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

Published: April 20, 2016

Campaigns like #UNFAIRANDLOVELY must continue to surface so that we can begin to dissociate stereotypes in aspects of human life that are so irrelevant, yet so psychologically scarring, for both men and women.

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.

  • SkepticalFaraz

    A human cannot help who they are attracted to. Evolution has designed us to be attracted to certain types. I find Punjabi/ Kashmiri/ Pashtun women attractive even if they come with a darker tone, i dont find most Indian women attractive even if they are light skinned. I am attracted to the Lamborghini while i think Bugattis are ugly, are you going to train me to be attracted to Bugattis?Recommend

  • mehreen

    thumbs up to this great start I wish people including me being able to appreciate the inner beauty rather judging them over superficial things like complexion

  • Read Below

    I wonder if this complex would exist, if the Indian region was a first world; say as rich and prosperous as the United States.

    Over the past few centuries, prosperity is linked to the western world, with majority of its inhabitants having a white skin. Poor people generally try to emulate the looks, habits, manners and overall lifestyle of the rich people, where ever and when ever they can.

    Hence it can said that the people of this region subconsciously want to look white to be able to up their demand.

    Women who are financially stable and do their own jobs tend to be less obsessive with looking white compared to women who are totally dependent on their husbands, brothers and fathers for surviving.

    Once this entire area becomes a thriving first world, all forms of odd complexes would float away themselves.Recommend

  • Shehzad Siddiqui

    Great article Madiha. Definitely an issue within our society that pervades the ‘millennial’ generation as well. It only contributes to our society being less confident than others.Recommend

  • Shamaila

    Nice blog !!Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Khan

    It is good to hear that not only Pathans and Sikhs are ridiculed but dark skin people are also ridiculed which are in majority in the subcontinent. Thanks Madiha!Recommend

  • AZL

    Beauty creams with bleach like fairandlovely should be stopped for giving false message to people as your natural color cannot be changed. Have also heard that fairand lovely can cause skin cancer as it peels of your skin showing your new skin a little lighter as it has not been exposed to sun.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    It better be like, Beauty may be little in Fair or Unfair. But Good attitude make you lovely for all societies.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The Gold Standard by which the value of a currency was defined, was abandoned in 1930 but this was brought about by the economic Depression…… what phenomenon will bring about the abandonment of this ‘ beauty standard ‘ is still being debated. If it is to be economic prosperity…..why are the Japanese still obsessed with longer noses and bigger eyes. I feel there is no blanket answer to this dilemma……its an issue to be addressed on an individual basis.Recommend


    Some people are dark but their features are regal and beautiful. Other people with dark skin dont have pretty features. The sisters themselves look good with dark skin.

    They shouldnt impose their thoughts on masses who use this product to hide shortcomings of their features.Recommend

  • thriftysmurf

    Humans can’t help who they are attracted to, i find most Pashtun/ Punjabi/ Kashmiri women attractive even if they are darker skinned. I do not find most Marathi, Gujarati, South Indian women attractive even if they are lighter skinned. I find Ferraris better looking than Bugattis…are you going to teach me to be more attracted to Bugattis? If not…why would you teach me to find a particular person attractive?Recommend

  • Laskero

    White people lay in the sun or go to tanning salons to get some color and here we are bleaching our skin to look white. Just be happy in your own skin.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Draupadi was dark. Krishna was very dark…Recommend

  • M.Saeed

    Ultimate beauty can only emerge if one is truthful, radiates goodness in nature and cares how the creator had created him/her. Fair skin almost always results in profound pride and being proud of something is the mother of every human vice.Recommend

  • M.Saeed

    Neighbor’s lawn is always greener!Recommend

  • M.Saeed

    Human race originated in Africa and was black.Recommend

  • sterry

    It doesn’t affect Pakistani society like in Indian society. How many times have you come across Pakistani women obsess about skin colour outside of Karachi? This is a concept brought from India which is why Zubaida Apa who s Muhajir origin from South India does ads for fair and lovely soap for her community. Native Pakistani women whether Punjabi Kashmiri, Baluch or from GB would be considered fair by South Asian standards I have never seen poor women in fields of KPK or Punjab worry about sun and skin colour like Indian women do. Tell women to be happy with whatever tone they have since most South Asian women are dark and there is a reason why different South Asian races look different.Recommend

  • M.Saeed

    You are correct. The African concept of beauty is diagonally apart from what we believe. One African poet describes the beauty of his beloved by comparing her lips with bananas and her shining black complexion as good as eye-liner!Recommend

  • Maria

    India may have a bleaching problem but do you really see Pakistani women doing the same? I don’t think so. I only heard of this issue in Karachi from Zubaida Apa who is originally from Hyderabad Deccan in India and moved to Pakistan. Indian races are generally darker and the Indian caste system is based partly on shudra caste and brahmin caste and so on but even poor native Pakistanis like in Upper Punjabi, Gilgiti or Pashtun are genetically fairer than most other South Asian races despite being labour class. I don’t see them worry about skin colour when they work in fields. Pakistanis may have preference for fairer skin but they are not obsessed about it like the Indian people.Recommend

  • Laskero

    What are these Indian races? Do Pakistanis not remember their roots anymore? Talk about whitewashing the facts, no pun intended :)Recommend

  • LS

    Indian Races? Clueless. India is a Country, Indian is a nationality as well as a name of Subcontinent. There are NO Indian RACES… India is a melting pot of multiple races including central asian (Caucasoid), mongoloid and australoid


    There is not much difference in genetic makeup of Indians and Pakistanis in distribution of Y and MtDna haplogroups. The only other explanation being the difference in latitude and amount of Solar radiation. Thus, Northern Pakistanis are fairer than southern Pakistanis and the same is true for Indians except those who were transplanted few generations ago from one area to another area… (Ex, Nadar of Tamil Nadu being genetically similar to Burusho people from Pakistan)

    lastly pakistani’s may or may not be obsessive about skin color (which is hard to believe) but they sure are discriminatory like everyone else.Recommend

  • Dr. Mahmood & Waqar Ali

    Appreciative thanks for the article/sharing thoughts.
    At SDPI (www.sdpi.org) we near completion of a study on Skin Whitening Creams (SWCs). Some SWC brands have shown alarmingly high mercury (3rd most toxic substance) contents (some as high as above 20, 000 ppm against the permissible standard 1ppm), it’s neither gender nor age nor color specific issue (30-50% males), main change of skin condition caused Melasma & Acne, once used, cause subsequent use in higher , Users mostly unaware of the hazadous effects of SWC, TV program/morning shows causing the fast increasing trends for complexion change, dermatology not an essential part of MBBS curriculum,most of dermatologists support banning hazardous SWCs. Detailed report would be loaded in six weeks time inshallah.

  • PJ

    Hindustani Races straight from Wikipedia.
    The majority Indians are Dravidian. Dark, flat face.
    [Harappan Civilization from Attock/Lahore to Gujrat/Dwarka
    was the first Dravidians Culture/Civilization
    The Harappans can be compared to the Egyptians.]
    Negrito [as the first human race migrated out of Africa]
    Proto Australoid [related to current aborigines of Australia]
    Pre Dravidians [original Dravidians. indigenous to the peninsula]
    Dravidians [majority of Hindustanis, mix Australoids]
    Indo Aryans [came from the Caucasus region, settled in North]
    Indo Alpines [indigenous to the the Himalayan region]
    Mongoloid [arriving from the current Mongolian region]
    The Muslims are of Turko Iranian origins. Also known as
    Bachupals and Scythians.Recommend

  • LS

    All of them conform to OOA and Aryan Invasion or Indo Aryan theory is only taught in pakistan and it has been dispelled world over. lastly look at the genetic mix map of the world and you will realize that YOU ARE WRONG.


  • harshada dhotre

    we are ever so willing to try anything under the sun to get beautiful skin. There are people who use many cosmetics to look fair complextion.some products are available in the market which remove your skin tan to get clear look .be natural stay health love yourself the way you are by telecart fairlook lotionRecommend