My youngest sister is dark-complexioned – not very dark though. My other sister and I, on the other hand, are quite fair. Naturally, this kind of contrast brought in loads of comments about how she didn’t belong with us. There were also plenty of questions about how she would get married – all because of her complexion. Please note that all these comments came her way when she was only 10 or 12 years old.
Inevitably, she was affected by all these observations. She started going to different fairness cream shops without telling us. Someone once saw her buying a fairness cream and told us about it. When I confronted her and asked her why she bought this stuff, she said, “I want to be fair like you.”
That’s when my middle sister, my father and I talked to her. We told her that it isn’t about what complexion you have. My father would call her his dusky beauty. It took us a long time to convince her that we loved her, no matter what. We also pointed out that she would meet and make friends with people to whom her skin colour would not matter. They would see her for the kind of person she is and love her.
It took us time to get through to her because she was in a phase in which she was very disturbed because of those comments. My father played the most important role. My middle sister and I also pointed out that everyone has flaws and that people will talk about it. We told her why it was so important that she be comfortable with herself. Slowly, what we had said got through and today she is 21 and absolutely comfortable in her own skin. If someone comments on her skin colour, she brushes them off.
I think both media and society perpetuate this attitude. When it comes to society, think about marriages. When they’re looking for a marriageable girl, one of the conditions they insist upon is that the girl be fair. It doesn’t matter how dark the guy is. Nobody even asks about the guy’s complexion.
Advertisements also influence these mindsets tremendously. After all, the common man does tend to relate to celebrities. If he or she admires a celebrity and that celebrity endorses a fairness product, he sees that product and concept as important. Simply put, “If the celebrity looks a certain way and says that they use a particular product to do so, if I use that product I will also look good like the celebrity.”
Change is possible, but it will be slow. I think it will take time. I personally feel that fairness products should be banned. After all, it’s not as though being fair makes you a better or worse person. The change needs to start from the basic level i.e. family. Family support goes a long way in determining how people see themselves. Stand by your family and push back when people make these comments. Make them see that it is not acceptable and that they are destroying someone’s confidence by saying such things.
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