Indian Obsession with Fair Skin - A Colonial Hangover?

September 25, 2010
Why is fair skin the barometer of beauty? Does this question come in your mind too? 

Sushmita Sen with daughter renee
I like Sushmita Sen for her individuality and of course her dusky looks. Same goes for Konkana Sen and Nandita Das, but still the fair skinned Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka etc are  the queens of bollywood. Ash 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. Popularity, which is depicted from the success of a movie seen by the masses. Masses want to see fair skinned ladies, generally speaking, therefore, the alleged success of all the Neha Dhupias.

All this is alright, part of life. We've got used to it. I am reminded of this topic because of an advertisement on TV of one of my favourite actors of bollywood, who has always, always flaunted her sun kissed skin tone with elan ; 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 spontaniety.... could you guess.... She is Kajol!!

But when I saw her in Olay Total Effects (Anti Ageing cream) advertisement, she 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's only her signature style of eye brows and bright doe eyes, due to which I could recognize her. Ironically, in another advt (Knorr soup) she does not put make up and looks natural and nice, so what happened to Olay effect now?!

Kajol (here she is not chalky white!)
I was saddened. Does she really needed to work for this Advt. 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 the fair skin is 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 advts all my life. Want success, be fair skinned..... want confidence..... want acceptability in profession...... want your lover to propose you.... use fairness cream!! Another most ridiculous one was an cyclist who after becomes the brand ambassador of a sports goods company after she applies the fairness cream, despite the fact that she sweats and toils, cycling all the time!  So fair skin is the mantra, no marks to talent, no marks to over-all personality, nothing to do with your attitude.... have fair skin..... be the undisputed charmer!!  The craze for fair skin is so much, especially in north of India, you got to see the matrimonial advts in newspapers... people especially ask for fair and slim brides!!! Phew!


Now, even the market is hotting up for men too.  There are at least three brands who are selling fairness creams for men.  What happened to the rugged look of men? Or is the metrosexual male catching up?! All groomed with manicure and pedicure and facial? Well, even that's is not bad, but attributing success to fairness of skin, has it not got really overboard now?

The question is that 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 not got etched in our psyche somewhere so deep, because the whites rules us for ages, so somewhere, we have accepted that fairness means being superior?  Has complexion not got a lot with how people treat you? Is it not surprising? What is your experience? Have you ever experienced any such thing? Do share with me.




RESTLESS

14 comments:

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Well, I don't know. But honestly speaking, I'd not talk in terms of superiority, but first looks do matter. And flawlessness would shroud anything, pale white often reveals black dots :P
I would still be biased in the first go. That is why I try to reconsider.

Makayla said...

Exactly always first look do matter.Thank you for the posting.

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

BA, that was really honest of you! Looks do make us biased! But looks are more than white skin, that is the point I wanted to make.

Makayla, again, looks matter, but fair skin doesnot always mean beauty.

RESTLESS

Reema said...

ohhh this topic is one of my pet peeves...i wish i could ban all these fairness cream ads. Here is my take on it
http://opinionsandexpressions.wordpress.com/2008/06/21/lost-love-and-fair-skin/

A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart! said...

Reema - will see soon.

Sankalp said...

Well written ... Indians are biased towards fair skin, I must say. I am a;so thinking on something related to this for a long time ... would let yo know when I write it down ... but it is more about why some people are beautiful and others are not and the difference in lives of these 2 kinds of people.

SUB said...

U r right...it is funny to look at the Indian matrimonial ads...everyone wants a fair-skinned bride...also for guys who were once preferred as 'tall dark and handsome' has now changed to 'fair, cute and handsome'!!! it is, as u said, because we keep seeing Americans and Europeans as the icon of power and success...also the ads promote and brain-wash people in that direction and make people believe that fair-skin is in...it is stupidity when you think of all the white-skinned girls spending so much time to get tanned in order to look beautiful...white-skin is kind of disease due to lack or melanin!!! I personally find the tanned-skin more sexy...

Shazia said...

Fair girls are the most sought after.. men like fair women.. This is something which hasnt changed in last thousands of years!!

RESTLESS_MIND said...

And now we have fair and Handsome cream for men too!!

Chirag Shah86 said...

India is a very regressive society so what can you expect? It's not about talent, innovation, or being unique... India is about being superficial, fake and obsessed with the west... India tries to imitate the west in every way possible. India is currently westernizing at full speed since the people have no respect for their own culture...Most bollywood films don't reflect Indian society or if they do, they reflect the Indians abroad or the wealthy class...Western clothing, hip hop music, WHITE background dancers, foreign location...We should be proud of ourselves!

India has a long way to go...It is corrupt, backwards, dirty, and the people have no value for life... The people also have double standards... They say that India is a land of "Values, morals and traditions" but how much of that is true in todays day and age? A 5 minute job can take hours in India... Instead of helping develop the country, the government is more obsessed with cheating the public...

Anu said...

Nice article.

I totally agree with you about Kajol. I had a lot of respect for her for being so confident and comfortable in her skin. I was saddened to see her and even Deepika Padukone and Bipasha Basu, endorsing fairness products.  Its a vicious cycle. I think fair skin is equated to money and power(especially in north India). 

guest1 said...

Please come to terms with the fact that fair skin is one of the components of beauty to a majority of people. Its certainly not the only component but one of the components. And please dont try to impose your obsession with dusky looks on other people. If you like dusky looks, thousands of others have a right to like fair skin and their is nothing wrong in it, so long as its not discriminatory in merit based selections, where looks is not a criteria.

Singhshalender said...

The Author seems to have not knowledge at all. Meet Sushmita and Priyanka and then decide who is fairer.

Kimsitalian said...

I find this interesting. I live in the United States where most of the fashionable people go to tanning parlors or use tanning creams in order to make their skin darker!  Fair skin is not so highly prized here.

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