This post has nothing to do with Snow White, folks! Sorry! But it does have something to do with the fair skin myth that exists within the Indian community.
See, while the Western world really admires tan skin and enjoys laying out and going to tanning salons, the Eastern world relishes fair, creamy skin tones and avoids the sun like it’s the plague. Ok ok, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I know from experience that there is a slight bias in the Indian community towards fair skin.
And I’m just going to stop right here and say that the view I am about to present in this post is MY OWN. I’ve read a number of articles about this issue and have formed my own opinion. This is not meant to offend anyone. I promise.
When I was younger, I remember my aunt advising my mom to rub a chickpea flour and milk mixture on my face so that my skin would stay light (my mom only followed through a few times before she too realized how ridiculous the whole thing was). I also remember various female family members talking about washing their bodies with a lemon juice mixture in order to achieve lighter skin tones. For a long time, I remember thinking that the only way to be was fair. I sought out the shade like it was my job, I scrubbed the hell out of my body thinking that would help me achieve my goal of being lighter, and I used Indian beauty creams that promised “creamy, smooth, light skin.” WHAT!? Why did I subject myself to this? Was my family crazy?! I won’t answer that last question. LOL!
A few years ago, I came across an article in a local Indian magazine (Khabar) that talked about the fair beauty myth and the Indian culture…it automatically caught my eye. The article addressed the bias that is evident in the Indian fashion and movie industries, as indicated by models being rejected for “being five shades too dark” and actresses being rejected for certain roles in movies but then being called back for the sinister, vengeful roles. You won’t believe this, but there is actually an entire Indian soap opera about a beautiful girl that supposedly did something to shame her family, and now her character is 10 shades darker and a maid for some rich family. Not.cool.at.all! In fact, these models and actresses were (are) subject to the same things I was as a kid – skin lightening creams, home remedies, etc..
This Bollywood actress, Bipasha Basu, was once told she would never
make it in the Indian film industry because of her skin tone.
The irony of the situation is that a lot of these darker toned women are gaining international attention for their beauty, while people in their own country are shunning them. The other piece of irony is that a lot of the goddesses from Indian mythology are portrayed as being dark and lustrous; however, they are known for their beauty, purity, and feminine power.
Even to this day, I have friends and family members who will not go and sit in the sun in the fear that they will “get dark.” I know women who wear makeup that is clearly about three shades too light for them.
With everything else that we have to worry about in life, does “not getting/appearing dark” have to be at the top of the priority list? NO! It makes no sense! And this frustrates me so much because I truly do believe that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, skin tones, etc. And more than that, beauty really is something that radiates from the inside out.
I know that this whole fair skin myth evolved out of historical events, the Indian caste system, blah, blah, blah,but wake up, people, it’s the 21st century!!!! The color of your skin is not a reflection of your self-worth, your intelligence, how good of a person you are, etc. IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!
Before I go, I just want to stress something. I truly believe the Indian culture is a beautiful one that values a lot of wonderful things – family, education, faith, fun , etc. However, just like every other culture out there, this one is not without its flaws. And based on things I have read, India is not an outlier when it comes to the fair skin myth – other Asian countries also hold the same beliefs.
With that, I can’t wait to sit out by the pool in an attempt to darken my own skin by 2-3 shades! Take that, beauty myth! Who’s with me!?!?
14 thoughts on “Who’s the Fairest of Them All?”
That is so interesting to hear about this topic from another country’s point of view. It’s so funny because Americans always want really tan skin! I’ve never thought about other backgrounds’ thoughts on the idea!
I had no idea about this. It seems that so many people believe that the only desirable way to be is whatever you’re not already. I am extremely fair-skinned and remember getting teased in high school by all the girls who tanned regularly. My mom has had skin cancer removed twice from sun exposure, so impressing those girls was never more important than my health.
I’ve heard of this from several of my friends…perspective of beauty vary so much country to country, generation to generation. Unfortunately we can often become crippled by the messages.
It really forces us to determine what we like about ourselves despite what the magazines tell us. Dark is beautiful. Light is beautiful. Curvy is beautiful. It’s in the eye of the beholder.
I knew there was a desire for “whiter” skin in Indian culture, but I had NO idea it was to this degree! So do Indian people think us lily white caucasians are nuts with our tanning obsession? I wish I had pretty golden Indian skin! 🙂
This post was beautifully written.. I have to say I actually laughed out loud as I recalled my own lemon juice/chickpea face masks and baths.
I’m from a family of super light women, all of whom can pass for Caucasians.. whereas I’m more.. “wheatish” 🙂
luckily my parents never mentioned this or anything, I didn’t even realize im “dark” until my first trip to india, at age 4, when all my aunts looked at me with despair as thoughts of my inevitable spinsterhood filled their heads (who would marry a dark girl?!)
my dad told me something that i still remember to this day.. people always want what they can’t have.
asian cultures, as well as many african and middle eastern cultures, are naturally more pigmented, therefore we want to be lighter.
european/american cultures are lighter, and therefore want to be darker.
i guess the grass IS always greener! 🙂
I love this post! Now that it’s summer in Mumbai, the sun is at its peak and no one here gets my happiness with being able to tan and finally get some color! They avoid is like the plague- ok maybe not so badly but u know what i mean!
Beauty really is super subjective! For example, in the Western slim/skinny is considered beautiful whereas in Nigeria/Africa curvy & voluptuous is more desired. The latter is a sign of wealth and contentment!
Wow! I had no idea that this kind of bias even existed in the Indian community. Isn’t is so strange how every culture values things so differently?! But I’m with ya, girl! Let’s go to the pool!! 😀
This was really interesting!! When I was in Dubai last year, my friend was telling me all about this. I couldn’t even believe it. I think I was complaining about how pale I was (I’m pretty pale, haha) and she was complaining at how dark she’d gotten. I am so fascinated by these cultural differences, especially between the east and the west. It is always so interesting to compare different standards of beauty. They number of ways they differ is a testament to the fact that beauty is subjective, for sure!!
It’s so interesting to read about how other cultures value lighter skin while Caucasian value darker! That disparity certainly shows how ridiculous any preference is!
Thanks so much for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful, sunny weekend 🙂
When I lived in China, I remember my Chinese friends reprimanding me all the time for spending so much time in the sun and trying to darken my skin tone. They would slather on the same types of products you are talking about in this post in order to lighten their skin while I went sunblock free and welcomed the sunshine. It really was interesting to me how it was that we had such different ideas of what beauty meant because of our cultural backgrounds. Anyway, great post and I love that you are ready to lay by the pool. I definitely just came in from laying out outside! Love it! 😀
Love this post and your honesty! It’s crazy that western society was probably envious of how dark you were without the damaging effects of tanning while you were thinking about staying out of the sun so you didn’t get any darker! Every culture has different standards of beauty, but most of them share the characteristic of an “ideal” that no one really ever meets!
Oh the irony. Some want lighter skin and we are constantly exposing your skin to cancer by laying out hours at a time. Never happy =/
I’m glad you did a post on this topic. I think there needs to be more awareness on this subject. Skin lightening in India is a $1 Billion dollar industry… it’s crazy! I actually like using Bronzer 🙂 There are tons of beautiful dark skinned women… OPRAH, Tyra, Bipasha (yeah, she isn’t very light and gorgeous). Great post Parita! 🙂
Thank you! I didn’t know how people would take it, but I too think it’s an important topic that deserves some attention. Thanks for reading!