Cultural Norms, Fair &amp Lovely,and Advertising


in newspapers or on the Web that are used by families to arrange
suitable alliances, and you will see that most potential grooms
and their families are looking for “fair” brides; some even are
progressive enough to invite responses from women belonging
to a different caste. These ads, hundreds of which appear in India’s
daily newspapers, reflect attempts to solicit individuals with
the appropriate religion, caste, regional ancestry, professional and
educational qualifications, and, frequently, skin color. Even in the
growing numbers of ads that announce “caste no bar,” the adjective
“fair” regularly precedes professional qualifications. In everyday
conversation, the ultimate compliment on someone’s looks is to
say someone is gora (fair). “I have no problem with people wanting
to be lighter,” said a Delhi beauty parlor owner, Saroj Nath. “It
doesn’t make you racist, any more than trying to make yourself
look younger makes you ageist.”
Bollywood (India’s Hollywood) glorifies conventions on beauty
by always casting a fair-skinned actress in the role of heroine, surrounded
by the darkest extras. Women want to use whiteners because
it is “aspirational, like losing weight.”
Even the gods supposedly lament their dark complexion—
Krishna sings plaintively, “Radha kyoon gori, main kyoon kala?
(Why is Radha so fair when I’m dark?).” A skin deficient in melanin
(the pigment that determines the skin’s brown color) is an
ancient predilection. More than 3,500 years ago, Charaka, the
famous sage, wrote about herbs that could help make the skin