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Updated: September 8, 2013 08:14 IST

Dark is beautiful

Lakshmi Krupa
Comment (21)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of Women of Worth, who began the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009.
Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of Women of Worth, who began the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009.

India is particularly guilty of the brand of body shaming that insists that only fair is lovely. Media, advertising, and the fairness cream industry bombard Indian women (and now men too) with the message that their natural skin colour is not good enough, whether for a job, a game of tennis, or the marriage market. Chennai-based KAVITHA EMMANUEL, founder-director of Women of Worth, started the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009 “against the toxic belief that a person’s worth is measured by the fairness of their skin”. The campaign, which celebrates the “beauty and diversity of all skin tones”, recently started a petition asking actor Shah Rukh Khan to stop endorsing fairness creams, and has gained national momentum with celebrities such as Nandita Das joining in. With its Facebook page now crossing 16,000 supporters, Kavitha talks to LAKSHMI KRUPA about the challenge of changing mindsets.

Why is ‘Dark is Beautiful’ an important message?

There is definite colour bias in our society. Women of Worth, which works for the empowerment of women and children, initiated the campaign because the bias has a direct impact on the confidence levels of women. It is a sensitive issue that leads to low self-esteem.

What has the response been like?

When we started the campaign in 2009, we didn’t know what the response would be. The overwhelming support has taken us by surprise. It has now gone national, with a lot of people writing in to us and offering support. Many people say they relate to our message and that they have experienced bias. We think there is now hope for change.

Body shaming is harmful. And ads invoke these harmful feelings just to sell. Comment?

Not all ads have a bad influence; there are some good ones and we are definitely not against advertising. But I ask the advertising industry to stand up for what is right. They must think before they send out a message. There are already a lot of young people out there under too much pressure. Irresponsible ads can cause a lot of self-doubt in these people. We need a change in that direction. We need media literacy. Women (and men) need the tools to deconstruct media messages and see what is hidden beneath the layers of an ad’s message. This awareness is what we are working towards.

You have a lot of celebrity support…

We got in touch with Nandita Das because she has spoken about skin colour bias in open forums. Having her on board has been great; she is our national spokesperson.

Vishaka Singh, former fairness cream model, now supports our campaign. What I like about it is that she says, ‘Yes! I did that but I want to change things now.’ She experienced colour bias during her modelling days. That’s the sort of change we want to bring about. This campaign will not be successful if people don’t change their minds.

What sort of mindset change are you looking to create?

The issue we are talking about is huge. We need many people to take note of it. People have to be valued on the basis of their personhood and not caste, colour or other sweeping generalisation. We want to create a way to do this, with tangible solutions. We are introducing literacy modules to help the public cope with the messages they receive from the media.

You talk of ‘value’. Could you elaborate?

Several young women suffer from low self-esteem. They are all expected to fit into certain stereotypes and are judged based on their skin colour, body shapes, etc. The pressure to look ‘beautiful’ is always there. Who decides what’s beautiful? It’s the person behind the skin you should be looking at. This is the message we want to send.

It is not true for indians to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder! It is coloured by the poison in the mind of the beholder!
The white British, Portuguese and the French ruled us and our other degenerate rulers! Before them the whiter central Asians invaded and subjugated us.even before that the Greeks and the whiter Mongolians invaded the northern parts of present India and Pakistan. Most brahmin and kshatriya communities in india have been of whiter complexion . This has induced a degenerate reverence to lighter complexion. We continue to relish, cherish and nurture the same degenerate culture, philosophy and feelings in most homes in india, even in the darker and darkest of them.we even smugly approve so called illegitimacy in the darker homes if whiter kids are born! Let us give up our degenerate traits like this and become more enlightened.

from:  Papolu Prasad
Posted on: Sep 13, 2013 at 23:20 IST

A good article! But i feel that to an extent even the general public is
at fault for "blindly-following" their favourite stars on these terms
without putting any thought to it. No doubt, the ads stressing on
fairness as a "must -have" or "reason for success" is atrocious to say
the least.
Constraint should be exercised both by the public watching these ads and
more importantly, the brain behind these acts. Just hope that logic and
sense prevails to these "ad makers"!!!

from:  Vidya
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 18:31 IST


'Fair is lovely' is body-shaming but 'Dark is beautiful' boost women's
self-esteem! Oh, the mother of colossal irony.

from:  Sunil Lathwal
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 13:30 IST

It's been seen now a day's, people are more into grooming, just to walk hand in hand with the world. but, what matters here is the attitude and temperament of a person which should be noted because it's impossible for a person to get beauty with brains.

from:  Nelson Soy
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 11:56 IST

Black is beautiful because:-

The Krishna of Mathura and Brindavan was black.
The Diamond on jewellery comes from Bl;ack coal
On a fair skin, a black mole, or dot increases the beauty but on a black skin a white patch is a disease
Elephant is black and strong. Lord Shiva is portrayed having dark colour

I can enumerate a long list but we should be happy to have a healthy skin whether yellow, brown, black or white.

from:  Mani Iyer
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 04:58 IST

I still remember when I was in 10th standard.My history teacher was
teaching us that we should not discriminate any one on the basis of
caste,color and creed and to encourage this nowadays in all beauty
peagents like ms. world or ms.universe all black and white people are
allowed to participate and they win too, over their judgement is not
made on the basis of color.
But at last she said,"But I personally do not find black africans and
nigerian to be beautiful" and I felt very bad by listening this as she
was my fav. teacher. And, by this sentence she indirectly taught
children that black is never beautiful. This is our incredible
society!!

from:  tulika srivastava
Posted on: Sep 9, 2013 at 01:39 IST

I am a South African of Indian origin and I have travelled to India several times. What I have noticed is that people in India have a phobia about "fair" skins. It seems they have imbibed the British colonial attitudes very well and look down upon people - not only because of their caste but also because of the colour of their skins. And this is repeated over and over again in movies and on television channels. Dark skinned women news readers and presenters are far and few between on India's TV channels.
The great leaders of India would be shocked by the "fair and lovely" new India.
We in South Africa used to experience the same kind of discrimination and it's sad that in this day and age when all countries enjoy freedom, this kind of discrimination still persists in India.
The advertising and movie industry must have a "wake up" call. They are the ones chiefly responsible for breeding this kind of discrimination in our new, enlightened and democratic world.

from:  Subry Govender
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 23:24 IST

Just comfortable in your own skin... dark or fair.. God had made everybody beautiful
!!!

from:  Anushka
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 22:54 IST

There was a similar campaign in America"my black is beautiful"

from:  Vivek Sharma
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 21:24 IST

Kindly, Take this to the punjabi/UP and Gujarati hindus...:)

from:  senthil kumar
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 21:11 IST

If we leave aside stereotypes, diversity in the our bollywood industry
is a passe.
Most of these movies today are owned indirectly by all kind of cream
manufactures.
Ad film industry cannot be expected to join in such campaigns as they
will go out of business.
newspapers have limited impact.(those who dare to read newspaper
columns are already aware of such things !! )
only powerful social networking campaigns having audio/visuals can
bring about some real change in the mindset.

from:  vinay
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 19:29 IST

//People have to be valued on the basis
of their personhood and not
caste, colour or other sweeping
generalisation.//

Totally agree with that, but then, I
can't help wondering why it should be
"Women of Worth," in that case, as
against "People of Worth."

Also, isn't "Dark is beautiful" guilty
of the same error, if only in the
reverse direction.

Such initiatives look like merely
cosmetic interventions in that they seem
to be asking only for their share in the
pie of discrimination-based-privileges,
and not anything more socially universal
and just.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 17:26 IST

All creation of the Almighty/Nature are equally lovely and beautiful,it is the social conditioning which inject discrimination ,grading,preferences etc...incidentally it is this 'social conditioning' which is plaguing the world and is the cause of all hatred,jealousy, violence afflicting the human race ...

from:  N Bhashyam
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 16:17 IST

I am a fair person. I have enjoyed certain sort of attention from people since forever. Although, the teacher I revere had dark complexion. I have always found it a waste of effort to try to look in a particular manner; I have just found personal hygiene logical and nothing else. So, I have liked the campaign's facebook page, already tweeted about this article and will keep letting people know about this. My aim would be to get more and more fair people to see point in this so as the whole rat race is killed.

from:  abhineet
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 13:35 IST

There is nothing to disagree here but the important issue is not the message but
how to effectuate it! Most of them are ready to show lip sympathy, most of the
celebrities & feminists etc. are ever-ready for mere tokenism. It might well not be a
surprise if the very person/s who is part of these kind of campaigns may pick a fairer
one against a darker. That is natural! What I'm saying is" beauty lies in the eyes of
beholder",I personally know many people who prefer darker complexion. That
doesn't mean there is no bias.Women are suffering as wives, employees..based on
their skin color.I personally don't agree that talent is overlooked by beauty or color,
there may be a little bias thats natural but that doesn't mean that somebody will
resort to "just color".Reality is always multi-faceted,you can probably try hard to
remove caste/religion bias but not color/beauty as the later is natural not a product
of human creation.Solution:Instill "Confidence",attitude change in picking
bride/groom

from:  NIKHIL SWAROOP KALUVALA
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 13:21 IST

Really dark is beautiful if you have a beautiful mind to think so.

from:  Dhiraj Mandal
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 11:48 IST

"People have to be valued on the basis of their personhood and not
caste, colour or other sweeping generalisation."

^ Your wish is too idealistic. Just because you are a better person on
the basis of personhood does not make you a better match for open job in
my company or as my life partner. If I need surgery, I'll go to the best
surgeon, not to any random individual who does more charity, feeds the
orphans, bla bla bla.

Life isn't fair. "Accept it".

from:  Francis
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 11:35 IST

How many of you have ever read those newspapers that contain
'matrimony' sections,if you have....do you remember what you read?
yes it is,"need a fair, good-looking,smart,tall,educated yet
traditional girl from an educated family......".So this 'fair and good-looking' always go hand in hand for most of the people in
India.They can never think of beauty without 'fairness'.

Even in Facebook, some page owners are too interested in proving that
all south-Indians are 'dark'(perhaps they just assume such
stuff),which is 'ABSOLUTELY BASELESS'.

THERE ARE MANY NORTH-INDIANS WHO ARE NOT 'FAIR'.

Oh god,it's a disease !! WHAT IS THERE IN 'SKIN COLOR'?

ARE we really conscious about our skin-tones? or the society and media
make us think like that??....perhaps deliberately!! :/

from:  Susmitha
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 09:02 IST

congratulations for this great campaign,
Hindús women are of the most beautiful in the world and should be
proud of as they are. Nobody has the right to manipulate
psychologically alleged stereotypical tendencies to women ... and
women, all, regardless of where in the world we belong to, we are
beautiful and dignity creation of nature ... so have confidence in
themselves and never fall into this stupid propaganda that only cares
unscrupulous dive into globalization.
greetings from Colombia.

from:  Jennifer
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 08:56 IST

Beauty Lies In The Eyes Of The Beholder !!

from:  sushilpershad
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 08:20 IST

The color consciousness is very much with the lower sections of society.They always prefer coloured brides and not black ones even when they are black themselves.Blck's achievements are overlooked compared to whites'.People's mindset should change?

from:  Ramamurthy M
Posted on: Sep 8, 2013 at 07:08 IST
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