The recent onslaught of racist and nasty comments about the new Miss America was distressing, but that was to be expected. There’s always an undercurrent of racism in every country. This is something I’m well aware of, considering I’m from an Indian background. I also get people staring at my mom and me when we’re out. Oh, did I mention I’m from a mixed background? My mother’s Chinese and because I don’t resemble her too much, enquiring minds want to know “why don’t you look fairer” But after at least 20 years of stares, taunts and whatnot, I’ve pretty much grown oblivious to such things. At 29, I’ve adopted the “if you’re staring at me, I’ll make it worth your while” approach in life. I’ll smile and strut. This is me in all my glory and you don’t have to like it. Easier this way. I sleep better.
So, before digressing further away from what’s eating me, I’ll begin.
What was more disconcerting and, frankly quite bloody disgusting than some Americans’ remarks were that of Indians (from India, most likely), commenting that Davuluri is “too dark” and “too dusky” by INDIAN STANDARDS. Is this a joke? By their standards then, I’d fall under “Black Granite Gargoyle” because I’m dark? I’m flabbergasted! This is taking place in India. Un-bloody-believable. What westerners consider “exotic” is not acceptable in India because as another article pointed out – they prefer their beauty queens vanilla, preferably with blue eyes (gee, thanks, contact lens). Some time ago, I heard my Indian neighbour having a conversation with her son. One of her questions was “Why is your girlfriend so dark”? The girlfriend is Indian and…she’s just brown. I wonder if my future mother-in-law has a magic mirror on the wall. She won’t have to compete with me. SHE CAN BE THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL. Indians, please.
Some Anna John said “What’s interesting is Miss America Nina Davuluri would never win pageants in South Asia because she’d be too dark to be considered beautiful & the same is true for all of those “Miss Indian American USA” pseudo-pageants held here, as well. No darkies allowed in winner’s circle.”
A doctor when interviewed said every single one of the Indian young women was taking some sort of medication to alter her skin, particularly in colour, in the training programme in 2003.Dr. Pai, who trained as a plastic surgeon in London, offered the following explanation.
“Fair skin is really an obsession with us, it’s a fixation. Even with the fairest of the fair, they feel they want to be fairer. It isn’t important anymore, because the international winners are getting darker and darker. You wouldn’t notice our obsession, because you have such beautiful white skin, but I feel it’s ingrained in us. When an Indian man looks for a bride, he wants one who is tall, fair and slim, and fairer people always get jobs first. Today, this is being disproved because of the success internationally of dark-skinned models, but we still lighten their skin here because it gives the girls extra confidence when they go abroad.”
What’s extra about confidence when you had to alter the way you look?! Don’t confuse confidence with insecurity. Most Asians are obsessed with looking pale and pasty. How, pray thee, is that radiant? Because all damsels want to look like they’ve one foot 6-feet in the ground? Nothing screams “damsels in distress” more than that, right? Because Prince Charming on his WHITE steed will rescue them. But hang on, all Prince Charmings are tall and dark. It’s ok if they’re described dark, because we’ll all swoon. With men, dark is a metaphor for mysterious. Call a girl dark and she’ll get skin advice. “oh…have you tried xxx product, you poor thing? Now I’m vanilla-colour.” No, you silly twit. You’re just vanilla. A metaphor for boring and common. Hope that was enlightening.
Why does everyone want to look like this? Oh, because only fair skin makes you pretty. That’s the definition of pretty. Adjective, fair and light skin. It doesn’t matter if you look pleasing to the eyes.
Walk down the beauty aisles in super-marts and you’ll be assaulted by a sea of whitening products all promising fairer, radiant skin. Even the area of the super-mart is brightly lit. I’m not joking when I say my eyes hurt from the bright lights. There’s no way anyone can miss me when I walk past those aisles. I stick out like a sore thumb, being brown and all, which only attracts scuttling store assistants toward me, armed with myriad of whitening products. How very devious.
Women are bending over backwards to look fair! If there wasn’t a demand, there wouldn’t be “look 3x fairer and radiant” advertisements everywhere. 3x? What? Are you competing with a corpse? Nothing radiant about looking 3x fairer. Radiance is a reflection of your personality.
It isn’t enough that we’re living in a misogynistic world, only recently gaining independence, respect and treated more or less fairly. But media’s idea of beauty; twisted and artificial, skinny and fair, blue eyes and big boobs are everywhere. That’s hardly fair itself. Because men aren’t really subjected to resemble Ken dolls. Where is the paradigm shift in what defines beauty? Where are the women with gumption? The ones who say “Don’t like the way I look? That’s too bad for you” I can’t be the only Indian girl out there hoping for more middle fingers to make a point, right? Dark isn’t radiant? Dark makes you ugly? I love my brown chocolate-mocha hue and I am not in the market to look any different. I already fight the weighing scale on a daily basis. There’s really no need for additional stress, or I’ll be walking down the aisle that says “Anti-wrinkle Facial Creams for youthful skin” sooner than later.