Today’s discussion of “Who’s the fairest of them all?”

February 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

In class I didn’t get a chance to respond to the idea that when it comes to beauty ideals “the grass is always greener on the other side.” I would like to support Professor David’s resistance to this idea. While there may be some white women out there who envy the styles of Black women, I think most white women are unaware of the beauty their skin automatically grants them in the eyes of others.

The only way I know to further explain this is to share what I was thinking about when I read the essay and in class today. While this is not about Black women in the United States, I think it still fits into the way that whiteness is seen as beautiful.

This past summer I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit India for a month. As a white woman, this experience brought at lot of things about my whiteness to my attention and changed the way I think about my interactions with the world. I couldn’t go anywhere without being noticed. When I went outside people stared at me. People who were driving, people on buses, every time I looked up there was a crowd of faces looking at me. At first it made me feel uncomfortable. It was the first time in my life that I stood out in a crowd of people. But, then I realized something. Brave strangers would approach me, introduce themselves, ask me my name, and shake my hand. Children would ask to touch my hair. If I was in a tourist area, Indian families would ask if they could take a picture with me. People were starting at me, because I was something special. I was whiter than the light-skinned woman on the billboards for skin whiting cream. I imagined the people I met going home at night and saying “I saw a white woman today.” I am like the images of white women or light-skinned Indian women in the media, TV, and advertisements, which are just as present in Indian as they are in the U.S.

Having had this experience, I now realize that because beauty is a social construct, it is a privilege as well. Although, it’s difficult to realize that you’re privileged, I think the grass is greener on the white side, when it comes to fitting into beauty ideals.

§ One Response to Today’s discussion of “Who’s the fairest of them all?”

  • singh0321 says:

    As an Indian who has spent a lot of time in India, I know exactly what your talking about when you mentioned about how people in India were intrigued by your fair skin. Skin tone’s in India vary greatly. People who live in the north tend to be much fairer then people who live in other parts of India, especially south India. Indian people in general still strongly believe that lighter skinned people are more beautiful. If you travel throughout India, you will hardly see any advertisements with south Indian people in them. This has been a problem in India for a very long time and in my opinion, isn’t getting any better. A few months ago, one of my south Indian friends was telling me that her brother just got engaged to his girlfriend who was north Indian and much fairer. She kept talking about how beautiful she was and continuously emphasized how fair her skin was as well. This has been a problem in India for a long time and as Indians migrate to the western countries they bring there views about skin complexions with them. I personally have plenty of south Indian friends who always say things like, I wish I was as pretty as the north Indian girls. I believe this problem in the Indian community will be around for a long time because the media has made no attempt to include darker skinned Indians into the media.

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