Motobaik is a phonetic term used to refer to scooters in Vietnam.
As one of the emerging economies of the southeast Asia, Vietnam is in constant growth, with almost 90 million inhabitants, 70% living in rural areas. Hanoi, the capital and second most populous city in the country, has 6.5 million citizens and has been undergoing frenetic expansion. Every day during the rush hour, millions of motorcycles move from one place to another. Overall, the country has 37 million motorbikes.
In this context, more than half of the drivers are women who cover most of their bodies with special jackets that include designer elements that hide their head and hands.
There are two reasons why the drivers are fully covered: on the one hand they want to avoid the abundant pollution and smoke produced by so many motorbikes; and on the other hand, they use their garments for sun protection.
Why they do not want to tan their skin? This relates to local beauty stereotypes. Vietnamese women have by nature tanned skin—but they prefer to have light skin. Having light-colored skin is a signifier of good economic status, and of working in a place where there is no sun exposure. Meanwhile, having darker skin implies a lower socioeconomic status, of having a job in rural areas or spending several hours each day working outdoors. Thus all kinds of gadgets are created for sun protection, even skin-whitening creams.
This series of portraits hides a complex social reality: the pressure to which women are subjected to follow arbitrary standards of beauty; including the color of their skin as a sign of social status.
— Christian Rodriguez