Throw away those fairness creams. Dark is beautiful

skin deep

Throw away those fairness creams. Dark is beautiful

The day my daughter said to me, “Mama, I want to become fair,” was the day the lingering vestiges of satisfaction I may have had because I was light-skinned went out the window.

At first I didn’t understand what she meant. Then she placed her arm on mine, showed me the difference in complexion.

“I want to be light brown, like you,” she clarified.“But… you’re beautiful!” I replied, shocked. Had I said something that made her feel this way?

“No, I’m not, because I’m not light! Can you buy me Fair & Lovely? That will make me lighter. That’s what it said on the TV,” she said.

Ah, the commercial break. Fair & Lovely advertisement during the screening of My Friend Ganesha. Just who was their target audience? My five-year-old daughter?

I gnashed my teeth in rage, took a deep breath, counted to fifty, perhaps a hundred, and continued, “Sweetheart, how I wish I was your colour. It’s so much more beautiful.”
“My colour? Really?” Her eyes lit up. So impressionable.

I went on to open a magazine which had a few dark skinned models, and showed her how beautiful they were. I pulled out images of women lounging on the beach and explained to her the concept of tanning. I used every tool at my disposal to build her self-esteem, and it worked. She was reassured, for the time being. But I wasn’t.

Although my anger was directed towards the advertisements, it is not hard to see that they are but a reflection of the society. Fairness creams are manufactured because there is a market for them. There is no market for bronzers in India. Had there been, we would have been flooded with ads showing us how, with one magic stroke of a bronzer, a young lady’s wishes can be fulfilled.

The fewer the people who buy into the spin, the fewer such ads we will see. After all, does anyone really believe they can achieve success, love, or whatever it is they want, by making their skin a few shades lighter?

Didn’t Michael Jackson achieve his highest while dark skinned? As his skin colour faded, so did his success. And if Obama could become president without his best friend slipping him a tube of fairness cream, you can get that job on your own. Seriously. You got this.

“It’s unfair, this backlash against people who like fair skin,” says Sapna. “As if I should like tanned skin just because women in the West do. Why is it acceptable to like dark skin, but everyone has to lecture those that like fair skin?

That’s a good point. There are however strong distinctions. Although some (mostly westerners) view tanned skin as lovely, those with pale skin do not suffer from self-esteem issues.

Matrimonial sites don’t list ‘being tanned’ as a requirement. Mothers don’t get stressed out if their girls are not tanned. Pregnant women don’t eat foods that purportedly help them deliver darker children.

In short, if there is a liking for darker skin in certain societies, those that have light skin are not ridiculed. This preference is not all-pervasive and as deep-rooted in the fabric of their society as the desire to be fair is in ours. Nowhere is this bias more pronounced than in matrimonial ads.

“Why do you want a fair girl?” I hear a radio talk-show host ask someone who had listed ‘fair’ as a requirement from prospective brides in his matrimonial ad. “Are you fair?”
“No. I am dark. That is why I want a fair bride. So our children will be fair.“
“Er, that’s not guaranteed, you know,” the host explains.

“At least there’s a chance. If I marry a dark girl, there is no way this curse of darkness will be lifted from my family.”

‘Curse of darkness’. That, Sapna, is the difference.
It’s now up to us to do our bit to end this bias so our girls grow up in a less prejudiced India. To those blessed with dark skin, don’t look for validation outside. If you don’t like it yourself, you reinforce the belief that lighter is better and will pass this on to friends, to spouses, to daughters… and the cycle will continue.
Stop telling your daughters not to wear certain colours because they make them look dark. Compliment other dark-skinned beauties on their colour.
Dark skin glows! It is more supple. It looks healthy. It can withstand sun damage better than pale skin. It wrinkles later. Finally, throw away those fairness creams! Perhaps some day skin colour, light or dark, will cease to matter.

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