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From Bollywood To Marriages, The Fairness Obsession Has Taken Over India

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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. The definition of beauty might change from person to person or even region to region.

Women would love to be like Marilyn Monroe or Julia Roberts, while women would like to look like Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif in India. The 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, respectively, aren’t they?

fair and lovely app
Representative Image.

Yet, there is something that plays a very big role in defining the standards of beauty. And that is skin colour. As we all are aware that humans come in all varieties of skin colour, be it white, brown or black, there are endless similarities and differences amongst us. Yet, our society has somehow elevated the fair white skin colour as the highest form of beauty for some unknown reason.

I do not know how this happened, but the world considers being fair-skinned as the most acceptable form of beauty standard. And due to this, there came generations after generations in the movies industry, advertising, fashion, modelling 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 a few months before, 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 due to the colour of our skin. This fascination for fair skin in India and other parts of the world has affected humanity in a drastic way.

India is a land of diversity. Yet with all the diversity, there are many similarities which make Indians recognisable 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 recognised by our skin colour, which is predominantly brown-skinned. Very few Indians are fair-skinned, and even they don’t match the light skin tone of Europeans. But having fair skin has always been a top priority for Indians. Women cherish the dream of having white skin and rely heavily on makeup and beauty products.

Representative Image.

So much is this desire for fair skin inoculated in the minds of Indians that the skin lightening cosmetic product “Fair and Lovely” is one of the most popular beauty products in India, with a market cap of 80% of the lightening cream market in India. However, the company changed its name to “Glow and Lovely” in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter #BLM protests. I appreciate the company’s stand.

The company even markets “Fair and Handsome” for men, which has also been a success. This shows how much Indians crave fair skin tone. A majority of Indians continue to remain biased towards fair skin, and I find this very depressing as a society.

In a relatively conservative India, most marriages are arranged by families. And the worst form of prejudice against women is done in this process. The expectation of the groom’s family looking for a bride is generally fair, slim and beautiful. While on the other side, the grooms are often dark-skinned, but the bride’s family does not mind it.

There are so many cases when a girl who is highly educated and earning well is simply rejected because of her dark skin complexion. On the other hand, all men, fair and dark-skinned, educated and illiterates, earning or not earning, all want a fair-skinned girl as their wife or girlfriend. This is one of the biggest problems in India.

So no wonder 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 ponder upon some famous songs in Bollywood:

Even the latest remakes of famous old songs are problematic.

And many such other songs and movies often promote heroines with fair skin. And nowadays, Bollywood has even started importing dancers from western countries (Eastern Europe and other parts of the western world having blonde hair and light skin) who are often seen in songs dancing behind the comparatively brown-skinned Indian hero and heroine.

This is even being copied in events like Cricket games like IPL, which used to be known as a Gentlemen’s Game not long ago. Now, to satiate this fair-ish or rather feverish desire of Indians, IPL started bringing cheerleaders (again fair-skinned) to attract attention and, of course, money from the Indian audiences.

And even worse, this mentality of Indians doesn’t stop in India but continues to be carried abroad as well. When I was in the U.S.A., I remember my friends back in India suggested I look for a white girl. So even Indians who go to the U.S.A. or Europe 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 good looking they might be.

Hence, this over obsession with fair skin is extremely annoying because, in reality, what difference does skin colour make? I mean, really, if we think it from a practical perspective, it doesn’t matter. The skin colour doesn’t make any life better. It might give those people some unfair advantage in jobs or professions like modelling or fashion, but life remains the same irrespective of skin colour.

We all have to eat, and sleep and do all the chores. Skin colour does not help there. A dark or brown-skinned girl can be an expert in any profession, just like a fair-skinned girl. Take any profession, be it programming, cooking, painting, or even writing, there is no proof that a fair-skinned person will perform better than a brown or dark-skinned person of the same age.

Our confidence, nature, habits, likes, dislikes, attitude, achievements, etc., are never dependent on skin colour.

Representative Image.

I wonder when Indians will learn to accept all forms of skin colour. This is ironic because fair-skinned British colonisers had ruled us Indians for a long time. Our forefathers have suffered immensely due to the atrocities committed by white British rulers. Yet, we continue to be obsessed with white skin.

And even though we threw out the British from our land, we have not thrown away their attribute of accepting white/fair as good and rest as being mediocre.

So, the need of the hour is to erase this skin colour bias from our minds because, in today’s world, the paths to success are not dependent on colour or race. It just depends on our attitude and hard work. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for Barack Obama to be the President or Kamala Harris to be the Vice President of the U.S.A.

I don’t have any examples here in India and this is the sad part of the Indian story. Indian society hasn’t yet accepted this diversity. As long as we keep praising racist Bollywood songs that eulogise fair skin, and as long as a fair-skinned woman remains the preferred choice for a bride, things are not going to improve.

But the day we become unbiased to skin colour and accept this diversity, from that day onwards, women won’t need to spend loads of money on beauty products to make their skin lighter. Women won’t need to use filters on Instagram or Facebook to post pictures with fair skin. Men will respect and accept women as they are.

I hope my and upcoming generations become more acceptable and, thus, open the doors of opportunities and success to everyone irrespective of skin colour.

The article was originally published on the author’s blog.

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