Our Fixation With Fairness: Not-So-Lovely

Posted: May 17, 2014

An obsession with fair skin is a widespread disease in India. Is it taking our focus away from being good, confident people? 

Wanted: bride. Fair, beautiful, aged less than 25, for Indian boy settled in Mumbai with family business.

Looking for sincere Christian, God fearing, fair lady for a well settled Indian boy in Australia.

Every time I look at matrimonial ads in the paper, or online, there is one word that always stands out – ‘Fair’. This word is mentioned more than the words ‘bride’ and ‘groom’, too! Everyone needs a fair bride. Is one ill mannered or less beautiful just because his/her skin color is not fair? I’m yet to come across a matrimonial ad which says “wanted: dusky and beautiful bride” or “dusky and lovely girl” or “skin color no bar”. Apparently, to many, ‘dusky’ doesn’t sound good with ‘beautiful’ and ‘lovely’.

India has never been one. People have always been categorized and slotted here. People from the North are fair and those from the south, popularly known as Madrasis are not. Remember the hype Nina Davuluri caused when she won the Miss America crown this year? Indians rejoiced, but would she have won if she was based in India?

Remember the hype Nina Davuluri caused when she won the Miss America crown this year? Indians rejoiced, but would she have won if she was based in India?

When was the last time you saw a dusky girl lift the Miss India crown? If the poor girl was in India she would have been cursed by her parents for her skin color, and a hefty dowry would be presented to her husband to compensate for her skin color.

The most saddening thing I saw, was the sale of some fairness potion on national television. A well known actress was promoting it. I bet she wouldn’t dare to use it even once. In this ad, a girl is shooed away from home by her parents because she was not fair. The girl somehow gets hold of this potion and becomes fair, comes back, and is accepted wholeheartedly. These ads always emphasize upon the urgent need of getting fair and regaining our lost self-esteem. For people with not-so-fair complexion, this is almost like getting assaulted for what they are.

For people with not-so-fair complexion, this is almost like getting assaulted for what they are.

On one hand, the parents, peers, family members keep reminding you of this so called ‘curse’ and on the other, these TV ads try their best to lower one’s self-esteem! I once saw this tagline of a fairness cream brand on home shopping- “Fairness=Beauty=Success. Dark skin=Ugliness=Failure”. Is this right?

Maybe this entire thing started off with the ‘White’ Britishers ruling the ‘Brown’ Indians. Maybe white skin was always considered as a sign of higher authority. And maybe we will never stop appreciating white skin and looking down upon the not-so-white ones.

Pic credit: anoldent (Used under a CC license)

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Comments

2 Comments


  1. Oh, I agree. We see this everywhere everyday. Pathetic cradle to grave categorizations, based on looks and color.

    I have written about this in two pieces- one for a parenting website and another for women’web.

    http://parentedge.in/blog/being-fair-to-the-unfair/ is the link to the parenting site piece.

    What is the solution, Soumya? How do we counter it?

    • I read your article Ujwala and can echo every word here. It’s a sad country we live in where people constantly rate themselves based on color. I loved the Nandita Das campaign, but how many of us actually feel that we are beautiful even though we are not fair. Its not only about society here, its about the individual too. If the person suffers from a complex themselves, then there is very less we can do about it.

      The solution would be in stopping to be a slave to the society and the pre-conceived notions about fair skin. We need to speak out about this prejudice and form more campaigns and most importantly ban those fairness cream ads.

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