I am not talking about the quest for being fair and just here. I mean to use word”Fair” in a way only we in India use it – to describe a lighter colour of skin .
India is a unique country race wise. We are neither white nor black. We are not even completely brown. The heterogeneity and diversity in skin colour from very fair (a particular term used only in India to describe your skin colour) to wheatish(another term used in India) to black has produced deep prejudices and discrimination in the society and women are particularly at receiving end of this discrimination. You should just read a wanted bride advertisement in any matrimonial section of newspaper to understand where Indian society stands on this issue. No wonder parents and society crave for a girl to be fair as that’s what sells in unofficial arranged marriage market and apparently a fair skin is what it takes to be successful in life as shown by the advertisements for fairness creams.
The roots of this quest for fairness are in how you don’t accept yourself as you are and don’t feel good enough to engage with the world without armour of that talcum powder and fairness cream. This reflects the low self-esteem and inability to accept oneself. This damage was not done in a day. It was done day by day to the girls throughout their childhood and growing up years in India.Importance of how we treat children is reflective of their behaviour as adults.
Even a new-born baby is not spared. All elderly women folks who come to see a new-born baby would examine the face of baby closely and declare the fortune or misfortune of parents for having a fair or not so fair baby girl respectively. This is especially true in small towns and rural North India. Grandmothers or sometimes mothers telling girls to not play in sun as they might become dark. Comparing children on basis of their colour of skin, praising other children who are fair and hence beautiful.The quest for fairness isn’t a new phenomenon. There are age old sayings which exemplify the deep-seated desire for fair skin. One example of such saying is that one fairness can hide 10 faults in a face. Colour discrimination goes hand in hand with gender discrimination. When a boy is dark, it is said a man is as handsome as he does but for a girl how she looks is everything. Idioms such as “beauty is skin deep and a book should not be judged by its cover” are not used for girls. Girls are indeed judged by their physical appearance in which fair skin has way more weightage than any other attribute. In India being beautiful has become synonymous with having a relatively whiter skin colour.
It’s not that even ones who are born fair are free from this quest. They want to be fairer. The quest for fairness can not be satisfied. Have seen many fair girls using all fairness products to move up in fairness value chain. I once heard a description for a young bride that she was so fair that she shined like a bulb when there was no light in room! Can you imagine the obsession of Indian society with fairness? The real damage such mind-set does on young Indian girls is that they misplace their value system as far as beauty and self-image is concerned. Being declared not enough fair reduces their self-esteem and self-confidence for ever. They are never able to accept themselves as they are and misplace their efforts on hiding their skin colour through the fairness products instead of focusing on things that really matter such as enhancing their skills, knowledge and making a real difference to their lives.
I respect celebrities who refuse to endorse fairness products.Any educated person knows that you can not change colour of your skin. It is coded in your genes.Still celebrities like Yami Gautam or Alia Bhatt choose to feature in these misleading fairness cream ads.These are women who were born fair and have not become fair by using these products. They know that and yet they accept to do ads which are misleading the impressionable young minds. They are not endorsing these products, they are endorsing the fact that it is a privilege in this country to be born fair. And to me that is not fair.