Why A Skin-Whitening Selfie Camera Is A Hit In China

lighterWhen did social media become a stage for broadcasting photo after photo of your own face? I know I sound all Clint Eastwood “Get Off My Lawn” right now, but I can’t count how many times I’ve clicked into someone’s Instagram account only to see an endless stream of selfies — the series of headshots in one place sort of feels like a museum, if it was devoted to narcissism instead of classicism. In Asia, the need to take and post selfies online is even more eyeroll-inducing, because it usually comes with a minor dose of prejudice: quite a few Asian women consider “light skin” as the ideal skin tone, and dark skin is associated with ugliness, so they do everything they can to appear as white as possible.

Quartz has an interesting (and sad) story of women in China paying up to US$1,000 for a Casio “magic selfie” camera that can “slim” the face and “lighten” the skin tone of anyone. The camera’s official name is Exilim TR, but it’s mostly known as ”zipai shenqi” in China, which means ”Godly tool for selfies.” Seriously.

In a video that accompanied the Quartz piece, various Chinese women express their love of the selfie camera, saying vapid things like “yeah, it’s true that you can edit a selfie with apps and software, but this camera does it automatically.”

The notion of “white = beautiful” is absurd, and it has for centuries oppressed those with dark skin. Recently, a group of Southeast Asian women in the US have begun fighting back, in the form of an online movement, but Asia can be a bit behind when it comes to progressivism. Some women in Asia, especially China and in Southeast Asia, go to great lengths to stay as white as possible, resorting to face masks that make them look like a Luchador, skin-whitening face creams that do nothing, and bad plastic surgery.

Casio’s skin lightening shtick isn’t new. LG phones have had a “beautifying selfie” mode, which does the exact same thing, for years. Here’s me trying the filter on the LG G4.


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