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 Sai Tharshini Varathan | A Dark is Beautiful Campaigner
I come from the wonderful and multicultural land of Malaysia. Malaysia is filled with diverse people that are generally friendly. But often, I get to hear a lot of painfully discriminatory comments because of my skin colour, I used to feel hurt and wondered what was so wrong in being dark?
I was once told to go to the temple and pray for a new face; to ask the Goddess for a better and fairer complexion. Of everything I have been told about my skin colour, this was the comment that really hurt.
My family is an upper middle class family and I’ve been fortunate to always have their support. The one person who really helped me is my MOM. She instilled confidence in me. She taught me to stand tall and be the best. When people mocked the colour of my skin and discriminated against me, she taught me to say, “Thank You.” People stopped teasing as they couldn’t make me feel bad anymore and they didn’t get the reaction they wanted.
Now, when people offer me fairness creams, I do find it hurtful, but I have learned to say “No. I do not need it. I am happy being a dark person and I find being dark is something lovely”.
I want to tell the people in Malaysia, my people, that being dark is not something dirty, disgusting or unwanted. Dark can be elegant and pretty. Dark can be ambitious and proud. Dark can be studious and over achieving. Because it does not depend on how dark or how fair a person’s skin is.
Dear Malaysia, will you join me and dare to be colour blind?
Sai Tharishini Varathan is a 19 yrs old medical student from Malaysia.
She loves to travel, make friends, and everything to do with science.
During her free time, she writes her own stories and wishes to publish them someday. She also loves to sing and participate in dramas.
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.”
By Pamposh Dhar | Dark is Beautiful campaigner
We are bombarded by print ads and TV commercials all day long. So much so that we hardly pay heed to them any more. But when “King Khan” himself shows up on the TV screen in our home, we sit up and take notice. He is India’s most popular star, the heart-throb of millions. In TV interviews, and even in most of his films, he comes across as a down-to-earth, sensitive man. We love him for that.
But now, with the Fair and Handsome commercial he is making some of us very uncomfortable. A few friends find my views objectionable. Mostly this seems to stem from the feeling that SRK is a superstar, someone we adore, and therefore someone we cannot possibly find fault with or give advice to. Our love for SRK inhibits us from criticizing him, but let’s face it – the Fair and Handsome commercial sends a clear message that to be handsome or successful you must be fair.
He is a superstar, true. But we are the people who have made him a superstar and we are the people who keep him at the top. We are the consumers of his films. Of course, we do that because of his considerable talents and the hard work he puts into his films. But we are the ones who decide if we like what we see and hear.
So, when he acts – with his usual elan – in a commercial that enhances a mindset that makes little children feel unloved and young men feel inadequate, then we can tell him that we do not like what he is doing. We can ask him to stop lending his megastar status to keep alive an essentially racist attitude. We can tell him we do not love his doing this, even if we still love him in his films.
We do not want him to waste our love, the fan following that keeps him at the top, on strengthening an attitude that is clearly wrong and does so much damage to the self-esteem of men and women. Worse, it is part of the mindset that makes us cruel to little children, making them feel unloved and insecure. (You can find some heart-rending stories in this blog and on the campaigns Facebook.)
I’d like to invite you to join me and the thousands of people who have already signed a petition asking Fair & Handsome and Shah Rukh Khan to take down this commercial. Let’s tell our hero to practice what he recently preached on his own Facebook page. I quote a post from 22 July: “You were born to be real, not to be perfect. You are here to be you, not to be what someone else wants you to be”…Gurumantra i was taught
Quite right, SRK! We are here to be ourselves, and we are perfect just the way the Maker made us. Please don’t try to improve on His handiwork!
Click here to say YES to responsible advertising
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pamposh Dhar is a counsellor, personal development coach, meditation teacher and energy healer based in Singapore. A former journalist, she is also a consultant writer and editor. She has previously worked as a gender specialist and trainer, and gender issues remain close to her heart. Pamposh is a fair Kashmiri in a long-lasting and extremely happy marriage with a dark Tamilian.
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