A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
Most of my life, I didn’t have to face the nagging questions “Why don’t you use a little makeup to make yourself look fairer?” or “You used to be so pretty, why have you become so tanned?” So, one could ask what angers me about this whole concept of equating fairness as the epitome of being beautiful.
Women are constantly being judged based on their physical appearances. We have stereotyped the concept of ‘being beautiful’ so much that the society we live in asks us to ‘be ourselves’ and tries to sell us something like Fair and Lovely at the same time. The very definition of ‘beauty’ in the dictionary states that ‘colour’ has to be one of the criteria that dictates whether we find a woman beautiful. Call it a colonial hangover or a mindless prejudice, but it has festered in our society for centuries, where people are still obsessed with fair skin.
“You can’t wear that colour; you’re too dark for it!”
Even though I did not have to face such situations directly in my life, I was witness to multitudes of such events where people close to me were constantly pushed to try out different fairness products. My sister happened to be one of them who at times was asked to avoid certain colours because they made her look ‘too dark’. “Put some makeup on to look fairer” was a line she had to hear from our mother almost every time before going out! From family members to sales girls at make-up counters — these comments seemed to be hurled at dark-skinned girl from all sources. Complexion biases aren’t new. Our society has an ingrained belief that equates beauty with fair skin. But in a country where a majority of the population is 50 shades of brown, it is ridiculous to believe that only fair is beautiful.
I was out with a friend recently, when she spoke to me about how much it still hurts her when her mother asks her to put foundation on to look fairer. Otherwise, who’d marry you? Her mother asked. She said this had been going on ever since she was a child, and one would expect that she’d be used to it by now. Her shaky voice said she wasn’t. She asked me how people in this century still seem to harbour the notion that only fair skinned women somehow fit into society’s model of ‘beautiful’. “I was born this way, how is it my fault?” she asked.
The fault lies with us
The fault lies with the society that looks out for a perfectly proportioned figure, a flawless fair complexion, luscious hair, bright eyes and a stunning white-toothed smile- and when they find someone that fits these unrealistic criteria, they still find something wrong!
To add to that, count how many adverts you see every day promising to turn women into these beauty goddesses - weight loss products, fitness regimes, clothes and hair and make-up products. They are everywhere. The pressure is on adverts, it’s on TV, it’s in magazines, and it’s online. It’s in our heads too.
Let’s think of this - A father advises his daughter to get married, and she is upset. She is an independent woman who plans to carve a successful career ahead for herself. She won’t keep aside all that she dreams of and get married. But, it is only after she applies a popular fairness cream that she finds the courage to tell this to her father. Because, fairness creams don’t just turn a woman “lovely” but they also make her confident. Right? WRONG.
Maybe it’s a bit farfetched to expect the change in attitude to begin at home. We need to rebuild our confidence before society manages to crush it beyond repair. We need to make sure we are not dragged down by a plethora of judgment by appearance which belongs thoroughly in the past.
We are so much more than the way we look, and at times, it’s difficult to remember that when it’s people close to us doing the damage. What you need to remember then is that you are much more than your skin colour, and the sooner you embrace yourself just as you are, the sooner people can stop using that as a tool to hurt you or make you feel inferior.
You have no obligation to fit into someone else’s idea of beautiful.
The writer is a food enthusiast, avid shower singer, a college student with big dreams, a love for pandas and a major case of wanderlust. To know more, follow her at: https://medium.com/@munzereenshahid