||This article possibly contains original research. (April 2014)|
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Shadism is defined as the discrimination of individuals based on skin tone. This form of intraracial and interracial discrimination is common in African and Caribbean, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, and Aboriginal cultures. Shadism can also be a form of internalized racism. Skin tone is sometimes perceived "as a visual agent in defining the boundaries of cultural identity, and in identifying a person's place in a local social hierarchy." Skin tone is often attached to notions of ancestry, as some believe that the closer to white an individual's skin tone is, the less ethnically pure they are, and therefore the less valid their experience as part of their non-white ethnic group. Aside from race, there are also socially constructed relationships between skin tone and class and gender. Shadism is traditionally deemed to affect women more strongly than men, due to the influences of European female beauty standards and their effect on self-esteem and perceived female attractiveness. However, the framework of shadism being a gendered occurrence has often been challenged in more modern times, as there is now evidence that it can strongly affect a man's self-esteem. While similar to colorism or racism, shadism is a more nuanced form of discrimination; In addition to the discrimination often coming from a member of the same race, the victim is often compared to another person of the same race, but who has a different shade of lightness or darkness. For example: “Light-skinned Halle Berry is more likely to be held up as the epitome of black beauty than a dark-skinned actress.” An article by Lindsay Johns in London England's Evening Standard describes shadism as being "black-on-black," while using colour terms to describe racism as "white-on-black."
- 1 Classist notions of skin tone
- 2 Cultural implications
- 3 Hispanic community
- 4 Indian community
- 5 Chinese community
- 6 Aboriginal community
- 7 Studies on shadism
- 8 Skin lightening products
- 9 Popular culture
- 10 Shadism as a gendered concept
- 11 References
- 12 Sources
Classist notions of skin tone
Fair skin and wealth
The term "blue blood", used to describe wealthy aristocrats, refers to individuals having skin so fair that their blue veins can be seen through the skin. In the 17th century, aristocrats would avoid direct sun exposure and lighten their skin with toxic lead oxide powder, to further distinguish themselves from the working class who had to work long hours outside in the sun. Fair skin is historically seen as a sign of sophistication, purity, and cleanliness.
Tanned skin and wealth, health, and beauty
In the 20th Century, in American and European societies, bronze or tanned skin became prevalent as a sign of wealth and prosperity, challenging the notion that wealth was demonstrated by having fair skin. Tanned skin became a signifier of wealth, as in America and parts of Europe, only the rich could afford to vacation to the world's warmer regions for extended periods of time, and bask in the sun. Tanning became representative of a luxurious lifestyle, until mass tourism made vacationing more attainable for the working class in the 1950s and 1960s. At this time, rather than wealth, glowing, tanned skin began to represent health and beauty. Modern medical knowledge and awareness now warns of the connection between prolonged sun-exposure and tanning to skin cancer.
African and Caribbean community
African and Caribbean community: historical background
In the black community, shadism began after African slaves were brought to North America. Due to sexual contact between black slaves and white Europeans, a large population of mulatto or mixed-race individuals were born. The biracial children of slave owners were often given preferential treatment, obtaining skilled household positions which were often less taxing on the body, in comparison to slaves with darker skin. They also received better healthcare. The occupational and health advantages to being biracial is often alluded to when describing a hierarchy of skin tone within the black community, and the connection between lighter skin and privilege. It is also possible that whites preferred blacks who looked "closer to white," and rewarded them with better jobs and better healthcare, creating a system of privilege.
African and Caribbean community: cultural repercussions
In 2010, sociologist Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder of the University of North Florida published a study to deconstruct the modern language and notions surrounding skin tone within the black community. This study is unique because few studies have analyzed whether or not there has been a change in attitudes towards differences in skin tone in the black community, as time has progressed. This study is based on a history of individuals with lighter skin being allowed more privilege in terms of education, healthcare and employment than those with darker skin. These allowances created historical binaries and separations that young people today are still feeling the ramifications of. It affects how they perceive themselves, as well as how others perceive them. Wilder's study showed that there are 40 distinct terms that the participants commonly use to describe others or themselves in their everyday lives, based on skin tone. Most of the terms were easily recognized by all other women in the group. Nine could also be found on the list that Charles Parrish compiled in his 1946 publication 'Color Names and Color Notions.' Nearly 50% of the terms were for females with light skin. Most of these terms were positive and indicated attractiveness. However, some such as house n*igger were less appropriate, while still very common, indicating an ongoing slave mentality within the black community. When asked to describe women with light skin, participants responded with words such as "trustworthy, amiable, nonthreatening, and comfortable"; light skin was also commonly connected to beauty. Because of this, women with light skin are also associated with "conceit and arrogance". In contrast, the groups described women with dark skin as being "loud, suspicious, unattractive, and less intelligent". Most terms for women with dark skin were offensive, and reinforce that negative controlling images of women with dark skin are still prevalent. Some names within all skin tones are food related, such as vanilla for light skin, caramel for medium skin, and chocolate for dark skin. These terms perpetuate the sexualization of black peoples. "Light skin ... is viewed as the ideal colour, holding the most value in the black community." Internalized racism and shadism shape the beliefs that people have on an individual's behaviours and attractiveness. The perception is that women with light skin are pretty, while girls with dark skin are "ghetto".
The following are some of the terms commonly used in the black community to describe different skin tones:
|Light skin||Medium skin||Dark skin|
|House Negro / House Nigger||Pecan Tan||Chocolate|
Bim Adewunmi discusses shadism in the black community in her article, "Racism and skin colour: the many shades of prejudice," published in The Guardian in 2011: "Shadism lurks in our collective peripheral vision and rears its ugly head every so often. Earlier this year, there was a Twitter storm over a promotional flyer for a party in Ohio whose theme was "Light Skin vs. Dark Skin." Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Runnymede Trust’s senior researcher and policy analyst for education, authored the book ‘Shades of Darkness,’ which chronicles how “darker-skinned girls reflect upon themselves against lighter-skinned (in this case mixed-parentage) girls.” Weekes-Bernard says: "...We have people being quite essentialist and saying you can only be really, truly black if you are darker skinned, compared with other lighter-skinned women who say they aren't considered to be truly black because they're lighter." She concludes: "There were darker-skinned girls who felt they were policing what it meant to be black; policing the boundaries of blackness, because they're tired of other people doing it for them." This is an example of shadism as discrimination within a race, as opposed to colorism or racism, which would have the discrimination coming from a member of a different race.
A May 2013 article in The Toronto Star written by Kamila Hinkson discusses the problem of shadism at G.L. Roberts Collegiate Vocational Institute, an Oshawa, Ontario highschool. There, students define shadism as "intraracial, 'black-on-black" discrimination" they grapple with daily." The students discuss feeling the effects of shadism online, in school, in the media, and in their own families. They explain that shadism is often demonstrated in which women are chosen to star in rap music videos, the prevalence of #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin hashtags on Twitter, the use of derogatory name calling such as "darkie," and in the common use of lightening filters for selfie photos on Instagram. A group of students at G.L. Roberts C.V.I. decided to launch a project in February 2013 as part of Black History month festivities to address the problem of shadism. The students plan to seek board approval to visit other Canadian schools to spread the message of discrimination in the form of shadism, often caused by ignorance.
Hispanic community: historical background
Shadism in the Hispanic community began in the colonial era, when Europeans with light skin, in large numbers, became the dominant members of society after expeditions to explore foreign lands. The dominant European class was able to enforce laws and social norms upon the populations they colonized, which had a long-lasting impact, including a high-frequency of depression associated with having darker skin. Within the Hispanic community, there is a strong correlation between depression and darker skin, "regardless of the person's education, family income, or command of the English language". Due to the American colonization of many Hispanic peoples, many Hispanic Americans have "internalized light skin as an ideal point of reference because they were powerless to contest the influence of the dominant mainstream population." Skin tone often affects perceptions of attractiveness, and therefore whom Hispanic Americans often decide to marry.'
Hispanic community: cultural repercussions
Much like peoples of Caribbean and African decent, those of Hispanic descent may experience how efforts to assimilate are often associated with having light skin. Within the Hispanic community, "Dark skin is regarded by the various institutions as an obstacle that bars Hispanic Americans from fully assimilating." W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the first academics in the United States to recognize the dilemma that Hispanics face when trying to assimilate into mainstream society. Du Bois referred to it as "double consciousness." Double Consciousness implies the importance of the idea of light skin, and the requirement that "anyone with dark skin ... assume a passive social demeanor in order not to offend further the light-skinned mainstream population." Many members of the Hispanic community place great importance on mainstream culture, at the expense of their own culture. This allows them to better assimilate into mainstream society, and the benefits that come with that assimilation. Some scholars have referred to these Hispanic Americans as "coconuts", as they are "brown on the outside and white on the inside".
In an effort to combat these obstacles, many Hispanic Americans suffer from what is called "bleaching syndrome". "... Because degree of assimilation closely correlates with the phenotype of the mainstream population (i.e., skin color), light skin has emerged as one of the most critical ideals relative to degree of assimilation (Reuter, 1969). It is acted out socially by Hispanic Americans in their use of light skin as a point of reference to assure full assimilation into the mainstream of society." Historically, this bleaching syndrome began when Hispanic Americans with darker skin began using "beauty creams" that made their skin lighter. According to Hall, "The syndrome is applicable wherever domination exists. When applied to Hispanic Americans, its existence is substantiated in a most dramatic fashion, for they as a group have had to internalize skin-color ideals that are often radically inconsistent with the outward appearance of a significant number of their brethren."
Indian community: historical background
The desire for lighter skin within the Indian community is the result of colonial influences, and the resulting standard of beauty set by European women. It is customary for brides to wash their faces with turmeric and yogurt to lighten their skin before their wedding.
Indian community: cultural repercussions
In India, dark skin often leads to social stigmas such as name-calling and exclusion. The teasing term 'kali' is often used to refer to someone as "blacky", while those with lighter skin are commonly referred to as "wheatish". Some Indian mothers prevent their daughters from playing outside in the sun, for fear of them becoming darker with a tan. In India, the popular desire for lighter skin is often termed Snow White syndrome. Sales for skin lightening creams far surpass sales of tea and Coca-Cola, in India.
In Indian culture, one big impact of having dark skin is the fact that it limits marital prospects. India's marriage market is second in the world, only to China. It has become a trend for brides and grooms to have fair complexions for their weddings. This trend is strongly influenced by India's reality television industry, which has popularized fair faces. India's skin-lightening product market is increasing at a rate of approximately 18% per year. The market is so profitable because discrimination based on skin tone is so prevalent in India. Indian fashion designer Rohit Bal says of the skin-lightening industry, "At times it is repulsive, worse than chalking of geishas' faces in Japan, but everyone wants to have a jar or tube of skin-whitening cream."
A prevalent occurrence in Indian advertisements for skin-lightening creams is the man falling in love with the woman based on how light and glowing her skin tone is, and being unattracted to her if her skin is darker.
India represents one of the world's largest markets for skin-lightening creams, often termed "fairness creams". Some of the advertisements for fairness creams relate light skin with parental approval, success in the workplace, and increased self-confidence. It is claimed that certain professions such as secretarial and flight attendant positions are "reserved for fair girls". However, the most prevalent theme in the advertisements is successful romantic relationships, especially proposals for marriage, sustained attractiveness to her husband, and youthful appearance as the woman ages. In Indian films, heroines often have fair skin, which lends to the idea that fair skin equates to beauty and confidence. Some products such as Ponds' Real Glow skin cream, are marketed to teenaged girls. In one advertisement for Fair & Lovely, actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is complimented by her sister on her lightened skin tone; she tells her sister that she should also use Fair & Lovely to obtain a similar glow.
Anita Majumdar, an Indian-Canadian playwright and actress, writes about shadism in Toronto's National Post newspaper, in an article called 'A day in the life: Anita Majumdar on shadism." She discusses how shadism has changed her relationship with sunlight into "an overwhelming, haunting feeling that the sun is conspiring against me. That the sun is trying to destroy the life I've worked so hard to build. I can feel my skin turning several shades darker and this feeling sits on my shoulders like a tremendous weight. I can hear my mother's voice telling me, 'Well, you want to be beautiful don't you?' I grew up being told that my best feature was my skin colour from people other than my mother." Majumdar adds that "this particular type of body dysmorphia speaks to a systematic problem about racial politics in a post-colonial state. To deny that light skin colour is intrinsically tied to the enjoyment of particular privileges, power and status, means you [are uninformed]."
Chinese community: historical background
In China, there exists "a culture that prizes pallid complexion as a traditional sign of feminine beauty unscathed by the indignities of manual labor." Fair skin is associated "with comparative wealth and desirability" as fair skin is deemed "a desirable quality in a woman." Fair skin is seen as representing elegance; 'white jade' is a common metaphor to describe fair skin, in Chinese culture. Fair skin is often also associated with virtue. Old Chinese sayings include: "Fair skin conceals a thousand flaws" and "One whiteness can cover three kinds of ugliness." Ancient Chinese myths include that ingesting pearl powder mixed with hot water daily will make your skin fairer. People are warned against using too much soy sauce, at the risk of gradually darkening the skin. Women who are pregnant are often warned not to drink too much chocolate milk, as to not give birth to children with dark skin. In China's pre-Quin[clarification needed] era, those who had darker skin as a result of having to work outside were stigmatized, as skin tone was a marker of class.
Chinese community: cultural repercussions
In Hong Kong, white and fair-skinned Chinese models and actresses are common on billboards. In Asia, skin-whitening products take up 60% of total skin-care product sales. One-third of women in Hong Kong have used skin-lightening products. Skin-lightening products are heavily advertised in China, often referencing how the product "cleanses thoroughly," "cleanses skin cells," or "infuses you with whitening beauty."
In Chinese culture, another common practice is an unwillingness to allow oneself to tan. Some women go to great lengths to keep their skin fair, including wearing face masks when out in the sun. A 2012 New York Times article by Dan Levin investigates this issue. Solar protection gear has become a very successful industry in China, catering to a culture that prizes fair skin as a demonstration of feminine beauty. Due to concerns over quality control, the government ordered businesses to halt sales. While some women wear face masks made from the same stretchy material as bathing suits to conceal themselves from the sun, others use full wet-suits, sun protection gloves or parasols. Skin-lightening creams are also common, with names such as Snow White and White Swan, which promise the user "a natural-looking aristocratic hue". One woman, Yao Wenhua, who dons a mask during her visits to the beach, said, "A woman should always have fair skin. Otherwise people will think you're a peasant."
Aboriginal Community: historical background
Blood Quantum Laws are laws that favour certain individuals within the Aboriginal community, based on the percentage of Native blood they have. This old government practice is attached to notions of shadism, as many believe that the lighter your skin tone, the less pure your Aboriginal ancestry, and therefore the less valid your experience as a part of that ethnic group.
Aboriginal community: cultural implications
The term "half-breed" is commonly used in differently cultures, especially the Aboriginal culture, to refer to someone of mixed heritage. In the Aboriginal community, it is often used as a derogatory insult to describe those who are less than one half Aboriginal. It is often used to make a person feel less racially or culturally pure than someone else.
Plains Cree author, playwright and comedian Dawn Dumont wrote an article as a guest contributor for an online magazine entitled Media Indigena: Interactive Indigenous Insight. Her piece 'The Politics of Skin Colour' chronicled the problem of internalized racism in the Native community, where value is placed on having lighter skin, and darker skin is seen by some as inferior and unattractive.
Studies on shadism
Many important studies have been conducted to examine the enduring effects of Shadism. In 1983, Relethford et al. set out to study diabetes in the Mexican-American population. Part of their research involved using a spectrophotometer to measure skin colour in subjects. In 1987, Arce, Murgia and Frisbie discovered a correlation between higher education and income levels for Hispanics, to light skin. Unintentionally, they were able to use their research to find other social correlations within the Hispanic community that were connected to skin tone. They found that the lighter the skin of the subject, the more affluent their lifestyle. In 1987, Arce, Murgia and Frisbie discovered a correlation between higher education and income levels to light skin, for Hispanics. They also found that Hispanics with darker skin reported higher incidences of discrimination than Hispanics with lighter skin. Those with darker skin were often deemed "more sinister and less attractive" on the basis of skin tone.'
In 2001, Solomon Leong conducted a case study on the prevalence of television advertisements for skin-lightening products in Hong Kong. On four consecutive Saturday nights, between 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm, he watched television and made note of the number of advertisements for skin-lightening products. Each commercial break had approximately 10 advertisements, with an average of 3 or 30% being for skin-lightening products.
In September 2011, Pennsylvania's Villanova University conducted a study that showed that women with lighter skin tones were sentenced to jail terms approximately 12% shorter than women with darker skin tones. In May 2006, the American Economic Review published several studies on the connection between skin tone and salary in the United States. Educator Joni Hersch found that there is a direct correlation between skin tone and educational attainment, but not necessarily a correlation between skin tone and wages. While there is a significant gap between how much those with light skin and dark skin make, those with medium skin tones earned the least amount. When asked whether they believe they are treated differently by black people or white people based on their skin tone, respondents with light skin tones believe that they are treated dramatically better by white individuals than blacks with darker skin tones are. They also believe that other black people treat them somewhat better.
Arthur Goldsmith, Darrick Hamilton and William Darity Jr.'s study "Shades of Discrimination: Skin Tone and Wages" found that blacks with light skin earned the most, followed by those with medium toned skin, with those with dark skin earning the least. This study found that whites earned the most overall
In 1999, Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Star published 'Sorting Things Out,' a book on human classification due to the shade of an individual's skin during apartheid in South Africa, and how this impacted interaction between peoples.
White standard of beauty
Many non-white cultures have been conditioned to conform to a "white standard of beauty" which criticizes not only non-white skin tones, but also certain shapes of eyes, lips, bodies, and different hair types. Maya Poran, a professor of Psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, researched perceptions of beauty and cultural standards of beauty, as held by Latina, black and white women. In their own definition of beauty, of the three groups, black women were most likely to mention a white standard of beauty, while Latina women sometimes did, and white women rarely did. Black women were most likely to mention race in their discussion of standards of beauty, while white women were most likely to mention beauty in terms of male or female. Latina women were equally likely to mention both race and gender.
Bill Duke, co-director if the documentary Dark Girls states: “We’re not suggesting on any level that all black men are only attracted to light-skinned black women, but we would be liars were we not to say that the predominant standard of beauty when black men look at women, to a great extent, is light-skinned, so called ‘good’ hair and fair eyes.”
Skin lightening products
Shadism is a problem even in racially homogenous societies. In India, Vaseline launched an app that lightens the skin of the user in their photos. This app was used as a promotional tool for Vaseline's range of men's skin-lightening creams. This line was initiated as a direct result of the enormous market that India has for skin-lightening products. India represents one of the world's largest markets for skin-lightening creams, often termed "fairness creams". Fairness creams are made from niacinamide, which limits distribution of melanin, the skin's pigment. The chemical process to create niacinamide was patented in 1971 by Hindustan Unilever. Some products such as Emami Fair Pearls Cream claim to be made using natural products including herbs and real pearls, while they are actually made mostly from chemicals, which lighten the skin. Many fairness creams contain exfoliants, which work to replace older, darker skin cells with new skin cells that are less pigmented due to the use of lightening products. Many fairness creams also contain sun screen, to prevent tanning. "Afghan Snow", launched in 1919 was India's first commercial fairness cream, manufactured by ES Patanwala in Bombay. In 2014, at 300 crore (US$49 million) in sales fairness creams was India’s largest cosmetics category.
Ads for these creams are shown in heavy rotation on television in India, especially for the wildly successful Indian brand Fair & Lovely which was launched in 1978 by Hindustan Unilever. The advertisements promise lightened skin tone, and resulting "natural beauty" as they begin to work within four to six weeks of use. Dermatologists advise that long-term use of melanin-suppressing agents can have lasting negative effects on those who use them.
Many large International companies have launched skin-lightening products in India, including:
|International Brand||Skin Lightening Product Launched in India|
|Elizabeth Arden||Visible Whitening Pure Intensive|
|Estee Lauder||White Light|
|Lancôme||Blanc Expert Neurowhite Ultimate Whitening|
|Nivea Visage||Fairness Cream|
|Revlon||Touch & Glow|
|Yves Saint Laurent||Blanc Absolute Serum|
In 2014, Nigerian pop star Dencia launched her own brand of pigmentation removing skin cream called Whitenicious. In advertising the product, the pop star appeared in ads with noticeably lighter skin, holding bottles of her product. When questioned about her lighter appearance since launching the product, Dencia said, "I was never that dark in real life... And guess what? I don't even care because [critics] are bringing me business." During an interview with Ebony magazine, Dencia says that it is not within her control if customers use Whitenicious as a skin bleaching cream on their entire bodies.
In 2010, Jamaican singer Vybz Kartel was highly criticized after undergoing skin-bleaching treatments which drastically altered his appearance. Of the controversy, he said: "I feel comfortable with black people lightening their skin. It's tantamount to white people getting a suntan." Of "cake soap", a product used to lighten the user's skin tone, Kartel said: "When black women stop straightening their hair and wearing wigs and weaves, when white women stop getting lip and butt injections and implants ... then I'll stop using the 'cake soap' and we'll all live naturally ever after." In 2011, Kartel launched his own line of "skin brightening" soaps and creams in the Caribbean.
Shadism is evident in many different aspects of the entertainment world. For example, it is present in casting for music videos, in song lyrics, on magazine covers, as well as in advertisements.
Hip hop culture
In the music videos of rap and R&B artists, there is a strong preference for female dancers and models with light skin. In 2013, while shooting a music video in Ghana, Senegalese singer Akon and Nigerian rapper WizKid's music video producer rejected several black models with dark skin, saying that they were only looking for biracial women with lighter skin. Allegedly, the producer even asked the rejected models if they could recommend women with light skin for the shoot, because of a fast approaching deadline for casting.
The song "Right Above" by American rapper Lil Wayne features the lyrics, "Beautiful black woman, I bet that b*tch look better in red." Red is a term used within the black community to describe a black person who has light skin. Lil Wayne, a father of four children with four different women, has been widely quoted as saying that he chooses the mothers of his children based on skin tone, to ensure that the children will inherit a certain skin tone and hair type.
In a widely criticized July 2008 podcast with Lip Service, rapper Yung Berg referred to women with dark skin as "dark butts." On his preference for women, he stated, "I'm kinda racist. I don't really like dark butts too much. It's rare that I do like dark butts. Like really rare. It's like, no darker than me. No darker than me." Yung Berg later apologized for his comments, saying that his mother has dark skin, and he did not intend to insult.
Twitter: #Teamlightskin vs. #Teamdarkskin
Within the black community, there has emerged on Twitter a virtual rivalry based on skin tone, referred to as #Teamdarkskin vs. #Teamlightskin. These two groups ridicule each other and classify their positive and negative activities and achievements based on skin tone. Inspired by this Twitter phenomenon, club promoters in Ohio came under fire for hosting a party on January 21, 2011 with the theme, "Light Skin vs. Dark Skin." In August 2012, Youtuber Tré Melvin criticized the practice of cyber-shadism in a viral video entitled "#TeamLightskin vs. #TeamDarkskin".
Changing media representation of beauty
Supermodel Alek Wek, who is known for her dark skin tone, was born in Wau, South Sudan, and fled to Britain at 14, when civil war broke out in 1987. After being discovered at a London market, she became the first African model chosen to appear on the cover of Elle magazine in their November 1997 issue. She has had an astonishing career, having modelled for many prominent fashion designer brands, including Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Donna Karan, and Ralph Lauren. Wek is also an activist for human rights, education, refugees, and women's issues. She has spoken at the United States Congressional Black Caucus, and served on the US Committee for Refugees and Migrants as an advisory board member. She is also an author, having released her autobiography, Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel in 2007.
In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o, who has dark skin, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film 12 Years A Slave. Just before Nyong'o won and 12 Years A Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Nyong'o received the Essence Magazine Black Women in Hollywood Breakthrough Award. In her acceptance speech, she discussed receiving a letter from a young fan who was ashamed of her own dark skin, and was going to buy Dencia's Whitenicious skin bleaching cream, until watching Nyong'o in 12 Years A Slave changed her mind. Nyong'o felt the effects of shadism, as she was teased about her dark skin as a child:
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. [...] I tried to negotiate with God, I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted, I would listen to my mother's every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened."
Nyong'o later added that with the help of her mother, she realized that, "What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you." She added that the prevalence of Alek Wek's popularity, and her being regarded as beautiful helped her on her journey to self-acceptance. Nyong'o also added, "And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside, that there is no shade in that beauty."
In 2014, Nyong'o was chosen as one of the models for fashion house Miu Miu's spring 2014 campaign, in stark contrast to the other actresses chosen to model, Elle Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, and Bella Heathcote.
Photoshop, magazines, and advertisements
In 2010, Elle magazine was accused of lightening Academy-Award nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe's skin when she appeared in their magazine. Elle responded by saying that "nothing out of the ordinary" had been done to Sidibe's photos. In 2009, make-up company L'Oreal faced accusations that they lightened singer and actress Beyoncé's skin in their ads, a claim that L'Oreal denied.
In 2013, Vanity Fair magazine was accused of lightening the skin tone of Academy-Award winning actress Lupita Nyong'o when she was featured in their publication. Previously, Vanity Fair had also been accused of lightening the complexions of Kerry Washington, Gabourey Sidibe, and Beyonce.
Documentary: Shadeism (2010)
In 2010, five students from Ryerson University's School of Journalism created and released a short documentary entitled Shadeism. The documentary, which looks at shadism from the perspective of different cultures, went viral in 2010. The film is directed and narrated by Nayani Thiyagarajah, who is a young Tamil woman. The film tells her story, as well as the stories of four of her friends, who are of Caribbean, African, Southeast Asian, and South American descent. "In a lot of communities, this issue of shadeism isn't given a name, but it's something that's become normalized," says Thiyagarajah. In November 2010, the film won the Youth Media Arts Award, at Toronto's 2010 Regent Park Film Festival.
Documentary: Dark Girls (2012)
The 2012 documentary Dark Girls, directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke, debuted at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. The film examines the day-to-day experiences of black women in America, who have darker skin tones. A nine-minute long preview of the film was released in May 2011, and went viral on black entertainment blogs, as well as social media websites. The film examines the discrimination that black women with dark skin often face, as well as the historical roots of shadism.
Documentary: Club Native (2008)
Club Native, directed by Tracey Deer, is a Canadian documentary that was released in 2008. The film examines issues of Aboriginal identity, particularly Blood Quantum Laws, which favour certain individuals based on the percentage of Native blood they have. The film won two 2009 Gemini Awards: one for Best Documentary Writing, and another for Canada Award Best Canadian Multi-Cultural Program.
Shadism as a gendered concept
Mark Hill, a former professor of Sociology at The Pennsylvania State University conducted a study to investigate the possible link between skin tone and gendered perceptions of physical attractiveness. Hill found that women with lighter skin were 11.6 times more likely to be rated attractive than the darkest women in his study, while the odds for men were just 1.6 times.
Joni Hersch, a professor of Law and Economics at Vanderbilt University, conducted a study published by The American Economic Review in 2006 on the connection between skin tone, educational attainment and wages. This study was based on the historical framework that skin tone influences educational attainment, and therefore affects the individual's later occupational outcomes. This framework exists due to those with lighter skin being more strongly integrated into predominantly white educational and work environments, giving them better educational and occupational outcomes in the future. The information Hersch used was separated by gender, to examine if shadism is a gendered concept, economically affecting one gender more than another. Hersch found that the employment rate for females with very dark skin tones was drastically lower than for women with lighter skin. The data shows no significance in the rate of employment for men based on skin tone. There was limited evidence that skin tone affects wages. Data from the National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA) showed that men with darker skin earn approximately 20% less than men with light skin. For both men and women, respondents with light skin had the highest hourly pay. According to Hersch, "Lighter skin tone is clearly associated with higher employment rates for women and higher educational attainment for both women and men."
Research shows that some Hispanic women born in the United States are not as affected by the ideals associated with light skin as many Hispanic males are. This is unusual, as women are often valued based on physical appearance, as opposed to men being valued based on their salary. A possible reason for this shift may be the Hispanic American man being influenced by the mainstream population putting importance on men being breadwinners.'
In India, fairness creams have also recently began being targeted towards men. The male equivalent to India's Fair & Lovely is Fair and Handsome, a line launched by the company Emami. The Fair and Handsome line was launched in 2005. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is the ambassador for the brand. In India, Vaseline released a line of men's skin-lightening creams. Indian actor John Abraham says, "Indian men want to look better." The assumption is that lighter skin means more attractive.
- Wilder (2010), pp. 184-204.
- Hall (1994), p. 311.
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