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By Havi Joshi
“Beautiful, fair-skinned girl needed for a handsome tall fair guy,” finding such a statement in the matrimonial section is a very common sight. Matrimonial ads for women almost always have “fair” as a prerequisite. In recent years, even men have been tapped by the fairness industry, they are being sold a false narrative that can be decoded from the advertisements claiming “fairness will make you desirable to women. “Fair makes you handsome”.
From TV commercials, newspaper ads to hoardings, it is a common sight of comparing before and after photos of people turning from ‘dark chocolate’ to ‘white chocolate’. I wish there was such a lotion available for the soul also! The advent of racism and the viewpoint that white colour is superior started with the birth of Imperialism in Africa, South America, and the Asia Pacific region.
The European masters or the British to be specific for India treated the people of the native land very badly. Only a few Indians would be offered top jobs, while most of them would be stuck doing menial jobs, Indians were denied access to British clubs and parties. In the theatres, the topmost rows used to be reserved for the British. One of the most famous examples of racism we remember is Mahatma Gandhi being thrown out of first-class in a train in South Africa, despite having a ticket.
Even today after 70 years of independence, we sort of have the same attitude. We watch advertisements which tell us that “You need to be fair to get a better job!”, “Oh, you’re dark? You’ll never find love!”, “Fairness can change your fate!”
India is a land of diversity, well diversity exists in colour too! From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Kutch to Kibithu. Some are dark chocolate, some are white chocolate and many are milk chocolate. Many who are dark feel that they should do their best to become lighter, they may suffer from an inferiority complex, are often ashamed of themselves due to the skin colour and often face discrimination by the society.
They try almost everything available in the market from creams, powders, scrubs, facewash, and god knows what else! The market for fairness creams, bleaches and washes grow tremendously every year. It is approximated that the fairness industry in India pulls in approximately $450 million annually. One cannot change the skin colour/tone you are born with. Melanin, the polymer responsible for determining skin and hair colour does not change, even if it does, it’ll be temporary. On the contrary, they can harm your face causing allergies, dry skin, pimples, and even skin cancer since many contain hydroquinone, mercury, steroids, and countless other detrimental substances.
I am not against the usage of cosmetics and products that make your skin better, protect from harmful rays of the sun, cure acne, suntan, etc but why wear a mask on your face that’ll harm you in the long run? As far as tanning is concerned I feel that it’s a sign of hard work, it shows that you went out in the sun, toughened up, fought all odds and achieved your goals.
Indians discriminate against Indians only. Don’t believe me? Go check out any e-commerce sites and 99% of the time you will find white foreign models endorsing brands. Yes, even the sites that sell Indian traditional wear. White models are preferred over Indians and are even paid more and the Indians selected or make it big are fair of course. This is the demand of the market, these white models don’t land in India seeking jobs, they are specially called from East European countries like Ukraine.
I once volunteered for a photoshoot for a website, a gargantuan flashlight was set up to throw light on my face. When asked for the reason the photographer said fair skin will be more attractive on the website. Even when an Indian sees a foreigner passing by on the street with a comparatively fairer tone, they put the person on a pedestal, thinking “Wow, they’re so fair.” Since when and how did being fair become a means to evaluate one’s knowledge, success, charm, and beauty? We need to think about it. Deeply.
Social media applications used to communicate with friends usually have features of editing your photo in which you can instantly whiten your face! Editing applications are available which, apart from making you fair, can even give you a chiselled jawline and studded abs! Mobile phones have a camera as a prerequisite and nowadays with a front flashlight to make you look fair. Who are people fooling by faking themselves and not being true to themselves at times?
One of my friends, a patriot by heart who is fair-skinned often complains about getting remarks such as, “You don’t look like an Indian.” Being deeply hurt, she fails to understand what exactly is meant by “looking like an Indian” for there is no one way to look like an Indian, we are a nation of diversity.
Somewhere we have messed up with the concept of beauty. We have made fairness a synonym for beauty. I believe this is imbibed in the minds of Indians since childhood were books would portray ugly as a dark-skinned woman and beautiful as an immensely fair woman. A lot of campaigns such as “Dark is Beautiful”, “Unfair And Lovely”, “Brown n proud”, “Already Lovely” and others have stood up against this deep-rooted bias to make people more comfortable in their skin and to realize that there’s more to life than skin colour. Embrace your melanin and respect other’s melanin too. Your nature, profound knowledge about one’s subjects, professional competence, self-esteem, thoughts, accolades speak volumes about you, your skin colour doesn’t.
True beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
“Beauty is as relative as light and dark” – Paul Klee