The Problematic Surrounding Fair and Unfairness in India

by Myriam T on October 18, 2015 - 5:02pm

In the article written by Arti Panel and posted on Huffington Post on August 16th, 2013, “India's Ugly Obsession with Lighter Skin Hits Close to Home, Too,” the issue about fairness, especially in India, is addressed. In the article, the author mentions that she has always been fascinated with fair skin ever since she is young. She grew up with this specific view of beauty so popular in India, as well as in other Asian countries, which is that beauty means fair skin. The influence of her surrounding added to this inferiority complex that she was experiencing when young, in addition to the influence of the media. Media is bombarding people with ads of lighting products such as Fair & Lovely cream (in India). This product can be found in shops in shower gels, face creams and even vaginal washes. The author also mentions in her article the campaign started by the Bollywood star Nandita Das called “Dark is Beautiful,” which goal is to stop people from believing that a person's worth is measured by their skin's fairness.

This complex is a consequence of the influence of the media and of the popular views and beliefs in the culture. As mentioned in class and in the course notes, children exposed to such views of white skin tone in media start seeing whiteness as the norm. In fact, as the author mentions, she became so fascinated by fair skin when she was a child that she even imagined how her skin would look like if it was all lighter after having taken off Band-Aids. This article is a good example in showing and explaining the issue related to fairness. As mentioned by the author at one point, even if people with dark skin tone are not bombarded with Fair & Lovely ads as it is the case in India, they are still exposed to magazines with the same image of fair skin.


Panel, A. (2013, August 16). India's Ugly Obsession with Lighter Skin Hits Close to Home, Too. Huffington Post. Retrieved from


To begin, I'd like to clarify that I am responding to this article on the basis that the topic in itself is different than some of the others that we have covered in class all throughout the semester, as it demonstrates a clear example of racism in countries other than the United States. The issue as a whole is also interesting as it resembles the various theories that we have covered in class displaying minority races of different colors striving for whiteness; in this issue however, it is a culture that is inherently focused on 'lightness'. Creams and other products are created in order to make people 'lighter', which I find to be inappropriate. It is still interesting to me that culture as a whole is still very insistent on finding beauty in one's skin color. I do understand that beauty as a whole is incredibly subjective, but this is clearly a social and cultural thought that lightness is somehow the purest form of beauty. I personally don't agree with this type of mentality as it mainly gives people unfair advantages over others, over biological manners that are totally out of their control. Thus, these socially created advantages or preferences on lightness create a similar type of effect that can be seen in Western countries over white female models; fashion and clothes designers only desire/pick models that fit the typical 'European body type'. Models belonging to other races have a much harder time making it in the industry because they do not fit in that specific mold. This is not right in Western countries, and certainly isn't correct for India either. The question I'd like to see an answer for is what leads to these societies or cultures to create these different standards of beauty for themselves? Why is the standard always related to 'whiteness' or 'lightness'?

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