To feel like you look beautiful is one thing; to feel like you are beautiful is entirely another. Neither of which are easily attained states. Nor are they permanent. I know because I have spent many years chasing them both. I managed to catch hold of one or the other at different points in my life, but it’s been difficult to achieve at times.What makes it so difficult? Societies defining and limiting beauty to physical appearance…worst still, to the colour of our skins.
While prominent (and not so prominent) figures revisited Martin Luther King’s dream of future generations not being judged by the colour of their skin, I sat channel hopping in Pakistan. Each time I found a programme worthy of my attention, it was interrupted by adverts not only spreading prejudice against darker skinned people but also offering a ‘solution’, a way out for the not-so-fair – skin whitening creams!
I laughed out loud at the Photoshopped images and exclaimed “oh please!” at the ‘real testimonies’ given by women and men (yes, even men have been sucked into this dark pit of low esteem) who claimed to have had no friends, job or love interest until they managed to bleach their way to fairer skin and lo and behold they were now leading happier existences!
But as I laughed and deflected the nonsense, I was aware that many would be watching feeling down about their skin colour. These campaigns don’t solely plague Pakistan – I’ve seen the same in Bangladesh, India and in the Far East. So which role models can tan skinned people in these countries look up to for support? The few darker skinned Bollywood stars I grew up idolising now endorse skin whitening products and/or appear on screen as though they’ve been dipped in bleach.
The story and demeaning message is no different here in the Middle East where the same products are advertised and fully stocked on supermarket shelves (see picture).
Yes – the sad reality is, 50 years on from Martin Luther King’s infamous speech, prejudice against darker skin still exists and these adverts flickering in front of impressionable minds just feeds into this historical problem.
I’m not sure how I can make a difference but on an individual level I hold my dark brown face up high with pride and say:
‘Fair & Lovely’ can brandish all the products and adverts they want – I’d rather be Dark & Beautiful.
© Rabia Bashir 2013