Fair Skin Tone
Society and Taboos

The Fairness Hype In India: Obsession For Fair Skin Tone

People say beauty has no fixed definition. Some define beauty as the amount of attractive and striking features one has for others it is more than that. Women indeed are blessed with beautiful facial features while men have the gift of a handsome look. The epitomes of feminine and masculine beauty have their own parameters. Yet one thing that stands in common is one’s skin tone. As a society, we are obsessed with fair skin tone. 

I remember watching Snow White on TV during my childhood days. Her stepmother was envious of her whiter skin tone and eventually got dangerously obsessed with it. 

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of all,” was what she always asked the magic mirror. Each time the mirror would take the name of Snow White and this enraged the woman. 

And how could we forget the Hindi TV serial Maykaa, which portrayed the story of two sisters? One was dusky while the other was fairer. Instead of focusing on their studies and career, their parents were interested in marrying them off. Of course, the dusky girl didn’t get good proposals, owing to her darker skin tone. The prospective grooms never cared to acknowledge her academic achievements because skin tone is what mattered to them.

The obsession with fair skin tone came during the British Raj in India. They valued fair-skinned Indians over others and respected them. They even insulted the dark-skinned Indians and prohibited them from entering various places. Indians who belonged to the lower class and worked manually in the fields were often looked down upon. 

The TV ads played their own game of brainwashing women on how important it is to have fair skin tone. Women over the years have yearned to have a fairer skin tone and fulfill the beauty standards set by society. From home remedies to expensive cosmetics, women have tried almost everything. 

You may hear people criticizing racism and colorism at the top of their voices, yet these are prevalent. Even today, people long to look whiter than their skin tone. Parents do not want to marry their son to a dusky skin tone girl. No matter how well-qualified the girl is, if she has a dusky skin tone, she is a no match. 

Even cosmetic brands, for years, have designed their ads around getting a fairer skin tone. Instead of encouraging people to accept their skin tone, the brands have labeled dusky and dark women as ugly. Their ads have depicted how having a degree and skills have no importance unless your skin tone is darker. 

Social media platforms too have numerous filters that can help you deceive your original skin tone. Movies have song lyrics that promote fair skin tone and ridicule women with darker skin tones. How can we forget, ‘Gore Gore Mukhde pe..,’ ‘Goriya chura na mera jiya..’, ‘Gori Gori’, etc.’ Actors promote fair and clear skin tone as one of the most important assets one can own.

Perhaps, therefore, the pregnant women are given a list of things to consume to birth a fairer child. Instead of preparing a positive and healthy environment for the unborn, people obsess over its skin tone. From non-boiled saffron milk to coconut water, women are fed different things to ensure the child isn’t dusky or darker. 

I remember, when one of my cousins was pregnant, neighbors often advised her on ensuring her unborn isn’t dusky. 

Since she herself is dusky, aunties used to say, “May God, bless you with a fair-skinned child.” I was taken aback because no one cared about my cousin and her mental health. 

When I was born, my grandmother was happy not because I was the firstborn. She was elated at the fact that my skin tone was fairer than that of my mother. Even today I hear women saying, ‘You are lucky to not have your mother’s dark skin tone.’ 

This shocks me as no one talks about my educational qualifications and achievements. I wonder how long it will take for us to get over this obsession. 

Though baby steps are being taken by cosmetic brands to promote the colors, we have a long way to go. We need to first accept that our skin tone is as good as any other skin tone. External beauty fades over time. What remains is our clear and pure intentions. 

Also Read: Some Advice For My 23-Years-Old Self

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