Brown Is Beautiful, Better Believe It!
Beautiful image in profile of half-naked gentle woman posing on camera with closed eyes isolated over black background

Brown Is Beautiful, Better Believe It!

Everybody says, “Brown is beautiful.” But given the volume of whitening products in the supermarket, I don’t think the Filipina believes it. Our billboards, movies and magazines are testimonies to our preference for the mestiza. Will somebody please explain to me why are we so obsessed with becoming fairer?

So far, I’ve only been able to come up with two theories to this obsession. One, I think it’s a deep-seated inferiority complex stemming from over 300 years of colonial rule by white people. Two, I think is it’s a basic human flaw – we covet that which we do not have. Either way, it doesn’t speak very highly about us. And it’s not simply a matter of aesthetic sense.

More often than not, Maria Clara is still our ideal Filipina. I totally cannot fathom why. For one thing, she’s not real. Second, she’s half Spanish. I think it’s about time we discard Maria Claria as our epitome of femininity. Why is docility treated as a virtue in a woman? Why do we insist on a mold so far removed from reality? We are the kins of Princess Urduja, Gabriela Silang, Trinidad Tecson, Imelda Marcos and Cory Aquino. Very different women with very different personalities, perspectives and agenda. But totally, completely and absolutely not docile!

Why is “conservative” still the highest compliment we can ever pay to a Filipina? My thesaurus lists traditional, conventional, conformist, unadventurous as its synonyms. How, pray tell, is being unadventurous and conformist a compliment to the dynamic role that women play as a career woman and/or wife and mother? Why do we still brag about sisters and daughters who don’t do anything except go to school and stay at home? That’s the perfect recipe for raising a dull, boring and unskilled citizen, wife and mother!

I am not advocating that women become wayward. Let’s not get stuck in the Madonna and Whore dilemma. Just because a woman isn’t exactly meek and mild-mannered as we envision Mother Mary to be, doesn’t automatically make a woman a whore.

I believe this Madonna-Whore, either-or, perspective is the reason why a lot of women have been hugely misunderstood. It seems as if a lot of people just do not have the capacity to make room for different brands of womanhood.

In a society where women in film and fashion look so alien and foreign to the typical Pinay, in a culture where the “mahinhin” is idolized, it is no wonder that the Filipina finds it hard to believe that brown is indeed beautiful.

Let us, in our own journey of defining what it means to be a Filipina in this century embrace the width, and breadth of a woman’s influence –kabiyak, katuwang, kabalikat –without failing to cherish her femininity as we would a precious gem.

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