South Asian Beauty Standards; the Startling Perplexing Syndrome Part I Written by Hajra Khan, Collaboration with Author of The Human Lens

 

The South Asian Pakistani community has been obsessed with skin pigmentation for decades. Unfortunately this trend is still at its peak, even in England. In England the main reason for why I believe this obsession still exists is because of the older generation. Those are the ones who carried this ideology with them when they migrated here. This ideology was then passed down from generation to generation and now is so deep rooted in our minds.

Being fair skinned is a dominant factor in what beauty should look like according to the Pakistani community. The fairer you are the more “pretty” you are. That’s the logic here, and sadly that’s how mainly females and males are judged on. I’ve realised that puberty has done me many favours, I hate to sound vain by all means that is not my intention but I definitely look way better than I did when I was a child. I’ve been told by many that I have “pretty features” (okay I need stop now, I making myself cringe) but this is still not enough for the aunties. Nope, the only thing they see to their discomfort is my dark complexion, which they will never find attractive. I’ve also realised that those who believe in this version of beauty certainly don’t try to be discreet about it.

The bigots little box of magic.
The Aunties little box of magic.
And here is Fair and Lovely's boyfriend.
And here is Fair and Lovely’s boyfriend. Called Fair and Handsome. Aww.

I noticed this when I visited Pakistan (Kashmir) for my holiday. I attended several weddings there; the one thing that I found amusing, shocking and just plain sad was the bride’s makeup. Each bride that I laid eyes upon was covered in this thick coat of icing and bright red blusher and lipstick. Eugh! I thought to myself, I was disturbed and disappointed, especially when they didn’t even bother caking her hands. So the bride had dark hands which were her real complexion but her hands were a striking contrast to her face. The face was white, imagine white paint. This is why I was also disturbed; witnessing such horrible makeup caked on someone always hurts.

There was no shame here in giving this bride an unrealistic fair complexion. No one saw this as wrong. In fact it was encouraged. It made me sick and angry but at the same time I couldn’t help but to just laugh.  This caking of brides was quite a culture shock for me. In England there was a time when people weren’t educated much about the science of makeup and only wished to look fair on their wedding day. But now it seems like everyone is a MUA (make-up artist) so people know what compliments their complexion and in effect creating better and more natural looking brides. This why I was taken back by the brides in Pakistan, it had been a while and I wasn’t ready to be exposed to such nonsense.

I wonder if this is what the dark bride actually wanted. Does she feel beautiful?

When she looks back at her wedding photos will she feel comfortable with this unnatural fair face smiling back at her? Or was it the elder generation that only found this icing of brides attractive and therefore had forced upon their version of beauty onto these brides?

I wish I could have spoken to the bride and just ask her do you really feel beautiful looking like this? Hiding your own beautiful skin tone just to be accepted by other community members is something I am miserably way to similar with. This is wrong on so many levels, caking these brides is a messed up and distorted version of them.

not-sure-if-girl-is-really-lightskinned-or-has-fair-lovely-on-her-face

Apart from the brides the other thing I found annoying was how everyone in Pakistan was just so obsessed with beauty. The only thing they allowed themselves to notice first was of course the skin colour and how “pretty” one is. The people that I was around, I found to be superficial. For them I being from England and having dark skin was mind baffling. In their tiny minds, people from abroad only have fair skin as it is not as hot in our countries. So seeing me wearing a dark skin tone was a huge mind fuck, especially with England being so cold and all. Now I find this really hilarious, but at the time it was just so hard to be around these people who were so close minded and who had such a limited idea of what beautiful means. Indeed, this does not just stop at ones skin colour. I don’t mean to sound like a massive pessimist but I don’t feel things are going to change anytime soon for the Pakistani community.

This obsession with fair skin I believe is now just embedded in our culture.  It is the first thing we notice when a baby is born. How dark or fair his/her complexion is and then from there we judge the child’s delightfulness. This is the depressing reality of my culture and what more is depressing is that there are so many of my community members who can’t seem to even identify this as something that is such a disgusting idea of beauty.

Classic idea of what a South Asian beauty should look like.
Classic idea of what a South Asian beauty should look like.
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16 thoughts on “South Asian Beauty Standards; the Startling Perplexing Syndrome Part I Written by Hajra Khan, Collaboration with Author of The Human Lens

  1. Reblogged this on The Human Lens and commented:
    Please check out this wonderful article on feminism’s take at the South Asian Beauty Standards; the Startling Perplexing Syndrome Part I Written by Hajra Khan, In Collaboration with The Human Lens.
    The South Asian Pakistani community has been obsessed with skin pigmentation for decades. Unfortunately this trend is still at its peak, even in England. In England the main reason for why I believe this obsession still exists is because of the older generation. Those are the ones who carried this ideology with them when they migrated here. This ideology was then passed down from generation to generation and now is so deep rooted in our minds.
    Original Link at https://seraphictruth.com/2014/12/10/south-asian-beauty-standards-the-startling-perplexing-syndrome-part-i-written-by-hajra-khan-collaboration-with-author-of-the-human-lens/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What’s even more alarming than the fair-skinned obsession, is the products and advertising that fuel it. Creams that promise to make one fair in three days, THREE DAYS; one can only imagine what harmful substances are put into such products, that the desperate will rush to use regardless of the risk.

    Well written article. This issue can never be addressed enough!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Exactly, and there are already many news and researches showing the bad effects of using these beauty products but no, people continue to try become white at all costs…. :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its their own mental oppression, the saying “you can’t change someone unless they want to change themselves” I guess can come in. No matter how much we try to educate these bigots about this issue they will always be unable to see past their obsession.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A head-banging-hair-pulling moment you mentioned at the end. The first thing we notice when a baby is born. His or her skin color. It makes me sick in my stomach but I have seen it all first hand. This obsession is mindboggling really. And the more you try to pull out, the more it sucks you in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed disgusting and incredibly shallow. If the baby is dark then its assumed that he/she is unhealthy or weak. There is always some excuse given for one’s dark skin. These excuses are in effect trying to make us feel like having a dark skin tone is a bad thing. Like its something unnatural. It’s so silly and just plain idiotic.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a fellow Pakistani raised in Britain, I can totally relate to so much of what you said here! You and Sadia have done a fantastic job expressing the dhsnsjsjshshwhs that is the South Asian fair skin obsession. The more feminist voices we can get to speak up about this, the better! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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