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Shaadi.Com May Have Removed Their Complexion Filter, But What About Society’s Unfair Filters?

Posted: June 25, 2020
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Shaadi.com removed its complexion filter, even as dating apps remove the ethnicity one after users questioned it. But are these enough to change mindsets?

Indian matrimonial matchmaking website Shaadi.com has removed their complexion filter after a lot of users questioned the filter. The site did so after US based Hetal Lakhani launched an online petition to get the site to remove the filter.

Hetal, along with another user, Meghan Nagpal, questioned the site’s need to have such a filter in the light of Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests. Once they started the online petition to remove the filter, it was signed by over 1500 people in 14 hours. After this Shaadi.com responded to them and overnight, the filter was removed.

— Shaadi.com (@ShaadiDotCom) June 11, 2020

The site claimed it was a ‘blindspot’ they’d missed and that a number of parents want that filter. And as someone who’s currently in the ‘marriage market,’ I can absolutely believe that parents would want a complexion filter. After all, does either of their children’s education matter if they aren’t fair! Think about their kids!

Can Indian mindsets even let go of ‘fair and lovely’?

While this decision by Shaadi.com is one step towards living in a more tolerant world, are mindsets of the Indian society that easy to change?

Let me give you an example here – a few months ago, my parents made me an account on one of the numerous matrimonial sites that exist. My profile says the usual things, my education, my job, the city I work in, my date of birth, my time of birth, etc and also my skin colour. Now, for the sake of the story, I ought to tell you that – I am fair. Not milky white, but fair. (Trust me, this is relevant!)

So the hunt for the groom begins! And a family approaches us. The boy’s profile says he works in some fancy corporate office in Mumbai, is well-read and likes animals too. (Animals and books, most of my criteria are met!)

Then, our (the boy’s and mine) photos are shared between his dad and mine. And for a week, we hear nothing. But one fine day, that boy’s dad calls mine and says, ‘I don’t think this is a suitable match since your daughter, obviously, is darker than my son. Aap hi socho, kaisa dikhega!’ While stunned, I realised the rejection didn’t sting me at all. It was this man’s attitude that infuriated me.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg! People – both men and women, want fair brides or grooms. I have also come across bios of men who want, and I quote, ‘A skinny, milky white complexioned, tall girl.’

My first reaction to this was to ask him if he was sure he wanted a wife and not a coffee. But I refrained from saying so. (Coz that’s apparently not what mature adults ask)

Why does my skin colour matter more than anything else?

Honestly, that’s not all. I remember when one of my cousins was looking to get married, the whole ordeal was infuriating! The number of times, he was rejected for being dark isn’t even funny.

His wonderful job, education or his general nature didn’t matter to anyone. All they saw was that he was dark. When he finally did get married, throughout the time he was looking for clothes, he was reminded, over and over and over again that ‘certain colours won’t suit you.’ You think that didn’t hurt him?

However, it’s not JUST the matrimonial sites and apps doing so, this was rampant even on dating apps. A while ago, I was an active member of a certain dating app and it did let you you choose to not disclose your ethnicity. For a long time, this filter didn’t really bother me, for I didn’t really see anything happening to me.

And one fine day, my bubble was burst with a nice pop! I came across a profile of this man from somewhere in the north of India. He was a good looking fellow, I must say, educated at a fancy institute and working in tech. Sounds great, yeah?

As I scrolled further, one of his answers infuriated me to the point that I actually reported him. For the prompt ‘All I ask is that you…’ this man actually wrote, ‘Don’t be dark and fat.’ And both these are so problematic, I was left shaking!

However, I still see some hope…

Turns out, he isn’t the only one with such a thought process. While researching a little for this, I learnt that people actually write racist and colourist things on their dating app bios all the time!

What is with our narrow awful mentality? Why, really, why are we so obsessed with fairness? And again, why is colour the measure of the goodness of a person’s heart?

I may not have answers to these questions just yet, but I do have hope that one day, we will be in a world where people genuinely don’t judge you on the basis of your colour, caste or even ethnicity.

But until then, I am glad for women like Hetal and Meghan who raise the petitions and get things done! Just as glad as I am for dating apps removing their ethnicity filters!

Here’s to a hopeful and better tomorrow.

Picture credits: Still from Tanishq’s 2013 ad.

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