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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Colour as indicator of beauty

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There is a increasing perception in media and among educated urban elite in India that use of fairness as indicator of beauty is wrong. That perception is manifested in opposition to depiction of unfair woman in Fair & Lovely adverts as not being able to attract suitable mate, not being able to get a job, or being perennially dissatisfied with her life. Resistance was raised again when Fair & Handsome was launched for men. It is not untrue that people of India do equate fairness with beauty, and reasons can be as recent as white colonial rule to as old as primitive human evolution. It is also agreeable that to judge one by standards of beauty beyond one’s control is unfair to the least, and downright mean in most cases.

What gets my goat though is the fact that society continues to accept other measures as standards of beauty while isolating fairness as something mean. If you believe in individual liberty then there is no reason you should have objection to anyone’s standards of beauty and anyone else's attempts to measure up to those standards by any means they choose, including use of fairness creams. While both parties have choice in principle, second party doesn’t have a choice in practice. If all men think that fair woman is beautiful, then has a woman choice not to try to be fair without suffering rejection as consequence of her choice? But then, if all men think that obese woman is unattractive, then has a woman choice not to try to be slim?

This happens in nearly all parameters of beauty and in many other spheres of life. Tall build, dark skin tone, wide shoulders, glistening row of teeth, full dark smooth hair, no paunch, sturdy long legs, muscular arms, chiseled face, firm handshake etc. are few among many standards of male beauty. Men try to measure up to them by working out, taking care of themselves, consuming healthy diet, seeking medical care, and so on. Similarly for women. Why does nobody objects to association of beauty with soft skin, long flowing silky hair, long thin legs, slender waist, absence of spectacles, etc. for women? Why raise objection to association of beauty with fairness only? At the end of the day, can you really force me to see beauty where I don't see? Isn't it in eye of beholder anyway.

I don’t see how one is not acceptable, and I agree it is not, but others are. Of course, any attempt at making everything unacceptable is going to snowball into destroying whole standards of civilization. Life is full of unfairness, and I think cribbing about it just not going to help anybody, one has to deal with handicaps given in life or work to overcome them. If I am not intelligent and don't earn as much as you do, will you consider that unfair, since my intelligence is beyond my control?

3 comments:

Der said...

Finding a fair mate is beyond mere choice. If a woman is to stay indoors most days, she will have healthier babies if she is fair. Too much skin pigment decreases absorption of vitamin D, which can cause poor health during pregnancy. And if sunlight exposure is limited, then a darker wife makes sense.

However, if a woman is working in the fields or similar activity all day and is constantly exposed to sun she is better to have dark skin, since a fair woman will suffer from folate deficiency. Folate (folic acid) breaks down under the presence of too much UV light, but melanin slows this down. Folate deficiency can cause neural tube defects in unborn children.

Now, preference of too skinny women in America makes no sense in regards to reproduction... but that's a different story.

Ashish Gupta said...

Wow! I knew something has to be there when I referred to "human evolution" angle. Didn't know health effects. Thanks.

Psychology Today has interesting series of articles on evolutionary logic on woman's beauty, and one of them refers to slim waist.

Der said...

"And if sunlight exposure is limited, then a darker wife makes sense."

I meant to say lighter wife.... Whoops!

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