I was conducting a workshop for a group of professionals, the subjects of which comprised etiquette, grooming, social communication and allied life skills. The talk turned into a debate, with many of the women in the mixed group deriding the still prevalent desire in men for brides who were “fair”, the term being interchangeable with beauty.
Interestingly, many men in the quorum expressed more mature views, that beauty was more about “being comfortable in your skin” and that phase of obsession with a size zero figure or a fair complexion, or hair styled like plastic sheets was not, in their view, the epitome of desired beauty. The paradigm of beauty has shifted and even people who benchmark their idea of beauty on Bollywood can see that the new age movies have real women, with real Indian skin tones and realistic figures.
It was heartening to hear men in my audience agree with me that a woman must understand her worth as a unique being and celebrate her innate appeal. Many agreed that inner beauty scores higher than mere skin-deep beauty. That unique combination of personality, quirks and interests is exclusive to each person. The consensus was that it is a joy to see a lady confident about herself, celebrating herself as the matchless individual that nature has created.
But we know that people may voice noble platitudes, but the reality may reflect less noble considerations. When men fantasise about the ideal mate, in their mind’s eye is a picture of a fair, lovely, size zero, 20-something. The fact remains that skin-deep beauty is still a priority with grooms on the look-out for a life partner.
I do not undervalue beauty, in fact it is a God-given quality of value. What needs to be understood is that beauty can extend to qualities like kindness, bravery, intelligence or humour. People need to understand how truly beautiful these enduring values are as they transcend the imperfect nose or that crooked smile. I have seen it happen over and over again.
A very close friend, educated, smart, working and to all appearances intelligent, whose desire at the time was to find a bride for her son asked me to ‘put out the word’. When I asked her what did her son and she wished for in the girl of their dreams, education, nature, personality came way below their priority list. “She must be fair,” I was told to my utter astonishment. This, coming from an educated woman of the world with a son from a reputable university?
The malaise I realised is not one that men need to cure themselves of, it is also imperative that women bring up boys in a manner that they go on to lead the way. If children are inculcated with the right worldview, then the revolution would indoctrinate respect for women at a nascent stage. This education would change archaic outlook about fair skin tone.
Men need to give themselves the chance to discover deeper qualities in women beneath the mere exterior. Were they to do so, they would stop desiring the Barbie-doll versions of women.
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org