As a child of Bangladeshi parents who are enlightened, I was fortunate enough to avoid ugly moments of shadism (when ethnic groups prefer individuals with a specific shade of skin color). While some of you may laugh, in the Indian subcontinent, it is almost second nature. I hear comments that I try to shield my daughter from such as: “Oh no! She is getting dark from the sun, don’t let her lay ouside!” “Wow mashallah, she is getting fairer and fairer every day.” These comments break my heart, but even I am not immune. I remember how when I first got engaged, there was so much commentary on how I was not “fosha” (Bengali term for fair) compared to my mother in law and sister in law. You can imagine how hearing those comments not only broke my heart (What about the fact that I tried to be a good person, or that I just passed the bar exam to be an attorney?), but I somehow let it seep into my subconscious. I am guilty of using lighter filters on Instagram to appear lighter. I am guilty of using a few shades lighter of foundation too.
While it is embarrassing to admit these things to you readers, I want to let you know that I am human too. When we hear things over and over again, you start to believe it even if it is not true. That is why it is important for us to break this cycle NOW. I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking that her only value in life is attached to her skin color or even how she looks. I want her to understand that how her SOUL is will truly be the test of true beauty inshallah.
While I commend Nandita Das for her Dark Is Beautiful campaign, I also want to point out that the opposite is true too. In the United States, tan is considered the ideal. Why else do you see so many women going tanning or spending so much money on bronzers and sunless tanners? So we have to be mindful not to make fair skinned folks feel less than pretty too. Why can’t we all be considered beautiful? It was funny this topic popped up on Fashion Fighting Famine’s Instagram page because last night I posted a picture of myself without any makeup after a yoga class. I have to admit, it was really scary to share it, but I wanted my followers to know what I really look like versus what can be stylized images.
We are all human at the end of the day. So let’s try to be beautiful in our humanness together inshallah.