Gender & Identity Life

Filipinos have a serious issue with Eurocentric beauty standards

It’s no surprise that Filipinos have a preference for Eurocentric features – after all, we cannot deny the massive influence of the West in our current ways of life. From the cultural products we consume and patronize such as foreign TV shows and films, to the mere predilection for the English language as more ‘“formal” and “refined” in comparison to local languages, it’s easy to see that we are fond of a culture that is not ours and that we consciously reshape ours to be more like theirs.

Filipinos are not the only ones who lean toward a Eurocentric lifestyle. Cosmetic operations have been prevalent among Koreans, another nationality whose popular culture also hold great influence among Filipinos. The most common cosmetic operation that Koreans undergo is the double eyelid surgery. Natives apparently believe that their natural looks are not beautiful enough and that enhancement following the blueprint of Western beauty will solve this presumed problem. This is disturbingly similar to the case of Filipinos. Please note that I have nothing against individuals who choose to undergo plastic surgery; there is nothing wrong with wanting to engage in programs or activities that we ourselves know will help us build our self-esteem. What I see as problematic, however, is how we think that our natural looks, and our culture in general, are inferior to that of persons from the West. We have been conditioned to subscribe to this xenocentric mindset.

Recently, a photo circulated on social media of a page from what appears to be a textbook officially used as required reading for younger Filipino students. The post emphasized the following sentence: “Unlike most Filipinos, she has curly hair that makes her more beautiful. She looks like a mestiza with her pointed nose and white fair skin.”

[Image Description: A close-up of a textbook page.] Via Facebook
This statement cites physical features that do not resemble the natural look of a Filipino. Filipinos rarely have curly hair; they have bulbous noses and tan skin. To blatantly say that this is the acceptable standard of beauty among people who do not naturally possess these qualities is problematic because it teaches Filipinos to think that their authentic looks are not beautiful enough and that there is always a need to change in order to fit in this imposed Eurocentric mold.

It is almost no surprise that the local media industry helps perpetuate this mindset by endorsing products that serve as “enhancers” such as whitening soaps as well as apparently giving more projects to actors who are “more attractive” according to said Eurocentric standards. The very over-reliance of Filipinos to other cultures is rooted in a similar concept: the idea that theirs are superior to ours.

But when academic materials fortify this problematic mindset by exposing youngsters to this way of thinking does way damage that could be irreversible. The media may have great influence on viewers, but scholars are seen as more credible and are expected to act accordingly. What will happen to future generations if this persists?

Academics must be the ones at the forefront of the initiative to break these faulty misconceptions and teaching the majority, particularly the youth, to embrace our own roots, our own culture. Filipinos deserve better than having no other choice but to latch onto these xenocentric beliefs.

We, in our most authentic, are beautiful. Our culture, in its rawest form, is worth celebrating. It’s time we fix what the textbooks teach us, what the media show us.

By Elizabeth Ruth Deyro

Elizabeth Ruth Deyro is a Filipina writer and editor with a BA in Communication Arts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She is the Founding Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director of The Brown Orient. She writes about race, sexuality, mental health, and religion.