Redefining Beauty

We exist in a time where information is more easily accessible than ever before. Along with information, we are often bombarded with opinions, and at times it can be hard to discern the difference. One of the areas this difficulty arises in, is in defining beauty. Not only are we often presented with fake images as the truth, but we are also presented a fixed notion of what can be considered beautiful in the society we live in. This becomes increasingly problematic when what is considered beautiful is influenced by businesses who seek to profit from people’s insecurities.

Dr. Gail Dines concisely puts this idea across as “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” It may appear quite simple when you consider that all industries depend on demand for the growth of their businesses. But unlike in the case of food, these industries seem to create an artificial desire and pump in their products to try to fill that void. These industries are built on the insecurity of women, and they position themselves as trying to help women attain happiness and success. They do this by equating a particular standard of beauty with prosperity and affluence in all aspects of life, be it career or romantic. Often this standard is one that is unattainable, allowing a constant stream of purchases in the hopes of improving their lives. When the idea of beauty remains something unattainable, basing one’s self worth and happiness on this idea is damaging. It may seem impossible to truly be satisfied with oneself.

Instead of chasing this idea, maybe the answer lies in redefining beauty. To pushing its boundaries beyond what society tells us, to include our own definition of beauty. In this, lies a choice. We can either accept the definition of beauty presented to us, and continue to be dissatisfied with our appearances and critical of those around us. Or, we can choose to see the beauty that exists around us. We can choose to see beauty in confidence and smiles. We can choose to accept that society’s definition of beauty is not the only one. We can make our choice based on what we want for ourselves, not on what others want for us. But one must remember, that beauty is not the ultimate goal. Colorism is not only a problem because it values one shade of skin over others, it promotes the idea that people, and women in particular, should base their self worth in their physical appearance.  Health, knowledge and kindness are far better parameters on which to measure self worth. So, it seems to me that if we want to be more satisfied with ourselves and self confident, there is a twofold task before us. We must redefine what beauty is to us, to include more than unattainable standards, and simultaneously recognise that our worth does not lie in our physical appearances.

I started to think about this idea of redefining beauty when I first joined college. One thing I hadn’t expected, was how this turned out to be an entry into an immensely positive community. I remember having conversations with my friends about how beautiful the people around us were, and not beautiful in the way society conventionally defines it. These conversations with my friends helped me see that when I started looking beyond conventional beauty in the people around me, I started to feel more beautiful as well. I believe that developing this sort of positive dialogue, by complementing the people around you instead of commenting about them, and looking for beauty rather than looking for flaws, goes a long way in building your own happiness.

[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Sneha is a 19 year old who is currently pursuing her B.A Economics in Azim Premji University in Bangalore. Because of her interest in pursuing a career in development, she is currently interning at Women of Worth. [/su_box]

She Leads Indeed

As a part of the She Leads initiative, a joint campaign by the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Women of Worth and the British Deputy High Commission of India, a leadership workshop was organised at the Great Lakes Institute of Management. The She Leads campaign recognised aspiring young women from across India and inspired them to take up roles as leaders in their respective fields. Ten winners from various colleges were selected and an award ceremony was organised earlier in the year. At the event, they were able to interact with people such as Shruti Hassan, Kiran Bedi and the British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai. As a continuation of this campaign, a three day leadership workshop starting on the 31st of June, was conducted by the Great Lakes Institute of Management Chennai.

The workshop began with Prof. G. N Radhakrishnan who conducted a session on personal effectiveness and developing self. He explored the concept of emotional intelligence and its relevance to leadership, which is a topic that has gained importance recently. Emotional intelligence essentially refers to the capacity to monitor one’s own and others emotions and being able to respond appropriately. Prof. Radhakrishnan elaborated on how this was essential in maintaining good relationships with coworkers and also for maintaining peak performance, in oneself and in those around.

The next day was centred around economic development and was led by Dr. V.P Singh who outlined certain basic economic concepts and connected them to current policy and events. He explained how controlling monetray supply can affect growth and inflation. The She Leads finalists spent a productive afternoon with the press after which Prof. Sridhar concluded the day with an enlightening session on financial planning. The session was extremely useful for a group of young women on the verge of starting their careers, as it pointed out the benefits of starting to save at an early age and of investing these savings in various places.

The last day started off early with Prof. Sridhar’s discussion on the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility. Later, Prof. Stephen Chinnaswamy conducted a session on team building wherein he spoke of the various facets of what it entails to be a leader. He strayed away from defining a leader as the stereotypical aggressive boss, and advocated a definition in which a leader was meant to be flexible, emotionally intelligent, and willing to make mistakes as long as they learned from those mistakes. He conducted activities that were designed to facilitate better understanding and was also able to use what he taught in order to answer the questions that the participants had prior to the session.

The workshop on the whole was a resounding success as the participants enjoyed interacting with the highly competent, experienced and skilled faculty all the while being exposed to new areas of skill and learning.

A mother’s view on child safety

We have heard about the incidents involving women and children being molested and probably momentarily dwelt on it and maybe (if you’re like me) gotten misty eyed over it. I don’t plan on quoting statistics to you nor do I want to get technical by defining abuse and all it’s horrific offshoots.

My heart and gut clenches every time I think of a child getting hurt by an adult who should have protected him or her. It’s an abuse of power, of responsibility and of position. It’s not okay! As a mother to three precious little ones, I consider, as my primary calling and responsibility, their safety and well being. I do realise though that in many cases where abuse has occurred children have been handed over with love to those whom parents have trusted implicitly, in order that the parents could make ends meet and provide a better home and future for their family. So then, the question arises as to what can be done to make life safer for these children who have to stay at daycare or a crèche or at a relative’s house while their parents support and provide for them? For one, the child has to be taught by their parents to protect their body from a predator. Predators both known and unknown considering, scarily enough, that a lot of times the abuser is someone known to the child. Parents being the primary caregivers and nurturers have every reason to educate their children and create a safe space of communication between them which will be a fall back in the event of any harm coming to the child. More importantly there has to exist a cordial relationship between parents and school teachers who spend the most time with the children outside of home. Also important is the cooperation that parents need to offer the school authorities when they attempt to bring in additional safety measures for their students rather than criticising or working at cross purposes to them. The most crucial factor though, would be for parents to not be caught up in the rut of societal pressure which could cause them to sweep incidents like this under the rug rather than dealing with it head on. Easier said than done right in our conservative and often times judgemental society? But think about this, if I stand up to deal with my child’s hurt, pain, questions and memories then i can do far more good for that little human than giving him or her the world. Just by believing them, holding them close and playing a part in their healing without any judgement could radically change their lives. Abuse leaves scars. An aware, caring and involved parent can make those scars fade dramatically. I urge all you mummas and daddas out there, no matter how old or young your kids are. Listen to your children, observe them for behavioural changes, monitor who they play with and stay abreast of their lives. You can be that MVP in your child’s life. It’s never too late. Start now! #fearlessproject #stayaware

Live Fearless

We will all agree that safety of women and children is a huge concern in our country today. We agonize over the safety of our children and even of ourselves. Fear does have a crippling effect on life and the decisions we take every day. Yet, we seldom stop to consider how to eliminate these fears so we can live free. When we happen to switch on the television and hear about a horrible incident of rape or child abuse in an institution we fill ourselves with more fear. Have you stopped to think if this fear is healthy or rational? If fear is our only response to issues of safety we are to be pitied.

Fear as a response to safety issues can have damaging consequences. Fear will cause us to live in a constant state of anxiousness or paranoia. I remember the time in 2012 when the horror of the rape incident in Delhi shook us all. The immediate response was to shut ourselves in and tell our daughters to not go out late. Some daughters and wives had their parents and husbands pull them out of jobs with late night shifts. If we all locked ourselves in would the world become a safe place? Is this the kind of safety we want? Or do we want to change the meaning of the word ‘safe’ by working towards ensuring safety of our women and children in public spaces, campuses, at work and at home without curtailing their everyday normal movements?

Again, we tend to assume that abusers are often strangers not known to us. But statistics all over the world say otherwise. Abusers of women and children are usually people known to them at work, at school, in our campuses and at home. We teach our children not to talk to strangers but have we talked to them about saying No to unsafe advances of family members or neighbours? Abuse can scar a person for life. And fear is not the answer to safety.

Recently while talking to a few college going students, I was stunned to hear them say that safety is one of the biggest hindrances to them pursuing their dreams. I am not here condoning lack of caution in any way. We need to be wise and take precautions that will ensure our safety. But not at the cost of fear that cripples us from living life to the fullest.

Safety is my right. When I feel safe I don’t want anyone to think that they are doing me a favour. My safety does not depend just on me doing the right thing. It also depends on how the environment I am in responds to my need for safety. In other words, the community of people I live with, mingle with and interact with on a daily basis are as responsible as I am for my safety and the safety of my fellow humans.

WOW’s Girl Arise campaign was launched to raise the bar on women’s safety in campuses, work places, at home and in public spaces. Again, one cannot ensure the safety of women and children by just empowering and bringing awareness to women. If men stand aloof and pretend like this is of no concern of theirs, we will never have a safe world. Men and women together need to work on making this world a safer place for women and children.

Statistics says that 53% of children in India have faced some form of sexual abuse. Another myth to dispel is that abuse happens only to girl children. Boys face abuse too. There is a huge population of children in our country who are sold into brothels or exploited by the porn industry. We need to buck up and respond if we believe that children are our future.  

The #Fearlessproject is an attempt to equip student campuses and learning centers to be safe places of learning. By equipping teachers, trainers, management staff and more, we hope to contribute towards ensuring safety for students. Our training courses will not only equip campuses to ensure safety of students but will also help educators identify signs of abuse in a child and reach out for appropriate help.

Fear may be our immediate reaction to unsafe situations. But let not fear be the only solution to safety. #LiveFearless!

Workshops!

Women of Worth kicked off 2017 by launching a training workshop, “Igniting Young Minds”, at Vedanta Academy, Tirupur, for children of grades 1 to 10. Training has been WOW’s core competency in accomplishing one of its three major mission goals, which is to educate and train people from all facets of life to bring the change we all seek in order to build a harmonious society, devoid of gender inequalities and discriminations.

The question is, How? How can we bring this change and also raise a generation of responsible citizens for the future, when we know children easily fall a prey to societal pressures and discriminations because of which we see so many of them battle confusion, turn into recluses, fall into depression, grow up with low self-esteem and end up as adults who do not voice opinions to problems that matter?

WOW’s workshops address some of the sensitive and controversial issues that children face day to day in a friendly and an approachable way.  It doesn’t halt at awareness but delves deeper in an aim to ignite and liberate their potent young minds, evoking a sense of passion and responsibility within themselves, towards others and the community they live in.

At Vedanta Academy, our well-equipped team split the workshop sessions into three categories such as the junior section, senior section and the staff. The junior’s category had a workshop under the title, “Media Literacy: A class on Self-Worth” that educated children on how to filter media messages and the other two categories had sessions on “Anti-Bullying “and “Sexual Abuse” which addressed topics such as ‘How to report bullying’, ‘What if I am a bully?’, ‘Break the silence on abuse’, ‘How to prevent and spot abuse’ and much more.

Every session commenced with an ice breaker and proceeded to address the topics of interest through videos, games, activities, enactments and lots of interaction. Below is a video of the junior’s category interacting with our team during an activity called “Precious”, which aimed to make them understand their unique self.

Picture: The Trainers for the senior category encouraging the boys to do a roleplay on the topic “Bullying”.

Role play on bullying

Senior boys

We believe no child or individual are the same. Likewise, no workshop we put together is monotonous either. We take great care in customizing our materials to cater to the needs of the school and the issues that looms large on a particular campus or environment. Thus, changing and igniting young minds, one school at a time.

WOW is marching towards its next phase in training by welcoming schools and colleges to be a part of the UN campaign #BeBoldForChange, a drive that is addressing gender sensitization and equality this International Women’s Day month. If you would like us to bring the “Bold for change” campaign or any of our workshops to your campus please write to us at wow@womenofworth.in for more information and our team will get in touch with you.

Finally, we extend our commitment and encourage each and every one of you to be a change in your corner of the world; Together we can make a difference!

Lead the change!!

Do Away with the ‘But’

ZeenathWhen I stepped out in the sun, my skin breathed, long, life giving breaths, as it bathed itself silly in the slanting, loving sunshine. But, I never truly enjoyed the sun, as I should have, for a fear nagged at me. I’ll tan, I’ll become darker and I won’t be beautiful. So, I ran back into the home. From a little girl who was afraid of the sun, yet loved it like something terrible and scary should be loved, to a young woman who calmly tucks her hair behind her ear, exposing herself more to the sun, almost delighted at the browning of her skin, almost able to hear it like the crackling of a fire, I have come a long way.Everything good, beautiful and divine was fair. All the leading ladies in the films were fair, the angels printed in my textbook were fair, the darkest girl in the class was made very aware of her complexion, and even the brides of my family applied foundations that were nowhere near their shade of skin. The wheels of beauty hurled towards one destination, and that was “to be fair.”

To be fair was a prerequisite that few of our genes failed to fulfill, to be considered beautiful. It broke us down on a level that was much deeper than skin. It broke us down in places where we regretted belonging to a community, to a skin colour, to a race and to an ethnicity. We could be bestowed with the most striking eyes, full luscious lips, a shock of lustrous locks and the perfect nose, but we would still be the ones who were “Beautiful, but dark.”

We smiled coldly at these ignorant compliments. The society was apologetic for us. The kindness killed me. When I looked at a girl, dark like me, older than me, approaching the ‘age of marriage’, I sought solace from her. But, I didn’t get any. I got fear, I got an outpour of woes and I got from her an attentive ear to any “homemade fairness packs” that my mother might know. If the societal apology and kindness killed me, the victim’s self-blame scarred me. I knew my pride wouldn’t survive a hit so savage. So I did the only logical thing one does, when threatened, at least the only logical thing that wouldn’t brand me a coward. I fought.

I fought balancing on the strong shoulders of my friends and family and the edge of my pride was sharp. I still stand, poised, clutching my pride, waiting to see if someone would call me “Beautiful, but dark.” In this stance, I chant my prayer.

ZeenathI am dark, a shade darker, and three tones deeper
I am dark, not wheatish, and not dusky, I am dark
No excuses.
I am dark, as you accused me to be, making generous excuses for me
It’s okay, I am educated
It’s okay, I am rich
It’s okay, I have the hair to make up
It’s okay, I can sew and stitch
Thank you, but no thank you
Why console me for something I am not crying about
Why console me for something I guffaw in pride about
Don’t make excuses for me, for I am perfect as I should be
I am finally dark and anything else, I don’t want to be
So let me be.
I’ll toss my head and walk in arrogance
Arrogance I’ve earned,
I’ve slain your ignorance
I, the collective hurt pride of all the dark skins
My fight is undeserved but fight I will
Because the hurt is undeserved
And I won’t take it.

Zeenath is one of Dark is Beautiful’s ardent supporters who lives in the beautiful city of  Hyderabad with her family.  She hails from an orthodox Muslim household where her upbringing involved spending a big chunk of her time with books that preached the most unorthodox ideas between their covers. The effect of the reading and writing culture became an evident part of Zeenath’s life which she describes in her own words as, “in an ‘inhale’ and ‘exhale’ like fashion, I switch between the two throughout my day.”  Professionally, she interns at an auditing firm as part of her Chartered Accountancy program and aims to trudge to the other end of the tunnel in a couple of years.

As a lover of Indian cinema, Arabic food, baking, literature and her south Indian lifestyle, Zeenath is a charged up young woman who tries and gives her best in everything she sets her eyes on and doesn’t stop till she emerges successful.

In her account “Do Away with the ‘But’” she bids an adieu to the clichéd “But” that frequently takes a free ride on most of our compliments given to the melanin-rich, hoping that her prayer chant would break the spell and liberate our minds so that the memory of its existence does not haunt anymore.

Directors Note – “She Leads”

Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder & Director of Women of Worth writes to fill in on some of the advances WOW has seen this year of which WOW’s leadership empowerment campaign takes the spot light. She also shares her experience on being a leader herself on this unfeigned note that we bring to you right from her desk.
 Women of Worth’s latest campaign “She Leads’ is a campaign that hopes to motivate and mentor the next generation of women with leadership potential to stop at nothing and scale with confidence those heights which are rightfully theirs. Through SHE LEADS we hope to smash the barriers that limit women’s potential by nurturing in young women a resilience and conviction to reach the top without holding back.
As the implementing partners of this campaign initiated by the British Deputy High Commission, Chennai and supported by The Madras Chamber for Commerce and Industry, we were invited to participate and present SHE LEADS at the tech summit held in New Delhi on November. The Summit was inaugurated by Narendra Modi, our hon’ble Prime Minister and Teresa May,  Prime Minister of UK. It was a landmark event indeed and I was happy to be there to introduce our new campaign to business owners, politicians, entrepreneurs and students who were at the summit.
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At the session on Women In Leadership, an 18 year old student took me by surprise when she asked this one question to the panel of women leaders: “You have all shared about your great moments. But I want to know about your failures and your struggles on your way up here.” My immediate thought was, “here is a leader in the making!’
As leaders, we don’t often talk about our failures and our challenges. We try to hide behind our great moments to escape the shame of those moments we wished we were dead! I have had my share of failures. I still struggle with insecurities of not feeling capable enough to lead. I see people more gifted and talented than I am. I do struggle with feelings of jealousy and sometimes I do give up thinking I am not good enough. I am afraid of crowds. I hate public speaking. I do get depressed when I goof up a speech or when an event falls flat. And then there are those mistakes that have become life lessons.  I am not always confident even if I look that way. I come across to people as a bold and confident person. But on the inside I am often fearful. To me personally what gives me the courage to move on is my faith. My faith in a God-ordained destiny helps me walk through tough and discouraging times.
The secret about being a leader is not that you don’t fail or feel weak. But that you develop in you the resilience and tenacity to overcome all barriers that try to stop you from moving forward. Every experience you go through becomes your teacher. Failures become your stepping stones to success. Your failures make you richer if you will be open to learning from them. And it is not forbidden to talk to a friend about your failures or insecurities. It is normal to feel inadequate or fearful. It is normal to feel like you want to give up half way through a project. But what is crucial is that we don’t stay there in that moment but gather the courage to pick ourselves up and press on towards our goals.

Fear to Freedom – Spiels from the Month of March

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During the month of March, we celebrated “Fear to Freedom” on our Dark is Beautiful Facebook page. What better way to connect with one another than sharing each other’s experiences eh? WOW applauds each and everyone who chose to change the narrative that typically follows fear. Here are a few stories that we gathered from all over India.

Fear to Freedom #1 This story resonated with many of our followers. A central theme that rose from the discussions highlights the legally banned practice of dowry continuing to mar dark skin complexion.  

jyoti3My name is Jyoti and I write this on behalf of all the Jyoti’s out there.I was born into a middle-class Bihari family in Jamshedpur. I am an Engineer by profession. I have skimmed through thousands of profiles in search for a bridegroom, but I didn’t find anyone who shares the same beliefs and values as I do. My parents were worried and feared about my marriage because I am dark and if a girl child is dark, it is completely unacceptable here. But recently, they found someone for me and fixed my marriage. Everything seemed fine in the beginning because my parents had already told them of my complexion and they didn’t say much. But one fine day the grooms family called my parents and stated very indirectly (since they are compromising on a fair daughter-in-law for me),“ We just have one son and after your daughter gets married, everything we have will be hers so pay for our son’s expenses now.” My parents were ready to pay for his expenses because they loved me and wanted me happily married. But when I heard it, I was annoyed. So, I called up the guy and asked him about it. He said,”We shouldn’t get our heads involved in this matter.” I was even more annoyed and said no to the guy. Why should I pay up because I am dark? It doesn’t make me any less of a human. I will certainly marry when I find my right match. A man who looks at my heart and not my outward appearance. Until then I refuse to put a price tag on my skin colour.

Fear to Freedom #2 Savitha received a lot of support from the DISB community spurring her on to break free from fashion norms and experience the joy of colours. We agree. 

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Model in the pic: Mary Smrutha Paul (DISB Ambassador, Hyderabad)

Dear Aunty,

I do not know why you like to pick on my skin colour all the time. This is how God chose to make me. But you always make a big deal out of it. If I slap some red lipstick on, you say, ” You look ugly….. you think you are a foreigner or something?”. If I choose to wear a yellow heel, you say, ” What are you thinking? Are you out of your mind?” I still remember coming back home one night so excited after getting myself a beautiful lime green Lehenga and you smirked and said, “Give it to your sister, She’s gori hai na?”(Isn’t she fair?) I can’t even begin to explain how I felt that day. I felt so shameful. The fear of approval gripped me. I love fashion, I love dressing up in different colours. I can’t live my whole life wearing just maroons and blue’s can I? I am dark and what’s wrong if I wear bright colours? It’s time this kind of demeaning attitude changes!!! If I don’t even have the basic right to dress the way I want to and express myself sometimes I wonder what am I even doing here!?

– Savitha, The Stressed Out Dresser from Delhi

Fear to Freedom #3 Celestine wrote to us raising this fascinating question:

Celestine“Do each and everyone one of us secretly have a colourist inside of us?”

Colourism: A form of discrimination which is based on the individual’s skin colour, with the person who has the lighter skin tone, treated more favourably.

Celestine adds, “Editing pictures became a routine. It’s like I didn’t want to be myself until I realized I was being a colourist myself.”

Do we in our minds often paint ourselves to a skin colour we think we would look perfect at? Is that why filtered images are a huge fad? Has media successfully tapped into all our inferior complexes, flaws and fears, slowly but steadily somehow tricking us to believe that we all to a certain extent have to look like someone else to be accepted?

Celestine says, “Now that I have learned to see beauty in a different light, I feel I look much better without editing my images because that’s me in my authentic self and not a copy.” And we second that Celestine!

Fear to Freedom #4 starts with skin pigmentation, name calling and bullying, but ends with accepting the so-called-imperfections that make us uniquely beautiful. 

NatashaMy name is Natasha and I am from Telangana. You know everyone of us have some form of fear or the other. Mine stared back at me every time I looked at myself in the mirror, more so that the very thought would make me not want to see my reflection (sighs). I had dark pigmentation around my lips and chin so it used to look like I was having a moustache and kids in school started calling me Mushtasa. It used to make me feel like I was never worth it. I always thought how beautiful the fair skinned girls were and how life was easier for them at least in this aspect. As all these feelings grew louder I started disliking myself. Over the years, I have come to realize that the worst form of rejection is not other people rejecting you but you rejecting yourself. So today, I can boldly say, Mushtasha or not, I am proud of my dark skin (and the flaws therein, that makes me human I’d like to think) and I have learned to love (it was hard trust me but not impossible) myself the way I am. A huge shout out to my parents for helping me through this phase.

P.S “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” (And love yourself ) – Harvey Fierstein

Fear to Freedom #5 radiates courageMany of our readers were inspired and encouraged to follow her example as they face life’s challenges

ShirleyHi! This is Shirley from Hyderabad and this is my story.
I spent 10 years of my life in self-criticism. Like a princess locked up in a tall tower, because I felt like I was cursed for being born dark. Growing up with a complexion like this was not easy. Where do you look for comfort and consolation when your own family thinks you are born with a skin colour different than them? When your own friends start teasing you and name tagging you as “Black”? Not being chosen for anything because people look at your complexion and not your personality? Eventually, you start believing you don’t have the right to feel pretty or beautiful. In a country where it is common to be born in this shade, I was being shamed for the very same. But all this made me step back and look at the sunny side of life. My parents and my close friends helped me believe that I am beautiful inside out. The moment I believed I am beautiful, I saw that life was beautiful and what others thought of me slowly became irrelevant. Like they say, “What doesn’t break you makes you stronger”. So don’t let this(skin colour discrimination) ever stop you. I did not let it stop me.

Fear to Freedom #6 reflects on the attributes of inner beauty while showcasing that beauty is so much a social construct which needs to be redefined by the individual and not a tube of fairness cream. 

FinalversionSAIHi Facebook, This is Yasha Aluru and I am from Telangana. This story is about a good friend who is worth so much more than she knows. The beautiful lady in the picture is Sai. She joined as a maid about three weeks ago.

I was applying some sunscreen one morning and as she was cleaning she asked me curiously “Amma (Madam), what are you applying?” I told her its sunscreen. She asked me again, “ Is that how you become white? I used to be darker. My brother and sister are fair so how can I become like them?”

I could see that it took her courage to ask me that question and I knew I had one simple responsibility towards her.I had to remind her that it was she (and not her fairer brother or sister) who helped her sick mother, she who stayed by her cousin’s side every day while her kidneys slowly failed, and it is she who takes care of her little one all by herself because she loves him unconditionally. I had to tell her that her beauty cannot be bought in a zillion tubes of fairness creams. Her beauty was a gift that she honed into the worthy human she is.

“Hey, Sai. If you start coming to work this late in the day, it will get very sunny and you will turn darker”, said my mother yesterday. Sai smiled and looked at me….a look that said, “Now is that really so bad?”

Fear to Freedom #7 reminds us that the society continues to struggle with skin colour bias. But are permitted to question, challenge, and ultimately, show by our actions, that skin colour bias can be overcome. 

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My name is Keerthika Gummadi ,  I am from Hyderabad. I live in New York at the moment and will be back in India for good. When I think of returning back to India, there’s this one thing that constantly troubles me. Meeting relatives who I know will urge me to try the latest fairness creams and treatments. I often wonder why am I being bullied for something I am born with? Why can’t I be accepted the way I am? I am worshipped for my tan in the foreign land but looked down for the same in my motherland. I have always had people walk up to me and say, “You are beautiful despite being dark”. I don’t get it!!! What does skin colour have to do with being beautiful? Beauty lies on the inside, doesn’t it?

 

From the Girl Whose Face is Not Looking Good

 

This month at WOW we engaged with the parents and schools on the topic of bullying. We spoke to teachers and trained them on how to handle issues of bullying on campus. Our communications and design teams created posters that schools can use to educate students on appropriate behaviour and promote zero tolerance towards bullying. This is an essential topic to discuss in every campus.

When we talk about bullying on campuses, we usually associate the issue with bullying that happens among students. But we need to begin to recognize the fact thatsometimes the bully could be the teacher.

Bullying.coverpicWhen a teacher has unrealistic expectations from a student and resorts to name-calling or when a teacher displays bias towards a certain student and is unreasonable, the victims of bullying are the students who feel overpowered and helpless. Verbal abuse by teachers leave deep scars on young minds. In the name of discipline, a teacher can easily cross the line without intending to. Here is a painful story we received from a student who feels such intense pain and is trying to understand how someone who is supposed to be building her up is actually tearing her apart. We urge you to use this platform to start discussions on bullying at various levels – on campuses, at work, and even at home.

– Kavitha Emmanuel

From the Girl Whose Face is Not Looking Good 

Yesterday was a good day: I made it to class on time and I was responsive during class. I had put in a lot of effort to study and prepare for the class and I could see it pay off. My day could not have started better. I am a learner, a true geek at heart. I pay attention, I make notes, I love to listen to interesting lectures. The classroom is my playground.

The professors and teachers have a heart to impart knowledge and see us succeed. I like when they speak on topics like personality development and improving life skills like healthy social conduct or professional ethics. I believe that they are the farmers who cultivate our minds to be the leaders of tomorrow.

As a responsible and proactive student, raised and taught by the sharp minds of our faculty, I approached my class mentor and teacher about final exam dates. Her response as she looked into my zit ridden face made me question everything I had come to love about college. Instead of the dates, I was told: Stop concentrating on your exams and first clear your skin. You can write many exams but for now you concentrate on your skin. It’s not at all looking good. It’s not good at all.

I am a determined young woman who does not let my acne bother me. I’ve lived with it since fifth standard and it’s a part of me – the confident, beautiful, and talented me. Acne has never stopped me from doing what I want to do. So, I pushed onwards and respectfully told my teacher that my acne does not bother me, but exams do and that I’d like to know the dates. As the conversation continued to transpire with a large audience in the lobby, my teacher did not hesitate to verbalize her emotions and opinions: But we have to look at you and it’s not at all good. A few of my classmates who stood nearby piped in to support the teacher’s opinion that I lack the interest to care for my skin.

 

recite-1g9qyv1Much has been talked about bullying on campuses and more has been discussed about the recent suicide of the 9th standard boy who was a victim of bullying. I see the actions of my teacher as demeaning, reckless and careless, providing backing and support to those who might use it to bully. It might not have sounded as mockery, but it had the same effect.

As a mentor who needs to lead and build trust, she failed and I do not want to have another conversation with her. I have lost all ability to muster up any respect for her.

Dear Ms. D, how can I learn anything from someone who lost face with her student?

From,

The girl whose face remains beautifully confident!

Who is to blame: Victim or Perpetrator?

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Just imagine that you had walked into an ATM to draw some cash or, say, you were on your way to a wedding dressed in a reasonable amount of gold jewellery. As you were approaching your car what if someone slit your throat and stole your cash or jewellery? Whose fault do you think it is? The person who slit your throat or your own fault? Would you accept that it is your fault to have done something that is totally legitimate for people to do? Of course, you can always choose to never draw cash from an ATM or to never get out of your car or maybe not to go out alone to draw cash from an ATM. Those are possibly fear measures or safety measures you would take to protect yourself.

It infuriates me to think that every time a rape or murder of a young girl is reported, people say: “she must have done something to deserve it”, “wonder what she was wearing?’, or “why did she go there?” or ” She asked for it because she was hanging out with her friends” and so on…

Have you ever considered everything that a girl has to think of before she steps out of her house for her own safety? Well, here are a few thoughts that possibly run through her mind:

“What should I wear to not attract rape?”

“What time is it? Is it safe to go out now?”

“Wait! Is this a safe place to go to?”

Why should we always live in fear of being violated? What about girls who are very young and probably are not even aware that there are sexual predators around? I remember reading a comment once on social media: “this is why girls should be kept in the house locked up!”. Is this how we stay safe? Well, what about abuse that happens at home?

I am not saying here that we shouldn’t stay safe. But why do we stray from recognizing who the real offender is? Why are we not able to rally enough support to raise the bar on women’s safety at the workplace, in public spaces, in schools and at home?

Let’s remember that what we really need to battle is society’s mindset towards women. And yes, we surely need to work on measures that ensure a woman’s safety in all spheres by taking all practical steps necessary – be it through fixing CCTV cameras in public spaces and campuses or lighting up dark alleys or by reporting stalkers and eve-teasers. We do need to increase safety awareness among people.  We need to educate children, both girls and boys on safety. But more importantly, let’s teach them to respect the other. Teaching young boys to respect girls at home and at school will go a long way in ensuring a safe world. Teach them to challenge injustice towards women. Teach them to challenge age-old mindsets that dictate that a woman stays safe when she is locked up somewhere!

Kavitha Emmanuel

Founder & Director
Women of Worth

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