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Why I Started ‘Dark Is Divine’ To Fight Against ‘Colourism’ And Beauty Perceptions In Asia

Posted on October 20, 2014 in Body Image, Society, Taboos

By Fatima Lodhi:

Colourism, the most ignored -ism in Asia. It is one of the worst forms of discrimination and occurs where more preference is given to the lighter skin tones, and the darker skin tones are considered to be less appealing or presentable. And this discrimination is found between people belonging to the same race.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

In the Asian region, countries like India, Pakistan, Philippines and Taiwan have been practicing colourism since decades. In Asia, the lives of people with dark complexion, especially girls, have been far worsened due to the attitudes of people. Women with darker skin tones face many issues in this society which doesn’t consider dark skin equal to white and believes in different beautifying products that promise to make you white, overnight. Even small kids are told not to play in the sun, else their skin will turn dark. It’s shocking to see the role of media in moulding a society that already discriminates against darker skin tones. Fairness cream advertisements are shown day and night on every single TV channel. These advertisements are trying to portray an image that acceptance is only given to those with fair skins and the dark ones are the loners; this has a huge psychological effect on people with darker skin tones. Above all, the attitudes of people make their lives miserable. Even the film industry casts people with darker skin tones for less important roles, and also, the financial and social status of a person shown, is based on the colour of their skins, giving elite roles to those with lighter skin tones.

Why is being dark-skinned an oddity? Why can’t this society allow the darker ones to become comfortable in their own skins? How can we even imagine finding flaws or make fun of someone’s natural appearance?

Persons with darker skin tones, especially women, applying for front desk jobs such as receptionists, air hostesses, TV anchors etc. are told that they are not suitable for such jobs! And even if they are selected, they are asked to cover their faces with tons of makeup so that their actual complexion is not prominent. The “fairness craze” is increasing day by day. Girls and now boys as well, are responding to the global discrimination known as colourism by bleaching their skins, using fairness techniques such as laser treatments and more.

Since decades, fair skin is considered an ambassador of beauty. This perception has created social inequality and inferiority complexes amongst many. You can now easily find two to three factories of fairness products in every other city. The number of beauty salons promising to make you white with their facials and skin polishing techniques and that too with 50% discount schemes, are increasing like anything!

Well, I guess it’s not our fault, it’s just the way we have been brought up and taught at schools. Even in kindergarten, whenever a child is asked to draw a face and colour it, the teacher always gives them a peach crayon to colour the face and never a darker shade like brown or black. This is the first stage when a child develops a thought that the only colour that exists is white (peach). The so called friends at school/college start bullying the darker ones and call them names such as blackie, ugly duckling and what not!

Also, we have been listening to stories like snow white, sleeping beauty, Cinderella and other fairy tales in which the princesses are always white-skinned. These tales were always a discrimination against the darker skin tones and never allowed any dark girl to feel confident about the colour of her skin. What to talk of those mothers who are always in search of snow white daughter-in-laws for their sons and rejecting those with dark skins.

All of this pushed me to start an anti-colourism campaign to give confidence to those who have become victims of such discrimination. “Dark is Divine”, is a movement designed to ignite a conversation by, for and about persons, especially women, with dark complexion to effect positive change in the way dark people are reflected in Asian societies and in a broader sense, the Asian culture. “Dark is Divine” encourages men and women to characterize and promote a beauty standard that is a genuine reflection of their spirit. It also aims to rid the society of discriminatory mindsets and to prove that respect for all is important. We need to break down the so called beauty standards and work for a society that is inclusive and accommodating.

I believe that this campaign will help redefine the connotation of word “dark” and will bring sea of change in the thinking and the psyche of the general population in Asia as a whole with regards to colourism, so that there’s no discrimination in times to come.

For more information about the “Dark is Divine” campaign visit here.