Colorism: What No One Is Talking About
By:     -   February 7, 2018   -   Guest Feature  -  Life Lessons  -  Lifestyle  -  Speak Up  -  Women's Issues   -   0 Comments   -   184 Views


Nestled within picturesque corners of every country and its culture, hides a dark secret. No one wants to talk about it, no one wants to deal with it – being “dark and ugly” just won’t cut it in this world. It’s an age-long issue. When a girl is dark, she can be deemed undesirable as European beauty standards are placed on a societal pedestal. In many Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, there is a constant struggle with the color of a girl’s skin and how pretty she looks.

Just recently, comedian and actress Leslie Jones took to social media to share a moment of vulnerability and transparency, where she struggled with image and the fear of not being able to find a partner to share her life with. This is so common across the board, no matter who you are. We all have our moments….

And of course, beauty is subjective, and in the eye of the beholder.

Often average-looking girls (again, in the eye of the beholder) with light skin, manage to make their way through life successfully as compared to their darker skinned peers. Why? Because they are fair-skinned and this makes them acceptable in society by default. But if you’re dark and assumed less attractive, you’re just not someone who will be naturally propelled to the front and center. All over the world, there is a desire to equate lighter skin to aesthetically-pleasing qualities in a person, which has led to famous actresses ‘magically’ becoming notably lighter in their skin tones as they appear in publications. Take, for example, singer Beyonce, actress Kerry Washington, Bollywood actresses Bipasha Basu & Deepika Padukone among others. When advertising on commercials, you can see their having visibly-altered skin tones. Also, in society, some strongly promote skin-lightening creams as life-changing products.

Again, why? The majority of advertisements and commercials often choose faces that are lighter or fairer in complexion (and will loose curls), in order to market their beauty products. It’s what attracts and appeases the public, and advertisements only feed the public what they want….or what they think would be more palatable.

Colonialism and Power

Fair skin bias was perpetuated and strongly reinforced by colonialism, not just in the Indian subcontinent, but in dozens of countries ruled by European powers.[1]

It was a strong belief that the ruler would always be fair and “good looking”, whilst the workers were “dark and ugly”. Peasants would work outdoors and therefore, have tanned skin because of constantly being in the sun. In comparison, wealthy people were able to keep their women and children inside. There was no need for them to work outdoors, thus maintaining fair skin and swelling in the glory of looking attractive. This is how, light skin began to be seen as a sign of high status. If you were fair, you were more likely to be associated as being from a place of privilege. This idea is still very popular in countries such as Pakistan and India.

Finding Jobs 

Regardless of gender, often good jobs are passed onto those that have light skin. This discrimination is not very obvious because it is done in such a subtle way. People of lighter skin color are given higher paid jobs whilst those that that have darker skin tones struggle to climb the ladder.

The challenge of eliminating prejudice and discrimination, such as this, is difficult because it goes into the core of people’s belief system, which means changing the mind-set of the person. This essentially then becomes difficult. Having prejudices rooted into the mind at a young age, it becomes similar to a belief system.

Trials and tribulations of Marriage

Being dark-skinned has been an important issue for a long time and one that often gets buried under the carpet as people just don’t like the idea of confronting this prejudice.

In Asian cultures, mothers tend to run after their daughters with various concoctions put together, in the hopes of turning their daughters into fair and lovely princesses. It seemed like there was no need for this, because ironically a wave of ‘fair and lovely’ creams across Asia swept the Asian community off their feet, guaranteeing girls the fairness they so desired. No longer would you be the “dark and ugly” version of yourself. But instead, this cream would make you beautiful – just the way society wanted.

It is very disheartening to know that these views are often formed and then handed down the generations by women themselves. Instead of trying to change their internal conditioning and the views of society, they will teach their sons that they need ‘fair’, beautiful’ and slim wives.

In some cultures, women of the family – mothers, aunts and grandmothers, will often shake their heads in disappointment over a girl’s complexion. Mothers will taunt their daughters for not being ‘light enough’ or ‘pretty enough. The daughter will thus undergo emotional torture, because she was born “darn and ugly”. Moreover, a tan would lead some relatives and classmates to admonish her: “You’ve turned black, you will have to work hard to lighten your skin tone. Otherwise, no one will marry you” is a common taunt that is thrown out. Things which cause a girl to feel insecure and lack confidence. Not being fair enough for a guy to be attracted to you. Even the dark-skinned guys have the nerve to turn their noses up at dark-skinned girls because they want “good looking” wives that would give them good-looking children.

In a majority of the cases, whenever you’re looking for a partner, the first thing you see is how attracted you are to him/her. Often the first thing you will notice is how beautiful/good-looking they are, and if they are light or dark in skin-tone. In cultures such as India or Pakistan, the guy will reject the girl if she is not light-skinned –  and that’s only a quarter of the battle! Combine that with being “unattractive” and slightly overweight…

When Will It End?

All women are forced to deal with unrealistic and harmful beauty standards. But darker women are forced to deal with it to a level that can destroy their confidence. Their entire being and self-worth is assessed by how they look, how men view them and the type of attention they get. It’s a messed-up system. You can be the most horrible person on earth, but as long as you are good looking you will have people falling at your feet. This hierarchy of the system is bothersome for darker women; the cruel realities of beauty standards are ridiculous.

Beauty shouldn’t be the scale by which you measure the self-worth, but it becomes exactly that. You are left grappling with bleach, skin-lightening creams and heavy make-up just to look and feel good despite feeling broken in the inside.

Finally, some of these have been a personal experience. I have been through them, I have felt defeated and unhappy. Now, I have learned to accept every part of myself, and I am happier. I run my own business in modest wear and I am making a life for myself that does not require me to worry about what others think.  I determine my own destiny.