Our love reveres—and transcends—differences
Women of Worth’s founder Kavitha Emmanuel who launched the Dark is Beautiful campaign in 2009, said, “ In 2012 we received an invitation from Sepia Films in Canada to participate in this documentary that features the issue of colourism across different cultures around the globe. We were happy to have been featured in this documentary directed by Mr Vic Sarin that brings to light an issue that has been swept under the carpet for several decades. ”
With this documentary the DISB campaign gives another opportunity for India to seriously consider the implications of the belief that a person’s worth is measured by the fairness of their skin.
The Dark is Beautiful campaign went viral on social media since 2013 with celebrities like Nandita Das, AnuHasan, TannishthaChatterjee, ShekharKapur, Wilbur Sargunaraj, RupinderNagra, Vishaka Singh, Khushboo and others backing the campaign.
‘The story of Sapna Abraham featured in the film is representative of India’s obsession with fair skin’ added Ms. Emmanuel. “Her story is what convinced me to initiate the campaign in 2009. We are talking about real life experiences of people as we address this issue.”
As a mother, I have heard people come up to us and make statements such as, “Your younger son has a better colour than the others!” And this would at most times be in front of the kids. It’s ridiculous!
Our three kids, Sanchitha (12 years), Tharan (9) and Vivaan (3) are three different shades. We consciously reinforce to them that each shade is precious–one chocolate, one coffee and one caramel!
Also, we emphasize that God has created each one fearfully and wonderfully and makes no mistakes!
While there are people who are around who make senseless statements, there have also been others who have been an encouragement. There was an opportunity last Christmas when the two eldest kids were featured in a music video. Opportunities such as these and focus on their inner strengths and gifts, have been the main factors in developing a confidence that we have seen, especially in Sanchu over the last few years. We hope that the two boys will also develop their strengths and live as confident people.
We are the same,
And that is true.
Face washes and soaps,
Make you think that
You should glow.
Washing your face
And applying cream
You look amazing
Just this way,
Cause dark is beautiful,
And that’s what we say.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WOW’s petition on Change.org against Fair and Handsome ad garners a one on meet with the top brass of EMAMI
January 18th, 2014, Kolkatta — Women of Worth (WOW) , the Chennai based NGO behind the Dark is Beautiful Campaign, was invited today to a one on one meeting with Mr. Mohan Goenka, Director of Emami Group.
This was in response to a petition drive on Change.org against Fair and Handsome ad which has garnered more than 25000 online signatures from across the length and breadth of the country and even from many countries across the world, notably Pakistan, Middle Eastern countries, a few African nations, USA, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and UK.
At a closed door meeting in EMAMI’s headquarters in Kolkata with Mr. Goenka, Director, EMAMI and Ms. Mahasweta Sen, GM, Corporate Communications, Ms. Kavitha Emmanuel, Founder Director, Women of Worth, requested EMAMI to consider removing the Fair and Handsome advertisement from television screens, hoardings and magazines. She further challenged Mr. Goenka to lead the change in the current trend in fairness–products marketing and make a difference by addressing the issue of skin colour bias in the nation head on.
In response Mr. Goenka said that the advertisement will continue as they are meeting a need in the society based on their market research. He believes whitening is a global phenomenon and a trend and changing mindsets might be impossible. During the discussion he stressed how preference for fair skin has been there for generations and changing it now did not make sense. When quizzed about the 25,000 petitioners who are saying that the ad is discriminatory he said, ‘in a country with billion people I cannot answer every individual’s petition!’
“If people want to be like Shah Rukh Khan, there is nothing wrong with it. If they want to be fair, it is an aspiration,” he said. Ms. Mahasweta Sen added that ‘if the cream is helping people be more confident, what is wrong with that?’
Talking about the future of this campaign, Ms. Emmanuel added, “We hope that brands and brand ambassadors will listen to the united voices that are calling for new attitudes and new products that appreciate and celebrates the diverse skin tones in a land of 1.2 billion shades of skin. The campaign will continue to address the issue of skin colour bias and tackle unfair advertising practises with the Advertising Standards Council of India and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”
About WOW: Women of Worth (WOW) is a network empowering women to be agents of change. Based in Chennai, WOW trains students in soft skills such as media literacy, gender issues and personality development. WOW initiated the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign in 2009.
Media Contact: Lydia Durairaj , +919940358429
By Kavitha Emmanuel | Director of Women of Worth
|Design Props: 6 pm Designs|
Celebration has always been the mood of this campaign!
While we battle toxic notions of beauty based on skin colour we need to remember that celebrating who we are is the first step towards bringing about change in our environment. This has always been our underlying emphasis – to celebrate people for their innate worth and value.
|Photo by: Anu Anna Jacob|
Looking back at the year gone by makes me wonder. We have done a lot as a campaign, but have we actually made a dent yet in expunging the belief that fair skin alone is beautiful?
Please remember that while we battle this toxic belief, our values are what steer our actions. Here are a few:
While the Dark is Beautiful team continues to make plans to address the issue from different fronts, we request your continued support. We will be meeting with Mr Goenka, Director, Emami, to discuss our petition response on January 18th 2014. While we do our bit, we look to you, our supporters to be our voice from wherever you are.
You could host a DISB party, a doodle hang-out or a petition drive in your neighbourhood – anything to keep the discussion going. Continue to tell us your stories, your struggles and challenges. Do stay in touch with us and dare to be colour blind in your circles!
by Aaron Sathyanesan | neuroscientist and Dark is Beautiful supporter
This question, I believe, is at the storm-eye of a scandal for the ages.
Recently, this scandal made the rounds in media outlets, social networks and the uttermost parts of the blogosphere. It started out as a reaction to an article in Slate magazine about a case for why Santa Claus or Father Christmas should be an inclusive figure rather than a jolly-old white dude. Here’s how a talk show host reacted to the article during an on-air discussion:
Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?
Foot. In. Mouth.
Apart from the fact that this talk show host wanted so dearly for children to “believe” in Santa, there’s a white elephant in the room (pun intended), trumpeting its heart out for attention.
I would like to point out, though, that attempts to “repaint” Jesus with broad brush-strokes of our modern sensibilities are not new. The Late Rev. John R.W. Stott, a Christian scholar and statesman, in his book Contemporary Christian (1995) lists thirteen versions of Jesus. Some of them are worth mentioning for illustration. There’s Jesus the founder of modern business, based on Bruce Barton’s then best-selling book, The Man Nobody Knows (1925). Barton, who reacted against a soft, namby pamby Jesus who would pass off as the class sissy, produced a picture of Jesus as a chiseled, muscular, tough man who probably was involved in many “outdoor activities.” This Jesus’ entire life was a story of success and most importantly, he taught the secrets of modern business. Then there’s T.N. Carver’s Jesus the Capitalist, as sketched out in his book The Economic Factor in the Messiahship of Jesus (1922) and Jesus the Freedom Fighter as Cuba’s Fidel Castro so many times claimed. And then there’s Jesus the Pale Galilean spoken of in Swinburne’s Hymn to Proserpine (1866) where the English poet laments the rise of Christianity, saying:
Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;
This pale version of Jesus was also captured in the works of the Renaissance masters, where Jesus’ skin complexion is really, really, really light…bordering anemic. The Rastafari reacted against this portrayal of Jesus as colonial and racist; some of them even citing bible verses claiming that Jesus was in fact black.
And then there was the historical Jesus, who was probably not white nor black, but most probably, dare I say, brownish, as you would expect a first century Jew from Palestine to look like.
From all these ‘versions’ of Jesus, one thing seems to be clear – that as human beings, we love to label things. As neuroscience has so clearly shown us, the human brain excels at pattern identification. Our biological nature predisposes us to label x as “white” and y as “black.” But we go a step further and in addition to classification, knowingly or unknowingly, we assign values to these labels. The way we assign these values is intricately tied to our in-group bias. In other words, we like those who look like us and/or agree with us. And this bias seems like something we are born with, not just learned. As research from the Wynn & Bloom labs at Yale have shown, infants as young as three months old display this social bias. It seems like it is in our nature to form groups and classify people as “Us” and “Them.”
What does all this have to do with Christmas? Well, a lot.
Some two thousand years ago, in an obscure town called Bethlehem, a baby was born. His name was Jesus. He hung out with poor. He had fishermen and tax-collectors as chums. He had friends who had lesser melanin pigmentation in their skin (Roman soldiers), more melanin (his disciples) and even no melanin (lepers). This Jesus – the historical Jesus, came for us all. His humanity identified with us. His deity transformed us, and still transforms us. His work continues even to this day –when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry. When we stand up to oppression and injustice. When our enemies hurt us, and we pray for them instead. When we love our neighbours – black, white, brown or anything in between. When we follow him, and lay down our lives, so others, even those who don’t look like us, may live.
This Jesus – the historical Jesus, the one whose birth we celebrate on Christmas, came for all of us – for all the billion shades of beautiful.
So this Christmas
If you’re green with envy
Or blue and gloomy
If you’re in the pink of health
Or gracious and gray
That the colour of Christmas
Is the colour of perfect love
Come from above,
And it is deeper, much deeper
Than the deepest red.