Dark is Beautiful
A fresh stream in India, promoting the beauty of all skin colours is throbbing hard against the nation’s obsession with fair skin. “Dark is Beautiful” is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias and also celebrates the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.
Launched in 2009 by Women of Worth, the campaign challenges the belief that the value and beauty of people (in India and worldwide), is determined by the fairness of their skin. This belief, shaped by societal attitudes and reinforced by media messages, is corroding the self-worth of countless people, young and old. The desire for lighter skin in India is ignited by a widespread belief that dark-skin is ugly and inferior. Fair skin is not only perceived to be a key definer of beauty, but is considered to be an essential element of self-confidence, success, vis-a-vis happiness. According to The Guardian, India’s obsession with fair skin is well documented: in 1978, Unilever launched Fair & Lovely cream, which has subsequently spawned numerous whitening face cleansers, shower gels and even vaginal washes that claim to lighten the surrounding skin.
In 2010, India’s whitening-cream market was worth $432m, according to a report by market researchers ACNielsen, and was growing at 18% per year. Last year, Indians reportedly consumed 233 tons of skin-whitening products, spending more money on them than on Coca-Cola. The campaign hopes to halt India’s huge appetite for the so-called skin whitening products. Cricket players and Bollywood stars regularly endorse these products. But recently, film star Nandita Das has taken a stance against this craze and given her support to the Dark is Beautiful campaign which challenges the belief that success and beauty are determined by skin colour. “I want people to be comfortable in their own skin and realise that there is more to life than skin colour.” Nandita agrees that there is a long history behind the obsession with skin colour, owing to caste and culture; she thinks the current causes should be targeted first. Das says, “Indians are very racist. It’s deeply ingrained. But there is so much pressure by peer groups, magazines, billboards and TV adverts that perpetuate this idea that fair is the ideal.”
The campaign is being promoted actively across social media and has caught the eye of mainstream media as well as has generated a huge discussion ranging from debates about attitudes towards fairness and fairness products. There is a hope that the campaign will be able to change the way people view beauty and start a conversation that will help alleviate prejudices related to skin colour.