- Gender and Relationships
The Fetish for Fair Complexion In India
Concept of Fairness in India
India is a subcontinent peopled by myriad races, religious sects, and religions. But one aspect that dominates the entire scenario is color and in case you have a white complexion, your status is higher. It is something akin to caste division and a fair complexion means you are a higher caste. Given a choice, no man will, by and large, marry a dark complexion woman, if he can get a fairer wife.
This problem is accentuated in the south of India, which is populated by the Dravidian race. There the men and women are darker in complexion and some of the local population may be as dark as Afrikans. Hence there is a penchant for a South Indian girls to marry North Indian men who are generally fairer than the men from South India. One manifestation of this is a string of top heroines from South marrying Punjabi men.
How did this fetish for fairness become so much a part of the Indian psyche? Nobody can tell, but Hindu scriptures and old tales extoll the beauty of a fairness of a woman as the starting point. They also end with fairness and hence the deep desire to get a fairer complexion.
In a way, this color complex pervades all parts of India, but is much more extreme in the Southern states. There are 4 of them and they constitute about 30% of the Indian population.
Color and Attidudes
One aspect of the present culture for becoming fairer is the attitude of the general masses. It is a matter of regret that most Indians will look down on the dark-skinned from Africa. This has manifested in some ugly incidents in both Bangalore and Delhi, where these people have been at the receiving end. In contrast, most Indian\s will go out of their way and show deference to people from the west who are whites. This is very sad and shows a servility, which is difficult to comprehend. Perhaps it is something that has manifested itself because of the regard for a fair skin as well the fact that the English with a fair skin ruled India for 200 years.
In India, a dark woman is looked down upon, not in the literal sense, but more in comparison to a fairer woman. Despite almost 80% of the southern Indian women being dark complexioned, the film and AD world has no place for a dark complexion woman star or model. There is not a single star who is not fair. In some cases the South Indian film producers import fairer girls from the North to act in South Indian films, though they do not know the language, an example is Shriya Saran who hails from Dehradun.
The latest craze is to have fair skinned models from East Europe to pose for lingerie and other items. Another innovation is getting a few British girls to act in South Indian films. The latest such import is Amy Jackson. As far as Bollywood is concerned many South Indian actresses have made it good there, but none who can be termed dark
Nobody talks about this color bar in India. It is something taboo. A look however at the matrimonial advertisements show that 99% of the men want a fair bride. This has led to a thriving trade in creams that promote fairness. Even Shahrukh Khan advertises fairness creams for men. In fact in the state of Tamil Nadu, fairness creams sell more than Coca-Cola.
Indians have to get out of this fetish for a fair skin. Going in for East European models is not the best way forward. Indians talk a lot about solidarity with Africa, but many from Africa are discriminated against. Some ambassadors have complained of this account as well.
Historically, I wonder if this concept will go away. It is so deep-rooted that I don't see it going away in totality at all. Hollywood could have a Hallie Berry, but it looks unlikely in India,