Friday, May 7, 2010

An un-fair psyche

Last weekend lolling around in a Delhi mall, I spotted a reputed skin clinic’s counter. Do you stock exfoliating scrubs? Yes ma’am we do, but all the tubes I was shown were endowed with magical whitening-brightening formulas. No thank you, I’m happy with my dark skin, can’t I have an old fashioned scrub that will not mess with my melanin production? I walked off empty-handed.

In a light-skin fixated nation like ours, most skin care products have a hidden fairness agenda. From your humble soap, to your moisturiser or even your body cream. Walk in to your local salon and they will offer unsolicited advice and quick fix solutions to your so-called dusky skin woes. It seems as if the whole world is conspiring against your melanin production. In the future, it’s quite possible that we’ll have ACs that release fairness inducing ions, or a wet cleansing tissue that lightens your skin tone with every wipe. Picture this - the dusky and ‘how can she be happy’ dame gets back home after a long gruelling day at the office. She wipes her makeup off with ‘whitewash’ cleansing tissues, takes one long look at herself (I hate me, her heart sobs), switches on her new ‘LG-furiously fair’ AC and drops off to sleep. Morning, she wakes up and is dazzled by her own, much improved reflection. She reaches office, her by-now-fair avatar has her colleagues swooning in ecstasy, the boss takes one long look at her, gives her a shy smile and hands her the long overdue promotion. She lives happily ever after.

Our obsession for light skin is more than skin deep. Be it a commercial ad, a movie or a serial, the light skinned protagonist will usually be a confident, sassy girl with the world at her feet. The dark skinned girl on the other hand is invariably portrayed as a tragedy queen, whose cup of woes runneth over. She is usually a mousy looking girl, who smiles once a month and has yet to discover a shampoo.

Even men who want to settle down expect a “fair and lovely” bride. The groom may be an ugly, pot- bellied apology of manliness, but he will expect a fair bride. I have slogged through school and college, and am stuck with this blood sucking company - I now deserve a reward.
No wonder half the population is busy slathering themselves with fairness lotions. But do we even care to know that these lotions do us more harm than good? Most of these creams contain bleaching agents; even creams branded as Ayurvedic contain chemicals and a harmful alloy of metals. Prolonged usage has health risks attached, yet we continue to be the largest consumer of fairness lotions in the world. I’d rather have my skin peeling off than be doomed to a dark future!

But things are slowly looking up. Dusky is no longer considered a criminal offence in certain circles of our society. Bronzers, skin tints are slowly inching their way into our make- up essentials. Rather than having their face look like a painted mask, many women are only too happy to flaunt their sun kissed complexions. Healthy skin looks better any day than cosmetic aided sallow skin.

But just when we were heaving a sigh of relief, the men go ahead and join the fairness bandwagon. If women can do it, why can’t we?

The dark extra in a movie looks longingly at the fair hero of the movie. One fine day he discovers the joys of a fairness cream powered by lemon and voila in the next shot he is getting mobbed at the premiere of the movie, while the hero is scowling in the background. The dark dame now has company.


  1. indeed a sad commentary on our 'fairness' fixation. loved your imagination of how they could rule our lives.... :)
    lovely new template also!

  2. Good one !!! I truly don't nuderstand why anyone would want to look like they have lit bulb inside their heads. I lie baking in the sun to force my (sadly) pale skin to warm up.....just bought body bronzer, and "Illuminating Warmth" face powder....sigh !! I have issues of a different kind....

  3. I am dusky and like it that way. Very intelligent and thought provoking post. :)

  4. The crux of the matter is being comfortable in your own skin.

    Indian women with their earthy skin tones look gorgeous , yet most of them strive for that elusive lighter skin tone...Why???

    Thank you Magiceye, Nethra and Sug for your comments.

  5. Identity crisis, that's what it is...wanting to look like a Gora or an Aryan...crisis of historical origin!
    But when the Earth gets hotter and fuel for cooling homes gets scarcer...who is going to have the last laugh? The melanin rich!

  6. Very true. Being fair has become obsession with people. Now the fairness cream for men are also in market. As long people do not learn to accept the way they are these things will continue.

  7. Purba, you know what, here when i was telling my European friends about Indian fixation with fair skin, a German friend of mine asked me what I meant by 'fair skin'...we take that usage to be such a universally accepted one..that I had to explain what that meant... brown skin versus 'glowing white' which is a national obsession...:) i like dusky indian skin better personally..and that's not because I'm that colour..;)

  8. Nalini, love your survival of the fittest logic.

    Rajesh, Absolutely acceptance is the key.

    Journomuse, I prefer earthy skin tone as well, lends character.

  9. Ah, fair skin! It is one of my soap box issues. Or was. When I was in India. It's funny though how in the western world (whose skin Indians are trying to emulate through these products) they try and make their skins darker. I found your AC ad hilarious...although I doubt the girl will working in an office...I mean, if she is dark skinned it's unlikely she'd get a job! =P And I was surprised when I visited India last year that men too have jumped on teh bandwagon. It's a shame....a real shame...

  10. Why can't we be happy with ourselves as we are...?

  11. Psych Babbler :But do they get tanned? Instead they manage to look like overheated tomatoes ;)


  12. soumya mukherjee10 May, 2010 11:06

    even tagore said...kalo ta se jotoi kalo hok.....

  13. The commercials...well having thoughts about suing them kept side i begin to think people are actually making huge money because of our low self esteem so far as looks are concerned.And it doesn't stop at the colour of the skin i am more amazed at this mad rush for body sculpting.Why are we craving for those and when are we going to feel satisfied with ours.Nascissistic us versus them lets see what happens next.Felt nice reading ur post. :)

  14. @Soumya : :))

    @Shivani :Quick fix solutions at the cost of your health. I guess for many health risks is just a minor aberration.

    A confident, content individual looks far prettier than a botoxed, surgically enhanced beauty.

  15. I find Sushmitha Sen and Nandita Das more sexier than Aishwarya and most people would concur, but still the prejudice exists at the back of their minds.

  16. Complex issue!
    Honestly, I don't see it as a big deal if some people would like to change their complexion. Yeah, the problem arises when it's a mass-mania - like tanning in some places and fairness creams in some other. Shameful or not, they are equally bad.

  17. I use Vicco Turmeric. Is that bad?

  18. @ Ana-treek...We love a Nandita ,a Konkona or even a Shahana Goswami because they are confident individuals who don't give a damn to all these so called prejudices. Plus they are all awesome actors.

    @ Raja..Change whatever you want, but do it the healthy way.

    @Harsh...and I use Lacto Calamine :))

  19. You know, things are not as bad as they seem. I am freakishly fair (you have to see me to believe me-most ppl assume I am a Parsi or an anglo), yet the girls that got attention right from school to college to work were the dusky ones with good figures. Which brings us to the body-image issue. Oh well, you cant win them all!


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