For as long as i can remember, my back, neck and stomach have been significantly darker than the rest of my body. When I was growing up, this was a big issue to the people that took care of me. They did everything they could to even out my skin, from creating extra time to scrub those areas, to trying to protect those parts of my body from the sun.
Of course, none of those things worked and as I grew, I was blamed for the darkness of those parts of my skin. I was told I did not take care of my body which meant I didn’t shower well and I didn’t moisturize my body well enough. Then after a while, I was given different soaps and creams (without bleaching agents/ingredients) in order to rectify this problem.
Without any solution in sight, the cream and soap suggestions stopped, the scrubbing techniques were no longer pushed. Soon the hyper pigmentation spread to my face, and my face had an obvious division in skin tones. It became so bad that I was taken to a dermatologist, who said it would pass with time, and even though the divide is less obvious, the hyper pigmentation stayed.
I remember one time when I came home from college and my family asked me if I was bleaching my face because my neck looked too dark. I decided to look into ways to naturally lighten my skin or even out my complexion, and there are a lot of way to do it, but as I continued my search, I started asking the question, is this a form of self hate?
What exactly makes it self hate? Is it the name of the product or the motivation behind using the product? Because it isn’t considered self hate when I use an organic soap that contains carrot and papaya extracts, but if I use the same soap with the name skin lightening, I suddenly hate my existence.
Right now, I use a soap that has natural skin lightening/toning properties, and I don’t know if it should be considered self hate. I think some people will say that because I was teased and questioned about the darker patches of my skin it falls under the the umbrella of self hate. But does that mean that if no one spoke about it and I still wanted to change it wouldn’t be self hate? And is it still self hate even though the product I’m using doesn’t advertise any skin lightening properties?
The description of the word self hate is so arbitrary that it somehow applies to everything and at the same time applies to nothing. Because using a hair straightener isn’t self hate but relaxing your natural hair is labelled as such. Using organic soaps that lighten skin naturally are part of self love, but using soaps with man-made chemicals that lighten skin is self hate. Getting body modifications, like tattoos or piercings can be seen as normal, but if your body modification is plastic surgery, then the person is full of self hate.
It’s interesting to watch how the goal post for self hate changes from product to product, but it’s even more interesting to see how it changes within the binary gender norms. People don’t go around saying men are full of self hate when they take protein shakes and steroids in order to bulk up and change their physique, but if people think a woman is going out of her way to change her physique, “she’s unhappy with what God has given her.” And this happens even though women are constantly bombarded with messages that tie their self worth to impracticable standards.
So what exactly is self hate? Is it the extreme alterations of our bodies? Or do the alterations only count when we’re trying to look attractive to other people? And if the latter is the case, why is the term applied in binary gendered spaces? I’m tired of seeing the word self hate being thrown around without any clear lines and I’m extra tired of the hypocritical way in which it is used. Maybe it’s time to retire that word and stop painting people who want to change their bodies as individuals with pathological problems.
Photo Credit: Christian Louboutin: The Nudes Collection