Standards of beauty vary across the world and it is high time India gave up its obsession with fair skin.
It was recently that a friend was looking for a ‘suitable’ girl for her son. I thought I knew her well until that moment, when her first requirement was that the girl be ‘fair’. No, not outlook in case that’s what you’re thinking. Not education, that was not the first priority at all, not value systems... she was discussing complexion!
Is a woman’s worth and value measured merely by the fairness of her skin? In this day and age? Broaden your outlook Kavita, I thought. And then a blurb popped up in my mind about matrimonial portals, newspaper ads and match-makers — almost entirely crowded with requests for ‘fair and homely bride!’ A man’s skin tone is above consideration of course, while both the terms imply the subjugation of the woman to standards he decides as virtue and beauty.
Where does that leave the relationship then? Where is the consideration of compatibility, resonance, value systems for a life together?
Shortly after this episode, I was conducting a workshop for a group of professionals, the subjects of which comprised ‘Etiquette, Grooming, and Social communication’ and allied ‘Life Skills’. The talk had turned into a debate, with many outraged women from the group deriding the still prevalent desire from men seeking marriage, 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 figure that’s size zero or a complexion as fair as Kareena Kapoor, or hair styled like plastic sheets was not, in their view, the epitome of desired beauty. The consensus was that it is a joy to see a confident lady, celebrating herself as an unique individual.
But we well know that people may voice noble platitudes, the reality, however, may reflect less noble considerations. When men fantasise about the ideal mate, in the mind’s eye, the television model of the ‘Fair and Lovely’ cream is still in mind. The fact remains that skin-deep beauty is still a priority with grooms on the look-out. Don’t get me wrong, I do not underestimate beauty, in fact it is a God-given quality of value — be it a rose or a woman — all are drawn to beauty. What needs understanding is that beauty can extend to aspects equally charismatic as the ‘skin-deep’ ones — inner angelic qualities such as kindness, bravery, intelligence, humour, optimism, generosity, a loving heart, compassion, empathy which make for better bonds, long lasting relationships and loyalty.
A woman must understand her worth as a unique being, and celebrate her innate worth. Inner beauty rates higher than mere skin-deep beauty. Parents looking for matches for their children need to understand how truly beautiful enduring values are, because they are the valuable gems whose radiance transforms the external looks too into its own quality of enduring beauty and transcends the imperfect nose or that crooked smile or even the wiry mop of hair. I have seen it happen many times.
My wish would be that men give themselves the chance to go deeper than the skin to discover these qualities. Were they to do so, they would drop the Barbie doll for greater joys of mutual attraction, conversation and friendship.
Attractiveness is another thing altogether and all need to be encouraged to be their best, most agreeable selves. Improving their appearance is a worthy endeavour. Most would revel in the joy of transforming themselves into the best they can be.
Attractiveness is a self-promoting quotient. Of course, it is an individual choice. It is to be condemned when society, or more often profit-making commercial companies, force-feed the masses with marketing avalanches that would have you fit their blitz-format and brain-wash you into what size, colour, hair-tone you need to be. White is beautiful, black is beautiful, brown is beautiful. Importantly feel beautiful, and happy. No one can resist that.
No one needs an endorsement from a partner. Make yourself confident, happy and liberated by being you.
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Mail her at email@example.com