#Unfairandlovely: Being attractive should not be synonymous with being fair-skinned

Published: April 20, 2016

I remember not being allowed to drink tea when I was young because my grandmother feared that my complexion would turn dark. This was one of those instances where one subconsciously absorbs cultural ‘customs’ and it gets instilled as a belief rather than a notion.

After hearing such comments repeatedly, one eventually starts believing there is some truth to these nonsensical things. At first, I thought my grandmother belonged to an old school of thought, wherein fair skin was synonymous with beauty, but I was wrong. This mindset is still prevalent in today’s society.

I was shocked to see one of my male co-workers being ridiculed by his colleagues because he had dark skin. Considering we are educated and finding humour in statements such as,

“You can’t be seen when the lights are switched off” or “don’t ever wear black.”

Are not only appalling, they are also not funny.

Personal remarks based on skin colour have no moral basis because people are being ridiculed for their biological make-up.

The stigma of colour is deeply embedded in our society. For South Asian countries such as Pakistan or India, skin tone acts as a determining factor for women and men in matters like marriage prospects, career and general admiration.

We’re told not to be out in the sun for too long – why? Because South Asians hold the tendency to tan quicker.

Whenever we go to the beach, one of our essentials is sunblock – not because we want to protect our skin from UV rays, but to decrease the darkening impact of the sun. Mothers of athletic daughters constantly pester them to bleach their skin.

This notion is reinforced by products that continue to breed and feed this frame of mind. Why else are skin bleaching and fairness creams so popular in this part of the world? Almost every girl I know has used these products at some point in their life. A few celebrities endorse such products and have also been suspected to have undergone medical procedures to whiten their skin tone. Our masses would feel compelled to follow their footsteps as well.

This adds to the turmoil and insecurity faced by the dark-skinned youth of our society.

Why is being ‘physically attractive’ such a subjective matter? People in European countries who are incredibly fair use products such as tanning lotions to become a few shades darker. What’s amusing is that what is fair and beautiful to us is pale and ghostly to them. Many African Americans are proud of their skin colour, owing to their ancestral struggles and identity, whereas others see it as a sign of oppression.

So, why is it so subjective?

The answer is clear: Because it’s a matter of perception.

Which is why, when I found out about the #Unfairandlovely campaign, I was ecstatic that somebody had finally taken the initiative. Someone was finally challenging this damaging perception.

The campaign was launched by sisters Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah, students at the University of Texas, who were photographed by their friend Pax Jones.

The basic idea behind #Unfairandlovely is to provide a platform where dark skinned women can post selfies online and feel a sense of solidarity on a global front.

While speaking about the hashtag, Yogarajah said,

“I want darker-skinned women to realise that we are beautiful. We don’t have to succumb to these standards that are up in the air and really toxic.”

The hashtag also targets the promotion of skin-lightening creams by discouraging the discriminatory attitude depicted through their adverts.

The campaign has been trending on both Instagram and Twitter, with several dark-skinned women creating a front of solidarity by sharing their selfies along with their stories of self-doubt, rejection and liberation.

Having said that, #Unfairandlovely must continue so we can begin to dismiss ideas which are so psychologically scarring, for both men and women.


Madiha Akhtar

A freelance writer, an avid reader and a blogger, she has worked as a field reporter for a brief period and has written articles as a freelancer for different publications. She tweets as @mistful83 (twitter.com/mistful83)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.