My Daughter is Dark Skinned. I Fear for Her in Fair & Lovely Obsessed India

We have twin daughters – B +ve and O +ve, they are non-identical. It so happens that one of them is dark skinned and one of them has a lighter complexion.

The girl who is dark is getting darker by the day and I fear for her, fear for her self-belief, fear for her confidence, fear for her capacity to stand for what she is / will be, fear for her own self. I fear for her for I know the obsession with Fair & Lovely in India.

The first attention

I have seen this happening. I have seen this happening time and again. And, I know that I will keep seeing this happening time and again.

Be it family members or strangers, not all though, the attention first goes to the girl with a fair complexion. This cannot be an occurrence of chance. Of course, the girl with a dark complexion also gets noticed and gets spoken to, but with a time lag vis-a-vis her sister.

Both the girls are equally active, energetic and talkative. Yet the perceptible difference in getting the first attention from people around. It is something similar to gender stereotypes, intrinsic to us.

Both the girls are unaware of this at their age. I dread the moment when they will understand who is getting noticed and spoken to first.

The story books, toys, TV

My wife and I used to be big fans of Amar Chitra Katha. While reading the mythological stories, one of the daughters raised a query – Why are demons all dark skinned? Why are devas all fair skinned?

My wife and I never liked any dolls and the perception that girls play with dolls. Our daughters have been a gifted number of Barbie and other dolls, all fair. I read that Barbie also happens to be dark, never saw it in real life, though.

The protagonists in Indian TV serials and series are all fair skinned – women, men and children. Additionally, we never know when the advertisement for Fair & Lovely will pop up.

The result – the story books which differentiate between the skin colour, the toys which are not skin colour agnostic and the TV have been banished from our home.

The formal environment

Our daughters do not go to any formal environment of learning – not yet. There are a host of reasons why they do not go. One of the most inconsequential reasons on why they do not go is that one of my daughters has dark skin.

This is an utterly crazy reason and I know it. For, I know that once the girls start going to a formal setting, someone, somewhere, somehow, is going to say that one of the girls is dark – “kali” and I dread this moment.

Even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes how I am going to face my daughter who has been commented on about her dark skin.

The positive advice

I am in doldrums on how to deal with this myself. So, I was searching on the internet about self-help. I found advice like – place images of beautiful dark-skinned women prominently in one’s home, buy black dolls, for 3 to 6-year-olds: Make frequent remarks, such as “my beautiful baby,” and create stories about beautiful dark children who are smart, kind, etc. (These points are from this site).

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with any of these suggestions. They are well-meaning. I should actually be doing it myself.

Just that I am not able to. It is my inability to accept that I need to mention/get into a discussion with my daughter who is four and a-half-year-old about her skin colour.

I am a coward

I have never been able to call any family member, friend, acquaintance, stranger who I feel is differentiating between my daughters basis their skin colour.

I am running away from the reality of the need to tell my daughter that she is dark skinned and that she will be biased against.

I am unable to prepare my daughter for the country she is going to face even after knowing that I need to do it.

I hate the society which discriminates and I know that I have been and am a part of the same society.

I do not know how to deal with this. I am failing my daughter.

4 thoughts on “My Daughter is Dark Skinned. I Fear for Her in Fair & Lovely Obsessed India”

  1. My response: There are no perfect parents, there are no perfect children. Very few people who comment have the intention to hurt. I guess for them its like speaking of the weather – just conversation fillers.So, what is most important is to help build resilience – for ourselves and our children. It is okay for everyone, whatever the age, to feel anger, pain, disappointment and other negative emotions, for unless they experience that, especially when they are young and in a supportive environment, how will they learn to cope in the larger world? Believe me, it isn’t the colour of the skin. One could have a fair skin and have a complex of the shape of the face or weight or height or voice or hair or ANYTHING else. Later on, it’ll become economic success and other parameters set by society. Each one of us has many physical and other shortcomings. The critical aspect is to know that its okay to feel the discomfort and be able to MOVE ON. Look for strengths and encourage them.
    Hindu mythology has also given us dark gods like Rama and Krishna and Parvathy. Even in the Krishna story, he asks his mother Yashoda why is it that he is dark while his brother Balarama is fair. The situation can be used as a teachable moment to intoduce genetics.
    I love the Serenity prayer: God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
    Best wishes always.

    1. Thank you for introducing me to the Serenity prayer, it is helping me to calm down my emotions and for your best wishes, always.

  2. Response from my daughter who’s now a young adult: I was that dark skinned daughter growing up in India. I wish I could tell you that she will never feel lesser of a person because of the colour of her skin, but it’s the nature of our country; fair is better. What I can tell you is that she will get through it and she will come out so much stronger. As a parent, what’s most important is that you make sure she knows that the colour of her skin is not an important part of her identity. She is an intelligent, energetic, strong and beautiful person, not despite her skin colour but along with it.
    I know it’s hard to stand up to people, especially relatives that make snide and underhand comments but it’s so important you do, especially as she gets older and starts processing them. Even if it’s a gentle “thankfully she’s smart enough to know that skin colour doesn’t matter” when someone tells her “you’ve gotten so dark” will go such a long way. Make sure she knows that going out into the sun isn’t a bad thing, I regret any time I couldn’t enjoy the warm feeling on my skin because I thought it would make me less beautiful. As long as she knows that you are 100% behind her she will grow up to be a confident person who loves the golden undertones in her dark skin.

    1. Thank you so much for the response from your daughter. I will keep reading it and keep with me, always. My daughter is blessed with your thoughts and actions. Hope I will come true to your and my daughters’ expectations.

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