A Philosopher’s View
By Ajoy Varghese | A Dark is Beautiful Supporter
Humans not only perceive beauty, but also have the unique ability to describe it and to judge it.
The “Dark is Beautiful” campaign has an underlying assumption— that Beauty exists! It is a clear reference to the ubiquitous existence of beauty in our world. It is also a bold challenge to social attempts to fracture beauty. One attempt to do so is by pitting one skin colour against another. The campaign asserts that that beauty is not contained in one colour but in many— individually and together. The campaign also asserts that beauty is not skin deep.
Prior to the Dark is Beautiful campaign, when was the last time you actually heard a public debate on beauty? Not likely that you did. Not surprising, either. It’s easier to use a TV ad to assault your senses than to present a logical argument to challenge your reason.
I recently heard a male celebrity protest that he had every right to choose his skin colour. How can you argue with that? Except that when a personal preference is advertised as a public good, it has made itself a subject of public scrutiny and judgment. So, if a celebrity says that endorsing a product is his right, then the public has an equal right (and I think, an obligation) to judge it. Else, his personal preference must be parked within the confines of his own thinking.
It’s a pity that we have allowed the contemporary discourse on beauty to be hijacked by beauty pageants and advertisers. Both groups are in bed together— cultural elite who seek to control and manipulate the minds of the masses by entering the citizen’s mind through the backdoor of the senses and not through the front door of Reason.
|Beauty exists. Science cannot reduce it. Religion cannot deny it. (Photo: western4uk)
How can we begin to think more deeply about beauty? Here are some preliminary considerations.
We don’t all agree on what it means to be beautiful. Some find Madonna beautiful. Others disagree. They find Mother Teresa’s face beautiful. I should not be surprised that not everybody finds babies and sunsets beautiful. We implicitly recognize that beauty defies straightforward objective standardization.
Not surprisingly, all cultures have their own notions of beauty and happily disagree about what it means to be beautiful. The fact of beauty is an objective reality. Our interpretationsof beauty are subjective and culturally influenced.
Beauty stirs us: A blade of grass glistening in the sunlight, a child’s laughter, haunting lyrics, the face of a woman, the integrity of a truth-teller and a graceful prowling tiger. There are moments in life when we encounter beauty and we have a heart-arrest, an out-of-body experience, transportation outside of ourselves. When beauty grips us, we are less preoccupied with ourselves. Sometimes, it makes us blush. At other times, it evokes awe.
It appears that we are the only species that recognizes beauty. This is no mere evolutionary superiority. While animals’ instinctive biological drive is excited by colour, scent, sound, etc., humans’ perception goes beyond the sensory. We have the unique ability to describe beauty and to judge it. We write songs about it or produce pieces of art around it. We even fight over what we consider beautiful. Pascal wryly remarked that “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”
Beauty exists. Science cannot reduce it. Religion cannot deny it.
So, what does this unique ability to discern beauty tell us? Does it say anything at all? Is it simply brute fact or a signifier? Well, that’s a discussion for another day.
By Sudha Menon | A Dark is Beautiful Campaigner
If you have grown up in a dark brown skin, like I have, you have possible heard this sentence many times in your life: ” She is dark but smart”, ” She is not dark, just dusky. And, very intelligent”. “She is nice. A little dark, but nice…”
I grew up in an age when being dark was a horrible fate. Being dark meant either being noticed because of your dark colour or worse still, ignored or neglected to such a point that you begin to feel you don’t exist. That people can’t see you.
Growing up, I remember the best years of my childhood were spent in clothes that were shades of either grey or brown so that I felt I was a mouse that disappeared into the background. Dark people could not carry reds, blues and greens was the thought back then but every time loving family members brought me yet another grey or brown dress for my birthday, my heart broke a little more.
If you look at photographs from my childhood you can spot me immediately. I am the girl in the corner of the frame, angry eyes staring down the photographer, almost willing him to make me look lovely, despite the drabness of my clothes. In many ways , I think the colourlessness of my clothes made affected my personality for a long time. I was a shy kid with few friends and I became a rebel to boot, possibly to get some attention for myself.
My parents and siblings never made me feel I was any lesser. My father, in fact, would proudly say I was his prettiest baby but the community around reminded me of the colour of my skin at every opportunity, not by talking about it but in subtler ways that hurt way more than that….
I never did know how to verbalize my hurt back then but my heart yearned to wear bright red, emerald green, orange and pink. It is possibly a hangover from my childhood that my cupboard is now full of these colours:-)
I celebrate colour and revel in wearing every hue of the rainbow.
Somewhere along the way I learnt also to look at life in a more cheerful way. Maybe it was because I felt so much on the fringes of life, side-lined and neglected, that I have grown up to be a person with empathy and compassion and a sensitivity towards the differentness of people. I seek out diversity in life and have made it my mission to celebrate that in every manner possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sudha Menon is a long-time journalist and author of best-selling non-fiction books, Leading Ladies; Women Who Inspire India and the recently launched Legacy-letters to their daughters from eminent men and women. After a childhood where she fought with the demons of self-doubt and a deep-rooted complex about the colour of her skin, she says she found her calling in becoming a “chronicler of people’s lives.”
A chat with David Livingstone
Sales pitches for fairness products suggest that a man needs to lighten up to get the job, to get the girl, to get more out of life. Twenty-nine year-old David Livingstone says that’s “hideous,” and in this interview with Dark is Beautiful, he offers his own take on what it means to be fair.
DisB: Have you ever tried fairness products?
David: I have never tried them or wanted to try them. I always felt fairness creams make you look unnaturally a shade whiter. I have seen it on other people and have not liked it. They look like they are painted white. I just use cologne and shave cream. That’s it.
DisB: What do you think about ads that promote fairness creams?
David: I find the whole concept of people wanting to be fair and the cosmetic industry promoting that idea quite hideous. Advertisements promoting fair skin always bothered me. I kept asking myself, “Why do they do this? What’s wrong with them?” Thankfully, I never thought that something was wrong with me
DisB: Have you been passed up for opportunities in jobs, marriage/dating (or anything), because of skin colour?
David: I am not aware even if I was.
DisB: Tell us about your childhood; how did you feel about your skin colour growing up?
David: My siblings are coloured lighter than I am. My parents never mentioned anything about my colour or made me feel less than my siblings. In fact, they helped me accept myself the way I am.
In school, we all had nicknames. In my case, being nicknamed because of my colour was part of it. I had other nicknames, too. I just took it in stride. I didn’t let it affect me in any deep way.
Over the years I have learned to accept myself the way God made me— in His image. I have confidence in who I am, just the way I am. I don’t feel the need to change my skin colour.
DisB: You travel a lot for your job. Is there a difference in how people treat you in North India vs. South India?
David: Yes, definitely. In the North, some people try and stay away from you and make you feel different because you are dark. They may call you “Madrasi” if they think you come from Chennai/Tamil Nadu.
But I don’t care. I reach out to them and let them see me for who I am. I am not so bothered by how they treat me, but rather by how they perceive another human being based on their skin colour. I used to think, “They know no better.” I felt sad for them.
DisB: What are your observations about the proportions of fair and dark skin in India?
David: If I walked into a room full of people here in India, definitely the ones who are fair-skinned would catch my attention. But only initially. It is probably because the others are darker and the ones with fair skin stand out. Eventually I’d look beyond that. If I walked into a room filled with fair-skinned people, the ones that are dark would catch my attention. Why make such a big deal about colour?
DisB: Any final comments?
David: Stop worrying about skin colour. Beauty is about character. To me, the word “fair” isn’t about skin tones; it’s about who you are and what you do.
That’s why I think the Fair and Handsome ad is unfair, and I support the petition to take it down. Why demean people who are dark? We need more responsible advertising.
Click here to say NO to unfair advertising and YES to take down the Fair and Handsome advertisement
By The Dark is Beautiful Team.
“Fair and Handsome” and Shah Rukh Khan: We don’t want ZYADA; we’ve had ENOUGH of fairness products and “unfair” advertising. #disbcampaign #darkisbeautiful
In the new “Fair and Handsome” ad, Shah Rukh Khan tosses a tube of fairness cream to a young fan. In the next scene, the boy’s skin grows whiter, his smile brightens and his hopes rise. The message: Fair skin is a prerequisite for success.
Such irresponsible advertising propagates discrimination among men, women – and even children.
Why this colourism? India is a nation made up of people with different shades and colours of skin – from yellow to light brown and darker shades of brown. Why not celebrate every shade?
Actress Nandita Das has observed, “Now the insecurities of men are also surfacing with equal number of fairness products for them. Such pressure and so little public debate around it!”
Now is the time to let “Fair and Handsome” and brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan know that our country is ready to shed age-old biases and let every person feel comfortable in their own skin.
Join us in challenging Emami to lead the change by introducing products that complement all complexions and that focus on healthy skin and protection against skin cancer.
This petition is the latest initiative of the Dark is Beautifulcampaign. Since 2009, the campaign has been challenging women and girls to see “Beauty Beyond Colour.” Now, with this change.org petition, we are speaking up for men and boys, who are also targets of “unfair” advertising.
Together, let us raise our voices to reflect a nation that celebrates every shade of beautiful and handsome!
It only takes 30 seconds to sign the petition to make Emami and SRK lead the change in ridding the country of it’s skin colour bias. Click on the link to sign: www.change.org/darkisbeautiful
If you don’t agree with the petition or the Dark is Beautiful campaign, we want to hear from you. This is the platform to address your opinions and concerns. Healthy debates are those that enrich our minds and tears down walls. Feel free to leave us a note and check back to make sure we respond.
– The Dark is Beautiful Team