Racial Economies of Desire: On the U.S. and the Philippines

Think of your ideal partner, the person you would like to marry in your future. Think of all the details and all the little things that you would about that person, and then step back a ltitle bit with me. What color was their skin? What was their race? Do you think of yourself as an open-minded individual and that things like race and skin color are of little importance?

Well actually chances are that you do kind of think like that. Based on a report by the Pew Research Center on racial attitudes, the Pew Research Center found that the overwhelming majority of millenials (peoples aged 18-29 currently) are okay with a family member’s marriage to someone of a different racial or ethnic group. Assuming that my audience is mostly millenials, this is probably an accurate assumption.

So why do I bring this issue up? Well unlike us millenials, our parents and the generations before us were not okay with this. As we go further back, we find less and less people okay with interracial marriages.

A lot of this has to do with, you guessed it, racism and that pretty much everything that isn’t considered white was considered a sexual threat to whites. For a brief history lesson, let’s go way back with colonialism. Dr. Matthew Shenoda, an Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity in the documentary “Dark Girls” says that during colonialism White colonizers invaded foreign lands not only physically but culturally, and were able to reinvent foreigners idea of self-worth, identity, and place in society. To have white or light skin was to be like the people in power, and therefore to have more worth in society. This idea still exists all around the world.

It exists in my people’s culture too. In my last post, I mentioned I went to the Philippines with my family in the summer of 2005. One of the weirdest things I saw immediately as I got off the plane was that there was a huge billboard with a woman advertising some skin lightening cream. I don’t remember the words exactly, but it said something along the lines of “Look beautiful with [product name] today!” I have never seen such ads for such products in the US, so I immediately assumed that dark in the Philippines wasn’t considered attractive, at least for girls. In the Philippines, I know the classic Filipino couple is a dark-skinned man with a light-skinned female – which actually describes my parents and some of my aunts and uncles. It is a classic thing for women that are elders to tell the females in my family not to stay outside too often because they will end up “too dark and unpretty”. For the guys it was perfectly fine to go outside. So naturally my cousins that were girls were upset that the boys got to go outside and play more often than they did.

In the U.K., cognitive psychologist Michael Lewis asked 20 male and 20 female participants to rate Facebook pictures of various colored peoples, and found that the participants voted Black men and Asian women as the most attractive, and Asian men and black women as the least attractive. These ratings of attraction are most likely to hold in U.S. as well. Throughout U.S. history nonwhites were perceived as sexual threats by both white men and white women. White men and women masculinized black men and black women, with black men being considered as hyper-masculine, and black women as well, and white males “feminized” asian males as they depicted them as weak and girly. Lewis says that “Darker skin has always been associted with more masucline faces”, so it can be assumed that lighter skin is associated with the opposite.
Based off these facts it kinda makes sense that Filipino women like dark skinned Filipino men and why Filipino men like light-skinned Filipino women.

Millenials have some hope though on changing such attitudes towards “colorism” – the prejudice or discrimination of people based on the lightness or darkness of their skin. Hopefully love will one day truly be colorblind, as these attitudes change over time.

relevant:

Documentary on Girls of Dark Skin, on colorism and racism -http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/195707/Dark_Girls__A_Look_At_Colorism_and_Internalized_Racism_In_The_Black_CommunityFull_Documentary/

-“Rules of Attraction” – How Society Perceives Beauty: http://cholakovv.com/en/blog/2450

Millenials on Interracial Marriage – http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/02/01/almost-all-millennials-accept-interracial-dating-and-marriage/

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