By Lauren Karmo, Oakland University
Transcript of Video Response
Hi everyone, this is Lauren Karmo and I am responding to “Beauty in the Philippines: Materialized Oppression” by Bernadine Cortina. This piece was really, really interesting and interactive, and I really loved having the opportunity to see this piece develop over time, and it really turned out quite wonderful. The beginning of the piece starts with this introduction by Cortina, she reads a poem in her own voice here, and it’s very, very beautiful, very well done, and an excellent way to start the piece and kind of set the tone. This entire piece is talking about the history of western influences and colonization on the Philippines and Filipino culture from when they colonized the Philippines to the modern day, specifically on beauty standards. So having that strong Western influence, that dedication to whiteness, and putting whiteness on a pedestal, all of those ideas that come from colonization are still around in these countries, present day and are really ingrained into the cultures and Cortina really unpacks that in this timeline. She talks about the Spanish colonial period, she talks about modern day influences and modern day examples of that here there’s the turn of the century of the American colonial period. She talks about modern day Philippines, she has examples and YouTube videos and commercials that play. So she really dives deep in this piece on the outstanding influence that Western, Western cultures have had on the Philippines. One audio piece there are several audio pieces embedded throughout this timeline. And one that really stood out to me was this one on Filipino bodies. It’s really quite interesting. And I’m going to play a little bit for you right now.
Indigenous Blackness is everything contradictory to the United States’ narrative of whiteness. This image of the Philippines as a Black space then ties racial violence in the United States to the imperial conquest happening abroad. Lynching was a violent act that occurred locally, while imperial conquest was a violent act placed within the global landscape. Balce also powerfully contends that “popular discourses on Filipino savagery, the rise of lynchings in the South, and the emergence of a U.S. imperial policy in the Pacific are the historical milieu of the term “Filipino” (45). I focus primarily on one of her main points: that after 1898, Filipinos are racialized as savage Black bodies – an image that would have remarkable staying power.
This audio piece does a really excellent job of connecting the topics Cortina’s talking about, you know beauty standards in the Philippines, to what’s going on and modern day America, what has been going on in America for the last hundreds of years. And it’s really interesting how Cortina is able to weave this connection between what’s going on in her culture, in her ethnic group, in her country, and connect it to what’s going on here and put it into context of the Society of that she lives in now. Even though we are far apart, distance wise, you know, the Philippines are a little far away. We’re still connected in the struggles that we face now and we have faced in the past. For the conclusion of my response, I wanted to turn the camera onto myself to talk about my personal connection that I felt to Cortina’s piece similar to how she was able to tie in the experiences that many Americans have faced in society and connect that to the influences of colonization on her own country. I was really able to connect this topic of beauty standards set and influenced by colonizers to my own experience in my own culture. I am Middle Eastern. My family’s from Iraq, and Iraq has also been heavily influenced by In Western beauty standards due to colonization. While we did not have the same colonizers, the Philippines were colonized by the Spanish, and the Middle East was mostly colonized by the French and the British. We do share a lot of the same struggles to feel at home in our bodies and feel like our bodies are beautiful. A lot of Middle Easterners, a lot of Iraqi women feel like they need to be lighter, they have to have the lightest skin to be seen as beautiful. They have to have no hair, need to wax and shave and constantly maintain our bodies to look the way white people naturally look, and go so far as to get nose jobs, and other cosmetic surgeries to get rid of our traditional cultural, Middle Eastern features to appear more white. It’s really difficult to go through this experience you feel alone, like you are one of the only ones who are going through this really hard struggle of not being able to feel at home in your body. But going through Cortina’s piece and really being able to see not only her personal experiences shine through but also the experiences that those have faced and have lived through for hundreds of years. From as early as the 13, 1400s I really loved to see Cortina address this very personal problem and really dig deep and be able to make the rest of us not feel so alone. So I really hope you enjoy Cortina’s piece as much as I did really take the time to listen to all of her audio pieces and read through her timeline. It’s really quite an immersive experience. And it’s definitely worth checking out. Thanks, guys.