The Complexion Obsession

Lisha M
Posted April 12, 2018 from South Africa

In today's time, social media is exploding with products and treatments that promise to make you fair. Are these advertisements with their fancy and magical claims of getting fair, the sole reason, for the growing obsession?

 

It also covers whether these advertisements are simply catering to a need that already exists in the society or not. Various aspects and new perspectives are emerging to reason this obsession. Whether it is the advertisement that goes with the by-line 'the more fair you are, more are your chances of getting successful' or by fancying the glamorous and attractive face of the model in the advertisement. The reasons are multiple but in today's evolving generation, television commercial advertisements and social media promote fair complexion in a much broader fashion.

 

Society has placed so much emphasis on complexion that it has aroused dangerously obsessive behaviour amongst us. I agree on the concept of using skincare products and treatments to maintain healthy skin, especially with the current effects of global warming on the environment. But what is this obsession of society on fair-complexion.

 

Maybe writing this article may come across as cynical to some, seeing that I am admittingly a little lighter skinned than a person of my ethnicity. But this does not mean that lighter skinned individuals are not subdued to scrutiny as well.

In my school days, I attended a school that predominantly consisted of like ethnicity as me; however, as I was lighter skinned than most, I was badgered and ostracized by my fellow peers. Names such as “Spook” or “White Cockroach” were often the taunts I had to endure. In my college days, my skin would actually appear translucent, and I would hate my appearance. It is at this point I decided to start tanning, and have been doing it ever since…Any regrets? Of course, had I only learnt to accept myself as I was, and loved myself as I was, I would be much happier in those days of taunting.

 

Social injustice has clouded our personal prejudice, and society has dictated what is acceptable and what is not. Why should societal mindset be the benchmark of how we should live our lives? What is this obsession with being fair complexioned? What has happened to catch lines such as “beauty comes from within”? The human race is meant to be one of evolution, yet we tend to dwell on traditional ways of thinking.

 

I had undertaken some research, and it was brought to light that the obsession with fair skin has something to do with the British colonial era, which I truly believe is absolute jabber. According to “experts” (aka society), a fair skinned person is considered attractive regardless of whether that person has a symmetrical face or a healthy figure. People are generally obsessed with attributes they admire but do not possess. Markets too are loaded with fairness creams that promise to turn your complexion fair. It can definitely be agreed upon that the craze for fair skin has been aggressively marketed. 

 

Over the years many ethnicities have been programmed to equate fair skin with beauty, success and happiness. This craze for white skin has been aggressively marketed. In advertisements, it is always shown that in order to be successful, liked and approved by others, one needs to have fair skin. For instance, in India, the idea of beauty is often associated with fairness. Fairness creams abound in the market, and advertisements glorify fair skin. An analysis of television advertisements of fairness products shows how they connect fairness with achieving other personal goals, such as marriage, success, empowerment, job opportunities, and confidence. Focus-group interviews with Indian women reveal that most agree that an obsession with fairness and its projected attributes continues to prevail despite an awareness that beauty is a more personal and complex concept. Many believe the connection between beauty and fair skin arises from age-old historical beliefs that are now perpetuated in advertisements for fairness creams.

Though these women do not personally rate fairness as a predominant indicator of beauty, they are aware of the culturally determined advantages of being fair and have themselves made efforts to look fair.

Truth be told, these are primitive views, placing emphasis on complexion, are as what they are, “views”, or “opinions”. Why should we define their lives by such views?

Many people in our very own community have felt isolated and repudiated as a result of growing up amongst people who shun them based on their complexion. We call ourselves a society of acceptance and tolerance, yet we effortlessly surpass judgment on people based on complexion. Our core beliefs and attributes as a person should be what make us who we are, not our skin colour. Love yourself, and accept yourself, before seeking acceptance from anyone else.

 

The unfortunate truth is that we live in a world where people are obsessed with beauty. Growing up, many of us were raised to admire beautiful people such as movie stars or models.  The power of social media has influenced our lives more than we know. As a result, we inherently associate our perceptions of attractiveness with success and happiness.

 

If we are to truly love ourselves, we must not allow the way we look to define our personal value. We cannot let this social norm dictate our worthiness of joy or family or an acceptance at work. The ones who truly love us, love and care for us despite our skin tone or weight. This is not to say, each of us has a choice to take utmost care and pride in ourselves.

 

The complexion obsession has nothing to do with wearing make-up or grooming oneself to the best; it is a phenomenon that is trying to strip us away from our true essence as a human being. Very well, if we undergo countless amounts of treatment and spend thousands on whitening products, to be perceived as beautiful. Many do not wish to hear this, but true beauty is most certainly not associated with the colour of our skin.

 

Why then do we continue suffering at the manicured hand of some self-imposed criteria for beauty?  Loving oneself starts by holding our pride in what we do, our actions as a person, not how we look, ultimately. We must hold it in our ability to write beautiful words, or paint striking paintings, or explore creatively that for which we are passionate.

 

Ask yourself: Who am I? This simple sounding question is actually very hard to answer. It is a question that extends directly to the core of your values, beliefs, doubts, sense of reality and even the external perceptions imposed upon you by others, whether or not true.

 

Use what works for you, when you need to self-reflect… I usually draw up an excel worksheet and enlist my traits, strengths, thoughts at the time, and of course contrast these to my flaws and vices. I recommend taking time to doing this exercise of self-introspection. It took me much time to discover this question, and exactly why I am here.

 

I have realized that “colourism” is a touchy subject matter for many people in our society, however, it is the silent eradicator of self-worth and inability to love who we truly are. Colour bias crosses nations, ethnicities, races and socio-economic lines. The birthplace of colourism cannot be traced to a country or geographic region, but to the hearts and minds of those who have perpetuated this preference. Colourism impacts our thinking and our choices— whether we choose to notice it, disregard it or accept it.

 

So the next time you feel, you need to be fair or anyone else points out on your skin colour, think about it, do you really need it to be happy? Definitely NO, Happiness depends on you and comes to you no matter. It’s about how you recognize and embrace it. As a society, we have the power right in our very own hands to dismiss the mindset of living in a colour-conscious world.  

Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

mspurposeso.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

This story was submitted in response to You Are a Silence Breaker.

Comments 7

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Jill Langhus
Apr 13, 2018
Apr 13, 2018

Hi Tilisha. Thanks for sharing your introspective and interesting post about the importance, or lack thereof, of fair skin. I totally hear where you're coming from. Luckily I never got into the whole tanning thing, just because I don't like my skin to suffer. A lot of people seem to like it, though, which is fine, but I feel like the people get into judge others for not getting into it. I think it's so odd that quite possibly that same people that love tanning and to look darker, could the the same ones who think less of cultures with naturally dark skin. Life and norms can be such a dichotomy sometimes. I've always thought diversity was beautiful so I find it difficult to relate to others who don't. I wish more people could see the beauty in all diversity, but hopefully we'll get there one day.

Lisha M
Apr 13, 2018
Apr 13, 2018

Wow! Such an insigtful view point. Love it! Thank you for your appreciation on my piece. It means alot to me. Blessed be

Jill Langhus
Apr 14, 2018
Apr 14, 2018

Thank you:-) You're quite welcome. Hope you have a great day!!!!

Ngala Nadege
Dec 16, 2018
Dec 16, 2018

Thanks for sharing your post dear.

Beth Lacey
Jan 18
Jan 18

Thank you for sharing. Good advice

ARREY- ECHI
Feb 04
Feb 04

Dear Tilisha,
Thank you for this interesting post. I am glad this gets to the tables. It has been a reccurent debate in many circles and in many cultures, fair skin is projected as a standard for beauty, forcing many to use bleaching products with far reaching consquences.

The antidote to this is to learn to embrace your self, to be confident in who we are and to remember variety remains the spice of life.

Paulina Nayra
Mar 25
Mar 25

Hello Lisha.. you are a silence breaker. The producers of whitening products will not be happy with you :-) This obsession about being "fair skinned" is a product of our colonial mentality which makes whitening products big business. Won't you believe that those who are already fair skinned still wants to be whiter? You are right, women should be taught to take stock of their good qualities beyond the color of the skin. Unless, we recognize the beauty inside us and value our positive characteristics , this obsession on fair skin will remain.

Keep writing sister.
Huggs from the Philippines,
Paulina