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What message is India's obsession with fairness sending out to young Indians? We must stop making young people feel inadequate, says this post.
What message is India’s obsession with fairness sending out to young Indians? We must stop making young people feel inadequate, says this post.
We see it all around us, every day. We absorb it like sponges and spread it around like flu. Most people don’t even realize that they are addicted to the fairness obsession, while some who do, prefer to brush it aside into a neglected corner of their minds. The rest are the lucky few, confident of themselves as they are, insouciant to what the world thinks about them having some extra melanin.
So where does this phobia, or rather hatred, towards the colour brown stem from? The Arab invasion, and more importantly, the Colonial rule painted a fair picture into our minds that altered the traditional perceptions of beauty. It reinforced a new belief that a dark complexion represented the inferior or the uncivilized people, while being fair elevated one’s position in society. The colonizers have long gone, but we, like mindless slaves, try out every cream, talc and lotion in the market in a desperate attempt to appear a shade lighter.
And of course, we have a special knack of making life difficult for women. So the fairness expectations are more from women, as is obvious from common remarks like:
“Beti, don’t play in the sun, you will get tanned.”
“Your daughter is so fair, who wouldn’t find her beautiful?”
And the classic: “Although she’s dark, she’s good at heart.”
Or from Matrimonial advertisements: “Wanted fair, tall slim girl for…..”
“……wanted for girl of wheatish complexion….”
Then there are the advertisements of products that magically whiten a girl to enable her to get a job, to get married, to gain friends, and to even become a popular singer (melanin clogs the throat, you see!). Every personal care product cashes in on this insecurity of people and flaunts an “advanced fairness formula” that easily traps young minds.
Every personal care product cashes in on this insecurity of people and flaunts an “advanced fairness formula” that easily traps young minds.
Even children are victims of this phenomenon. The “skin colour” in a crayon set is invariably a light shade, and pregnant women are force-fed milk with saffron to be “blessed” with a child as white as milk. Teens and youngsters resort to skin lightening apps before posting their pictures on social media sites. For men too, fair = handsome. Why men, even vaginas and testicles aren’t spared, with “intimate” cocktails of chemicals that now line supermarket shelves.
So what exactly is the problem with this obsession? In a country where a majority of the population is brown (and its various shades) it is atrocious to say that only fair is beautiful. Imagine the power of the colonial influence, the media, and peer pressure, if almost everyone aspires to become fairer in an attempt to fit into someone else’s definition of beauty. Inferiority complex and loss of confidence, health hazards (both physical and mental), isolation by family and friends, inability to find a suitable partner and a staggering number of suicides (I personally know of one) can be traced back to just one main cause – not being fair enough.
What message are we giving our youngsters? That the lightness of one’s skin tone has a direct bearing on success in career, relationships and life? Every action of ours, however subtle, leaves an impact on young minds. It is high time that we, as adults, realize the shallowness of perceiving beauty by skin colour, height, weight etc. of an individual.
This is easier said than done, but if we don’t want to see a shaky gen next busy whitewashing itself to defy genetics, we have to take the first step. Can’t we ignore those ads that tell us that we are not good enough? That keep pulling us towards that tempting but non-existent world of permanent radiance and physical beauty? Do we want to be guilty of perpetrating colourism while we shun racism, sexism, and communalism?
Let us be more inclusive and enjoy the kaleidoscopic platter of skin colour amidst us without being judgemental. Albino, Pale, White, Fair, Wheatish, Brown, Dark, Black…does it really matter?
Pic credit: anolden (Used under a CC license)
A book and food lover, I am passionate about teaching and learning. I enjoy interacting with children, travelling and gardening. I think women need to think beyond stereotypical roles and expectations and just follow their read more...
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My house-help asked excitedly, “I am going for wedding. Can you let me wear your red & black saree? To be honest I was stumped for a moment; I didn’t know what to say but I still said yes.
I lent a gorgeous saree to my house-help for a wedding in her family. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
A few days ago she came excitedly to me, “I am going for a family wedding. I want to wear your red & black saree, Ill wash and give it to you after the function. Please can you let me wear it?”
Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum (SISP) is an ode to all of the lost women, who could have been sports stars, singers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, just... happy, if they hadn't been enslaved in matrimony, and then forgotten all about.
One of the cool things about my mother was that she was an ace athlete and a champion sculler as a young woman in the 1950s and 60s. I only found out about this side of her a few years ago. I imagine her in a paavaadai dhaavani, taking on the mighty Kaveri river so many decades ago.
I recently watched a Tamil film anthology on SonyLiv that she would have liked to watch – Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum, (SISP) that has 3 stories of 3 different women – Saraswathi, Devaki, and Shivaranjini.
Like all the heroines in the anthology, my mother’s talents were sacrificed at the altar of matrimony. She pawned her gold medals and silver cups one by one to pay for expensive textbooks for us or a gift for a niece on her wedding, money for which she didn’t dare ask my father, because it was her niece… I remember how she caressed the cups and how her face hardened as she shoved them into her bag to take to the jewellers.
While Tarun Vijay was rightly castigated for his comments about 'black' South Indians, what about the casual racism deeply embedded in the fabric of our own lives? Look within!
While Tarun Vijay was rightly castigated for his comments about ‘black’ South Indians, what about the casual racism deeply embedded in the fabric of our own lives? Look within!
When a senior politician casually talks about living with ‘black’ South Indians, people are rightly outraged at the racism. He is called out and mocked by the offended south Indians, aided by other fellow Indians. While the politician’s remarks were criticised, we forget about the casual racism and obssession for fair skin in-built in us from years and how it is displayed generously in our daily lives.
We, the offended South Indians too, are guilty of promoting this obsession for lighter skin colour. The reactions of some of us to the politician’s comments were equally deplorable. People were actually citing examples and names to prove that not all South Indians are black! It was like, “See, we have fair politicians like Jayalalitha and heroines like Hema Malini who clearly fulfil your predefined beauty standards.” The very idea that one has to quote such examples to prove the politician wrong is pathetic. Some found his comments funny and tried to laugh it off. I wonder how cool it is to laugh at oneself; perhaps these people wouldn’t hesitate to make similar comments when it comes to Africans and try to sound funny and cool.
An article about India and its obsession for fair skin.
My daughter was excluded from the Oppana school dance because she wasn’t ‘fair.’ As a dark-skinned person myself, I’ve faced very low self-esteem, which I don’t want for my daughter. But is our country ready for change?
My daughter jolted me out of my philosophical voyage and told me about her dance practice at school for some competition. She was participating in Oppana. Oppana is a traditional dance of Kerala. It is performed in a Muslim bride’s home as a part of her pre-wedding celebration where the bride in all her finery is seated center stage. A very excited child, she told me “when the teacher goes out during the practice we all fight to be the bride.” The first thought that came to me was, was she already nurturing thoughts of being a bride? No matter how much we talk about empowering women, some instincts are so natural; all little and big girls play the bride game in childhood.. Then she said “fairest and most beautiful girls become the bride. That’s why I was not taken as a bride. I am not so fair and not so beautiful.” . The ‘Fair & Lovely’ syndrome had entered my life and invaded our family.
She told me that the teacher first selected a few girls from the class and took them to a room. There she first selected five fair girls and then called in two other teachers to select the fairest to be the bride. She, my daughter, was qualified only for the first round, where girls were called in without complexion as a decisive factor. The next two rounds she was not a participant. This is a prevalent factor right across the schools; the bride for Oppana would only be the fairest girl in the group. Right there, we have a terrible bias.
My daughter told me that the teacher first selected a few girls from the class and took them to a room. There she first selected five fair girls and then called in two other teachers to select the fairest to be the bride. She, my daughter, was qualified only for the first round, where girls were called in without complexion as a decisive factor. The next two rounds she was not a participant.Read Full Article
My daughter told me that the teacher first selected a few girls from the class and took them to a room. There she first selected five fair girls and then called in two other teachers to select the fairest to be the bride. She, my daughter, was qualified only for the first round, where girls were called in without complexion as a decisive factor. The next two rounds she was not a participant.