Egg White or Sun-Kissed: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Skin Color and Women’s Leisure Behavior

Abstract

The present study explores how culture-based meanings and values toward skin color, which are associated with women’s body image ideals and gender-role expectations, profoundly influence women’s leisure behaviors. Using in-depth interviews with East Asian, Asian American, and Euro-American women (n = 43), results revealed how leisure behaviors are tied to cultural perceptions of skin color. People from different cultural backgrounds construct meanings and values pertaining to skin color, including beauty-related standards, social class, gender roles, and lifestyles. Culture-based values, such as the preference for tanned skin among Euro-Americans and for lighter skin among East Asians, affect a wide range of daily behaviors. These behaviors include conscious as well as subtle daily decision-making regarding sun-seeking, sun-avoidance, and sun-protection behaviors; indoor versus outdoor leisure participation; and appearance modifications. The study’s results add knowledge to how perceptions and attitudes toward skin color and appearance manifest in women's daily behavior in general and leisure behavior in particular. In addition, the current study shows how individual behaviors reflect cultural meanings and values toward body image, specifically skin color, by emphasizing the links between cultural values and women’s day-to-day lives.

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Correspondence to Hsin-Yu Chen.

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The Pennsylvanian State University Institutional Review Board (IRB #: 42,238) approved the study prior to initial participant contact in 2013. All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards for research projects involving human participants.

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Chen, HY., Yarnal, C., Chick, G. et al. Egg White or Sun-Kissed: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Skin Color and Women’s Leisure Behavior. Sex Roles 78, 255–271 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0785-4

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Keywords

  • Colorism
  • Body image
  • Cultural perceptions and values
  • Skin color
  • Daily behaviors
  • Leisure