What She Said: I’m This Close To Bleaching My Skin

August 5, 2020

Navigating life as a woman in the world today is incredibly difficult. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.

Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.


For this week’s What She Said, Margaret*, a 24-year-old woman talks about being dark-skinned girl and how colorism has affected her professionally and in her relationships.

What’s your earliest memory of being treated differently because of your complexion?

Kindergarten. I had a classmate that used to call me ‘poopoo girl’ and told people not to be friends with me because I was black like poopoo. I had an uncle who used to pick me up from school back then, so I told him about it and he asked me to report to the teacher. At first, I didn’t want to because I was shy. But I summoned the courage to one day. The classmate said I was lying and my teacher laughed it off. That was the last time I brought it up. The girl didn’t stop calling me poopoo girl. 

She thought she was smart. Poop isn’t even black. Haha.

That’s horrible. 

There were other instances even as a child when I was treated differently by extended family just because of my skin colour. For context, my parents aren’t light skinned, but they’re not as dark as I am. They have a high caramel complexion. My siblings though are very light skinned, but me on the other hand, I’m dark, dark. Relatives would make careless comments about my complexion and how I didn’t resemble anyone in the family. One even told me that it would be difficult for me to get married. 

My cousins ran with the fact that I didn’t resemble anyone and started to joke that I was adopted. I knew I wasn’t adopted, because I look exactly like my mother. But I started wondering if my father was actually my father. Maybe my mother played some funny game. I think there was a Super Story that year about something like this and that just influenced my thinking. I eventually managed to move past that. 

I think the next real time anything happened was university. 

What happened? 

Wait before then, I just remembered that stuff went down in secondary school. I went to a very snobbish secondary school. And I was often passed up on opportunities to represent the school. I didn’t know it was because of my complexion at first, but it eventually dawned on me.

The most obvious one was a staged school picture we took in a studio. It was going to be used in a newspaper and on the front cover of the school year book. My class teacher picked me and someone else from my class to go for the shoot beforehand. So I was dressed really neatly that day. When we got to the venue, out of all the people they picked, they told me and one other girl to step aside. No one told us why. Months later, we eventually saw the year book and it clocked that everyone used for the shoot was light skinned. The other girl that was told to step aside was just as dark skinned as I was. 

That must have hurt. 

It did. E pain me oh, but I let it go eventually. It’s not everything you tight for chest, yeah?

I guess. So university…

I had a lecturer who said at the front of the entire class that he was offended by my complexion. 

What the fuck? 

And asked if I was abiku. Hahaha. I’m laughing now, but it wasn’t funny oh.

I was so hot in the neck that I had to excuse myself. I didn’t have any real insecurity or esteem issues as a teenager, but after this thing with my lecturer, my self-esteem sank. I hardly ever went back to his class, which made me carry over the course. I didn’t care. It was at this point that I actually became conscious about my complexion and how it could affect me. And well I discovered that colorism was a thing. I had to start accessing every relationship I had been in or opportunities I had been rejected for to see if there were any subtle signs of bias. Of course I came up with nothing at the time, but that wasn’t the end of it. 

After the class, someone came to sell me creams. I declined, mostly because my mother has always been anti-bleaching. We had this neighbour that used to bleach. Perhaps because she was no longer bleaching —  not sure how it works — her skin had become quite discoloured. So my mother would insult her and castigate her. I think about it now and then and wonder, what if she had no choice? What if she weighed all the opportunities she had lost due to being dark skinned and decided to bleach her skin. Because, omo, me self, I won’t mind bleaching right now. I’m this close to…

Why now? 

The thing about my experience (or maybe with colorism generally) is that you might not really know that it’s happening. It’s very subtle. Like I’ve had boys tell me I’m pretty for a dark-skinned girl and accepted it as a compliment. But what does that even mean? So I guess it’s the accumulation of my experiences. 

What’s stopping you from bleaching? 

If I’m being totally real with you, it’s money. I’m currently too poor to afford the kind ‘skin-lightening’ creams that will give me what I want — and to afford it consistently. Then the second thing is living with my parents, I don’t want them to notice immediate changes and start accosting me. I want to do this when I’m more financially independent.

Do you think becoming lighter would affect the quality of your life? 

I’m pretty sure it would improve it. Positive. I’ve had conversations with lighter women who can’t relate to anything I’ve just said. They even think I’m reaching. 

Has this affected you professionally? 

Not really, but I’ve seen the full-effect of light-skinned privilege with some of my colleagues who are lighter. Like, being given preferential treatment just because. 

I did have an experience recently where I interviewed for a job. It was a video interview and I think I did well. I had to do a test after this. I passed that one too. At the final stage, I had to go into their office for a chat with someone on the team. That’s when everything scattered. I think I did a good job and didn’t mess up this part. However, I didn’t hear from them for almost a month, despite my check-in emails. When they eventually got back to me a few weeks ago, they said that they’ve decided to go in another direction. I don’t know if I’m projecting, but the question of whether seeing my complexion physically played any role in this haunts me. They might have their valid reasons, perhaps a stronger candidate, but I still wonder. 

I’m sorry to hear that. Not knowing probably sucks more.

It does. I just wonder how many black women experience colorism and do not know. 

What about your relationships?

Thankfully, I’m dating someone that has sense. But in the past, I’ve dated people who’ve joked about my complexion and made me feel small, sometimes subtly. And when I tell them, they say that I’m too serious. I dated someone who’d only watch white porn and porn where the women were lighter. When I asked him about this and suggested some of my favourite pornstars, he said that if black women (I know he meant dark-skinned women) aren’t good at sex, how much porn? That rubbed me off the wrong way and I broke up with him once I saw an out. 

Any final things you’d like to add? Perhaps something you wish I’d asked?

I’m just eager to see people’s thoughts and comments on colorism and importantly, read other women’s experiences. There’s some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone…


*The subject submitted a pseudonym

Check back every Wednesday by 9am for a What She Said story. You can also read the rest of the stories in the series here.

You'll like this

August 1, 2020

We all know losing weight is tough, but gaining weight flips both the script and the switch on that struggle. Even more so because people never take your struggle seriously. Apparently, if the issue being discussed is weight then weight gain takes all the attention while weight loss remains the underrated topic no one ever […]

Ope Adedeji

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

Watch

Now on Zikoko

September 18, 2020

Ah, the English language. The multi-faceted, multi-use tool of communication that a few white people on a small island in the Pacific ocean forced on a country. It’s flexible and dynamic. You can joke with it, sing with it, and cry in it. You could even say the same sentences in differing situations and still […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 4, 2019

After successfully predicting when y’all are getting married (please, email any complaints to noneofourbusiness@nayousabi.com), we are back to tell you how much is currently in your account. How, you might ask? By using your taste in Nollywood, of course. Shhh. No questions. Just take it already:

December 3, 2019

Are you a professional Yoruba demon? Are you walking around in search of whose life you can wreck at any given time? Well, this quiz knows exactly how many hearts you’ve shattered to date, and before you lie that your result is inaccurate, just remember that Zikoko is never wrong. Now, take it and be […]

November 20, 2019

Last month, we thoughtfully made a quiz telling you guys exactly when you’ll marry, but some of you claimed that your spouse was nowhere to be found. Well, now we’ve created one that’ll tell you exactly who you’ll be dragging down that aisle. Take and start planning that wedding:

More from Her

September 16, 2020

The woman in today’s What She Said thinks of herself as a hustler. At 29 years old, she has a decade-old career spanning industries without a university education. Now she’s committed to expanding her business. She loves what she does.

September 10, 2020

A lot of Nigerians don’t believe in the concept of “platonic.” As far as they are concerned, if a man and woman are involved then something is happening behind the scenes. Because of this women with male besties have to deal with the things on this list: 1. People always doubting that you are both […]

September 8, 2020

A while ago, we asked 5 men to talk about discovering masturbation, and now, it is the women’s turn. With purity culture breathing down their neck, it seems like women are not allowed to enjoy sex at all, talk less on single player mode. That is why, we decided to ask six Nigerian women to […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.
February 6, 2020
Who doesn't want to find love? In our bid to help, we paired up a bunch of single Nigerians, sending them on an all-expense paid date, and interviewing them before and after they met.
January 27, 2020
Nigerians Talk is what happened when a motley crew of young Nigerians were put in front of a camera and asked a bunch of apparently random questions about life, love, money and more.
September 24, 2019
A group of Zikoko staff go on a road trip to every mainland country in ECOWAS West Africa

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X