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Shades of Struggle: Colorism’s Impact in South India

Colorism, a deeply rooted form of discrimination based on skin color, continues to cast its shadow across societies worldwide. While it affects many people across the nation, its effects are mainly seen in South India. Although South India is a region full of cultural diversity and varying complexions, darker skin tones have been stigmatized. Biases towards lighter skin tones are deeply ingrained within many individuals. I think it is time we shed light on the young South Indian girls who have become victims of superficial beauty standards.

Historical Context

Colorism is not specifically rooted in South India as it dates back to centuries of societal norms, colonial influence, and historical beliefs. Colonial rule in India introduced a new definition of attractiveness. People created a perception that having lighter or “fair” skin equates to success since many of the British colonizers ruling over India had this fair skin. Throughout the years, Indian media, advertisements, and movie industries perpetuated this Eurocentric beauty standard. As young girls started getting exposed to this environment, they became conditioned to tie their self-worth to the amount of melanin they possess. Soon skin color started determining not only attractiveness, but also privilege, desirability, and power. The issue arises when this idea not only creates stereotypes but also deprecates those with darker skin tones.

Colorism in Action

Matrimonial advertisements, a common practice in India, frequently emphasize fair skin as a desirable trait, reflecting society's obsession with light complexion even in personal relationships. Additionally, workplaces have been known to discriminate against individuals with darker skin tones, impacting their career advancement. Such systemic biases perpetuate a cycle that damages self-esteem and limits opportunities for those who do not fit the narrow definition of being light-skinned. Further, many beauty brands in India, such as the controversial “Fair & Lovely” skin-lightening cream, advertise by picking on the light-skinned stereotype.

No Beauty, No Confidence

The effect of colorism on young girls’ confidence is detrimental. As they grow up, these girls create the belief that fair skin is the definition of beauty, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt when they don't fit into this unattainable definition. This can result in many negative consequences such as low self-esteem, body image issues, social isolation, lack of career opportunities, and mental health issues. The constant pressure to fit into a different stereotype can make a young girl self-deprecate and isolate herself. This could hold her back from reaching her full potential due to her lack of confidence, simply due to age-old beauty standards. This is why we need to break this cycle!

Breaking the Cycle

As seen, colorism can lead individuals to doubt their own worth and their appearance. However, engaging in confidence helps break this cycle of self-doubt. When individuals believe in their abilities and recognize their value beyond their skin tone, they are less likely to feel inadequate. Society often produces immense pressure to conform to certain beauty ideals. Confidence enables these girls to resist the pressures and embrace their natural skin tone. When people are secure in their own skin, they can make choices that align with their values and beliefs, rather than conform to external expectations.

Therefore, colorism's impact on confidence among young girls in South India is a pressing issue that requires collective action. By challenging societal norms, creating inclusive environments, and promoting self-love irrespective of skin color, we can pave the way for a generation of confident and empowered young girls who recognize their worth beyond stereotypical beauty standards. It's time for us to celebrate the richness of diversity that South India embodies. Dark is beautiful too.

Minnu Voruganti, Bentonville, 11th Grade, Instagram- @minnu_v26

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