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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest ‘hunk’ of them all?: Negotiating a masculine notion of skin whitening for Malaysian men

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>24/02/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research
Issue number1
Volume11
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)57-76
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The increase in the number of men who have become more meticulous about their grooming and appearance, also known as metrosexuals, indicates that the beauty industry no longer focuses on females alone. While metrosexuality is making its presence felt in society, the increased sales of male fairness creams particularly in the East reveals another trend, male skin whitening. This trend challenges two gender norms: beauty practice and fair skin as a beauty ideal, which are traditionally associated with females. The semiotic analysis of product packaging investigates how L’Oréal Men Expert's (LME) whitening series, White Activ (sold in Malaysia) negotiates skin whitening among Malaysian men. Looking at L’Oréal Paris' (LP) whitening series, White Perfect, as a comparison, the study analysed how male skin whitening is represented differently from female skin whitening. The findings show that LME presents a different set of notions that form a male version of skin whitening and fair skin. It replaces key notions behind skin whitening, e.g. replacing skin whitening and skin lightening with skin brightening and non-whitening; passivity of the skin-whitening practice with activeness; as well as replaces the skin whitening rationales for fair skin as the physical marker of social status and wealth with fair skin as a physical indicator of strength and health; and for beautification with problem-solving. Also, LME projects another version of “fair skin” by redefining skin tone, complexion, and whiteness, in which related notions of fair skin, i.e. skin tone and purity, are replaced with skin brightness and cleanliness. The male version of skin whitening and fair skin separates men from femininity as well as draws a masculine space in the female domain of skin whitening. Such antifemininity forms a new gender binary, differentiating male and female skin whitening.