Updated: Sep 16, 2020
@kaali.i’s collaboration with artist @ayushkalra feels like the perfect image for the anti-colorism movement. With a poster titled “Pantone/ Dark & Boujee,” a bottle with “Fair? My Jutti!” and the bag strap saying “Off-Brown,”the womxn in this image is the very picture that comes to mind when I think of a strong womxn who is fighting against colorism. Although society labels such womxn as disrespectful or uncompromising (as South Asian womxn are expected to), I see someone who is proud to show her heritage through her clothing, confidence, and ability to communicate that beauty shouldn’t be limited to the skin color, but rather be based on the person themselves.
This image by @parambanana with @ban.fair.and.lovely particularly poignant because it highlights the importance of how the chain of colorism and other regressive ideologies can be changed. With the phrase “Colorism isn’t nature, it’s taught” @parambanana aptly highlighted how the colonizers of the yesteryears have maintained their grasp on their ex-colonies by perpetuating mentalities that will forever continue having an impact on the younger generations -- unless that behavior is stopped. When a mother chooses to celebrate her own beauty and show her daughter (or any child for that matter), the strength that melanin carries, she breaks the grasp that the colonizers have had, and allows her children to be unburdened by generations of internalized negative thinking.
In this image, the bride is holding a newspaper with a matrimonial ad that reads “homely, glowy & lovely bride wanted” and has her hand raised as if questioning the statement. The expectation that womxn be fair and homely has been an age-old equation for the “perfect wife” and/or “perfect daughter-in-law” but this seemingly simple set of requirements has made life hell for so many womxn with darker complexions who have been side-lined, demeaned, and neglected in the matrimonial world. Rather than choosing someone based on their personality or other features that they are actually capable of controlling, fairness, which is mostly genetic, is an unfair standard to hold someone to. @aasthapastaa's campaign highlights the largest impact that colorism plays in so many womxns’ lives. From birth, the marriage-ability of a girl is set by how fair she is and more often than not, she’s limited from doing anything that keeps her outside for too long (sports, etc), what types of clothes she wears (nothing too revealing because it would allow for tanning), and sometimes even the ability to go to school or have a job.
“Beautiful for a darker girl.” Why should beauty be determined by fairness? @labrynthave’s post aptly highlights the double-standards that so many darker womxn (and men) have to face on a regular basis. Not only are they regularly told to lighten their skin, but these incredibly stunning individuals also have their confidence and self-image broken down from a young age solely because they look different from the Western standards of beauty. @labrynthave speaks to her own experiences of editing her pictures to look lighter, comparing herself to lighter individuals, and feeling inferior to others solely because of her darker skin tone. Her experiences highlight the unfair burden that these beautiful individuals have to carry solely because of the strong anti-blackness and colonial grip that has been ingrained in the South Asian community for generations together.
In the current times when people from all over the world are connected through the easy access to internet, social media, and instant communication, @that_desi_feminist chose to take this ability one step further by bringing forth a petition against Fair and Lovely in Mumbai, India, after being inspired by the BLM protests in different parts of the world. When coming from a world with people who only ranged from “white” to “pale,” the Western colonizers entered an entirely different world in the countries they sought to colonize, a world where people looked different. In trying to find a clear reason for why a different country or set of people needed to be colonized, what could be easier than pointing to the obvious difference in skin color? Many Indians (and South Asians) have forgotten how the very idea of colorism became a staple in their lives, but they have been perpetuating it for generations, with companies like Unilever taking advantage of the mentality. “Fair and Lovely” and other bleaching products have been insanely popular in these communities due to the sheer obsession with fairness. @that_desi_feminist pushed a movement that opened up the eyes of so many individuals who have been negatively impacted by colorism, and was able to spark a serious conversation about the truly sad impact that this mentality has had on so many young womxn (and men) who are POCs.
With the petition that @that_desi_feminist started against Unilever to ban “Fair and Lovely,” the phrase suddenly could be used for so much more, and this is exactly what @art_anushika did. In her own words “since #fairandlovely is no more the name of a product, how about we use it to spread Fairness and Loveliness among our fellow humans.” The very association of the word “fair” to one’s skin tone speaks volumes about how rampantly prevalent colorism is in all of our lives. But this is a standard that was perpetuated by previous generations, and one that we as the current generation and doorkeepers to the future generations are responsible for reshaping. @art_anushika aptly brings up the other meanings of Fairness and Loveliness and reminds all of us of what true beauty looks like.
So many womxn in South Asian households have to face incredibly negative and toxic environments in their “Sasural” or married house. The reasons range from not being seen as good enough for the man she married, for not bringing enough of a dowry, for choosing to prioritize herself or her own family, for not producing a male heir, for not being docile and submissive, and the list simply goes on. @desi_makeup_artist highlights the dark reality of so many womxn who face physical and mental abuse after their marriage and how colorism has played a large role in this terrible norm. So many darker womxn have to deal with large dowry expectations, familial abuse (verbal, physical, and/or mental), and so much more all because of their skin tone. They are seen as inferior to other fair womxn and many times the man and his family will make the womxn’s life hell, solely to remind her that she was not their immediate choice, and sometimes even that they did a favor for her by allowing her to become their daughter-in-law. As if she didn’t have to deal with the constant torment of being rejected by so many families for her complexion, once she does get married, she has to deal with a greater amount of torture due to the regressive thinking. Although this isn’t the case for every darker womxn, it’s an issue that is absolutely worth highlighting and @desi_makeup_artist did a perfect job with using her platform to bring about a conversation.
Brown is beautiful! Colorism exists extensively in South Asia on social media, in Bollywood movies, and even in our daily conversations whether we recognize it or not. How many times have you been told to stay out of the sun to stop getting so dark? Or how many of your family members use or have used the fair and lovely cream itself? Small statements and acts like these make big implications on our perception of beauty and lead to self-hatred. It’s time to be more self-aware of our words and actions and to stop giving into eurocentric stereotypes.
9. NaNi Vaato
We recently published an article called “unFAIR beauty standards” on the NaNi Vaato website, where we tackle colorism and how it is deeply ingrained within the South-Asian culture along with its beauty standards. This article centers around how we need to embrace our “Brown Skin Girls” and shines light on the global discrimination those with darker skin tones face. Within our culture, we’re always told to get lighter somehow and never just told that you are beautiful the way you are. Finally, through the BLM campaign, we were also influenced to speak our minds about the unfairness in our culture