How is this fair?


I had a conversation with one of my old schoolmates. She was narrating an incident wherein her aunt was disparaging her for not being fair-skinned. This was just one of the many incidents that I have heard from people around me. I've seen matrimonial advertisements in the newspapers where the second thing mentioned in the description after the gender of the person would be the skin tone. Most of these advertisements list the physical attributes before the qualifications of the person. I remember one of my distant relatives calling up one of my other relative to inform about his wife giving birth. I was overhearing the conversation, and the first question asked was (as we all know), 'What's the gender of the child?'' and I was not surprised by this, but rather by the second question that followed 'How is the kid like? Is he fair?'. One of my friends was even asked to avoid drinking tea because (apparently) it would darken the skin. I bet many of you might've heard that too.

One of the most common fairness creams that we have all encountered is 'Fair and Lovely'. I remember seeing those ads quite frequently on television. The advertisement had shown a girl who was 'dark-skinned' using the product and becoming almost 7 shades 'lighter'. A gradient difference in skin tone as well as a gradual increase in her smile was also depicted. The fairer she was, the happier she became. I had always found this to be ludicrous. Another ad by the same company that I saw was a group of girls dancing and the choreographer choosing the 'fair girl' to be the lead dancer, whereas a more talented girl didn't make the cut because she wasn't fair. She used the product and garnered attention when she became fairer. It's funny how ads like these were even aired on TV years back. Seeing these ads, in fact, perpetuates the thought that 'fair-skin' is always preferred, and everything else just vanishes before it, and this has been ingrained in the minds of the viewers.

The obsession with fair-skin had started quite long ago and can even be referred to as a 'National Mania'. The colonizers were a part of the country until we had gained independence in 1947. The prejudice had slowly grown till then as the Britishers gave preference to fair-skinned Indians while the rest were ignored. This had facilitated the foundation of the existing caste-system and had linked caste with skin tone as well.

In recent years, advertisements that showcase social stereotyping have been stopped, and stringent guidelines have been brought about as well. Though this is undoubtedly a progress, a change in the mindset of people is indispensable. Fairness doesn't equate to more talent or confidence, but it is merely just a part of polygenic inheritance. You may not be 'fair-skinned', but just remember that those who question it aren't being 'fair' either.