How Much Privilege Does It Take To Make One Indifferent To India’s Fair Skin Obsession?

We The Women, an event hosted by Barkha Dutt in Bengaluru, invited Sara Ali Khan as a guest to the festival focusing on women empowerment. A woman of her calibre was welcomed by the audiences wholeheartedly. From her extensive royal background, cinema background, Columbia background and oh-so-much privileged background; she was applauded and appreciated both online and offline for her ‘witty’ take on usually ‘radical’ feminism and nepotism.

After her consideration as the non-cliche star kid, Sara was acknowledged as the talented and educated princess who was also a great dancer and had a commendable journey of weight loss. A few months back, a fiasco with an Africa-themed photo shoot for Filmfare did not go down well with audiences and was slammed as racist.

To be honest, everyone expects much more from you when you are a Politics and History graduate from an Ivy League college. However, she is back at it again at her distinct non- reflective privilege and utmost inability to understand that colour runs not only skin-deep but socially, historically, oppressively and personally deep.

Sara Ali Khan On Skin Colour

Did Sara Ali Khan flub her lines while talking about India’s fair skin obsession? The young actor was speaking to Barkha Dutt at the We The Women summit in Bengaluru.

Posted by Brut India on Friday, 15 November 2019

She said, “If you wanna be tan, just put some on some bronzer, and if you wanna be fair, put on some powder. It’s not the end of the world, and it shouldn’t define you at all. There is a higher probability and success rate for you to attempt to change yourself, than the world, because they are not going to change.”

I understand where she comes from, statements like “be comfortable in your own skin,” “admire your own self,” “beauty lies within yourself,” “acceptance is the key,” surround my mind right now. Try saying the same to a 10-year-old who was mocked by her classmates this morning for being kali (black).

Try telling her as she cries, leaving a layer of Fair and Lovely adorned on her pillow, that it shouldn’t define her at all. Self-confidence is appreciated, but it arises only after accepting oneself. But, when you’re surrounded with countless mockery and comments day in and day out, that is your world.

A woman who is conventionally fair-skinned and comes from an extremely privileged (hell, princess-y even) background along with international education – it is expected of her to be considerate and aware of the issues pertaining to colourism in a country which is dominantly brown-skinned!

In a country where anyone slightly higher on the whiteness scale is regarded as the epitome of beauty, no wonder she is indifferent to her privilege. A simple dab of powder doesn’t resolve colour politics here! Years and years of applying Fair and Lovely doesn’t curb the deep seated insecurity that a dark-skinned woman goes through.

There’s a reason why fair-skinned actresses are cast as dark-skinned; why they would rather choose a Yami Gautam instead of a Konkona Sen Sharma. Years of efforts by Nandita Das falls to pieces when another woman of the same industry says yet another stupid thing about a skin nuska (tricks, or tips).

You cannot ask someone to love themselves when society constantly reminds them that they’re nothing more than their colour, that they need to be fair to get a suitable marriage proposal or a job or even their right to smile. Colour correction apps, clothing according to your skin colour, lipstick according to your skin colour, a partner according to your skin colour, and what not. A non-privileged woman who is dark-skinned applies powder not to just be fair, but to shut society up, because she’s trapped under the constant advice on how to be fair.

The idea of desiring to be fair doesn’t emerge simply from choice, rather, from years of conditioning. There’s a reason why India doesn’t believe in getting tanned. There’s a reason why the fairness industry still flourishes. There’s a reason why every woman feels a deeply hidden insecurity surrounding their colour. It’s not as simple as applying powder or getting a tan, it’s about the question why. Why do you want to change your colour?

I understand where she comes from, speaking of self-acceptance and building up confidence, but as a person who has battled years of insecurity regarding her colour, it’s easier said than done. You do not attain self-confidence overnight. Sometimes, the more you try, the more you confront, the more it devours you.

As a woman who is dark-skinned, my insecurity runs deeper, much deeper than being available to be hidden by just a dab of powder. It takes years to build yourself up, to put your colour aside, accept yourself. Yet, all it takes is one comment, one statement, to break down years of confidence.

And Sara Ali Khan, as a person of privilege, in all fairness (pun intended), doesn’t get to dictate my colour, to subdue my insecurity, to break my history with colourism in a country which worships Kali.

Featured image source: We The Women/YouTube.
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