Fair Enough?

by Minako Sanda

Through looking at the Indian marriage advertisements, I found it surprising that family have custom to use marriage arrangement service. Such custom is nothing new in India, but it is certainly new that people start to make the skin color as the big matter of marriage as out loud as caste system. When I first saw the commercial for Fair&Lovely, in which a dark-skinned woman is disrespected by the marriage arrangement company, I thought that was merely a parody against Indian racists. But the word ‘racism’ actually has nothing to do with Indian preference of ‘marry the light’. Instead of talking about race, their matter is the appearance. Indian women do not have to be like white people, but why does being lighter skinned have so much privilege compared to others?

If this preference for lighter skin is the effect of the marketing commercial or the traditional culture that has been excised in every generation’s marriage, I wonder if there is any way to effectively change the situation. Marketing companies, especially cosmetic production, continue to be flourishing by creating opportunities for consumers to be different from what they naturally are. Although all consumers in the world are equally consumers, as we talked in class, one interesting comparison is that getting tanned for white people is acceptable but Indians getting skin lightener is taboo. Why not Indians get tanned (or, considered as ‘brown beauty’) in West, if white people are the models of lighter skinned celebrity in India? To think about such inclined beauty into light, white skin in the world, as we talk in the class we should have more equal choices when defining a beauty. Indian advertisement on marriage for example, has to be internationalized. Then people will start thinking that the expectation to have only fare candidate is restricting the idea of beauty in India.

I think, when someone from foreign country brings the new feature of ‘beauty’ into the others, people can adapt new feature to the old one, if not to totally transform the shape of ideal beauty. If the Western colonial era left the idea of fair is beautiful in India, it can simply be flipped over by the power of globalization which now promote tanned skin as beauty. Therefore I thought the continuous preference on the light skinned people is perhaps maintained by custom in India. One possible explanation for this custom is that people might not have any choice but to lighten their skin to make appearing change in their appearance, since most of Indian naturally have dark brown skin that never be exposed to ‘tanning’. If so, when whiteness is one way to show wealth, I believe that Indian natural beauty should be publically accepted by the majority of people.

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