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Tall, ‘light’ and handsome

Skin whitening has become increasingly popular with Kenyan women. And has not been a thing for a specific group of women; no. From the elite who could afford cosmetic surgeries to low-life who do it at Nairobi’s River Road, they are doing it. However, skin-lightening is not just a fascination and obsession for women.

Recently, there have been rumours swirling that rapper Kaligraph Jones, Papa Jones if you like, has bleached his skin. When questioned, however, Papa Jones refuted the claims.

He said, “Right now, I’m living a different life compared to the one I used to live four years ago. I’m drinking clean water, I’m driving my cars, I’m not walking out there in the sun getting burned.

My shawty introduced me to this thing where when you go to the salon they scrub your face.” Forget about all those celebrities, driving their cars and living the celebrity life and are still dark, and all the peace-loving Kenyans who drink clean water everyday, but their skin didn’t whiten. God bless their souls. What wonder working facial scrub that was?

Remember the controversial pastor Kanyari of the panda mbegu 310 fame? Well, he’s back. And he’s whiter than ever. When women bleached, it was for several reasons: That men prefer women with lighter skin colour, or to enhance their career prospects since some employers also prefer light skins. So, why would men bleach?

Psychologists say there are underlying reasons they bleach, but low self-esteem and, to some degree, self-hate, are a common thread. However, this is not about Khaligraph neither is it about Kanyari. It’s about birth of marketing to metrosexuals and the realisation that male vanity is reaching new peaks.

Men have gone from secretly filching some of their women’s moisturisers, to owning enough beauty products to give the most artificial women a run for their money. How and why this happened remains mysterious.

So, we asked men out there what they thought about this issue. “Men bleaching is positive proof that manhood is doomed. When more and more men take on the things that are associated with the opposite sex, they gradually cease to be men.

Being a man is about brains, brawn and work, not about looking cute,” Erick Otieno, 35, says. Otieno, a lawyer, is a more traditional man. While he likes to dress well, that’s where he stops. “I’ve never smeared any kind of cream on my face, and I never will,” he says.

“This is just unbelievable, I can’t even believe we’re discussing this,” said Henry Mwangi. But is it natural for a man to bleach their skin? “Of course, this speaks to all our insecurities, well-founded or not,” says psychologist James Mbugua.

“People’s desire to have a particular skin tone, be it a darker or lighter one, stems from them wanting to be more attractive and sometimes for others to take notice,” he says. He explains such cases as those fuelled by narcisism.

“Though narcissism is possibly best known as narcissistic personality disorder, an extreme, life-disrupting form of self-love, in most cases is a mechanism of hiding deep feelings of inferiority,”Mbugua says.

“Men who bleach are narcissists trying to bolster their own feelings of self-worth by claiming to like themselves,” he said. “Another possibility is they try to influence the way others perceive them. It may also be some combination of both.” So, what happens to the dark, tall and handsome man most women like? Does it now change to light, tall and handsome if the growing trend of men bleaching picks up?

“Hell no,” Sharon Munga says. “Men bleaching is just a turn-off. I see no reason a guy should bleach his skin. I prefer natural fairness. I wouldn’t mind dating a light- skinned guy, as long as his skin tone is natural and not artificial,” she says.

Another, Millicent Mugenda speaks of this as catastrophic. “Any man who applies more than two creams on his face is a no, no. If you have such a guy, run.

They’re the types who’ll end up bleaching and try to get people to believe it’s just a lifestyle change, they’re not even bold enough to come out clean and accept they bleached. No. Men are kids enough, I don’t need one with more baggage,” she says.

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