Artwork credits: @rhecreations_ on Instagram
Growing up, we were told not to play too long in the sun, or we would become darker. A fear of turning darker, which I then later came to learn was deeply engrained in our society. Since the British rule over India, we aspired to achieve ‘Western Beauty’. But en route to becoming 'more beautiful', I think forgot a part of who we were and are. Beauty has been commodified as brands: "use this simple skin lightening cream" they say, "and you will be more desirable".
It’s unclear who is to blame. Do we blame capitalism? The brands that sell us these skin lightening products that brings us Indians closer to our aspired self. Or do we blame society? The generations of colourism within India and other parts of the world that still believe in white supremacy.
I remember when I was younger, the advertisements on TV promised me that if I used their products, I would have lighter skin, more confidence and just be happier. I was naïve and believed the story they sold in their ads. In short, I ditched the skin lightening creams after a few weeks of using them because they made my skin patchy. While I’m not going to deep dive into the chemicals used in those products here, I want to take the time here to reiterate how embarrassed I felt for falling into the trap of these marketing gimmicks and that society made me uncomfortable in my own skin.
Skin love is self love
Having darker skin tone is not the barrier to a happy life but the judgement from others and normalisation of colourism does make a difference. Who decides what the conventional beauty standards are anyways?
While fairness creams may be just part of the equation to this problem, the issue of colourism in India is deeply rooted. However, in light of recent attention the Black Lives Movement has been receiving globally, I hope we can take this opportunity to open up the discussion for the caste and race disparity in our nation. Our gender and our beauty should not be reduced to just our skin colour, we should turn the page to a more empowering and accepting society.