The pale versus tan debate is one I find absolutely fascinating. In fact, I found my research so compelling that I divided my article into 3 different parts! Here's part 1, hope you enjoy:)
"My god, you look pale!"
...what does this expression mean to you?
To most, it isn't meant as a compliment. "Pale" can be replaced with sick, tired, ghostly, on the verge of death, what have you.
To me, it's a comment I receive every other day, on account of my naturally translucent skin and lack of sunlight exposure.
But most importantly, it reflects the 21st century Occidental beauty ideal that is glowing, Mediterranean, tan skin. When did "tan" become the new spokesperson for health and beauty, and what does that mean for the rest of us anatomy doll lookalikes?
Wealth is Beauty, Beauty is Wealth
The transition between pale love and pale loathe can actually be attributed to history, and industrial revolution. During the Victorian era, pale skin was all the rage. It was a time where the yeoman earned their living working outdoors as cultivators or animal breeders. Pale skin was therefore associated with the privilege not to have to labour outside in the sun, hence a pale complexion was a symbol of wealth. Women carried parasols everywhere, and hid themselves from the treacherous sun with gloves and hats.
And then came along a little thing called the Industrial Revolution. Factory labour rendered farm labour scarcer, so much so that by the late 20th century, most of the Occidental world earned their living indoors. Furthermore, the increasing accessibility to education across the nations opened doors to millions of future lawyers, doctors, and other professionals.
The indication of wealth now lied in one's ability to travel to exotic destinations, own a pool, play golf, tennis, or spend leisurely time outside; and what better way to show off your trip to the Caribbean than with a killer tan?
This whole "wealth is beauty, beauty is wealth" mentality troubles me deeply. It reinforces 2 dangerous vicious cycles!
Beauty is wealth? This ideology reaffirms the societal mentality that money is the end-all be-all of our time on this earth. There's a reason why the tanning industry is worth over 5 billion dollars: the last impression you want to give is one of poverty, which is synonymous with pale.
Wealth is beauty? On a different note, this logic builds beauty up to be something more than it is. The pigment of your skin now means your status, your job, your friend circle, your savings account: no wonder we put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way! If beauty was represented just as it is, a simply characteristic of your being, not the entirety of your worth, we wouldn't be so critical of our bodies.
Here' the end of part 1!
Stay tuned for part 2 my loves<3