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Katrina Stuart Santiago

The Pinay in the whiteness, in the shadows

February 27, 2012 4:07pm
There is nothing right, nothing right at all, about the “FHM Philippines” March issue cover. And it’s easy to think: but what do you expect? it’s a men’s magazine!
 
Well I expect some sensitivity, if not some intelligence, thank you very much. I expect that a magazine like “FHM” which lives off – excuse me, makes money out of – women’s bodies would at the very least know where it must draw the line. One might say that the line was drawn at the fact of women’s bodies being sold, but that’s an argument that right now is beside the point.
 
Right now we grant the existence of an industry of men’s magazines across the world, its objectification of the woman’s body its bread and butter. Right now we grant that having a transnational brand that is “For Him Magazine” means a whole slew of limitations for its local franchise which, if one has ever leafed through enough of its issues, would easily be about skimpily clad women on the cover, sex advice, and conversations with women where they all just come off ditzier than they might be, or just dumb and dumber.
 
Right now we grant that the reason a magazine like “FHM” even survives On these shores is the fact that even the smarter women, ones who are in the business of show, models and actresses alike, cannot and will not take a stand against it. We grant that more than having a market of Pinoy males who will buy magazines like this, there is a market of Pinoy women who are just so willing to be objectified in this manner, maybe finding some power in it? Maybe just in need of that big break that apparently now depends on being the sexual fantasy of plenty-a-Pinoy-male.
 
But to layer that fantasy with skin color and race, to imagine the fantasy to be about a white-skinned cover girl stepping into the light and out of the shadows represented by dark-skinned girls? That is a clear line being crossed. It’s a line that’s about taste on the most superficial level, which fundamentally can only fall within the bigger discourses of skin color and discrimination, racism and white supremacist ideology. That “FHM” cover reveals how all of these are inextricably tied, as it shines a light on how we have deluded ourselves into thinking otherwise, and have allowed whiteness to take over the images of being Pinay with nary a fight.
 
Because it can be said that this love for white(ned) skin and meat is nothing but a product of the local beauty industry now at its worst display of superficiality. It can be said that in all these years since the unoriginal transnational magazine franchise became an industry in this country, it has done nothing but celebrate images of womanhood as thin and white and the same. It can be said that we are at that point of absurdity, when women’s faces and bodies have become so obviously and unapologetically fake, we’d like to think that it doesn’t fool anybody anymore.
 
But as we shrug our shoulders and snigger at the actress who got new cheekbones and bigger breasts, thinner arms and a new waist, a badly done lip implant and cat eyes, we also shrug at how this fakery we’re treated to every day affects not just our notions of what is beautiful, but our sense of what’s valuable and important.
 
It’s the latter that is necessarily silenced in the current objectification of the woman as white(ned) and thin, nothing but body and skin, and fantasy. It’s that silence that renders many-a-young-Pinay thinking her morena skin and curly hair are problems, thinking that the only size to be is a small. It’s a silence that allows even the most intelligent of women to think that they must starve themselves, or that they have a right to ask each other: bakit ang taba mo ngayon? Or call anyone who isn’t a size 0 a plus-size. It’s a silence that has allowed someone like Kris Aquino think it’s okay to tell Venus Raj that she’d be more beautiful if she was white.
 
In fact all this time, the true-colored morena Pinay has suffered a form of racism in the hands of this beauty industry. And she’s just fallen silent.
 
It’s because of that silence that we are faced with an “FHM” cover such as this one, where an editorial team and a media company that claims to be the leading magazine publisher in the country, actually thought it acceptable. That we’ve been silent about the crisis that has befallen the imagining of being Pinay in these shores does not absolve “FHM” or Summit Media for this cover. If at all, it highlights how they are complicit in the creation and perpetuation of these false images; they’ve also pushed it to its logical destructive end.
 
Because this is what this image of the white Bela Padilla is about, emerging as she does from the darkness of the other girls on that cover. It is a display of white supremacist ideology at its most vicious because it's shameless. It is a display of whiteness against blackness that is sold us as fact: the white woman can only emerge as her true self from the shadows created by the black girls. It is said that this is about Bela emerging from her “inhibitions.” But pray tell, why would a white girl’s inhibitions appear as a bevy of black girls? Why pit one woman’s white body against five women’s black bodies? Why highlight one at the expense of the others?
 
It’s bad enough that women suffer through beauty according to Vicki Belo’s world. It’s bad enough that we struggle with these fake images of beauty everyday that we see billboards on the streets and celebrities on television and magazines. But to be told by this “FHM” cover that finding oneself without inhibitions and insecurities is about stepping out of our dark skins and into this white one, if not out of one race and into another (though what is this race that Bela represents, do tell!). How can the more powerful women of Summit Media even think any of this acceptable?
 
Elsewhere in the world the public is demanding that magazines print disclaimers on digitally enhanced women’s images, a call to admit to the lying and fakery that are in these cultural products. On these shores, women are not just being treated to the most shameless display of taste that favors whiteness and falsity. In this “FHM” cover the white girl’s declared the winner, her dark counterparts the shadows and negativity that kept her from succeeding.
 
It is apparent that this cover should not have seen the light of day. The demand can only be to pull it out altogether. Those shadows after all far outnumber the white(ned) cover girl. In that magazine cover and real life, both. - HS, GMA News
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