Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Photo Credit: Shuttershock
I started hating myself for my own skin color; I was looking for something which I could never get: fair skin. Was I always like this? No! I never saw any defect in my skin color but the remedies and medication to have white skin have always been forcing me to change my skin tone.
My name is Anju and I come from India. I grew up in a small world where a woman with my kind of skin color, was never considered beautiful. To be a brown-skinned girl would mean being viewed as “different” and her family members would try their best to change her skin tone to make her fairer. They believe a girl with dark-brown skin will experience difficulty getting marriage proposals from the opposite sex and will not be successful in any field with her dark-brown skin.
When I was in the 8th grade, my classmates used to bully me. I was referred to as “Kalli” which means black. “Kaali-kaluti, baigan looti (Blacky-black smeared), she robbed the color of an eggplant,” my cousins would taunt when they wanted to laugh at my expense and I laughed along with them, eager to fit in.
“Kaali-kaluti, baigan looti (Blacky-black smeared), she robbed the color of an eggplant.”
I tried my best to fit in as much as I could. I used every fairness cream I saw on TV ads, every remedy which my aunty and other relatives suggested to me but nothing worked on me. I was still the same. There were many times I overheard people asking my parents why I had a very dark skin tone and how it would affect my life.
My abilities were judged on my skin color.
I remember how I was not selected in any school competition, all princess roles were given to fair-skinned people even though princesses also exist in brown skin. I often wondered why I was left out in the dance competitions in preference for others when I was actually the one who did it better.
I started hating myself for my own skin color; I was looking for something which I can never get: fair skin. I had been thinking every single time of how many opportunities I could get if only I had fair skin.
But, one day while getting ready for school with the same hope that today my peers would not call me by the nickname, I looked in the mirror and realized nothing has changed. I found that I am still the same human, the same face shape, the same everything. So why was I trying to fit in with societal acceptance?
All these questions lead me on a path of self-discovery and I found out that I am unique in my way.
“Let’s scrub out that tan,” is a common saying in beauty parlors in India, where girls grow up with constant reminders that only fair skin is beautiful.
According to a study conducted from 2013 to 2016, 70% of the 300 women and men who were interviewed reported wanting to date or partner with someone who has light skin. This colorism is what pushes so many Indians to lighten their skin. Some of the most widely-sold products include Fem, Lotus, Fair and Lovely, and its gendered-equivalent Fair and Handsome.
Most of these appealingly named creams are a dangerous cocktail of steroids, hydroquinone, and tretinoin. The long-term use can lead to health concerns such as permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage, and mercury poisoning among other things.
The long-term use can lead to health concerns such as permanent pigmentation, skin cancer, liver damage, and mercury poisoning among other things.
Feminist groups compelled the Advertising Standards Council of India to issue guidelines in 2014 stating that, “Ads should not reinforce negative social stereotyping based on skin color.” or “Portray people with darker skin [as]…inferior, or unsuccessful in any aspect of life particularly concerning being attractive to the opposite sex.”
India’s skin whitening market is expected to achieve annual market revenue of $720 million by 2023. It is currently dominated by Fair & Lovely, a fairness cream that was launched in 1975 which today holds more than 50 percent market share.
An estimated 60 percent of Indian women and 10 percent of men say they use fairness products. Alarmed by the health dangers of fairness products, the World Health Organization began to study and promote the strict regulation of these creams.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences. – Audre Lorde.
Melanin is an incomparable beauty. From the lightest to the darkest skin tone, black women are exquisite beauty in every shade. Yes, black females have that special something that just can’t be ignored. We are melanin queens, beautifully created! Respect the complexion. We all are unique and we don't have to change a thing. We are beautiful just the way we are!
Edited by Kabuku C Kabwela.
Hello people, my name is Anju, a high school student from India who loves to try different stuff such as writing blogs and poems. I love to use my voice to spread awareness of gender inequality around the globe with the help of clubs, NGOs, and the internet.