One of my cousins has a dark complexion and ever since she was young, she’s had to face comments about it. When she was 15 or 16, relatives would compare her to others and say things like, “Why aren’t you as fair as so and so?” When she was in her early to mid-twenties, she had to hear comments about how if she were a little fairer, she’d look prettier or she’d attract a ‘good’ match.
She didn’t confide in me but I could see that she felt offended by such statements. It was as though her entire worth was being reduced to the amount of melanin in her skin. My immediate family has never had any problems with skin color but you can’t control what other people say. I would actually ask my mom why people would say things like that. It’s not like your skin color will change appreciably from what you were born with.
While this attitude may have originated in society’s biases and prejudices, the media has only added fuel to the fire. It’s become a vicious circle. Society says it and the media reinforce it because of which society says it even more. Nowadays, even men aren’t spared. There are fairness creams and face washes meant specifically for men.
The worst part may be how the media represents it. The fairness ads constantly target your self-esteem. If you are fairer, you will be popular and successful. This culture is so rampant that even small children will compare themselves to what they see on TV and believe that they need to be fairer.
Society is driven by what we see in popular media. What is advertised is what we take in. It isn’t as though people don’t have brains; it’s just so much easier to let the TV do your thinking. It doesn’t help that celebrities endorse such products.
I know that it isn’t an easy task to get rid of this mindset because it is so deep-rooted. However, social media campaigns can go a long way in making people aware. However, social media isn’t very widespread in India. I also believe that in India we look up to celebrities a lot and therefore, they should take some of the onus in trying to get rid of the ‘fairness’ belief system. Some celebrities are already doing it by refusing to take on such ad campaigns or speaking out.
- Megha Goyal