Dismantling Colourism: Beauty Is Not Measured in Shades

Words: Prashita Patil
Featured Image: Parys Gardener

(This article was submitted by Prashita Patil from Mumbai, India. It serves as a letter to the reader on her personal experience of colourism.) 

“Why don’t you buy that cream?”

“In the ad they say you get 5 tones lighter in just 15 days.”

“Or maybe you should try some home remedies.”

“You are turning darker day by day don’t roam out much in the sun or apply sun screen and wear a scarf and goggles and hand sleeves and socks.”

I didn’t get selected in India’s best model auditions. Why? Because I have a dark complexion. People don’t like to see dark girls in the media. It’s thought that people don’t find dark girls appealing, and so, our faces can’t be on the cover of a magazine.

Colourism has been an issue for years and the history of skin whitening in East Asia dates far back to ancient times. In the ancient dynastic eras, to be light in an environment in which the sun was harsh implied wealth and nobility because those individuals were able to remain indoors while servants had to labor outside. Moreover, ancient Asian cultures associated light skin with feminine beauty in particular. In many Asian cultures, colorism is taught to children in the form of fairy tales, such as the Grimms’ fairy tales which featured light-skinned princesses or maidens; Asian mythological protagonists are typically fair and depict virtue, purity, and goodness. A light complexion is equated with feminine beauty, racial superiority, and power, and continues to have strong influences on marital prospects, employment, status, and income. The deep-rooted color bias has ensured that there is extensive discrimination in the labor market, as people with light skin are generally preferred. Other forms of colorism in India can be seen in the cosmetic industry, where creams meant to lighten skin are popular and in the Bollywood industry, where majority of actors and actresses hired are light-skinned, and actresses are often photoshopped to look lighter. Women with dark skin face difficulties in finding a husband. Colorism also goes to extent of violence, as there have been many attacks on people, mainly women, of darker skin due to their skin color. While colorism affects all, it affects women significantly more.

It’s been years I have been patting my skin with green, white, blue face washes and strawberry papaya squashes; because any other colour is better than dark. But, now it’s time to clean sulphates and polymers from my face and body and let my skin breathe. We have learned health is wealth but now we have lost both. By applying high priced chemicals which definitely guarantee short time results, the long time health damage has been ignored by all of us. My motto is going to be simple: ‘Don’t apply the things you cant eat’. Don’t feed your face with those chemicals if you can’t eat them. Let it breathe. Embrace your natural beauty as there is no shade card to hold up and measure your beauty.