When I say “beautiful” what pops up in your mind?
Whatever that you saw or imagined just now, is the way we are conditioned to think about beauty. you might have imagined someone Tall, fair, with abs, silky straight hair… list goes on!
What does beautiful mean to you?
For the longest time I have seen and heard people define beauty basis of color. Whether it’s matrimonial ads, whitening creams, photoshopped pictures , camera filters or general comments. Everywhere I could see the message “fair girl wanted”!
Why is only Fair beautiful?
Let’s start from the beginning. Our obsession for fair skin is not new, it’s been there for ages. Even the god ideal and photographs that we worship portrays them as extremely fair. Since ancient times there is a prejudice that fair skin = “good” and dark skin = “bad”. That’s the reason why most of the villains in majority of the shows were shown as dark skinned.
The obsession turned in to a massive industry
In 1978, Unilever launched Fair & Lovely (drum rolls) which became the first brand to monetized this obsession for fair skin. Of course after this a lot of other brands followed. In the year 2010 the Indian skin lightening market was estimated around $423 million!! and by 2014 it had climbed up to half billion dollars.
Worst part is a lot of known faces and A list actors promote these unreal beauty standards.
Portrayal of the “perfect beauty”
If you have ever noticed the ads that promote these creams, their plot line is usually the same:
A young woman/man is struggling to get married or get a job because they are dark skin. Then one angel friend appears who is shining bright like a sun and hands over the fairness cream. The protagonist applies the whitening cream for few days and becomes fair and guess what?? They get married, get the job, basically everything falls in to place.
Message: If you want to be successful and not have a shitty life, use this fairness cream.
How it impacted my life
I remember this obsession had a huge impact in my sister’s life. Any relative who came to our house always showed a concern towards – how my 7 years old sister would get married because she is “dark”. Not only that, they would even go to an extent to compare my skin color with hers and say things like “oh she will get married easily, as she is fair but for this one you will struggle to get a boy“.
Me and my sister had differences initially because of this. Mind you, these differences were not because we had any issues, it was because people saw us differently and they would say mean things in front of us. It was heart breaking. I remember she was as young as 8 years old and one day she liked a dress but said, this will only look good on didi as she is fair and started crying.
Can you imagine this child’s mindset? how badly was she affected by all this negativity and un necessary comments. My mom had to literally give us counseling that colour doesn’t matter, beauty lies in the yes of beholder.
Ofcourse she took time to understand this. She always shied away from wearing colours and would only pick black colour clothes. It was only when she grew up and understood the importance of being comfortable in your own skin.
Where does it stop?
I think society and people judging you or telling you to change things about yourself or your body is never going to stop. You will always be too fair, too dark, too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short etc etc. It is never ending. I have been body shamed my self n number of times.
So it is very important to be comfortable in your own skin. If you are comfortable and happy with what you are, no comment can hurt you. We should embrace the way we are.
Be proud of your skin, your body, the way you look. Redefine beauty! Because beauty was never meant to be bounded and defined in a box, it is subjective and each one of us are beautiful and unique in our own ways.
Would like to end with a beautiful quote I read:
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.Confucius
Let me know in the comments below, if you have had similar experiences. Do you also find these skin lightening ads cringe worthy?