A man is always tall, dark and handsome, but a woman is dark "but" beautiful. While most of us do openly criticise the skin-deep beauty standards of our society, somewhere deep down we still think of dark skin like it is some kind of aberration. For the majority, orthodox or otherwise, dark or dusky is not synonymous with beauty. It is natural and acceptable yes, but do we see it as beautiful?
Actor Shah Rukh Khan talked about his daughter's dusky complexion during the inaugural ceremony of 24th Kolkata International Film Festival. According to The Times Of India, he said, "I’ll be honest; my daughter is sanwli (dusky), but she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. And nobody can tell me otherwise.”
How sweet of him to speak so fondly of his daughter Suhana. However, the "but" in his statement is utterly disappointing. Known to be a clever conversationalist, it is dejecting that Khan didn't choose his words more wisely. He made it sound like he thinks of being dusky as some kind of impediment to beauty. That the two cannot exist in the same sentence for women or even men. However, it is not just Khan, but numerous people think that being dusky being beauty cannot go hand in hand. Especially when it comes to women in our culture. We feel the need to justify a dusky woman's beauty by inserting a "but".
Many women and girls face social rejection and humiliation in our country simply because of being born with a dark complexion.
Ever since childhood, dusky girls are made aware that they would cause so much trouble to their parents, when it is time to seek a matrimonial match for them. It is deemed as a liability not just for their own future prospects, but for their parents as well. If you think such a mindset ceased to exist post 18th century, then perhaps you live in an urban bubble. You are completely disconnected from the ground reality which girls from traditional Indian households face even today.
- Shah Rukh Khan has said that his daughter Suhana is dusky, but she’s the most beautiful girl in the world.
- We all openly criticise the skin-deep standards of beauty our society has but somewhere deep down we still think of dark skin tone as some kind of defect.
- We believe that the society doesn't consider dusky as appealing, so we insert the "but" out of defensiveness.
- Khan should endorse all skin tones because each and every word he says resonates with millions of his fans.
For generations now our society has been telling dusky girls that they are not beautiful or desirable. This has affected their self confidence and social standing.
We believe that the society doesn't consider dusky skin colour appealing, so we insert the "but" out of protectiveness. We all have done this at some point in our lives, only to realise that we have fallen into the very trap we have been trying to escape so hard.
Superstars like Khan should endorse all skin tones because each and every word they say resonates with their millions of fans. He needs to omit that "but" out of his statement, the next time he speaks on complexion, as much as he needs to stop endorsing a certain fairness cream brand. Just as he thinks his daughter is beautiful, so is everyone else, irrespective of her or his skin tone. What needs to change is how we speak about and perceive it. Only when we stop looking at it as a limitation, then will we be able to end this discrimination.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.