Do you know someone who has a darker complexion and wants to get lighter? In India, there is a whole trend, that, as most fashion trends, started out with women but spanned in the men’s style world soon after, of making your skin look brighter than… whiter.
It’s not something very new, it has been going on for a lot of time, but there is a whole debate and controversy around it: is it right, is it wrong, does it promote stereotypes that being white is better than being darker, or is it just a cosmetic than like tanning or makeup?
In India, there are millions of people doing it: from the richest to the poorest, from male to female, from young to old. It’s considered a common thing, but many people don’t agree with it.
Anjhula Singh Bais is an Indian model who was offered a lot of money to do a commercial for skin bleaching products, but turned it down because she said that she felt it was offensive to promote that to young people and children. According to her, promoting skin bleaching products conveys the message that “there’s one color better than the other”.
When you first hear about this issue, you tend to believe that these products are something that must be searched for and not extremely available or spoken of. But in fact, skin bleachers are highly advertised in the Indian media. What we also found out from doing research for this article was that in most Indian blockbusters the main characters always have fair skin, so it’s an image that is quite widespread.
Often in these advertisements, the main character is sad and unsuccessful until he or she uses a skin bleacher. After that, he gets the girl, she becomes famous and so on. Sounds familiar? It’s pretty much the same mechanics used in the West by shampoo ads. If you think about it, skin bleachers are just a cosmetic product in the end, so the companies don’t actually have to be blamed. It’s not the companies that have established that lighter skin is more beautiful.
In India, people have issues with their skin tone since birth and early childhood, when kids with darker skin tones are called names. In the dating world, (especially on-line), men always search for women with lighter skin.
Some people argue that bleaching you skin is not necessarily something bad. Just as women put on makeup to become more ‘beautiful’ or ‘desirable’, so do many people remove their skin color in order to become ‘more beautiful’. The question that remains is: “more beautiful to who?”
When noticing what is happening in India , you can’t think of people in the West who do a lot to their skin to become more attractive. Both men and women in the West tend to tan in order to become more ‘beautiful’. Some people tan so dark (in the US there is the famous term “the Jersey look”) that you can’t actually tell their original color. There’s also a debate going on in the African-American community of the US on skin bleaching, but that’s another discussion we need to have.
To go on a deeper level of this issue, we can say that being white in India has something to do with power. For a lot of Indians, white equals power. This goes back to the days of colonialism, when the white people were the ones in control.
Don’t you feel it’s interesting how some people want to be darker and like other dark-toned people, while others choose to become whiter, even if a lot of white people feel being darker is more beautiful? It’s complicated and what’s interesting is that the motto of the problem seems to be: “it doesn’t matter if you’re dark or white, you just need to be fake”.
In the end, we all want to be attractive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is whether getting fairer skin is a form of self-racism. Modern society has a lot more ways to make us look more attractive, so why not use all these means? However, it would probably be a lot better if we could embrace our visual identity more.
What we know is that people always search for beauty; what we learn is that we find exotic elements that are different form us beautiful.
This is definitely a sensitive issue, that rises a lot of passions and interest. It’s hard to make up how the future will look on it, but until then, all we can do is discuss it and position ourselves on one side or the other. Or maybe in the middle.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. What do you think of skin bleaching? Have you seen it in your life? What are your thoughts?