By: Fozia Tahir
Having lived in the UK for five years I had almost forgotten the importance of fair skin in Pakistan. I recently attended a musical event in my hometown in the north of Pakistan where majority of the population has lighter skin tone. The Host who of course happened to be from the south said, ‘the crowd was full of ‘goray chittay people’ literally meaning, ‘fair skinned (beautiful) people’. The crowd is so used to such comments that no eyebrows were raised and no offence was taken. In the west however, the same host would have had to apologise soon after giving such a statement.
Why did no one question it?
Why were those who are not as fair skinned as most not offended?
Where exactly does this mind-set come from?
and why must we make peace with it?
We have been blaming colonialism and American influence on Pakistan for so many things but perhaps our mind-set is our own problem. Many politically incorrect things, including the obsession with fair skin, seems to have percolated deep down our thought process. I will not quote many research articles and figures here today but blame our media industry and the people involved in it for continuously reinforcing all the false ideas and poor mind-set that we have long fallen prey to.
Those who know Pakistan well would also know that television is the biggest form of entertainment for majority of the population residing in the urban as well as rural areas of Pakistan. People love to spend their afternoons and evenings in front of their TV. I wanted to see what was going on, on TV in terms of obsession with fair skin. I realised soon after that almost all the skin care products sell the very concept of getting lighter skin tone. Such as,
Urdu: Hum larkiyon ka face fresh hona chahiye
Translation: Us, girls should have a fresh face
You shouldn’t second guess the name of the product. It is indeed called face fresh
Fair and lovely has long used women with dark skin tone as their models and shown their skin tone improve with the use of their product over time as an example. This is 21st century and I think it’s about time that fair and lovely changes the name for the new lines it is creating.
What’s funnier is that some of these creams don’t display the products that they contain. E.g. I looked at the packaging of a famous whitening cream called gypsy amazing cream that only said at the front that it contains jojoba oil but no further ingredients were given at the back. It is obvious that the products contain bleach and few major ingredients should be placed at the back of the packing. Its not really my problem as I wouldn’t use the product unless I am conducting some kind of research experiment on the product but those who use it deserve to know what must the mystery magic box contain.
Fair is not good and kaala (dark skin) is not bad and we need to break such stereotypes especially popular products like Fair and lovely whose consumers seem unaffected by such form of political incorrectness.
The root of all our problems could be lack of education but many formally educated people also believe in the importance of fair skin. In fact, in Pakistan, fair skin is a requirement in the proposal checklist for a girl from the male side.
Women invest more time and money on their physical appearances and almost no time on personality growth..
Solution: Change aka Tabdeeli?
Change is coming. The newer generation is ready to fight all the stereotypes but we are still shackled by many concepts the like of fair is beautiful.
we have a long long long way to go until we speak about issues like pay gap and equal pay for equal work etc nevertheless we should not give up on our fights to break stereotypes.
Good Luck to us for that…