Colonialism, Casteism and Classism birthed colourism
Recent events have significantly highlighted the colourist stereotypes played out in the criminal justice system around the world. Light-skinned individuals have been repeatedly reported to be favoured in employment opportunities, family alliances, and brand representations. Popular media culture has amplified this ideology globally by setting such colourist standards for mainstream models and actors who are expected to look a certain way.
Continuing our conversation with Shweta Aggarwal on colourism, we unravel many more secrets. As a victim of colourism, she also had the opportunity to study it from different perspectives, by living globally.
Having lived in 3 different continents, she mentioned “There’s no doubt colourism in India is the worse I have ever witnessed. It’s overt and inescapable – billboards advertising skin whitening creams, television adverts featuring Bollywood superstars, and conversations everywhere from beauty salons to children’s playgrounds - sadly, colourism is deeply ingrained in people’s mindsets.
Colourism amongst Indians in England is very much prevalent too, however, British Indians are slightly less obsessed with it. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that England is not a sunny country. Deprived of sunshine, holidaying in sunny countries takes priority over obsessing about colour. Nevertheless, post-holiday comments about tanning and turning dark are very common. It’s certainly more prevalent amongst the 1st generation immigrants.
In Japan, colourism is a private matter. They believe in a proverb ‘White skin covers seven flaws’, not necessarily just that ‘fair is beautiful’, but also that fair skin hides skin ailments and blemishes better. Brands like Shiseido, when I was growing up, were extremely popular for skin whitening. The Japanese carry umbrellas and wear gloves to prevent tanning. Having said all of this, I don’t remember overhearing any colour conversations as such, certainly not others pointing out the colour of an individual with derogatory remarks.”
It’s imperative today to address sexism in colourism. Beauty gets directly equated to colour. The pressure to strive for fairer skin is tenfold for women compared to men. This cycle of colourism can be collectively broken apart.
Shweta says, “Bollywood has tremendous influence on people in India would be an understatement. It portrays that fair is beautiful, individuals absorb the message, and before you know it, millions are striving for fairer skin.
Uniliver had the opportunity to start a movement by genuinely changing the brand persona of their bestselling cream Fair & Lovely. But they resorted to simply changing the name to Glow & Lovely, not to mention their brand ambassador is still a fair Bollywood actress.
Even if all the skin whitening products in the world were banned, if we still strive for fairer skin because we believe in the ‘fair is beautiful’ notion, we’ll find other ways. People will resort to alternatives like not going out in the sun, carrying umbrellas in broad daylight, making and applying homemade scrubs, applying lighter foundations and so on. Therefore, banning skin whitening products, in my eyes, is a drop in the ocean.
If people see themselves represented in media and other such industries, they will begin to grow confidence in themselves and their appearances. A collective effort, a mass movement is required for people to undo the centuries of brainwashing and to truly believe that all colours are beautiful.
I’m really pleased to see people raising awareness on social media with the #darkisbeautiful campaign.
There have been little wins. Coloured plasters (band-aids) in a variety of shades are now widely sold in shops (here in the UK). Countless make up brands now have a variety of shades of foundation available. But there is still a lot to be done in truly embracing all colours in every field.”
We asked Shweta the changes she aspires to bring through her book - Black Rose ---
“A very simple change: for people to see a person for who they are, not what they are, to think twice before they spew colour related micro-aggressions on someone, and for colour related bias to stop.”
Although we have a long way to go to uproot colourism completely from our society, we can see slow but steady changes happening along the way. Efforts taken by NGOs, companies, and individuals, who share their experiences, empower many young men and women who one day will also raise their voices and join the battle.
Please join Beaumark Beauty’s mission to create #NocolourismMovement by sharing your experience and tagging us on Instagram. A huge shoutout to Shweta Aggarwal for sharing her story with us.