Did you know having fair will get you a job, make you eligible for marriage, and make you “fair and lovely”? Wait! I am not claiming this; this is what the Indian media has been claiming for ages. And we the Indians are a believer of these statements. The majority of the Indian population has brown or dark brown skin, and ironically the majority of our population also thinks that dark equals ugly.
I don’t think I need to give a lengthy pretext to this just because, as an Indian, no matter what skin color you have, there is always a desire for a fairer and lighter skin tone. That desire might be yours or of the family and friends, because fair skin is the only key to get you anything and everything you want.
If you think that I am generalizing it, and we have grown beyond this complexion comparison game. Then my only concern is when are you going to come out of your shell? Skin whitening and skin bleaching is a billion-dollar industry in India. Why do you think it is growing with leaps and bounds? Because our society is so unfairly obsessed with fair complexion.
The market is full of products that claim to make you fair (I wish they invented a product to give some fairness to our inner selves too). However, the new trend is to replace the word fair with words like bright, glowing, radiant, etc. But their ad campaigns tell a different story where they will show how a model is getting lighter skin tone within a month. After that, they are so happy and joyful as if the only goal in their life was this.
To be honest that is not entirely false (as several people desire to achieve a lighter complexion). You could relate more if you are relatively a darker-skinned person, as the pressure around to become fair is real. The whole show-circus started even before we are born. Our mothers eat Keshar(saffron) that will allegedly make us fair-skinned. They most preferably try to eat everything white, because it is also supposed to make us fairer. But I guess that plan is not going so well because over 90% of Indian’s are born brown, wheatish, or dark brown-skinned.
But wait, we are in no mood to give up on our child’s skin color yet, so we will rub almond oil, olive oil, Haldi, Chandan, malai, and everything that is “supposed” to make us fairer on the skin of our babies. But that is not going well as well, I suppose, as I can still see darker skin people being more dominant in number around me than those with creamy white complexion. Did all our efforts go in vain? Of course not! These efforts helped to build an entire society blindly obsessed with white skin, generations suffering from an inferiority complex, and breaking the confidence of those young girls and boys.
Growing up as a dark-skinned person is not a cakewalk. You have to bear with discriminating judgments on your day-to-day life. Dhup mein mat jao kali ho jaogi. (Don’t go out in the sun, your skin will become dark.) Chai mat pio kali ho jaogi. (Don’t drink tea, your skin will become dark.) Arre shaadi kaise hogi? (How will you get married then?) Ladki achhi hai bas thoda rang daba daba sa hai (The girl is nice, but her complexion is a bit dark.) Ladka acha hai par kitna kala hai. (The boy is nice, but he is dark-skinned.) The common rhetorical phrases most of us have heard frequently in our entire life.
We all know how Bollywood plays a dominant role in such mindsets. For ages, the heroes are fair, and villains are dark (as dark equals only ugly but also bad). Actresses objectified with songs like “Kala Chashma” and “Chittiyan Kalaiyaan” There is an artistic travesty that took place this month that reaffirmed that Bollywood in 2020 also has not progressed from its dated regressive and racist ideology.
No matter how much you criticize them, they have no stake in controlling the tragedy that was “Beyonse Sharma jayengi.” (that ‘s’ instead of ‘c’ is making it no lesser racist) The important point to note is that it is not only restricted to the glorification of fair skin but doubles down by treating and considering darker skin tone to be inferior.
I would say there is one industry that has changed the game for beauty standards. Especially on what are the qualifications to be a female lead in movies, it is the Malayalam film industry you don’t get to know it because they are not preachy about it. I would recommend a beautiful video by hate f5 titled ‘fair and lovely in Malayalam cinema! Breaking the stereotypes about beauty.’ this showcases the exceptional work done by the industry in Kerala.
Not just Bollywood, but the concept of fair skin is more appealing is so deep in our mind that the Hindu mythological characters such as Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva are known to be dark-skinned. But ironically, you will never see a single picture of them in dark skin. Instead, people portray their skin as blue. Even the gods cannot escape this turmoil of discrimination, so how could we?