The "Snow White syndrome" in India where most Indian men still have a perception rooted in their minds that ‘being fair’ equals ‘being beautiful’. This prejudice and discrimination irks me no end. What is with this prejudice against the dark skin in India when we are on the receiving end of racism? I think the British rule made the Indians fascinated with white skin and we have not got over that yet. It is a colonial hangover. After all, the idea of beauty can be very culture specific and it is what you don’t have that you covet.
From a sociology stand point, men are attracted to what is exotic and genetically different from themselves and the norms of society. This also ties in biologically as this gives a genetic diversity to the offspring by paring with someone who posses vastly different genes. Also, historically speaking, fair skin in countries where there is a higher populace of darker skin represents wealth. The girl's family is wealthy enough that she does not have to go outside for manual labour, keeping her skin light and fair.
A poll conducted by online matrimonial site Shaadi.com showed that skin colour is one of the most important criteria when choosing a partner. All dark or wheatish colored girls are made to think as if they are some misfits and have to apply all sorts of creams or soaps to become fair to get married or an audition or guy or whatever. In arranged marriage being fair is a must criterion for the girl, no matter how the guy looks. The qualifications and the nature of the girl are hidden or compromised upon after seeing her shining beauty. In fact I suspect even in an affair the girl may use such creams to keep her guy happy lest he leaves her for some more “greener pastures”.
India has the world's second most lucrative marriage industry and demand for fair-complexioned brides and grooms to grace these occasions is as high as ever. Not surprisingly, the makers of beauty products have been quick to take notice. The market for “fairness” creams is said to be worth more than $500 million a year, according to market research group Nielson, and growing. Plastic surgeons are also seeing a surge in business. The obsession with fair skin is particularly obvious in Bollywood and the country's reality TV shows where being fair, lovely and handsome means instant stardom. Because of the twisted society we live in, everyone wants to be "white". People forget that dusky skin, sported by the much worshipped on-screen beauties like Lara Dutta, Bipasha Basu, Sameera Reddy, Kajol and others, also have an aura of exoticness.
Growing up, considered ugly because of my dark complexion, snub nose and weird because of my temperament (asking too many questions, having an opinion and unquantifiable dreams etc), I tried to fit in. Since childhood I’ve listened to many comments, which has made me very annoyed with people who advocate fair colour. My relatives used to find it weird that how I am dark skinned when my parents are fair. My grandmum was always anxious about how will I get a husband. Freedom of thought and expression, challenging the status quo or the inherent ability to choose were not part of the discourse. On the other hand, my mother always insisted that economic freedom was important. Individuality isolated you and community meant caste and patriarchy.However, as I grew older and being the topper of the class most of the time in school, these discussions subdued as they thought that my economic freedom will see me through.
During my school and college days I have seen my friends using these fairness creams and other beauty products. I used to wonder, for what and for whom? Someone who will judge you and accept/reject you by your looks? Does being fair give confidence? Helps you win laurels? I don’t think so. I admit being fair does give an edge due to all the pre-existing prejudices and morons who judge by a person’s looks but if you have it in you no one can stop you for getting what you want.
My boyfriend (now my husband), generally averse to consumerism, always liked the way I am, as I never used any beauty products and he thought it suited me too. I could not have it any other way. Most of my girl friends used to think of me boring. I like being boring too, if that is the term. I believe in neat appearances; to be pleasing to the self and to others but not enslaved to ideas of beauty. I like my wavy hair and dark skin. However it took some time to arrive at this comfort zone. This was accelerated by the fact that I studied Physics and it was the common believe among the students that we are a boring lot, who are only seen with books and discussing boring stuff. Most of my close friends are boys and they all liked the way I was, not wearing any masks. The first lipstick that I bought was during my marriage.
In India, you can insult a person by calling her dark. I've heard these absurd insults several times. For example, an acquaintance was trying to insult another woman by saying, “She's really dark. You know, really dark. She hides it with her creams and she keeps herself light but she is actually really dark. Good one!You got her good!”
I've asked many of my mates to tell me which Hollywood actors and actresses they consider most attractive. Instead of choosing thespians with brown complexions similar to most South Asians' complexions (e.g. Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, et al.), they invariably choose light-skinned actors like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Tom Cruise.
Thus, I feel that even today where India has progressed a lot still dark skinned women have to create their own paradigms and parameters of female liberation. It is a constant, continuous battle with the self, your native culture and with the community. Then there are men and the media. I strongly believe that being a woman does not have to be fair skinned, it does not have to be anti-world or anti-men neither it is about burning your bra or not threading your upper lip. It is about self-esteem and resisting against the patriarchy. It is about truth, love and empowering your children. It works on a spectrum that gives us the freedom to choose and be who you are.
If things continue to go on this way and we let the media influence our choices on what's considered beautiful or ugly we will have a one race world. Everyone will be white and that would be boring.
Submitted by sharmilab on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 05:20