YEARNING FOR LIGHTNESS: Transnational Circuits in the Marketing and Consumption of Skin Lighteners

Citation:

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. 2008. “Yearning for Lightness: Transnational Circuits in the Marketing and Consumption of Skin Lighteners.” Gender and Society 22 (3): 281–302.

Author: Evelyn Nakano Glenn

Abstract:

With the breakdown of traditional racial boundaries in many areas of the world, the widespread and growing consumption of skin-lightening products testifies to the increasing significance of colorism—social hierarchy based on gradations of skin tone within and between racial/ethnic groups. Light skin operates as a form of symbolic capital, one that is especially critical for women because of the connection between skin tone and attractiveness and desirability. Far from being an outmoded practice or legacy of past colonialism, the use of skin lighteners is growing fastest among young, urban, educated women in the global South. Although global in scope, the skin-lightening market is highly segmented by nation, culture, race, and class. This article examines the "yearning for lightness" and skin-lightening practices in various societies and communities and the role of transnational pharmaceutical and cosmetic corporations in fueling the desire for lighter skin through print, Internet, and television ads that link light skin with modernity, social mobility, and youth.

Keywords: colorism, beauty, skin bleaching, globalism, discrimination

Topics: Class, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Globalization, Multi-national Corporations, Nationalism, Race

Year: 2008

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.