wanted them to look like Beyonce or Rihanna (who are both mixed race). This is worrying.

      Anyway, I’m not better or worse than you..this is just the skin I’m in.


      • That is a good point – who says the phrase, “Tall, dark and handsome’ is the saying”. It can mean different in different contexts. And have to agree with you there that tanning is a means of flaunting or displaying one’s social status.


    • “Tall, dark and handsome’ is the saying.” So true. that saying has been around for ages…funny how no one thinks it’s outdated. Probably because some of us feel that way.

      Average height, average looks. Aren’t we all 😉


  2. I think it really needs to be based on what your personal preference is when it comes to getting a tan or not. I am a Canadian-born, American-raised Asian who prefer to be paler. This really has nothing to do with ideology or culture, and I think there are some Asians who are beautiful dark, and some Caucasians who are beautiful pale. It’s just that I personally think I look better with paler skin, hence the reason I carry an umbrella on (non-exist) Canadian summer days. =)


    • I concur. I prefer lighter skin to tanned skin on my own body but don’t discriminate when it comes to what I think is beautiful throughout the population.


      • As a fair-skinned, blue-eyed blonde, I’m stunned at what I’m reading. I would really hope, that whatever our ethnicity, we could accept whatever our genes make of us. Seems like whatever we may be, there’s beauty in all of us. I don’t seek tans, because I burn easily, and I fear developing skin cancer if I don’t. Yet, being tanned in my culture is considered a sign of beauty, health and affluence! So, I don’t measure up to my societal standards either! Seems like the grass is always greener on the other side!


        • Well said. We’re all beautiful in our own ways with our own strengths and perspectives regardless of our skin colour. It’s so great to hear you are comfortable in your own skin and go about your life however you please. We can all learn from you 🙂


    • @Jane, I agree somewhat. The general consensus among my relatives and female Asian friends is that the whiter you are the better. If you’ve been exposed to different standards of beauty, say having lived abroad, then yes, I think it’s possible to see beauty of different “shades”. But I find it hard to break out of the habit of seeing light as beautiful. It could be the constant bombardment of ads that advocate whiter, clearer skin; or the fact that I live in a very homogenous Asian society where there’s little diversity compared to parts of North America (e.g. California generally? Vancouver? Toronto?) and Australia. Thus environment is a factor – if I lived abroad, where there were very few Asians to compare myself with, I might be happy regardless of how light or dark I looked, because I can embrace being different/special, simply by being of another race.
      Generally, there does need to be more awareness about being content with just the way we are – regardless of skin tone. So thank you Mabel for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. This is one thing that amazes me in South East Asia, the desire to be as white as possible, and the large amount of skin whitening products on the market. Then you go to Western countries and see the large amount of tanning products and no whitening products. Everyone wants to be something they are not, in the hope it will somehow make their life better. Why can’t we just accept who we are and fit in with each other?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wise words: “Why can’t we just accept who we are and fit in with each other?” It probably stems from the fact that many of us like to compare ourselves with each other. Too often think having something different in our lives will increase our happiness, or having a lifestyle change will. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not so.

      There is certainly more to life than the colour of our skin and how we look. More of us need to realise that so we can focus on building our strengths and talents.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Live Someday and commented:
    What a great post! The definition of beauty varies so much from culture to culture, and it’s interesting – even tragic – how we try so hard to change those qualities about ourselves that others find genuinely attractive.


    • Thank you and I enjoyed writing this post heaps! At the end of the day, we are all attractive in our own way. Often, society harps the egoistic idea that ‘competition’ is great; being the best at something or the most beautiful is too be admired. And this only harbours insecurities within us, and this is most likely one of the reasons why we are compelled to change the way we look and present ourselves.


  6. Reblogged this on Dark Acts Bible: Glass Half Empty, Base Cracked… and commented:
    I found this very interesting because all of the detailed discussions on skin tone/color, in my life, have always been among other black people. And while I’m happy to say that those types of discussions have now long been a thing of the past in my experience, it does my heart good to see that others are working through this, ultimately, non-issue…


    • Thanks, Vivien, for the nice words and the reblog. Glad to hear you’re comfortable in your own skin. Being comfortable, we find confidence. “…non-issue…” Love how you say it. The colour of our skin really shouldn’t be an issue these days. We’re all individuals with unique abilities, and we should all focus on that and get along.


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  8. I’ve long believed beauty comes from within. I’m one of those very white Caucasian people with green/blue eyes. I burn in the sun, go red and never tan. I’m used to my translucent freckly skin now but I thought it unattractive for a long time. Many of my friends have other skin colours, some are black from African countries. I love the richness of their skin tones and the deepness of their eyes. Some are from various parts of Asia, they have skin the colour of coffee, warm and delicious, cappuccino, mocha, latte. My friends are very beautiful indeed, far better looking than I think I am on the outside. But we’re all of us more beautiful on the inside and that’s how we came to be such good friends.


    • I really like how you and your friends see the best in each other and are good friends because of that! I’m sure each and everyone of your friends – and you and many others around us – have different personalities and that’s the beauty of it all. Being different in terms of ethnicity, skin colour and personality are what makes us interesting people, and above all beautiful. Beauty is unique in each and everyone of us 🙂


  9. Good for you! I’m African/Australian and love nothing more than to tan up in summer. What I find really interesting in Asia is that people constantly call me cute and compliment my looks but I know that they have absolutely no desire to be my colour and some will go to extreme lengths not to be…at the end of the day, just be proud of who you are and what you can be – I guess that’s all that matters.


    • I know what you are talking about Lucille and I’m a black american! People may compliment me and say I look nice, but in reality I know they think I am ugly and actually hate my guts. Its interesting how some people will smile in your face and pretend to like you, but in all truth they hate you and think you are inferior/ugly because of looks and color. Some people do this, I don’t know why, its so phony. You have to just try to love yourself for who you are because there is too much hate and destructiveness in the world, period.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just a question — how do you know they think you’re ugly and hate your guts?

        I’m part American Indian. Most of the year, I look “white” with high cheekbones and curly hair (which comes from my mother’s tribe, believe it or not), but in the summer I get tanned and then people recognize me as Indian.

        Especially when I am tanned, I get compliments from people who are blond and blue eyed, and I never think “You hate me and think I’m inferior because I don’t look like you.” I always think “Thanks.” So, I’m just curious how you know what they’re thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sometimes you can tell someone hates you by just their body language alone and the way they treat you. History also helps you see who hates who, and history shows that people with brown or dark skin are hated the most. When someone compliments you and you see that they actually do everything they can to look nothing like you, just like the commenter described above, that’s not hate in that instance but it is phony. Ya know, like people that smile in your face but stab you in the back.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Well said! There are a lot of stupid, ignorant and shallow people out there. Never ever let them affect you. True happiness is where one is content with oneself. I don’t care what people say to me, or what they think of me because I am happy with myself.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not everyone is so shallow as to make opinions of others based on color. I happen to be a white American with native heritage, but I have many friends of various skin tones who I think are gorgeous inside and out.


        • So true. There are definitely some of us out there who don’t make judgements based the colour of our skin or the way we dress or the way we style our hair. There are also some of us who find difference fascinating – and always love to find out more and embrace the culture behind such unique traits. You sound like one of them 🙂


    • It’s so interesting to hear that some in Asia think the way you look is cute given that it’s not a look they’d like to adopt. Maybe they reckon your look wouldn’t suit their features and it’s hard for them to achieve such a look. “be proud of who you are and what you can be” I couldn’t agree more. Well said.

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  10. Anyway, I sunscreen now to protect from skin cancer. I had benign spot removed by doctor. I’m a regular cyclist so freckles, etc. are inevitable.

    If I really worried about skin even with sunblock, I wouldn’t cycle so much.

    It is for my health long term in the cycle. I appreciate the essay but in the end we can’t spend any more time talking about beauty inside and appreciating: we have to live our lives by not caring much about our skin colour and what others think of us.

    And I don’t even wear make-up to mask my sunspots anymore..not in last 5 years.

    Live your life well and forget about the mirror. If anyone shoves the mirror in your face, shove the mirror back to them: “Go stuff it. And let me be free.” Then walk away.


    • I love your emphatic stance on this beauty image issue: “we can’t spend any more time talking about beauty inside and appreciating.” We can only get so much done by talking. Our looks changes over time and as we age, and that includes the colour, texture and general appearance of our skin. Accept that, move on and focus on building our lives and utilise the best of our strengths and abilities. Looks can only get us so far. At the end of the day, it’s personality that counts.


  11. Firstly, congratulations on seeing this and thinking in a new way!

    Previous commenters have pointed out that these days European beauty standards favour tanned skin (and I was made to feel a bit of an abnormal bride because I did not want to tan before my wedding). However, in the past, when European societies were more agricultural, the mindset was more similar to what you describe: tanned skins were for poor people working on the land, rich people stayed in and stayed pale and were considered more beautiful because in most societies everyone wants to be like rich people! In the same period it was considered beautiful to be fat because only a rich person could afford that much food so fat must be a good thing. Obviously now that view has also changed!

    I was really interested to read this post – thanks for sharing.


  12. Great piece! I really enjoyed reading this, and I learned something new – I didn’t know that Asians also dealt with the issue of feeling like the lighter/whiter ones skin the more beautiful they are. I can relate to this post, especially where the writer tells of her mother telling her to stay out of the sun to avoid getting dark (which is usually associated with being ugly) or as the writer stated “poor.” Powerful Post! Thank you for being so open and honest:)


    • Thank you very much. Attaining fair skin is something that is still highly desired in Asia – look fair, look young, less wrinkles and sun spots. That’s the general mentality in Asia even today. But at the end of the day, beauty is more than just about skin. It’s about our personality and the way we carry ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Did you ever see the SBS Insight episode, Beauty Race? It’s about the lengths people would go to change their ethnic appearance – like Asian girls wanting to have more ‘Caucasian’ features and an African woman who used lightening creams on her skin. Another man said he was proud of his dark skin but then admitted he preferred blondes. And interestingly one white man talked about using melanotan to darken his skin. Really interesting discussion!

    I wish everyone could just look past skin colour…there are so many men and women of color out there who are gorgeous, but the sad fact is a lot of people do get judged on their skin tone. It’s something that needs to change.

    My white friends love my tanned skin while my Asian friends hate it! Me? I just love the sun. It’s time to get rid of the stereotypes!


    • No, I’ve yet to see that SBS Insight program. Thanks for telling me, I’ll try to check it out in my spare time. It definitely sounds like an interesting program on race and skin colour/beauty!

      I totally agree that everyone should look past skin colour. Personalities are so much more interesting and one of a kind. When I meet new people, I’m never fascinated by how they look, but more interested in how they speak, how they enunciate their words, what they’re wearing, where they’re eyes are looking…and the list goes on 🙂


  14. I have always been attracted to males with white skin. I just blogged and it was actually one of the criteria for my ideal guy. For me it’s a preference like preferring blue eyes. I grew up in a very Caucasian area and was expose to mainstream media in my formative years which explains it. I prefer white skin on myself as tans are so ageing.
    Asians wanting to become white does stem from the royal classes back in the olden days. Nowadays it’s because of the American media. The influx of American fast food and fashions increases this desire to look more Caucasian. Double fold eyelid surgery is unfortunately popular with Asians.
    Another theory I have is that the Japanese are seen as the Asian ideal. The Japanese are tall and generally pale and many Asian cultures try to emulate their look.
    The white upperclasses also wanted to preserve their paleness for the same reason and used their own skin whitening products like arsenic. Then science found that Vitamin D was essential to the body.
    It wasn’t til the 20s when Coco Chanel and Josephine Baker that It became chic to be tanned. The thinking was that being tanned showed that you had the money to vacation in warm climates.


    • I reckon at the end of the day, we are entitled to be attracted to a certain type of person. There’s nothing wrong with an Asian person personally finding a Caucasian person with white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes more (physically) attractive than individuals with dark skin. It’s just a matter of personal preference and taste. Just don’t forget that everyone, every single one of us is beautiful in some way 😀

      That’s very interesting that you say that ‘the Japanese are seen as the Asian ideal’. I do think that in some ways this is true – Japanese women are ‘known’ to look youthful all the time. In more recent times, the ‘Korean wave’ is sweeping the world, and these days many people are trying to emulate Korean fashion, hairstyles, make-up etc. But interestingly enough, many of the Koreans we see these days portrayed in the media have white skin.


    • Your comment about the Japanese being the ideal, is not just a theory, its the truth and you are not the only one that says this. The Japanese are the “favorite Asian group” because most of them are light with whitish pink skin color, and straight hair, period. If most Japanese were not light pink in their skin color they would be hated and looked down upon just like everyone else that is not light pink in their skin. Many other asians have pale skin and straight hair, but the Japanese are favored because they uplift white supremacy and white supremacist ideals and they always try to please and uplift europeans. Not every asian person uplifts white people and white ideals but most do and sometimes its embarassing to look at because it makes the person look pathetic. Like they are sucking up to white people because they think white people are superior and they want the white person’s approval. People are not superior because of hair and skin color and we all die oneday and we either go to the casket or the crematorium.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally agree, some Japanese people are always so obliging to Europeans and it does make them look pathetic. Even worst, some of them look down on other Asians. This is going into politics, but the Japanese government only apologised to the US and Australia for its war crimes and never apologised sincerely to its Asian neighbours , especially China.

        Everyone should be proud of who they are, and it sickens me that some people judge someone by their skin and hair.

        And yes, they are the most favoured Asian nation and group. I can speak for Australia (I am from Australia), many Australians think that Indonesia and China will invade us one day and they think Japan is a very friendly place. Not saying that all Japanese people are un-friendly, but Japan did once attack Australia and bombed Darwin. I just find it funny that Australia is fretting over nations who have never shown any aggression towards us.

        Liked by 1 person

      • And as an Asian myself, I do feel very embarrassed that some Asians go through lengths just to please Europeans. Even worst, some Asians look down on other Asians. It’s like they hate themselves and need to take it out on other Asians to feel they are not Asians.

        I’ve had the experience of going into a Vietnamese restaurant and I was treated very mediocrely. However, when a white couple came in, the waiter smiled (it was the kind of smile that a servant would give to his/her master) and the couple was treated with first-rate service. And then another white person came, got the same treatment as the couple. I wasn’t happy with the way I was treated so I complained about the service and the attitude!

        Liked by 1 person

        • It cuts both ways, I’m white and my girlfriend is Vietnamese and yeah I’ve had my share of racist looks and so called comments from both the white and Vietnamese community.

          Liked by 1 person

    • On average, Japanese people were short back in old days (they had a nickname called ‘Dwarf Pirates’). During the Meiji Restoration, there was a strong burst of modernisation efforts along with a desire to change the genetics of Japanese people. They did this with food and sending Japanese women to breed with Northern Chinese men, because Northerners in China (Han people) are tall and broad.

      Furthermore, I wouldn’t be so sure that Japanese and Korean women are all they seem. Many of them have plastic surgery. And photos of fashion magazines are airbrushed etc.

      I would also like to add that Chinese people, especially Northerners, are tall. Han people are generally tall people. My grandfather was a Northerner, tall, broad and stood at 6’1”. It’s just that several generations of poor nutrition has led to poor health and affecting one’s growth.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Japan seems to have some kind of fascination with people who are mixed race right now (half Japanese….) or is it me.

        The size thing in China is nothing new but to many Westerners who met with Chinese people in the past dealt with Chinese from mainly the south of China where people were smaller in height so the stereotype is that Chinese people are small comes from that. Also the average height in Japan is increasing as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That is sad to hear about India, that Indians will go to great lengths to be fair-skinned. I’ve heard from my Indian friends that skin-whitening ads and products are everywhere – walk into a pharmacy shop and you can’t miss them. Hopefully one day the perception of beauty changes in this world.

      Liked by 1 person

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  16. Another well written article Mabel! In regards to ‘white-ness’ and ‘tan-ness’; I think it’s a weakness in humans that we are never satisfied with what we have. It’s ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ mentality. Asians want to be as white as possible, Caucasians want to be as tanned as possible.

    I am happy with the way I am; when I was born I was very very pale (no kidding, my mother actually thought I was sick). My grandfather was pale and my mother is pale. But now, I am slightly tanned and I don’t care a bit! 🙂 I am who I am, and I think it’s stupid to even doubt oneself.

    It’s sad to see that people aren’t happy with themselves, they put themselves in so much misery and torture just to look like someone they are not. I’ve seen Asians having plastic surgey, dye their hair blond/e (just my opinion, but seriously blond/e hair doesn’t look good on Asians. I know there are Asians, like those of Central Asia are born with dark blond hair) and wear blue or green eye contacts just to look as ‘Caucasian’ as possible. They don’t realise that they look ridiculous, let alone fake.

    And even models, actresses etc in Asia try to look as ‘Caucasian’ as possible. Why can’t everyone be happy with themselves??? They are fortunate enough not to be born with mental or physical disabilities. And even models and actresses and actors in the West try to look as tanned as possible, not seriously thinking about how tanning salon gives them cancer and tanning products ruins their skin.

    I think it’s got to do with a little bit of inferior complex – some Asian nations were colonised by Europeans and from that, some Asians think that to be ‘white’ equates to superiority, beauty and wealth. And another part of human nature is this; worshipping people or things that are ‘superior’. I’m not saying all Asians are like this, but I can’t help but to wonder if some of them do have this mentality.

    It’s difficult to convince people to be happy with themselves, unfortunately.


    • “a weakness in humans that we are never satisfied with what we have” Agree with you there. So often we compare ourselves to others in the spotlight or even those whom we know hoping we will lead a more fulfilled life. Then again, as you pointed out, many of us are lucky to be born with a physically functioning body and we should be greatful for that.

      It’s hard to say when obsession with fair skin and looking Caucasian will blow over in many Asian nations. Probably perhaps many aspire to attain a Western lifestyle and all the privileges it comes with being white. I suppose by looking as fair-skinned and Caucasian as possible, some of them reckon they can get a taste of what it’s like to be a Westerner. A bit of a far out thought. I’ll admit…but I can’t help but that that that is a reailty. Also, perhaps if you look fair and speak good English then it’s easier to assimilate into a Western community.


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  19. I think Asians can be attractive regardless of how fair or tan they are. It’s a personal thing though. Many people like to tan as many like to be fair skinned, either way it’s their body and we should respect each other regardless.


    • Beauty, physical and inner attractiveness are most certainly in the eye of the beholder. Everyone looks different, everyone has a different way of perceiving beauty and choosing what to wear, and I agree with you that we should respect that.


  20. To me, it;s not entirely the white skin color that is deemed to be more desirable than colored ppl. It’s the facial features that are more attractive ,in my personal opinion. The usual big eyes, high bridged nose, broadforehead, deep set eyes etc; All these are considered beautiful. However,NOT all of them look good with these feats available,some look pretty mediocre and some are even downright horrible. i think it;s the combinations of each feat and part that fits together that makes it good.

    Not all Whites are beautiful and some Asians are so beautiful and they are even more beautiful than a white. what i cant stand is the east asians with very small eyes and flat nose and face,its not very attractive at all.


    • We all have different perceptions of beauty. Yes, along with one’s skin colour, the type and shape of facial features can make one seem physically attractive (or not) to our eyes. There’s no denying that there is a number of Asians out there who have light skin, sharp noses and big, doe-like eyes. Funny how a lot of Asians who exemplify these traits are chosen to take part in beauty pageants.


  21. Really? Japanese have fairer skin? i think it could be due to the cold weather and all. I have seen some japanese with very very dark skin like a black person. To me, i think Jap,koreans and Chinese have fair pale skin and some of them are darker to others due to the long term of exposure to the sunlight. I.e , A malaysian chinese would tend to look darker than let say a mainland chinese due to the hot equatorial weather and lack of 4 seasons.


    • That is a good observation, that there is considerably cooler climate in Japan compared to some tropical regions in Asia. Which would explain why some of them have fair skin…and for those in Asia who tend to live in cooler climates some times of the year.


  22. This is a very interesting topic as I can relate to this! 😉 I am from Philippines and every Filipino just want to have fairer skin. They will do everything to get it be it by using whitening soaps, lotions, creams, taking whitening tablet or IV, staying out of the sun, using umbrellas, or even wearing long sleeves or jackets if they may no matter how hot it is. I agree that people think that dark skinned refers to the poor people or people who lives in the country side while fair skinned are the more superior ones or the one who lives in the city. Amazing how Filipinos adore white skin, I admit I like to be fair. Back in PH I never wore skirt or shorts coz I felt that I didn’t have the right to. It has taken toll on my confidence. However, I never avoided the sun, I had so much fun being under the sun coz I told myself “How can I enjoy the things I want to do if I will always avoid the sun” and I make myself to believe that I will never get fairer anyway coz it’s in genes! Plus if ever I get fairer it would just be temporary and It means that I have to avoid the sun and maintain a whitening regimen and would leave me an empty pocket. But when I came here in UK, amazing how people here admired my skin. They go for tanning sessions and used to compare their skin to mine if they have achieve my color already. It gave me confidence. It was so nice to go shopping and get pair of shorts and skirts and not just jeans all the time. My friend is going to have her holiday soon in PH and she’s pressured about whitening her skin because if a Filipino go back to PH, the first that they will look is if you became fairer or not. This is really sad. A lot of people are so influenced with the society’s standards in order for them to feel that they belong and admired.


    • Oh no, very sad to hear that people in the Philippines look at whether if you’ve become fairer or not when you come back after you’ve been away for a while 😦 It’s similar in Malaysia too; if you have fair skin, family, relatives and friends will point it out and gush all over it. My brother is fairer than me by about two shades so whenever we go back to Malaysia for holidays, he gets a lot of attention for his pale skin.

      I don’t know why, but hearing you say that you confidently dress as you please and not worry about how you look makes me happy 🙂 But we shouldn’t really be comparing our skin colour with one another. As you’ve described how people in the UK go for tanning sessions, many people here in Australia are fond of tanning under the sun and complain during winter when they can’t go to the beach and turn a shade whiter, and I find this sad. That’s not to say going under the sun should be avoided. Yes, the sun is harmful but we can always wear sunscreen and long sleeve clothing to protect ourselves while getting our dose of vitamin D outdoors. And of course not spend too long under the sun.

      I’ve never been to the Philippines before, and I hope to go there someday. I’m sure the people there are nice, and when I do visit I hope they won’t judge me by my skin colour. I’m sure they won’t entirely 🙂


  23. Ahh dear Mabel, I found my way here somehow and was fascinated to read your wonderfully written article on a very thought-provoking subject. I am so glad that you came to the conclusion that you did but this certainly opened my eyes to the power of generational beliefs and customs and you gave me much better insight into the history behind the Asian culture in this respect. Thank you for that!
    Somehow I think so many of us want what we don’t have; I have a very vivid memory as a girl going to London Zoo with my parents. I was probably about 5 or 6 and so would have been 1960’s England. I remember seeing an Asian family (in my mind they were Chinese) with identical twin girls, about my age. They were wearing matching white tops with those mandarin collars and buttons down the side (sort of like dentists wear now, if you know what I mean!) over white trousers. I wanted those clothes but what I wanted more than anything and no money could buy was their black, glossy hair, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen! I of course had blonde, wavy hair. I obsessed over their hair for years!!! Mum made me an outfit to match the ones I’d seen that day and I was so happy but I never did get the black hair 🙂 Life is a funny thing isn’t it 😉
    Congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed, richly deserved 🙂


    • “…so many of us want what we don’t have”. I love how you say this, and I couldn’t have said it better. It perfectly sums up one part of my article. Sometimes we are so used to believing in our beliefs and culture it really is hard to think outside of the box. We are comfortable with what we believe in, which in the context of believing that white is beautiful, can be a dangerous thing.

      That was a fun little story. You should’ve said hi to the Asian twin girls, I’m sure you all would’ve made good friends. Those traditional Chinese flowery tops are very pretty – and very expensive. So your mum was very wise to make you one. As a kid, I used to think blonde hair was very beautiful – the exact opposite of how you black hair! 🙂

      Thanks for the nice words, Sherri. I think you always say the nicest things, always ready with a nice word. Freshly Pressed? That was so long ago and probably won’t happen again. But you never know 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, I love it when you do.


      • I thoroughly enjoy our conversations Mabel! I’m sorry I don’t get over here as much as I like, you know me, always playing catch up, but when I do , I never fail to be inspired by your interesting, concise, and excellently written articles. I love it when you pop in over at my summerhouse too. Blogging is a marvellous thing isn’t it? And yes, I wish I had said hi to those Asian twin girls but I was far too shy for that… 😉
        Have a wonderful day my friend and see you soon:-).


  24. I generally stay out of the sun because my pasty pale skin doesn’t handle it well. I would like to have darker brown skin myself and I think darker skin on women looks sexy.

    My mother advised that I stay out of sunlight for practical reasons as it damages pale skin and may predispose me to premature skin aging (due to UV damage to collagen) and possible skin cancer. If I was darker or had more melanin, then it wouldn’t be an issue.

    I disagree that the white skin has anything to do with race or perception of beauty and the most likely reason for the preference in old Chinese culture was because the peasants and farm workers (people who do manual labour) have darker skin due to working outdoors. The rich and high status nobles would stay indoors and never really be exposed to direct sunlight. In the end the pale skin was a sign of wealth and status that was easily identifiable by looking at a person back then. This has very little to do with being enamoured with Caucasians. It’s because the opposite is true for Western culture when they go out traveling, getting a tan or getting a fake tan. Having a tan for them symbolizes that you have wealth, money and the free time to travel to exotic places.

    Anyway that’s my 2 sen about it. Greetings from M’sia.


    • Very good points. Manual labour under the sun has always been seen as the hard way to make money in life, equating to a hard life. As you mentioned, being fair often equates to wealth – and really, so many of us who work in air-conditioned places these days lead relatively stable, comfortable lives. So it’s no surprise quite a number of Asians turn their noses away from getting tanned.

      Your mother is wise about staying out of the sun. No matter what kind and type of skin we have, the more we expose our skin to the sun’s UV rays, the higher the risk of skin cancer. Very nice to hear from someone living in Malaysia. Hope you’re doing well and thank you for stopping by and reading.


  25. Oh, I think you are so right. We want what we can’t have.

    Here in LA, the massive visor/ face-shield is very popular among the Korean-Americans when walking or driving in the sunshine.

    Meanwhile, we still having tanning beds(!) for white girls. (I guess the beach or simply walking outside isn’t enough).

    In Hawaii, everyone thinks tans are the norm. When I went back to a wedding in Hawaii with my Chinese-American guy, the mother of the groom (Japanese-American), took one look at him and blurted out, “What happened? You bleached out!”

    I’m still hoping she meant she was shocked by his pale face, rather than the white girl on his arm.


    • “We want what we can’t have.” Spot on. Interesting to hear Korean Americans try to stay out of the sun in the States. I heard some Chinese Americans do the same too.

      Maybe fake tanning in tanning beds last longer than a tan under the sun. And with fake tanning, you can sort of control what colour you want. Maybe that appeals to some people.

      Oh dear, that was a big of a comment from the mother of the groom. I’m sure she meant no harm!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think maybe you can just be naked and not get tan lines in tanning salon. But there is a move under way to ban such things.

        Oh, I was pretty sure she meant Andy had just gotten paler, working indoors and under LA’s marine layer of clouds. PRETTY sure. 😉


  26. I’ve been aware of much of this for much of my life. You are; however, only the second Asian I have ever heard of to express a direct and honest Asian POV on this matter. It is so welcomed and so important.

    In the early days of high school, a student — Korean by birth, and I became acquainted. He invited me to his house, and as soon as I was there I picked up on the “funny vibes” that his father was silently but thoroughly annoyed that his son didn’t have the common sense to not bring this black child into their home. Immediately after that, the boy took great delight in calling me “nigger”, “rug-hair”, “Velcro-head” and many other racial epithets every chance he got. I knew where it was coming from; partly from his family upbringing to despise people of colour, and partly from his intense desire to be accepted by the white kids who would insult both him for being Asian, and me for being black. He wasn’t nearly the first Southeast Asian be overtly racist toward me, or the last.

    Prior, I had completely unprovoked experiences of being called a “nigger”, and a “black devil” in English, Mandarin and Cantonese by young and old alike. I grew up well aware that blacks aren’t just hated by whites but by many others of colour who want to assimilate with the white race; including blacks who are ashamed of being black (a substantial reason why there continues to be Asians who seek cosmetic surgery to reduce or eliminate the pronounced epicanthic folds of their eyes, and that Asians who naturally have a Caucasoid look to them have a higher chance of being successful in popular entertainment in Japan and Southeast Asian Countries). The problem, and it is an extremely serious problem, has been going on long before I was born, and will continue long after I am dead and gone. So, although hugely disappointed, I was never surprised by the behaviour of that student or any others.

    He continued to study me; however. How I conducted myself, and stayed proud and dignified. By the end of high school, he approached me to apologize for all of those years, and wish me well in my future. I fully believe that he was sincere. I believe that he learned that he made severe mistakes in misjudging and mistreating me, and as deeply scarred as I am from racism — as scarred as I will forever be, I sincerely wished him the same. Graduation was the last time I ever saw him.

    One of my best friends in elementary and high school is Japanese-Canadian. He and his parents loved me, and were highly against any racism by anyone toward anyone. For them, it stems from how many loyal Japanese-Canadians were put into concentration camps outside of Edmonton during WWII. It was institutional racism, as a result of clear-cut racism and politics to show support of the American allies who had been attacked by Japan (the attack itself was borne of a stupid Pan-Fascism Pact that Tojo Hideki made with Adolf Hitler who had no genuine respect for non-Aryan Asians and sought to only use the Japanese to keep the US occupied while the Third Reich sacked and took over Europe and Northern Asia (what a world we live in). He and I still communicate on Facebook once in a while, and just last month he was telling me that his parents were thinking about me, wondering how I am doing. I told him to tell them that my wife (who is white) and I are just fine.

    Yes, in Canada I still see new Southeast Asian immigrants walking around with umbrellas on bright sunny summer days. I’ve heard many whites comment how it is odd to see, and it’s clear that they don’t recognize the traditions and racism that’s behind that behaviour. Most Caucasians here still don’t expect such prejudice from Asians. They expect Asians to identify more with blacks, as my Japanese-Canadian friends do. Of course, I’ve seen a number of circumstances in which Asian parents were highly irritated at finding out that their daughters were dating white guys, insisting that the girls dump the boys for Asian men only. There doesn’t seem; however, to be any backlash when an Asian male begins to date a Caucasian girl.

    Life-experiences like these have made me profoundly interested in the psychological and sociological well-being of our species.

    Excellent post, as always. Thank you so much.


    • Sorry to hear about the unfortunate cultural encounters you had. Although these incidents do shape the way we see the world and even the perspectives of certain cultures, there’s no denying that they are unpleasant and pretty much impossible to forget. It sounded as if your Korean high school acquaintance genuinely invited you into his home in the first place – you really don’t invite someone home and pick on them (later). I applaud you for standing tall and making no apologises for the colour of your skin and who you are.

      “many others of colour who want to assimilate with the white race” That is very well said. When it comes to talk of assimilation in the Western corners of the world, people of colour generally do so in hope of bettering their livelihoods and hope racial discrimination towards them comes to an end. Getting cosmetic surgery to enhance one’s physical features or say bleaching one’s skin in order to look more Caucasian are more of the extreme means of assimilating into a predominantly Western community. In these instances, it’s not just about trying to fit in with the dominant racial group – it also hints at self-racism and a distaste for one’s heritage and roots which is another subject altogether that I hope to revisit at some point.

      I’ve had the chance to meet a few Caucasian Canadian international students at university a few years back. From chatting to them, they seem to have an open multicultural mindset and loved talking to people of diverse backgrounds in my classes. There are a multitude of cultures in this world and it would be very hard to get acquainted with each and every cultural tradition. Then again, it’s hard to draw the line between being ignorant and being genuinely curious about a particular community’s lifestyle. Your example about Asians carrying umbrellas and Caucasians Canadians not recognising the significance would be a good one. However, I suppose the Asian population is relatively sizable where you are and it would make sense for this tradition to be recognised there (and if not as it appears to be, you can call it casual racism). Maybe a lot of us are (still) really quick to judge a book by its cover these days.

      One of the more insightful comments about beauty and racial relations I’ve received on the blog. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for chiming in.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I found it really interesting to read a historical perspective on this – I think a lot of people would assume it is a modern trend but as you pointed out it actually dates back a really long time. Thanks for the interesting post.


    • It’s true that in Chinese culture we have been obsessed with fair skin for a while throughout history. Interesting how this has carried over into the modern day. Old habits and thoughts die hard sometimes.


  28. I am glad to have come upon this post. Kind of made me laugh (at myself) actually. I think that ‘the grass is always greener’ as they say. I have for a very long time wanted to look Asian. Far more exotic than my very uninteresting pasty white with a bit too much pink freckle face. When I went to school in Japan in the 80s. I used to wear makeup to try to (and failed to) look more Japanese. When I was living in New York, I had a lot of Asian friends who were drowning in boyfriends but I couldn’t get a date for the longest time. I totally wanted to be them. Of course, life worked itself out. As I have aged, I am far more happy with who I am…and steering clear of mirrors and staying behind a camera also helps :-). And you know how adorable I think you are just as you are.


    • When I met you at Melbourne Central earlier this year, I immediately was attracted to your energetic and spirited personality. I really liked your hair standing up on its own, lol. Pink face? You don’t have acne, so I think that is a face flushed with enthusiasm and zest for life.

      Though you didn’t look Japanese, I am pretty sure you may have crafted yourself a unique look back in the day. As for finding a date, I totally understand what you mean…but sometimes, all it takes is time 😉

      You are very kind to stop and pay this post a visit. I really appreciate your support, Lisa. Lots of love and talk soon ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  29. I am smiling as I am reading this Mabel. Only because while you yearn for white and flawless skin, most of us would love to have a tanned skin and so much that we lie in the sun all day just to be a little bit more ‘tanned’. hahaha

    I am one of the lucky ones, with blonde hair and green eyes, and my skin tan quickly, but the South African sun is very harsh and we all have to be on the lookout that we don’t enjoy it too much in the sun and get skin cancer.

    I can’t think how anyone can think that fair skin is the quintessence of beauty. Maybe because I think Asians are stunning. I also think some people watched too many movies. LOL!

    Skin colour can’t be justified as the benchmark for beauty. I think a beautiful personality is way more important. Who cares about skin colour? I know I don’t. To me, Asians are exotic and you are gorgeous! Love that smile. 😀


    • So well said, Sonel. You are a beautiful person yourself inside and out. I didn’t know the South African sun is harsh. Maybe it is just as bad as the Australian sun. Hopefully you don’t burn too much under it 😀

      I have always been fascinated with green eyes. Then again, a lot of the time we find fascination in all things different.

      “Who cares about skin colour?” That is an excellent question. For those that do, that is simply them and perhaps one day, one day they will be touched by inner beauty and look the other way.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Pingback: “If you’re from Africa…why are you white?” – CREATION || REVEALED

  31. I especially like how this covered the color “white” in many degrees – i.e. white Asians, white Europeans. Also, the use of the word “caucasian” stood out to me. Since I lived in East Europe for some time, caucasian took on a new meaning and no longer meant just “white people” but a person from the Caucasus. And it is true that “white” is simply a color. I am a white person, but I am Hispanic by tradition, culture and language, which in the USA is considered an ethnicity (we are still to mark “white” on our state documents. And many Hispanics come in a variety of colors, from white to black. In the USA, this idea is so terribly complicated and omnipresent. I wish there was more understanding and thought of the idea of color, race and social constructs, like you’ve presented in your piece here.


    • So true that ‘white’ comes in many different degrees, and your interpretation of ‘Caucasian’ is interesting. It sounds like you are proud of your heritage and who you consider yourself today. The ideas of colours and social constructs are usually more dense than we think – which means in reality each of us are so very different and we can all learn from each other. Thank you for your nice words and for stopping by, Jess.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Sounds like someone has “Vanilla Fever” … oh yeah …
    … um … “Cream Fever” … “Cracker Fever” …
    Aw Jeez, what would be the word …
    “Cotton Fever” “Golf ball Fever”? “Coconut meat Fever”?
    “Freshly laundered towels Fever”?


  33. Pingback: Why Do Asians Look So Young Sometimes? Or Most Of The Time? –

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