Was supposed to send this in for a mag. Forgot. :P
In the society where the gender roles have been modified to such an extent with respect to Indian men being offered skin whitening products, how open are these market targets to buying such products after all? Our perception of skin color comes from a very deep way of societal thinking. From the level of Hitler’s staunch pride in the fair-skinned, blue-eyed Aryan race to the level of a television show in India on the issue of a girl with a dark skin being rejected on the basis of her color, all her other attributes being completely irrelevant here.
I (with a lot of discomfort) understand the society’s and hence, the individual’s outlook on skin as being linked with a person’s worth and stature. This conditioning of the person starts right at the beginning, from one’s childhood. As a practice, if not intellectual belief, religion does form a part of daily activities, norms etc. Looking at say, Hinduism as an example, the only god with a dark complexion that comes to my mind is Krishna that too after having given the explanation of the snakes’ venom having turned the otherwise fair skinned Krishna blue/dark. Not only that, I remember seeing pictures wherein it would only be the demons who would not be fair-skinned as the gods who are idealized. From this then this fixation with fair skin goes on deeper into our existence by way of the caste system. It is again in the projection of the distinction of superiority and inferiority by looking at the different caste distinctions created by one and all.
All this as a background is important to be noted as historically, one has been made to believe, with conviction in attaching worth with skin color. The fairer the person, the more important she becomes in the eyes of one and all, and most importantly, herself. The obsession that lies with fairness skin products and even the simple ceremony of applying turmeric to a bride for her marriage in the Hindu tradition are small examples of something that constitutes the existence of a great chunk of the population. Even though the original purpose of the said ceremony has been to effectively ‘clean’ the bride, as an addition to daily bathing, its meaning is increasingly perceived as a way to enhance skin complexion.
It is this attachment of skin color with self-worth and esteem that has led to the skyrocketing sales of these fairness products. So much so that even men need one. Though this can be looked at as a positive through the gendered lens, it still shows the furthering of attaching self-esteem within the population. To conclude, through every individual story, mine, of those around me has a great deal of experience when it comes to attaching one’s worthiness or happiness here with skin color. No wonder matrimonial columns still have ‘fair’ brides in demand.