The ‘Dark is Beautiful’ campaign started by Nandita Das immediately caught my attention, as I belong to the darker persuasion myself. This is somewhat of a genetic aberration because my mom has much lighter skin, but the accepted explanation for this anomaly is that I was tossed into an incubator and my poor mother had to hang around the hospital to feed little jaundiced me. So the tale goes that I was born white and then all the rays from the photo-therapy darkened my skin to the luscious brown it is now. I question the scientific reasoning that was the foundation for this story but I’m really not complaining. Thankfully, my parents didn’t give a crap either. All my limbs were intact and I was jaundice free. Anything after that had to be a welcome bonus.
But as always, if you’re born in India every relative and the aunty brigade has to have an opinion about personal issues. “Why is she so dark? Don’t let her play sports any more!”, “Oil her hair everyday, who will marry her without a thick braid”, “So many pimples she has paapam, my Pinky has clear skin”. I’m just glad my name isn’t Pinky or Dolly or anything that ends in a y. The pimples will clear up but that’s here to stay. I’m pretty sure this was all well meaning advice, because this is what society’s expectations are and we’re supposed to adhere to some standard that somebody set. For me it was a non-issue and it always will be.
Time to wade into murky waters. It was a non-issue for me, only because I somehow managed to get past every other hurdle that society threw at me. I’m dark, but I have big eyes and I can style my hair decently to cover the bald patches (HAH). I’m average sized as far as weight goes, and tall enough to pass off as an adult (at last). I think the campaign comes from a good place, but I question its usefulness. People are discriminated against for all sorts of things. Fat people. Ugly people. Dark and fat. Ugly and fair. Fat and ugly. Are we going to start campaigning against every single bias that we have?
I realized how inadequate so many young girls felt purely because they couldn’t live up to the societal standards of beauty.
I am shocked to see the rise in the number of fairness creams, dark actresses looking paler and paler with every film and magazines, hoardings, films and advertisements showing only fair women.
There is nothing wrong with what Nandita has to say, but skin colour is the least of our problems. Every page of every magazine tells us that fat is ugly. Every film star endorses six pack abs and size zero figures. This is so much more prevalent than fair actors and fairness creams. Some people are fat. Unhealthy or not, that’s how it is. Can we start campaigning about how unfair it is that society has created a standard of what is thin and what is fat? Beauty according to societal customs is defined as symmetry of features, big almond shaped eyes and button noses with angular cheekbones. Bad features? Ugly. Bad teeth? Ugly. Bad figure? Ugly. Dark skin with killer features and a hot bod? I don’t see anyone complaining. The so-called standards of beauty are constantly evolving. In the 60’s, a woman with curves was a bombshell and a skinny girl was a boyish waif. The tables are always turning.
The point is this — beauty always has and always will be in the eyes of the beholder, and we will always want what we cannot have. Fair skinned, vampire-y skinned people in the West go tanning because chalky white skin is a fashion faux pas while we go through the ritual of spreading dollops of fairness cream every morning. I go to the gym every day to lose pesky fat and my grandmother tells me I need to put on weight. There are always going to be people who cash in on our insecurities — celebrities, fitness trainers, plastic surgeons and fairness creams, but this a battle we just can’t win. Advertisers will advertise because as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.
Countless studies have shown that attractive people are more successful in life, that things are always a little bit easier for them. There is no way to fight that kind of inherent bias, we all make those judgements. These are the uncontrollable factors given to people by an awesome gene pool and a whole lot of plastic surgery. This whole dark issue is moot. Instead of attacking the advertisers and the fairness creams, how about a campaign to teach young people to take pride in themselves — mind, body and soul? How about teaching teenagers that looks will come and go, but it’s intelligence and confidence that will take you the rest of the way? How about teaching parents to raise their kids to be tolerant and accepting of everyone regardless of height, weight or skin colour?
Beautiful inside and out. That’s how we should feel about ourselves and balls to everyone else.