BY: NADIA ZAIDI
A selfie featuring three dark-skinned women in traditional attire has gone viral due to its poignant caption: “the faces of India they won’t show you.”
What resonates is the statement made against a culture that reveres fairness and equates it with virtue. The social implications of being dark skinned disenfranchise a large portion of the population, and consequently foster a multi-billion-dollar industry of skin lightening products like Fair and Lovely.
The photo was taken by Singapore resident, Abirami Ravichandran Pillai under the hashtage #UnfairAndLovely – a global campaign that celebrates dark skin. Weeks after Pillai posted that photo to facebook, it has influenced people all over the world to upload photos in solidarity.
India isn’t the only country that admires light skin. Fairness is a reflection of beauty in various ethnic communities around the world. Still, Indian preference for light skin has been under global spotlight due to its pervasiveness in South-Asian communities around the world.
Fair skin’s equation with wealth and prestige have long fuelled stigma against darker skin. It’s also a necessitated standard of beauty for women whose marriages are often contingent upon their colour. From movies to fashion and matrimonial ads, dark skinned women are outcast as undesirable, or worse, unworthy.
The fact that we need a photo to rouse our consciousness and sensibilities around the primitiveness of colour shaming is absurd. The day when we don’t need a hashtag, or a photo, or a round table discussion to point to our inherent bias is the day that we are truly liberated. It’s melanin, and campaigns like Unfair And Lovely should be applauded for their gusto and ability to galvanize people all over the world.
The power of social media to instigate social movements is both admirable and worrisome. Its misuse in the name of humanity lends to great harm and despite this awareness, I would hope that it wouldn’t be fleeting. India has a long way to go, but its citizens are reclaiming the rights that have long been under question.