I continue to be surprised by how glorified (and fetishized) white skin is in romance. Most recently it was a (contemporary!) book where the heroine’s pale, pale skin tone is constantly noted upon by the hero. He’s so distracted and aroused by it that he says one point, “You’re so white…” and wonders in hushed reverence what it would feel like, and taste like and OH GOD. I read the book with an arched brow thinking, Pretty sure it’ll taste like skin. Relax, bro. When I read a scene like that, I come away with the conclusion that black folks aren’t the only ones with color issues. In all the romances that I’ve read (and I’ve read A LOT) pale skin is by far and away seen as more attractive than tanned skin, which is surprising to me as a California girl. I griped about it to my sister, B one day:
Me: Sometimes I get so tired of reading about white people. Le sigh.
B: I brownwash so I’m always shocked to find out a character is white. >.>
Me: HA! It’s hard to do that with the books I currently read, skin is always described as being so white, and people are always blushing. Lately I’ve been googling “multicultural romance PLEASE” for real. But I used to brownwash all the time.
B: I find it racist and disturbing that their white skin color would get so much description. There’s something wrong with that, I just know it.
I share B’s sentiment. When pale skin is remarked upon so often, I feel like the writer is trying to tell me something. Is it code? Is the heroine classier by default? Is it a physical indication of her innocence and if so, what does that say about darker women? Are we not allowed to be innocent? Fuck that noise.
And then there’s hair color which is obviously a well used indicator in romance. Red hair tends to be attached to feisty heroines. Brown hair is boring and needs blonde and red highlights to be interesting. Saying that a woman is blonde basically means “hot as shit, naturally”. My husband told me a story recently: he works at a construction company and he overheard a handful of his male coworkers talking animatedly about a hot woman downstairs in the reception area. “Seriously bro, you need to go check that hottie out. She’s BLONDE.” Andy told me, “So obviously I had to check her out too, but not too obviously because I wasn’t a part of their conversation. Luckily I had to go downstairs “to do something” so I took the opportunity to swing by the front desk. All I saw was this haggard old woman with bleached hair. That’s who they were talking about!”
Don’t even get me started on eye color.
I need to read more books where physical descriptions don’t dominate the pages. I also need to read more books about brown people.
So it shall be done.