Thursday, October 29, 2009

too brown for this town

This spectral turkey went shopping the other day and was not impressed. Though considered "white meat", it must be said that The Poultrygeist is more a glorious shade of brown. A bit like teh tarik if you will. However, even us spectral turkeys have to look professional on a day to day basis.

But enough of the third person narrative.

I started attempting to use make-up at the ripe old age of 19. Since then, i've scoured the country for a foundation suitable for my skin tone. Each suitable shade has since been discontinued - because it's "too dark, so not popular". I've noticed that stores (all, save one) here don't stock foundation or concealer for the darker skinned. In fact, they are blissfully unaware that darker shades even exist, to the point that they pig-headedly (sorry!) insist that a particular popular brand does not manufacture that dark a shade. Yes, they do you guys! They're just not stocked in Singapore.

Now mind you, i'm not even that dark, in the grand scheme of things. But what exactly is our society's obsession with being fair-skinned? The very fact that I am not quite on the right side of beige automatically makes me a target for peddlers of "instant skin whitening" products. Isn't there something wrong with the ideal that's being projected all over Singapore in the form of advertisements, television shows and even celebrity endorsements? Just once, I'd like to see our racial minorities cast in mainstream television as something other than the usual stereotypical policemen, makciks and overly protective wide-girthed mothers with a flair for the melodramatic.

The ideal of beauty has taken the form of a thin, pale complexioned straight-haired mannequin of homogenised chinese/japanese/korean descent. And so i get repeatedly asked if i'd like to tame my stubborn curls with a re-bonding treatment; or if i'd like a skin whitening facial; or informed peremptorily that i need to lose 15 kilograms.

The irony is that it is only in Singapore, the place I grew up in, and which purports to be my "home" that I have felt conscious about my appearance and the colour of my skin. We are repeatedly reminded during the annual build up to the 9th of August that it is Singapore's diversity that makes her unique.

Save for those 2 months out of a year, I see very little celebration of this allegedly revered "diversity".


  1. You know - as a Chinese person who always thought herself relatively sensitive to racism in Singapore, I never noticed this before. I guess that's the point, I haven't had to notice it. Magical Chicken FAIL.

    What interests me about this is that - just like with Cat's experience with shopping for clothes - this rejection of diversity is something these retailers choose at the expense of the profit motive. They'd make money if they stocked this stuff: it's not just the inclusive but also the smart and professional thing to do. And yet they don't do it.

  2. The thing is, I took it all for granted when I was overseas. So upon returning the shock was magnified.

    I cannot buy the "don't stock because not popular" argument for the fundamental reason that there is a significant minority demographic ready and willing to purchase these products. This significant minority however are not the target demographic though there is no logical reason for this.

    It's as if the retail sector is (sub)consciously denying the existence of women who don't fit their mould.

    It's funny - I've been a racial minority wherever I've lived? But it's only here where I am made to be conscious of it.

  3. *nods vigorously*

    My suspicion was always that they simply don't think the minority would have the collective purchasing power to justify bringing in a wider range of colours.

    I could be wrong, though. It could be that they are just that bad at capitalism.

  4. So do those fairness creams actually work?

  5. Wish I could tell you, but I've never used them.

    - The Poultrygeist


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