In my last post on skin color, which can be read here: The fair skin debate! I more or less wrote from a bird’s eye view. In this post my approach will be a little more personal. This is also a chance for me to clarify some misunderstandings and let you know why this topic is important to me.
My own story of color begins with a medical report labeling my skin color black. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mind being black, but with the obsession of with fair skin in India I don’t think it was written as a positive attribute.
It is no secret that the darker you are the less likely the chance is that you will be the first choice of PAP. In the book Adoption in India – Policies and Experiences, Vinita Bhargava writes: “The notion that ‘fair is beautiful’ and ‘fair is class’ brings in considerable resistance to accepting a child who is dark and has certain kinds of features”. The sad part is that even dark skinned women themselves will request a fair skinned child so they can be accepted into society: Doubly Deprived.
When I visited India back in 2005 I was surprised to see all these barber shops popping up everywhere offering an additional facial makeover to make your skin become lighter. I even got such treatment myself without even asking for it. That just felt weird!
Dark is Beautiful
Not long ago I stumbled across this petition We don’t want “ZYADA”! started by the Dark is Beautiful campaign initiated by WOW (Women of Worth) with Kavitha Emmanuel as their spokesperson. What they basically are asking is that people such as Shah Rukh Khan and others should be held responsible for what kind of message they are sending out to young women and men who feel ashamed of themselves because of their dark skin complexion.
The Dark is Beautiful campaign, which was launched back in 2009 has not been without its critics. One complaint has been that it is not a fight for the greater good but a personal vendetta against one person in this case Shah Rukh Khan. I do not necessarily agree with this because to bring awareness to as many people as possible it is essential to target those very people who the majority are acquainted with. I will admit though, that the chance we are going to hear anything from King Khan himself on the matter is very slim. Nevertheless if the campaign can change the mindset of some people I am positive that more eventually will follow, which can lead to bigger pressure on the big companies. In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
Another criticism has been that the Dark is Beautiful campaign is nothing but reverse discrimination against people with fair skin. I will let the people behind the campaign straighten this out themselves. To me however it has more been about challenging the dominant discourse where fair skin is a prerequisite for being successful. Personally I have no interest in knocking down people with lighter skin. Nonetheless, no matter how light you are as an Indian you will always be perceived as dark in the West so what is so wrong with dark is beautiful?
The beauty part leads me to a third critique in which some people are worried that the campaign will be creating an A and B team – The Beautiful and The Ugly. They also challenge the notion that beauty solely is dependent on skin color: When beauty divides. My advice here would be for the campaign to include more stories from everyday people, which I felt they once did on their blog.
There also have been parts of the campaign where I had to stop and think to myself, was this now the right move? Still, I felt it was necessary to highlight this very campaign because no one similar to this one has emerged on Indian soil that I am aware of.