08 November, 2010

Hadhramaut: The 'White is Lovely' psyche

Here, the fairer the skin is - is considered the better. Fairer skin is preferred. It is believed to be the more beautiful. Especially by men, of women. And by women, of themselves or of other women. It is common to hear people, especially women, saying that a certain girl or woman is 'white' and hence more attractive. The fact is that, most Arabs - almost all, are not white; least of all here in Hadhramaut where most people are light or dark brown. There is this fascination with complexion and the color of skin. By women in particular. Most believe that - the fairer a woman is, the more beautiful she would be.

To that effect, many women here use skin lightening and bleaching creams. For the sake of that 'beauty' - most do not know or ignore the dangers and the side effects of using such creams. Due to the ingredients in the creams, skin lightening/bleaching creams can lead to many kinds of complications. Worst, as there is no proper monitoring or regulating of these products here - many contain harmful ingredients like: Hydroquinone and Glucocorticosteroids. Some might even contain banned ingredients like mercury, which is toxic.

Hadhramout is awash with skin lightening/bleaching creams. Most of which are cheap and of the poorest quality. They are some of the best selling 'beauty' products here. And the Arab media - advertising beauty products, plays with that psyche of believing in 'white' skin, very well. There are many advertisements in papers, magazines and on the many TV Arabic channels that keep on reminding women of how more beautiful they would look if they become fairer.

It is apparent that most Arabs believe that 'white' skinned is more attractive. Case in point: the few major Arabic TV channels which seem to represent all Arabs, have only 'white' skinned anchors and news presenters. Suffice to say: there are millions of Arabs who are dark skinned, not only in Africa but in the Arabian Peninsular. Both Al Jazeera in Arabic and Al Arabiya have only light skinned women presenting the news. One would think that the BBC would have a broader outlook or be more sophisticated, but, even they, on their Arabic channel, do not have any dark skinned or black female news anchors. While on the other hand, Al Jazeera in English and the BBC English service have several dark skinned or black news presenters. The main reason for this, is rightly: they believe that more viewers would be attracted to watching their Arabic news, if the presenters are light skinned. Come to think of it: although they are a number of dark skinned field reporters, there aren't any dark skinned or black male anchors on any of the leading Arabic news channels.

It's rather odd and strange: the belief and the psyche that 'white' skinned is more attractive or superior. Especially by Hadharem. One of the worst thing any man here can think of doing, is to want to marry a European or a Western woman, of who most are truly white. That man would meet with strong objection and would have very little support or encouragement and would be dissuaded. They would also show very little support to a man here wanting to marry an Arab woman from out of here, however light skinned that woman is. Especially if that woman is not from the Arabian Peninsular.

Most men here consider Hadhramy women as the most desirable, the most preferable and the highest in standing. Hadhramy women who are generally brown or light brown. And yet there is this captivation and attraction, by people here, for lighter skinned women. By men and women. For men here, those women are best and most preferable if/when they are Hadarem. Even if it means using skin lightening means.

Related post: Of Race and Prejudice