Why I Cringe Every time I See A Fairness Product Ad

Posted on July 17, 2014 in Body Image, Sexism And Patriarchy, Society, Taboos

By Deepika Singhania:

I grew up reading books that taught me that children should be out playing in the sun; and this is generally deemed as normal. But that is of course not the case in India. Here, the children (especially the girls, as usual) are told to stay away from all that glorious sunshine. And no, the harsh heat is not really the reason, it’s the colour of the skin that they’re worried about.

fairness products

Back in my school days, I faintly remember my mother yelling at me to not play out too much during the much awaited summer vacations. She would say, “Don’t play in the sunlight. You’re not listening now, baad me jab kaali ho jayegi tab rothe phirna.” (You’ll cry later when your skin becomes darker) I didn’t pay any attention to it back then, but as I grew up, I realised ‘fair is beautiful’ is the idea that has been deeply etched in our society.

I cringe every time the fairness creams ads play out on TV. They all give out the same message in different ways — you need to be fair to be beautiful and you need to be beautiful to do well in your life. What has looking fair got anything to do with anyone’s career is beyond my logical understanding. Also, apart from the same community being a requirement, ‘a fair bride’ always seems to be the topmost required quality in most matrimonial ads.

They say that there’s no racism in India. Yes, it’s true that caste was and still is a major cause for discrimination here. But this is mainly because the Indian society on a whole has internalised the stereotype of ‘fair is beautiful’. I have dark skinned friends whose mothers look at me and say, “Look at how fair she is. Why can’t you be like that?” I know of another friend whose sister gets treated differently (not in the good way, mind you), only because she is slightly darker skinned than my friend.

Is it their fault for thinking in the way that they do? I mean, haven’t they been treated in the same way all their lives? But that’s no excuse for looking down on others based on their skin colour. Dark skinned women themselves feel out of place because they’ve also been conditioned to the same idea of beauty. That needs to stop and NOW. You need to realise that there is no right colour of the skin. These standards of beauty were made for women by the society to do nothing more than to control them. And they seem to be succeeding! So, if you’re dark skinned and you’re reading this, then you should know one thing — you’re beautiful the way you are. Colour doesn’t matter, all that matters is the kind of human being that you are. So, instead of shying away from the world, stand up proud and prove the world wrong!

I don’t know where it all began; for all I know, it could be something that the British left behind. Whatever it is, somewhere along the way, ‘fair, pale and dainty women’ became the standard of beauty. Dark has been ‘othered’ for much too long now. It has been deliberately sidelined and looked down upon for generations now. So when you think racism, think about how you treated that dark skinned girl who sat beside you in the sixth grade. Think about why the media in our country doesn’t use dark skinned women in advertisements. And then think about how wrong all of this is; and when you realise it, try not contributing to the racism in our country.