The reason for the Indian obsession with fair skin can be traced back to the caste system where dalits or ‘untouchables’ often had much darker skin to the higher castes. The inherent implication is that if you have fair skin, you are somewhat superior to others around you as if darkness were an illness which one must cure. This obsession is observed mainly among Indian women. Even though my skin complexion would be considered okay by Indian standards, I remember how I was compared to my sister because she is fairer and therefore ‘extra’ pretty.The advertising industry is cashing in on this obsession which is engrained in every aspect of our culture. ‘Fair and Lovely’ is one such cosmetic brand that’s been around for years and has become the household name in India. In all its advertisements, it has espoused to be the cure for dark skin. Such advertisements have always disempowered women because they have encouraged the notion that women have to be fair and pretty to be eligible for marriage. I remember watching this ad where a girl is rejected by the groom’s family because she is dark skinned; a relative then advises her to use ‘Fair and Lovely’ and within 4-5 weeks she becomes fair. She bumps into the suitor who rejected her, he insists on marrying her and she agrees. I find this not only dumb but also quite unrealistic. I find this culture quite appalling where women are forced to judge themselves on their appearance and this obviously has a damaging effect on their self-esteem.
Another reason why this obsession has become so engrained in our culture is the romanticizing of western attributes. The fact is that Katrina Kaif, who is now a successful actress in Bollywood, is of foreign origin and she was welcomed with open arms because of her fair complexion. The idea that women must yearn for lighter skin of western women because it’s more attractive is very disturbing. I really don’t see why one should change their natural looks just to please the crowd.