What does it mean to be gori (fair skinned) in your community?
In my country, many young women are accustomed to being made fun of on the basis of their skin tone. They can be called the most hurtful names because they aren’t ‘fair enough’, and are ‘too’ brown. I mean, are you freaking kidding me?
Let’s just start out with this inherent problem: Women who are part of a brown race are being called out for being ‘too’ brown.
Cue the countless face whitening brands and products that have taken over the market. Girls with perfectly lovely complexions rushing to the nearest drugstore to buy a tube of Fair and Lovely, in hopes that it will ‘change their life’.
Society has influenced women to reject their natural skin tones and label themselves as unattractive. It has created this mindset that beauty is only skin-deep. Women have stopped appreciating their natural beauty and have turned to these face whitening products in hopes of achieving the complexion that society’s Aunties market as beautiful.
These taglines and slogans talk about ‘reducing dark spots’ or ‘replacing dead skin cells with new ones.’ If these products are supposed to do these perfectly normal things, why are they being marketed as giving results which will give you ‘fairer skin’. It is true that there are countless women who believe in the notion that white or fair skin is in fact, beautiful.
To them, it is a chance to be better viewed by society, a chance at better marriage prospects. Many face whitening creams that are unapproved or counterfeit, contain bleach in them that will literally burn the skin on women’s faces, yet still, they will continue using these products to achieve the skin tone they want.
In the Victorian era, having an extremely pale, fair complexion was important to women. They wanted their skin to be so pale that it was “translucent,” as in you could see the veins in their faces. Arsenic wafers were supposed to remove freckles and tans, making women look younger and more attractive.
Although fully aware that arsenic was poisonous and addictive, they chose to do it anyway for the sake of achieving their ideal of beauty. Sound familiar? You would think that almost two centuries later we would abandon practices of this sort.
As a teenager living in Pakistan, I can tell you that if I spent a little too much time in the sun, a more tanned complexion will never be missed. Growing up, these type of products were so normalized, from advertisements for them shown on TV, all the way to billboards around the city.
There has always been a place for them on supermarket shelves and they are a product that women seem to openly buy and easily talk about.
The reality is that face whitening creams are telling you that you will look beautiful…after using their product. These companies are feeding into society’s toxic standards and using it to target their businesses towards their ‘ideal’ audience.
The message should instead be encouraging women to realize that beauty is more than how light their skin is. It should promote accepting your natural skin tone. We need to tell women that they are enough and that no face whitening cream will ever add value to them the way a brilliant mind will. Encourage girls to be proud of where they are from.
Stop influencing them with messages that cause them to run away from their roots. It is the only way this double standard of beauty will disappear.