The difference between white girls being compelled to tan and brown/black girls shamed for dark skin and led to lightening their skin, is that the former is a fairly new capitalistic marketing gimmick, which surely enough, is a trend that’s not as popular in certain majority white nations as it is in the U.S. (Scandinavian countries being a good example of such), while the other derives from a hegemonic, anti-dark, white supremacist sentiment that’s been used as a means of colonialism, imperialism and racial discrimination, which has been in effect for hundreds of years and led to the destruction and heinous extermination of countless lives.
Does it suck being told you’re pale? Probably. Is it going to bar you from employment, housing and otherwise assimilating into American life? Is anyone going to profile you, follow you around in a store, assume you’re deadly on sight.. for “being too pale”? Does it otherize you? Absolutely not. The latter don’t really have that luxury.
When white girls tan, they’re not being told to emulate brown and black people, while the reversal is. White women who tan are still white, just “bronzed” and “golden” and often use women from Spain and Italy as what the goal should be. The language insinuates that there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with being white. They can still be white and cling to the dominant race, but just be a “different” type of white. Even when darker skin’s the prime, nonwhite/darker skinned individuals are still barred from accessing the privilege of being seen as beautiful or the desired. When brown and black girls bleach their skin however, the advertisements for Fair & Lovely showcase white, or at the very least, white passing persons, which suggests that brown in itself is inherently wrong and gross and something that needs fixing.
Lastly, it’s not brown and black people who put pressure on white women to tan. To call the issue one of race is patently foolish. When white men, who arguably are the forces behind most of these ads for telling white women to tan, it’s an issue of sexism and the continuous reminder that women’s bodies are made only for the consumpation of the male gaze, especially the white male gaze and that our lives are simply one in which we have to appease the opposite sex.
I sympathize with any woman, whether white or not, who’s made to feel uncomfortable in her own skin, but the gravity and influence of with which the two derive are on two different wavelengths completely and it’s ludicrous to suggest otherwise.