The young German girl and I bonded over the lack of non-whitening body lotion in Thailand. Like me, she had run out of the allotted 100 ml for the flight and had gone into one of the ten thousand 7-11 stores to buy more. After the third store and nothing without whitening cream – including all the available brands of Vaseline – we both, in separate cities and at separate times on our respective trips, ended up buying tiny pink bottles of baby lotion since that was literally the only kind available that didn’t threaten to whiten your skin.
It seems odd that a country which is steaming hot just about every day of the year is so obsessed with whiteness. Many people work outdoors, but many also cover their bodies as much as possible while doing that work. They are covered, literally head to toe, to prevent their natural sun (that also brings plane loads of tourists every year) from touching their skin.
Normally I’d say colonialism is the culprit, but Thailand is actually one of the few countries that has never been colonized or occupied by a foreign power, unless you count modern day tourism, of course. Then again, with the pervasiveness of media and some of the insidious messages that it spreads, colonizing a whole country, even a world, of minds doesn’t require much more than the touch of a button.
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This is such an interesting post! The implications of what it means to be beautiful, to be considered beautiful, is bottled in a most innocently, deceptively insidious way: in lotion, something we all require to nurture our skin against the harshness of the climate. It reminds me of the Native Americans being given the gift of disease-ridden blankets. Situational irony at its finest, and you’ve done such a masterful job undressing it!