Notes from the Field: Bangkok, Day 12 / by Bear Guerra

Bangkok | July, 2013  (photo by Bear Guerra)

Bangkok | July, 2013  (photo by Bear Guerra)

Many young and typically upwardly mobile Thai women look to the West for models of beauty. Much like in Japan, or Korea, Thai girls in Bangkok covet very pale, almost translucent skin, and wide, almond-shaped eyes—either through whitening serums, make-up or surgery.

But this beauty fad aside, Thai gender identity is much more complicated; a product of a mix of tradition, class status, and economics.

And so it is that the fashionably dressed office girls, zipping through Bangkok traffic on a moto-taxi, have so little in common with the young women who work at factories by day and dance at bars by night.

They may regularly drive past the go-go bars peppered throughout central Bangkok’s red light districts, without stopping to think about what many other young girls their age have to do to make a living, whether they were trafficked into this line of work—or not.