Indian Obsession with Fair Skin - A Colonial Hangover?

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Why is fair skin the barometer of beauty? Does this question come to your mind too?

I like Sushmita Sen for her individuality and, of course, her dusky looks. Same goes for Konkana Sen and Nandita Das. Still, the fair skinned Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka etc. are the queens of Bollywood. Aish is talented and got ample opportunity to show her versatility, but, the three dusky Bong beauties are no less. It's about opportunity, which does sometimes come from popularity - as depicted from the success of a movie seen by the masses. The Indian masses generally want to see fair skinned ladies, therefore, the alleged success of all the Neha Dhupias. All this is perfectly alright; it’s a part of life. We've got used to it now.

I am reminded of this topic because of an advertisement on TV, featuring one of my favourite actors of Bollywood, who has always, ALWAYS flaunted her sun kissed skin tone with élan! She has carried her natural eye brows, which seem to be joining slightly from the middle! She is no ‘size zero’ and we just love her for her vivaciousness and spontaneity! Could you guess? Of course, you could! She is Kajol!!

But when I saw her in the Olay Total Effects (Anti Ageing cream) advertisement, she’d donned a fair look, of course by applying make up! And the fair - so fair and so chalky white a look, that I couldn’t believe it was her! It was only her signature style of eye brows and bright doe eyes, due to which I could place her! Ironically, in another advertisement (Knorr soup), she does not put that same kind of make up and looks natural and nice. So what happened to that Olay effect now?!

I was saddened. Did she really need to work for this advertisement and show that fairness is what she's got after using this product? A healthy, problem free skin doesn’t mean it has to be low on melanin. Could she not have flaunted her wheatish complexion, which still radiates and shows her good health? Why is fair skin the ultimate barometer of beauty? And is beauty just skin deep? Even now? Is it a colonial hangover?

I, like all of you, have seen those endless number of 'fair n lovely' kind of advertisements all my life. Want success? Be fair skinned. Want confidence? Want acceptability in profession? Want your lover to propose you? Use a fairness cream!! Another most ridiculous one was of that cyclist who becomes the brand ambassador of a sports goods company after she starts applying the fairness cream, despite the fact that she sweats and toils, cycling all the time!

So fair skin is the only mantra then - no marks to talent, no marks to over-all personality, nothing to do with your attitude! Just have fair skin and be the undisputed charmer!! The craze for fair skin is so much, especially in north of India, that you got to see matrimonial advertisements in newspapers too, where grooms especially ask for fair and slim brides!!! Phew! Just right-click on this image below to open it in a new tab/window!

The market is hotting up for even men now! There are at least three brands today that are selling fairness creams for men. Whatever happened to the rugged look of men? Or is the metro sexual male catching up?! All groomed with manicure and pedicure and facial? Well, even that is not bad, but attributing success to fairness of skin… has it not gone really overboard now?

The question is: why are we Indians so obsessed with fair skin? Why do we still drool over the colour of the skin, as if the colour of the skin translated to power? Has it got etched in our psyche somewhere so deep, because the whites ruled us for ages, that a part of our sub-consciousness has simply accepted that fairness means being superior? Doesn’t complexion play a vital role today in how people treat you? Isn’t his fact surprising? What is your personal experience about this? Have you ever experienced any such discrimination on the basis of skin color? Please do share with me.

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Anonymous said...

I am so tired of this country's obsession with Fair skin . I know girls who are blatantly ashamed of their skin , and feel inferior because it is dark ! What this country is propagating is undiluted racism ! Im from Tamil Nadu and belong to a race that is genetically dark skinned . How ridiculous that this race believes itself to be inferior simply because it is so ? I'm fed up with dealing with these lot . Really, will India never change ? - Please so read this if you can spare the time, I have also spoken about the idiocy of fairness creams

February 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Samantha Derrick said...

sushmita is fair,nowhere near dusky

July 29, 2013 at 8:10 AM

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