Beauty is one of the remarkable gifts endowed to humans by nature. Women are gifted with beautiful looks, while men are bestowed with handsome features. Even though the definition of beauty might change from people to people, or even region to region like in western countries, women might love to be like Marilyn Monroe or Julia Roberts, while in India, women would like to have looks like Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif. Same goes for men. It would be difficult to find any man who would not like Brad Pitt or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because after all, they are considered epitomes of feminine and masculine beauty, isn’t it?
Yet there is something which plays a very very big role in defining the standards of beauty. And that is color. As we all are aware that humans come in all varieties of color. Be it white, brown or black, there are endless similarities and differences amongst us. Yet, for some unknown reason, our society has somehow elevated the fair white skin color as being the highest form of beauty. I do not know how this happened, but the world considered as being fair skinned is the most acceptable form of beauty standard. And due to which, there came generations after generations in movies industry, advertising, fashion, modeling, and even in marriages, where being fair became the most preferred parameter for achieving success and fame. Women and men having blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin became the poster symbol of pure beauty to such an extent that even Nazis tried to define their race based on these attributes. All this led to the rise of racism and as we had seen few months before, how the racism took an ugly route in one of the most advanced countries in the world. Books have been written, movies have been made and endless debates and discussions have been done on this topic, and yet our society continues with this myopic attitude of judging people and giving undue advantage by the color of the skin. I don’t want to write about racism and its atrocious effects on the society, as the world has seen enough of it for the last several centuries. But I want to write about this fascination for fair skin in India and even other parts of the world as I have observed so far.
India is land of diversity. Yet with all the diversity, there are many similarities as well which makes Indians recognizable easily when they travel in other parts of the world, or as observed by foreigners who visit India. Some of those include our culture, strong accent, quintessential sari or even kurta-pyjama/salwar-kameez worn by most Indians. But along with that, we are easily recognized by our skin color, which is brown skinned. Very very few Indians are fair skinned, and even they don’t match the light skin tone of Europeans. But having a fair skin has always been a top priority for Indians. Women cherish the dream of having light skin and hence rely heavily on makeup and beauty products. Infact, so much is this desire of fair skin inoculated in the minds of Indians, that the skin lightening cosmetic product ‘Fair and Lovely‘ is one of the most popular beauty product in India with a market cap of 80% of the lightening cream market in India. The company even started marketing ‘Fair and Handsome’ for males and it has also been a success. This shows how much craving we Indians have to possess a fair skin tone. (However, recently the company changed its name ‘Glow and Lovely’ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter #BLM protests. I appreciate this company’s stand which have won many accolades).
But still, the majority Indians continue to remain bias towards fair skin. I am sure this happens in other parts of the world as well. But from an Indian perspective, I find this very depressing. Because in a relatively conservative society in India, the marriages are arranged by family. And the worst form of prejudice against women is done in this process. The expectation of grooms for a bride is to be fair, and slim and beautiful. While on the other side, groom are often dark skinned, but the bride’s family does not mind it. There are so many cases when the girl who is highly educated, and earning well, is simply rejected because of her dark complexion. All men, fair and dark skinned, educated and illiterates, earning and not earning, all want a fair skinned girl as their wife or girlfriend. This is one of the biggest problem in India. So no wonder, the products like ‘Fair and Lovely’ will always remain in demand as long as this unjust expectation remains in Indian society.
Even Bollywood is no exception to this. If we just ponder upon some of the famous songs in Bollywood, like
and even this latest remake of a famous old song,
And many other songs and movies often promote heroine with fair skin. And nowadays, Bollywood has even started importing dancers from western countries ( Eastern Europe and other parts of western world having blonde hair and light skin) who are often seen in songs dancing behind the comparatively brown skinned Indian hero and heroine as seen below.
This is even being copied in events like Cricket matches (Indian Premier League or just IPL) which used to be known as a Gentlemen’s Game not long ago. Now, just to satiate this fair-ish or rather feverish desire of Indians, IPL started bringing cheer leaders ( again fair skinned to attract attention and ofcourse money) from Indian audience.
And even worse is that this mentality of Indians doesnt stop in India, but continues to be carried abroad as well. When I was in the USA, I remember my friends back in India gossiping about me having a white girlfriend. Even Indians who go to the USA or Europe, will try to have a white girlfriend only. I didn’t find many Indians who were willing to accept any African-American or Latino American, even though however successful or nice they might be. Even worst experience is in Strip clubs, where my friends who used to frequently visit, always had a white stripper. I find this all to be utterly preposterous!
Hence, I find this over obsession with fair skin as extremely annoying. Because I wonder what does difference does skin color make? I mean really, if we think it from a practical perspective, it really doesn’t matter. The skin color doesn’t make any life better. It might give those people some unfair advantage in jobs or professions like modeling or fashion, but life remains same irrespective of skin color. We all have to eat, and sleep, and do all the chores. Skin color does not help there. A dark or brown skinned girl can be an expert in any profession just like a fair skinned girl. Our confidence, our nature , our habits, our likes, our dislikes, our attitude, our achievements are never dependent on the skin color.
Lets imagine if a brown skinned Indian guy likes a good natured, well educated, well earning but a decent looking dark skinned Indian girl ( she likes him as well), but he rejects her and rather marries a not so educated, not well earning and very arrogant but fair skinned good looking girl, due to buckling under family pressure as per arrange marriage norms. But then after few days, he realizes that his wife is very arrogant, very selfish and also very narcissist. And they had frequent fights and soon they had to file for a divorce. So, what was gained and lost in this process. Did anyone win? No right. Did anyone lose? Yes, all of them. Wouldn’t it be better if he had chosen his love, by ignoring the stupid skin color part, and rather would have focused on her good nature and true love for him, they both would have made a good and happy family, isn’t it?
I find the above story being repeated countless time in many families in India. When will we Indians realize this basic concept of acceptance to all forms of color. Actually, this is ironic because we, Indians had been ruled by fair skinned British colonizers for a long time. Our forefathers have suffered immensely the atrocities committed by British rulers. How can we forget the hatred from the colonizers with respect to our skin and even comparing us to animals. Has our memory been so volatile that we have forgotten all this? We threw out the British from our land but we are still having the narrow racist approach in our minds and actions just like the British rulers did back then.
So, we really need to erase this skin color biase from our mind. Because in today’s world, the paths to success are not dependent on color or race. It just depends on our attitude and hard work. Else, it wouldn’t have been impossible for Barack Obama to be the President, or Kamala Harris to be the vice president. I don’t have any examples here in India and this is the sad part of the story. We haven’t yet accepted this, and as long as we keep praising racist Bollywood songs which eulogizes the fair skin, as long as a fair skinned woman is chosen as bride, things are not going to improve. But the day when we become unbiased to skin color, and accept this diversity, from that day women won’t need to spend loads of money on beauty products to make their skin lighter. Women won’t need to use filter on Instagram or Facebook to post pictures with lighter skin. Men will be respecting and accepting women as they are, and there won’t be sexual harrassment as rampant in India today. I don’t have any much hopes from my generation ( having closely seen and being a part of it), but I hope the coming generations become more acceptable and kind. But as of now, this is the cost of obsession for fair skin, we have to pay.
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