Feminism Fodder

Mirror, mirror, who is the fairest of all?

In my previous post, I mentioned about the bias towards fair-skinned people in India. I have always wondered — can this be classed as a form of racism? Racism is, after all, discriminating people on the basis of their race, which in addition to the traits and values, also includes the colour of their skin.

In India, since God alone knows when there appears to be a preference for the lighter skin.

This can be seen through the Bollywood stars and the individuals in the fashion and modelling industry that have made it big. It can be seen in the matrimonial ads (Seeking: slim, fair girl…) that appear in the papers. It can also be seen through the products been advertised — products that make your skin lighter, and therefore, more appealing to the boy you want to charm or the boss you want to impress. Funnily enough, if I am remembering correctly, most of these ads are catering to women. (Not a surprise considering the value of the male gender in India)

With respect to Bollywood, while I know dark-skinned women are becoming more acceptable such as Rani Mukherji and Bipasha Basu), it still seems that the lighter-skinned women are more popular. Take Aishwarya Rai. She is probably the Indian male’s fantasy with her light skin and light eyes. But, she CANNOT act. Yet, she is making big bucks. She is known around the world. All for what? The most beautiful Indian woman? I’m sorry, but she does not represent most Indian women. And she is not the most beautiful Indian woman. I can list several others including Sushmita Sen, Rani Mukherjee, Konkona Sen.

Going on to the ads on telly, well, you are constantly bombarded by either fair-skinned models or you have ads for fairness creams. Yes, there’s the ‘Fair and Lovely’ or the ‘Fairever’ and I don’t know how many more have come up in the last few years. These ads depict the dark-skinned women as not achieving what they want, be it a guy’s attention or a job. But hey, once you use the cream — everything is attainable! In short, these ads spread the message that it does not matter whether you have brains or good values or are just a nice woman in general; rather, you need to be light-skinned! Nothing else matters.

What is wrong with people?

Indians for instance, complain about racism but again, they are the first to treat light-skinned foreigners with more respect than they would treat a dark-skinned Indian or even individuals of African backgrounds. One example of this was the crowd in India calling Symonds, who is of Aboriginal background, ‘monkey’. Now I know there will be people jumping up to say the Aussies are racist and similar things — yes, we know Lehman called Jayasuriya the same but he was suspended and hasn’t done something like that since. You can see this poison being spread in schools in India as well — when a child enters kindergarten, unconsciously, the light-skinned child becomes the teacher’s favourite. (It’s only later they choose favourites based on marks)

In short, what message are we sending young girls? Not only do they have to combat being skinny, but in countries like India, they have to be fair. If not, the message they get from the television and probably some relatives is that they are not going to achieve anything in life and are just a waste of space.

This form of racism is probably more subtle in that it happens within the same race. It, therefore, tends to go unnoticed.

But it has to stop.

Until next time,


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  • avdi
    7 December 2008 at 3:30 am

    A few years back this was the case. I am very fair skinned and I got fed up of being praised for that, when I was a little girl.

    These days dusky models and heroines are very ‘in’. But yes, I do wish those ‘fair and lovely’ and ‘fairness meter’ would go away. Even companies like L’Oreal and Avon have brought out products to prevent tanning specially for India – Sheesh !

  • Psych Babbler
    7 December 2008 at 4:34 am

    @ Avdi: While I am willing to accept things are changing, there’s still a majority of people with the mentality that light skin is better. And I wasn’t aware of Avon and L’Oreal bringing out products you mentioned!! It’s sickening! Thanks for visiting and commenting! 🙂

  • Lena
    7 December 2008 at 9:10 am

    I have read about it before too and discussed with my indin friends many times.. what is weird is that everyone is saying thats such a discrimination, not right etc… but it keeps happening and not sure if it ever will disappear.

    Though here in Russia people go rather for tanned skin 😀 People are weird all around the planet.

  • Smita
    7 December 2008 at 11:33 am

    Hmmm being “saawli” as wud people say I have seen these kind of things. My realtives used to tell my mom ki please apply this on her face & that on her face…

    My mom was least bothered about it he he he so slowly slowly I started ignoring these things.

    But yes it is a type of racism which ash to stop but dunno when will it really happen….

    BTW thr new look of blog looks cool though persoanlly I loved the previous one 🙂

  • Braja
    7 December 2008 at 1:32 pm

    It’s a weird trend for sure…but at the same time, I don’t know that it’s just Aisvarya’s light skin that is the only factor in her success: she’s the “type,” in all ways. I’ve seen much more beautiful and talented women than her who aren’t as successful, so I guess it’s just her karma 🙂

  • Temple
    7 December 2008 at 4:27 pm

    First, welcome to my little corner of the internet! I just LOVE finding a new follower! It makes me all smiley! 🙂

    Second, yes–it is a form of discrimination and (at least in the U.S. where I practice civil rights law) it is recognized that members of the same ethnic group/gender can discriminate against their fellow peeps/peepettes. These cases are usually harder to prove in Court, but they do exist. Human nature [sigh] is not always pretty.

  • Psych Babbler
    8 December 2008 at 2:56 am

    @ Lena: Thanks for visiting! I know what you mean about ppl wanting to get tanned in Russia — it’s like the grass is always greener on the other side!

    @ Smita: I’m ‘saawli’ too — and agree that it’s relatives that cause the most pain when it comes to one’s colour! Also, yeah, I liked the ‘Sunset’ theme better but was getting a bit bored and tried to change. May revert back to that in some weeks!

    @ Braja: Sorry…I just have this huge dislike for Aishwarya Rai…always have. But yea, maybe she has good karma — something from a previous life possibly??

    @ Temple: Thanks for following! Also, it’s good to know that this legally is a form of discrimination. But I totally get what you mean when you say it’s harder to prove. Unfortunate, isn’t it?

  • Smita
    8 December 2008 at 9:27 am

    A sweet little surprise for you here..


  • Reema
    11 December 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Good post. I too have blogged about this bias towards fair skin and the attitude of media too as u mentioned the ads.