“You’ll Win If You’re White” : Exploring Skin Whitening in Modern Thai Culture Through Advertisement
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This paper explores the origins and seemingly exponential growth of skin whitening in modem Thai culture. I approach discourses around Thai skin whitening through visual representations and scholarly research pertaining to adver1isements, Thai society, and Thai beauty standards. Analyzing twenty-first century advertisements, promotions, and images from the Thai cosmetic and beauty industry reveal deep-rooted Thai ideological traditions and shifting attitudes about skin whitening. I explore significant historic, economic, social, and religious factors that contribute to whitening practices ultimately finding that these ads speak to a long a long history of relations between "lighter" skin and hierarchies of class, status, and gender/sex. Moreover, the multivalent image/text advertisements work to naturalize skin whitening as a healthy, essential practice of self-care, one necessary for economic and social success in a modern Thailand. I also examine how the images might affect the Thai population, specifically evaluating how advertising images continue to generate mass desire for lighter skin. Although rooted in the country's past, Thailand's curent skin whitening climate and colorist beauty standards continue to fuel its cosmetic industry, which subjects women to a status based on aesthetic appearance. I conclude that the industry increasingly targets younger women, implanting the importance of a physical appearance that corresponds with economic, cultural, religious, and societal hierarchies within the country. Looking at these advertisements from the past decade, the trend towards preserving youthfulness and a "natural" appearance exists between products and procedures.