Last Friday night, I was on my way home when suddenly this billboard along C5 Kalayaan road caught my attention.
Sure, the models were pretty. One model was dark-skinned and the other was fair-skinned. But what stood out was the billboard ad copy, “Maputi lang, pinaupo na sa bus?”
At the right side was a one-liner statement citing stats about how dark-skinned Filipinos are targets of discrimination.
“3 in 5 Filipinos believe that people with fairer skin receive better treatment from others.*
*Based on a poll by Opeepl”
It was a billboard ad by GlutaMAX. For a moment, I was amazed at the guts of whoever ad agency pushed this kind of campaign to address discrimination against dark-skinned Filipinos.
Yes, it’s a form of racial discrimination when dark-skinned people are treated differently because a certain society favors those with fairer skin.
It was immediately obvious that the ad was a poorly executed attempt to address this issue.
The problem is not skin color
The basic flaw in the GlutaMAX is this: it places the responsibility of colorism (“colorism” is prejudice or discrimination against people with dark skin) onto dark-skinned persons.
Essentially, GlutaMAX was sending the message: if your skin is dark and you become the target of discrimination, then it is your responsibility to make your skin lighter.
This is outrageous, considering that it is the culture and the society that is at fault, not dark-skinned people.
Do you get it now? Dark skin is not the problem. Dark skin, fair skin, whatever color your skin is, should have no connection with your worth as a person and your dignity as a human being.
Skin color should neither be the basis for merit nor for fault. You should not be judged as a person, as a student, an employee, a professional, simply because your skin happens to be fair or dark.
Skin whitening is not the solution
Obviously, since GlutaMAX is a whitening product brand, their ad targets Filipinos with dark skin. After presenting the problem — colorism — the ad offers GlutaMAX as the solution.
The ad plants the notion that dark-skinned people who experience discrimination should just use a product that whitens their skin. So instead of fighting discrimination, dark-skinned people are told to accept it as a reality and go along with it.
The GlutaMAX also adds to the notion that in order to be considered beautiful, one should comply with the eurocentric standards of beauty—in which being white is an advantage.
It’s one thing to address a certain social prejudice and another thing to offer a simplistic solution—skin whitening—that barely scratches the surface of the real social and cultural problem of colorism and prejudice.
Even more infuriating, the ad exploits the issue of colorism in order to make a profit. So much for empowerment, I guess?
Check out some of their online ad copies that sparked debates and outrage from many Filipino netizens.
This photo of a billboard ad is from one of the many netizens who raised their eyebrows on this matter.
The controversial ad copies became a topic of outrage for many Filipino Twitter users. Even morena celebrities like Chai Fonacier and Bianca Gonzales-Intal expressed their sentiments as to why their brown skin is as beautiful as the complexion of fair-skinned people.
Clearly, the fact that this issue with GlutaMAX exists only proves how racism and colorism are still prevalent even up to this day. What’s more alarming is that many Filipinos lack self-awareness that they have internalized racism by preferring fair skin.
This ad campaign only proves that we’re still a long way towards really understanding what needs to be fixed—the entire culture of discrimination and all its forms that demean people because of their skin color.