Sunday, 23 June 2013

"dark girls"

i was directed to this post via facebook.  it's about a documentary called "dark girls":

a documentary centered on colorism and beauty prejudice in the black community at the Toronto Film Festival.

here's a clip about the documentary:

i have to say, being south asian, this is something that i very much identify with.  being "fair" (ie having a light skin colour, the lighter the better) is something that is very much prized, & those with darker skin colour are pretty much valued a lot less in south asian countries.

i guess i'm lucky, given that i came under the category of "fair", but it certainly didn't feel lucky.  actually, i hated it, because i knew that any compliments about my skin colour just entrenched a bullsh*t beauty standard unfairly imposed on women (pun totally intended).  i hated it in my teen years, and i still hate it now.

i hate how cosmetic companies take advantage of this cultural standard to make money of dark-skinned women, providing products that will lighten their skin.  i didn't have the words or the courage when i was young to challenge this cultural norm.  also, because i only ever faced it when i visited india, a country where i felt like a foreigner (& really, i was, because i hadn't grown up there), i didn't have the confidence to speak what i felt.

but i have the words now, and i can say it's just wrong.  wrong on every level.  and i'm prepared to call it out whenever anyone is unwise enough to equate skin-colour with beauty in my presence.  i'm not prepared to tolerate it.  and i'm asking other south asians to do the same.  we can unlearn all the messages we've been bombarded with through movies, television, magazines, advertisements, books, and everyday conversations.  we can learn to appreciate beauty in different ways.  we can and we must.


Richard29 said...

That doco looks cool - will add it to the list!
I always find the skin colour thing funny because it runs two ways. I am of pasty white northern european stock. I grew up in England where it is considered desirable and beautiful to have tanned olive skin like southern europeans.
My wife is from southern europe where paler skin is more prized because darker skin is associated with being from a group with lower social standing (gypsies) or working very low status jobs in the fields and outdoors.
Everybody wants to be somebody else and the 'beauty' industry is right there waiting to sell it to them.

Acid Queen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard29 said...

Sorry... Clearly I haven't lived in Europe for many years and I'm not up with the play - no abuse intended.
I don't think there is an edit function on posts so you'll just have to count this as my retraction.

stargazer said...

AQ, i haven't changed my policy regarding comments from you. if you have particular issues of marginalisation either in my post or comments, please use our email to address them & i will change/moderate as appropriate.

the comment deleted referred to the fact that the term "gypsy" is not appropriate for the roma peoples.

Anonymous said...

" i knew that any compliments about my skin colour just entrenched a bullsh*t beauty standard unfairly imposed on women "

You make life so complicated. Maybe you were / are just beautiful to look at because you have had a lucky break and could have just taken the compliments? Some genetic combinations create pleasing shapes, tones and angles and while I'd never judge on skin deep looks alone sometimes they do catch the eye. An older face with character does that as well and is possibly more intresting to my arty side.

My wife is, in my view, naturally attractive but she still puts on makeup. It makes her look younger and all that I guess but she's not doing it for me.


stargazer said...

wow 3:16, so when people specifically talked to me about my skin colour, what, i was misunderstanding them? how exactly? your "maybe" is implying that i don't understand the language, which i do, or that i don't understand the culture, which i do. there is no "maybe" about it. these specific things were said to, these specific things are prevalent in all the media i mentioned in my post.

and no, i will never take it as a compliment when someone tells me i look good because i'm fair, particularly in a culture where darker skins are treated as less valuable. how about you do me the courtesy of believing that i am telling the truth about my experiences, that i don't have a problem accepting genuine compliments or giving them, and that there is a genuine issue here about the way beauty is defined?

Scorpio said...

"your "maybe" is implying that i don't understand the language, which i do, or that i don't understand the culture, which i do. "

It is possible to understand someone's language and culture and still misunderstand their meaning. Communication is imprecise, and frankly I'm quite shocked that you take 'you might have misunderstood their mining' as a suggestion that you are illiterate and/or uneducated.

Especially since you often tell other people they don't understand what you've written.

stargazer said...

i didn't take is as being illiterate, i take it as someone attacking the integrity of what i'm describing of my experience. and i'm am saying to you as well that it is impossible to misunderstand when someone tells you that your skin colour is tied to your beauty. that is it is impossible to misunderstand an advertisement for beauty products that are claimed to lighten your skin. it is impossible to misunderstand actresses being put down in women's magazine for being darker skinned. and so many, many other examples.

what exactly do i have to say to prove that i didn't misunderstand the message? can you not see how insulting it is for you or anyone else to imply that i might be doing that? you are basically undermining my statements about my own experiences, as if they can't be valid, or as 3:16 does, as if i am unnecessarily complicating things. you are dismissing my experiences as unimportant and my ability to explain what i experienced. by doing so, you add to the notion that this isn't a real problem, it's something i just dreamed up in my head, and that there is no cultural change required, nothing that needs to be changed.

and yes, i do call people out when they ascribe words to me that i've never said. totally different issue.

Fragged said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

Our policy is that we don't discuss moderation decisions in comment threads. Please email if you have a problem.

LudditeJourno said...

Hey Stargazer, I'm a little late getting to this so apologies, but just wanted to support you being able to name and interpret your own experience.
Other commenters here - Scorpio and 3:16 in particular - finding your "don't want to hear that, la la la la" approach completely offensive frankly, but luckily Stargazer is more than capable of responding to that herself.

Anarkaytie said...

Hey Stargazer,

I got an error message when I tried to click through to the video link "this video has been blocked in your country due to copyright issues" or something like that....

Annoyed, I'd have like to watch it.
I'll try searching the doco name & see if I can u-tube it or something.

FWIW, to the randoms who try to invalidate womyn's experiences - just give up.
We are the ones who have these things shoved in our faces every day.

Body image issues are the stuff of which adolescent anorexia and bulimia are constructed - women begin to face these messages from age 12/14 or so up, and I'll include trans*women in here as well, since the critical gaze of 'others' impacts on all woman-shaped human beings.

I've been told I'm too - fat, thin, short, pale, skinny, freckled, sunburnt, you name it, every inch of my skin has been critiqued at some point of my life.

Right now, I defy 'normal' by (mostly) living without makeup or hair dye, which makes me quite unusual amongst my peers.
Some of the women of my own age even consider it to be outrageous that I don't conform as they do.

Every day there is a barrage of advertising aimed at making women feel inadequate in some way, so they'll buy some product that will 'improve' their looks.
No matter how you look, there's a product out there with a marketing budget dedicated to make you feel inadequate until you buy.

Anarkaytie said...

This one did play!