By Kavitha Emmanuel | Founder & Director of Women of Worth
Have you ever wondered where skin colour bias originated from? I have. And frankly speaking, there is no simple answer. Skin colour bias is so much a part of our culture that if we tracked it down to see the real enemies it would possibly point to all of us, our families, our extended families, our society, our ancestors etc.
We are all guilty of either propagating or tolerating this age-old bias. Most people are unaware that such a bias can actually affect people in a deep way.
|Photo Credit: Zippora Madhukar Photography|
A campaign like, ’Dark is Beautiful’ (by Women of Worth) has as its core mission the task of exposing the issue, educating people on its effects on society and encouraging those who have experienced trauma because of skin colour bias to regain their confidence and self-worth.
Since our petition on Change.org to ‘take down’ Emami’s discriminatory “Fair and Handsome” ad, many have asked us the question: Why not other brands? Why only Emami? Why only Shah Rukh Khan?” Are they the only ones who are guilty of ‘unfair advertising’ or responsible for skin colour discrimination?
Not at all! If we had chosen some other brand’s ad, we still would have faced this question. Change has to begin somewhere.
The word ‘petition’ actually means ‘request’ or ‘appeal’. By posting a petition we are actually requesting Emami and Shah Rukh Khan to ‘lead the change’.
|Design Credit: 6PM Designs|
Several well-wishers of Mr. Khan are worried whether the campaign is aimed against him. I wish to reiterate that the campaign is against skin colour bias and not against Mr. Khan as any individual.
We do want to see Emami’s discriminatory ad taken down. We do want King Khan to stop endorsing products that promote skin colour discrimination. Those are our requests.
People often argue that products are manufactured to meet a demand among the masses. The demand-and-supply model cannot be an excuse to override responsible business ethics. An issue as serious as skin-colour discrimination cannot be ignored. A healthy society will be on the look out to sort out its discriminatory practices.
Today we are proud of having moved ahead in our perceptions of dowry, our society’s preference for male offspring and various other practices that reflect gender bias or discrimination. Why have we ignored skin-colour bias? The demand-and-supply model cannot be the easy answer to playing on the existing bias or insecurities of an entire group of people. We are and should be more responsible than that!
The Dark is Beautiful campaign seeks to address this complex issue in various ways.
At the launch of the campaign in 2009, we hosted contests in painting, photography, short stories and poetry on the theme “Dark is Beautiful’ to give people a chance to express their views through art. We held a Dark is Beautiful Concert, Book Reading, and Art Gallery in collaboration with British Council, Chennai premises.
|DisB Launch Concert Emceed by VJ Paloma Rao|
Our media literacy module spreads awareness among school and college students that ‘beauty is beyond colour.’
|Media Literacy Workshops for High School Students|
Our blog series called SURVIVING DISCRIMINATION showcases stories of men and women who have overcome the discriminating effects of skin colour bias or of those who are still trying to figure a way out.
Our social media platforms gives people a place to share their thoughts on the issue vent, find support and feel understood.
In March 2012, the campaign organized our first flash mob at Elliot’s Beach, Chennai and released a TVC featuring one of our brand ambassadors Anu Hasan. The event was chaired by Mr. Pratip Philip, Inspector General, Chennai Police. The flash mob’s slogan was “Why this colour-veri?” chosen after the famous Tamil hit song “Why this Kola-veri di?”
|Anu Hasan was the first celebrity endorsement the campaign received|
|Why this Colour Veri? Expression Board|
Over the past two years, celebrities like Anu Hasan, Nandita Das, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Vishaka Singh have lent their support. Their participation in the campaign has gained us visibility and media attention.
|Nandita Das challenges skin colour bias|
The petition, as you can see, is one among the various initiatives of the campaign. We are well aware that skin colour bias is so deep rooted in our society and that it has to be seen and addressed from different angles.
Media Literacy and Responsible Advertising
However, having said all of the above we acknowledge the need for responsible advertising which, whether we like it or not, plays a huge role in shaping and influencing the way people think and act. If this were not true why would brands want to use stars to sell their products?
From rural India to the most educated in urban India people look up to icons like Shah Rukh Khan. We celebrate and esteem stars as role models. Therefore, it is only right that we require them to exercise a certain sense of responsibility towards their countrymen. They are not just entertainers. They are prominent voices in the nation that people from all walks of life stop and listen to. Our petition is simply this: Please say ‘no’ to skin colour bias!
Show us that you care!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavitha is passionate about campaigning for issues concerning women, children and the underprivileged. She finds great fulfillment in helping women realize their dreams and live up to their full potential. She founded Women of Worth (WOW) with a vision to empower, train and motivate women to ‘Be the Best They can Be’. She is always looking for opportunities to create avenues for change that will make the world a better place for women.