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If you’re talking about skin tone, there are so many small things that go on every day. If your skin is just a tone darker than the rest of your family, everyone is like, “Why don’t you use this cream or that lotion to lighten your skin?” You constantly hear advice such as, “Don’t go out into the sun. Do you want to be tanned?” “You’re dark, how will you get married?” You hear this so much that after some time you start wondering whether maybe they’re right and there is something wrong with you.

In my own family, my father’s side of the family has dark skin tone. For that reason, I’ve heard many people talking and commenting about my aunt and saying things such as, “She’s dark. She won’t get married.” I have seen people in my family being concerned about the marriage prospects of girls who are dark.

This means that I also have to hear a lot about it. I go out in the sun a lot and as a result am quite tanned. Cue my grandmother and other ladies in the family bringing out all sorts of tips and homemade ‘remedies’ to lighten my skin. The constant barrage is, “You need to look fairer. You need to look better. You’re a girl. How will you get married?”

I’m from Bihar and there fairness is the standard of beauty. If a girl is fair then people are like yes, she’s beautiful. If she’s dark then her beauty is marred or doesn’t exist. When I meet people from my hometown, they say things like, “Yes, she would be pretty if her colour weren’t so dark.” Skin tone is brought up every time someone’s looks are discussed. Even my mother, when she sees some famous actress on TV, will say, “Yes, she isn’t bad but she’s dark.”

When you look at the way we’re conditioned right from childhood an even darker truth emerges. We don’t merely judge people’s looks by their skin colour; we also judge their character. This is because as we grow up we see ‘good’ people represented as fair while the villain or the ‘evil’ character is dark.

Thankfully, there are celebrities who are fighting these trends. People like Nandita Das and Vidya Balan are not concerned with their weight or skin colour. I remember an interview of Nandita Das’ in which she pointed out that skin colour is always mentioned, even when it is used in pandering tones by using words such as ‘dusky’.

We can blame ads for this but what we need to remember is that the people who make these ads are also members of society. These are educated people who are still perpetuating the idea that fair is beautiful. The most important thing that we need to do to fight this is developing our own sense of confidence in ourselves. Unless we stand for ourselves, no one is going to stand for us.

- Shweta Mishra

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