Pure, Rich, and White

Standard

Women bleach their vaginas (sorry, vaginae). Seriously – or at least external parts of their vulvae, like the labia, because in these cultures paler skin is the standard of beauty, and even if the rest of your body is close to white, a man just won’t want to have sex with you if you’re darker down there.

Let’s ignore the fact that genitalia, even on pale people, is darker than the thicker skin. Let’s instead examine the underlying reasons for this social standard of beauty, and the inequalities it creates and perpetuates.

Cultures in which the class inequalities separate those who can afford to remain indoors and those who can’t – such as in India, as outlined in the linked article – tend to value pale complexions as a sign of wealth and privilege. That used to be the case in agrarian Europe, when it was standard to work outdoors and those who were privileged to not work stayed pasty. But now that the economy in the pale-skinned world has turned to mostly indoor jobs, having a tan is a sign of luxurious free time – frequent vacations to warm sunny places and not being occupied for most sunlight hours – and following is its status as a characteristic of beauty.

In the Western societies where these standards have changed, there are people of all races. But colonialism and institutional racism has maintained “whiteness” as a symbol of wealth and power, even if the white-skinned actively tanned for the reasons above. Even in the West, people of non-white ancestry have their status evaluated based on skin tones that, for their ethnicity, are relatively pale. In societies where staying inside is no longer associated with wealth, the higher classes of darker shades often still try to maintain a fairer complexion – because, instead of symbolizing what a person does with their day, the complexion reflects similarities to the white elite. It’s classist and it’s racist and, ESPECIALLY in the case of motherfucking vaginal bleaching, also sexist. And women are going to the point of bleaching their genitals to work their way up that deeply oppressive social ladder.

The structural inequality of it all should be the real turn-off.

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