By Uswa Ahmed, BA World Philosophies
Being a South Asian woman on the darker side of the spectrum, you tread on very dangerous waters. Our community appears to be plagued by a disease of self-hate hightentend by a strange fact. The sufferer is unaware of their sickness. For those unfamiliar with this problem, skin whitening creams are all the range in South Asia. Giant adverts plastered on billboards with the promise of fair skin, litter the landscape. Generations of women are fed the sustenance of low self esteem. Told to resent their tanned skin tones. Fair skin is desired, dark skin is the devil! In a society obsessed with fair skin, we are told to lather on every crevice, every crease a strange miracle cure: Whitening creams. Fear not ladies, for this miracle cure is for all the claustrophobic darker skinned women out there trapped in the shadows of their dusky complexion. A malignant cure, a corrosive liquid success serum if you will, now available in a store near you!
The problem of colourism has penetrated so deeply into South Asia that it has become a ritualistic practice unquestioned by a vast majority of the population. Women and Girls are taught to equate their self worth with the fairness of their skin. This serves only to perpetuate a vicious cycle of stigma and shame. From infancy to adulthood, we’re submerged and systematically bathed in an ocean of self hate. This obsession is a residue from an inferiority complex which hovers above the clouds of the subcontinent, ingrained in her people after years of oppression at the hands of her Colonial master.
Aside from the problematic nature of building beauty standards around westernised ideals, the horrendous side effects of using these so-called miracle tubes don’t seem to deter us. The grand talk of cultivating self-confidence is in all the range from celebrities who endorse the very products they otherwise claim to despise. These products are endorsed by the rich and famous, talked about daily on tv shows. The topic of the day is a pressing question: how do we can rid ourselves of the disease of dark skin? Adverts for these creams remind me of laundry powder ads, take something stained, use our miracle product and make your load whiter and brighter today! As though the brown can be scrubbed out of us and washed down the sink. Call it far fetched, but I won’t be surprised if we start finding whitening labels on food packaging. It’s strange and utterly mind boggling how much of a hold this trend has on our community. How mightily it’s suffocating hold grips our throats!
But Brown people aren’t the only ones to blame here. Take a look at a place closer to home: Hollywood. People of colour are replaced to make way for their Caucasian counterparts. Their skin is lightened, the texture of their hair changed and with that a whitewashed version of history is dolloped onto our plates for us to consume. Sadly, I am not aware if they make creams for institutionalised regression.