Author: izel856

Media and Communication student at UOW

“Skin White As Snow” – Snow White

It seems intense some of the processes of skin whitening, using products containing bleach, overdressing, excessive make-up and even crushing pearls to powers for oral consumption.  Not that I can judge, melanoma is the outcome of consistently sun baking.

After discovering the trend, I began to look into the history of pale skin, which dates back to Ancient China, India and Japan and then later spread further across Asia. Their reason for practice was to infer aristocracy and wealth for both males and females. Those with darker skin were associated as servants or workers because of labouring under the sun.


Google Images, Ancient Chinese Women,

Google Images, Ubtan Powder,

I found this interesting because throughout High School especially in English subjects I was always taught that white was a colour to represent things like purity, innocence, goodness and virginity, not a matter of wealth or social class.

I haven’t started looking at the physicality of the cream or application yet, because the product still hasn’t arrived. However, I wanted to take a look at the advertisements and how these products are viewed in current society as well as any problems associated with whitening creams.

Firstly, I took a look at an Indian ad for Fair and Lovely which is aimed at men. It was a thrilling story line, a model going for a part in a commercial but his face is too tanned which is deemed unattractive and another actor cuts in front to claim the fame. A girl recommends he uses Fair and Lovely Men’s Active, and after washing his face with it, we see the transformation of his skin getting 3 tones lighter. With confidence, he wins back the commercial with his face making it on billboards, and ends with him getting the beautiful girl on the red carpet.

I’d say that this ad couldn’t portray and pressure the idea of the beauty of pale skin anymore obviously than they have. Hey, if I was promised fame and love and admiration like this guy in the ad, then I’d want pale skin too. Switching it up now, I took a look at the Chinese ad for Olay skin whitening.

This ad reminded me a lot of the beauty product ads we have at home in Australia. A beautiful model (beautiful because of the product – duh, they want you to buy the brand) with lots of close ups to show just how effective it is for her skin, no blemishes or darkness no matter how close you look. Then followed by a scientific explanation and scientific visual imagery that most likely makes no sense to anyone (not me anyway) describing how scientists designed the product for a successful specific function.

MD Arroyo explains in his article that scientific language in cosmetic advertising tries to “persuade the addressee… to gain credibility” (Arroyo 2013) and to lead consumers to think that “scientific names are going to enhance the product’s performance because they are the result of scientific knowledge and the latest technology” (Arroyo 2013).

Between these two ads we can see a major difference with India focusing hard on the social aspect of whiter skin whereas China; still focusing on the social perception of beauty, urges audiences to look at the science and health behind whiter skin.

What I found has been a problem throughout the use of whitening creams in the past is the mercury levels in them, which is a whitening agent and highly toxic. After looking at the fair and lovely website they state that they do not use or add any mercury into their products. I couldn’t find Olay state the same but the ingredients list on the skin whitening product I looked at  doesn’t display any mercury. Mercury in skin whitening products today is a very serious issue. M Bray for CNN reported (2002) in Hong Kong that two whitener creams (Rosedew and La Rose Blanche) had mercury levels between 9,000 and 65, 000 times the recommended dose, causing one woman to be admitted to hospital and 13 others to seek specialists.

Unfortunately, physical issues aren’t the only problems that can be associated with skin whitening creams. It also has a physiological impact. “Young boys and girls with darker complexions grow up with lower self-confidence, which often impacts their personal and professional success” (Banerji, 2016).

In terms of tanning in Australian culture, it’s so easy for people who can’t tan to get a fake tan. To make your skin white however, is not as easy a process and I can see how this can affect the youth in a society pushing pale skin as a necessity.

To finish, I just wanted to add what I found was a pretty cool fun fact. BCC reported in 2010 that lightening creams in South Asia outsold coca cola bottles. Woah.






Pale Beauty – Izel

I am undeniably fortunate to have experienced what I have in some of the countries within beautiful Asia. First of all (if my name doesn’t bluntly give it away) I’m half Turkish; which although is technically part of both Europe and Asia, is geographically more Asian. I visited family there twice when I was very young, unfortunately since then I’ve lost that connection, however I still have many memories and experiences that have made a pretty large impact on my life and the way I view things.

 I was also lucky enough to do exchange in China for 4 and a half months in 2016, followed by a month travel in India and two weeks in Sri Lanka. I can’t describe how lucky I was to have met the amazing friends I did along the way and how much I learnt from them; about themselves, their country and their culture. Finally, as a common holiday destination for Australians, I have been to Indonesia on multiple family trips. I learnt so much across all these countries that I could easily fall back on for my autoethnographic research project, but the point was to focus on something you knew nothing about. Now that I reflect, one thing that was common in all those countries (except Turkey) that I never really investigated was the desire for whiter skin.

I still remember when I first discovered the trend for myself in Bali when I was young. It was 30 plus degrees and I was suffocating in the heat and melting in sweat while the local women were casual in their jeans and long sleeve sweaters.  Being a shy kid I asked mum first; and, trying to teach me to no longer be shy, she told me to ask them myself. “Aren’t you hot? Why are you wearing long pants and a long shirt?” The woman I’d chosen to ask laughed at me and lifted the sleeve of her sweater revealing a distinctive contrast in skin tones amplified at the wrist where her sweater reached. “I want skin like this” she said pointing to the previously covered lighter flesh, then she pointed to me “skin like yours, so beautiful and white.” My turn to laugh, “No way, I want a tan!”

I never really questioned it from then on, I always viewed it as something mum used to tell me, “We always want what we can’t have”. Like in Primary School when I wanted my friend’s curly hair and she wanted my straight hair. Little did I know then that the beauty and status associated with pale skin in Asian culture is a tradition that dates much, much, further back than the Australian culture of tanning.

So, as you’d suspect by now I’ve decided for my Authoethnographic research to learn about the history of skin whitening in Asia. Although the previous story was in Bali I’ve decided to specifically focus on India and China and a single skin whitening brand for each. I chose these two countries specifically because I have friends I can contact there who can help me identify what the most popular brand is. From there (with my background research) I will search for and experience advertisements to see how they promote the product, and try the product out for myself.

My friend in China explained that although she doesn’t use skin whitening herself, all her friends use Olay, SK-II and L’Oréal because “they are not so expensive and the quality is good.” These are all brands recognisable in Australia and shouldn’t be so hard to come by; for this research project, I’ll focus on just Olay as representative skin whitening brand for China.

When I asked my friend in India what the most popular product was, she suggested Fair and Lovely. This product is new to me and so far, but I’ve managed to order it for less than $15. A few advertisements for each product are accessible on youtube and honestly, I’m kind of weirded out by how excited I am to find out more on the subject, such as how far it dates back, and if it causes any harm to your skin.

I think this is going to be exciting and interesting studying using autoethnographic practices on a cultural tradition that is polar opposite to what I’ve known and practice myself.

What I Relate To Autoethnography – What a bloody big word!

Autoethnographic research; is a personal investigation and examination of a culture in hindsight to your own past experiences and culture. Due to this being an intimate research process no two works have the same results as people assume the world differently to each other.

Or in more professional words, “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)

As I move though this subject I think to myself… ‘I’ve already done this.’ Spring semester 2016 I went on exchange and studied at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou – China. And yes, I kept personal documentation:


Although it says New York and not China, the book was relevantly selected, I walked through about 6 (slightly exaggerated) of these security checks along two street blocks before I was finally allowed to enter the forbidden city and by misdirection and mistranslation, also witnessed the embalmed body of Chairman Mao.

During the selected reading, I decided that my diary and personal experience in China was was a personal narrative or ‘writing as therapeutic’. Although it won’t influence women’s right as Friedan did in the 1960’s, it was a great way for me to record differences in culture, the people I met, my feelings and to make sense of myself and my experiences (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011).

What intrigued me the most about the reading was the question of ethics – becoming friends with the people you are researching. Reliability – memory or information which may not be translated to its full extent of meaning; and validity – is it realistic/did it really happen, because without proof we are just taking the researchers personal word for it. These are a few things that scholars criticise in regards to Autoethnography.

One last thing that I picked out of the reading was how authoethnography was “Producing meaningful, accessible, and evocative research grounded in personal experience, research that would sensitize readers” (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011)

Whether or not this is relevant, this reminded me of documentaries by David Attenborough. Along with the research, the footage and all the effort put into educating us about animals, he would attempt to put himself in the wild habitat and culture of the animal as much/close as he could to give a personal take on them as well.

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The first thing that comes to mind when I think Godzilla, is a crap movie that visually expresses the development of special effects for over half a century, and is awesome to watch in a cinema (and only a cinema) where the infamous roar makes your organs vibrate.

So when I heard we were watching Gojira, I was a little gutted we weren’t going on an excursion to the IMAX, and if I’m going to be completely honest I’ve seen Godzilla enough times… I would have been happy with any other black and white Japanese film. I’m no stranger to black and white films or subtitles, I’ve always felt that if an international film makes it onto my screen then it must have done bloody well to get there and is worth the watch. Most the time, it usually is and even though I know I’ll never watch Gojira again, I’m glad to have seen it.

There were many clear cultural differences and similarities throughout the film. One that stood out was the first on screen appearance of Gojira with everyone running to escape and falling down the hill. Note my live feed comment: “Thongs are definitely the best foot attire for escaping dinosaurs #DIGC330”. I did some research and their footwear looked like traditional Japanese footwear called ‘zori sandals’ which closely resemble the traditional Australian footwear you might know as ‘thongs’. In this scene I felt like I could really relate you know, it’s not easy running for your life in those things.

However; what really interested me about the film, which draws apart from the other Godzilla movies I’ve seen (or now that I think about it, I may have just completely missed) was the relation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the carnage of nuclear war. Having previously studied the cause and affect that these bombs had on Japan, it reminded me of the devastation it caused and really brought a must more chilling effect to the film because metaphorically this really happened.

“Godzilla is the son of the atomic bomb. He is a nightmare created out of the darkness of the human soul. He is the sacred beast of the apocalypse.” –Tanaka Tomoyuki, Gojira producer.