On Whitewashing and Unfair Filipino Beauty Standards
Mestiza. Morena. Negrita.
If you were ever a young girl in the Philippines, these were the first words drilled into the back of your mind. These are words you learn before you even learn your own name. To society, this is all you are. This is all we are.
In the Philippines, young women are defined by their skin color and how Eurocentric their features are. I remember being not quite 7 years old, yet already wishing I looked more Eurocentric like my grandmother did.
If you're a fair skinned, tall-nosed Filipina, then congrats. You basically just won the genetic lottery. Before you even get the chance to let your name roll off your tongue, people already know who you are. You are rich; you are educated; you are kind; and, you are beautiful. You are the Mestiza, and you are the standard. Nothing you do could ever change that.
But it's a whole different story–heck, a whole different language!–for brown skinned Filipinas with the typical Filipino nose. To society, you are poor, uneducated, and filthy. You don't represent anything. You are the “Morena.” You are the “Negrita.” You are not the standard. Nothing you do could ever change that.
The Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards for 333 years. After that, the Americans took over. It's no question where this glorification of Eurocentric features comes from. But why does it still happen? Filipinos are so in love with Eurocentric features, you could almost call it a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
It's almost as if the more Filipino you look, the less beautiful you are. Eurocentric features are everywhere. Here, you don't even have to know how to act to be an actress. Just make sure you're part Caucasian, and you're good to go! If you're an actress with Eurocentric features, you get the starring role together with a white passing co-star to match. But if you're born with more Filipino features, you are, and always will be the Mestiza's best friend who only gets three minutes of screen time every week. You are the “before” in those skin whitening product before-and-afters. You are just a mere face onscreen whose main purpose is to add volume to the crowd behind the two Mestizos falling in love.
If you look more Filipino in the Philippines, the less special you are. Isn't that absurd?
Pre-colonial Philippines was made up of hundreds of independent tribes sharing 7,000 different islands. Filipino beauty is so diverse. Why should it only be confined to one type of beauty, and why should that type of beauty be focused on looking less Filipino?
Not having Eurocentric features doesn't make you less attractive. Never be ashamed of the melanin in your skin. Life would be colorless without people of color. And just because your nose isn't tall enough, doesn't mean it isn't beautiful. If anything, I think it's special.
The oceans in the Philippines are beautiful, but so are our mountains and volcanoes. Oceans and volcanoes are two completely different things, but both of them are still beautiful. I believe that it should be the same for Filipino people.
Stop putting beauty inside a box. Let it be discovered. Let it be celebrated. All types of it must be represented proudly. Even the ones you don't see on TV.
We live in the age of social media. If there's a perfect time to put an end to this eternal problem, it's now. Uplift, encourage, empower. We can–and we will–crush these standards together.
By Tanya Gransey, 15