In Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, a bride called off her wedding after two pheras because she felt that the groom was ‘too dark’. Despite all the efforts of persuading the bride to continue the wedding, she refused and walked away from the mandap.
The incident happened on July 7 at a place in Bhartana in Etawa. The bride participated in the garland exchanging ceremony without any complaints. But as the ceremony of pheras began, the bride staged a protest and called off the wedding. She alleged that the man she was conducting the ceremonies with was not the same one she was meant to marry and that the groom’s complexion was “too dark” for her to like him.
After six hours of unsuccessful attempts to convince the bride, the groom and his baraat turned back and left the mandap without completing the wedding. The groom reportedly claimed, “The girl and her family had come to meet me several times and I do not know why they suddenly changed their mind. The incident has traumatised me.” Meanwhile, the groom’s father has lodged a complaint against the bride’s family for not returning the gold jewellery that was offered to them as gifts.
Colourism affects men as well
Incidents of colour-shaming men, especially while assessing their matrimonial prospects, happen frequently in India. While we always talk about how women are discriminated against due to darker skin tone, the issue isn’t frequently discussed for the opposite gender. A handsome man in our society is stereotyped to be tall, dark and handsome. But how dark is too dark for a bride’s liking? Isn’t it unfair to men if their worth is judged on basis of their skin colour?
In April of this year, a video of a bride in Barailley went viral in which she refused to marry the groom during the garland exchanging ceremony. As per the video, the bride called the groom “dark” and threw the garland in annoyance. Then in 2017, a bride from Buxar in Bihar refused to marry a groom because his dark complexion did not make him look ‘smart’ enough.
Not only common men, but celebrities too have faced colourism. Choreographer Remo D’Souza opened up about being shamed for his skin colour. He said that he was bullied as ‘Kaalia’ or ‘Kalu’ by many people. And to make him feel better, his mother used to play the song ‘Hum kale hai toh kya hua dilwale hai’ which ultimately became his favourite.
India’s obsession with fair skin is not new. Fair skin has been associated with power, knowledge and beauty for a long time. This association with power and affluence has let to eventual transition from dark and handsom to “fair and handsome”. Women too have internalised this discriminatory outlook towards skin colour and think that just like a woman is only beautiful if she is fair, a man too can only look handsome if he is light-skinned.
Though many people try to be progressive by denying the existence of colourism, fair skin heavily influences desirability.
According to a survey conducted in 2012, 71 percent of women in Matrimonial Ads demanded a fair-skinned groom. Moreover, another study stated that 77.77 percent of male participants of age 25 considered fair skin as an attribute of attractiveness among men.
From reel to real life, dark-skinned men are shamed for not looking smart and intelligent enough. Their skin complexion is also linked to their hygiene and economic status. If you have watched the Television series Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma, you must have noticed the colourism against Babita’s husband Aiyer. He is constantly called ‘lucky’ for getting a fair-skinned wife and at times many people refuse to believe that he is Babita’s husband. Why? Simply because he has a dark skin complexion.
It is clear that both men and women are subjected to rejection and marginalisation because of their skin colour. The impacts of colourism in men’s life follow the same trajectory as in women’s life. From affecting marital and career prospects in real life to glamourising fair skin on the screen through movies and ads, society reinforces the belief among men and women that dark is ugly and unwanted.
The argument here is not about who faces colourism more and who needs more sympathy. The purpose of this article is to understand that colourism is not based on gender. A woman with dark skin will have the same experiences of marginalisation and name-calling as a person of any other gender. Even if there might be some difference in the experiences, it does not justify the underestimation of men’s experiences of bias.
If men and women empathise with each other and look beyond the skin colour, fair skin will no longer be an attribute of desirability. Just as the war cry against patriarchy needs support from men, the fight against colourism needs to be inclusive of male experiences with discrimination as well.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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