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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Fair enough?

Update : 15 Apr 2014, 06:46 PM

The television has long been considered one of the greatest innovations of science, and with the arrival of super large screen LCD, LED, plasma, and smart TVs with HD quality video, it has continued to hold on to its market worldwide. In Bangladesh, with Chinese, non-brand inexpensive television sets entering the market, the average prices have gone down and have reached the masses. Getting access to satellite channels is not a luxury that people cannot afford, thanks to the cable service providers who supply it to hundreds of their subscribers by sharing the received signals. People use it to watch news, movies, sitcoms, and all sorts of different programs.

To be honest, I am not much of a TV person myself, and end up watching only news and sports on it. Recently, the T-20 Cricket World Cup has ended, and like many other people, I was glued to the TV as often as possible. This, however, came at the cost of having to withstand countless hours of commercials, most of which gave the impression that you must become an extremely fair-skinned person using fairness creams. If you don’t, your life is doomed!

Whether you are an actor, a dancer, a singer, or even a macho guy riding a motorbike, the most important thing in your life is apparently a packet of fairness cream or a fairness face-wash that will magically transform you from a very dark person to a very white person. Although women have primarily been targeted, men are no longer safe either. Gone is the concept of a “tall, dark, and handsome” man, all you now need to be is a “fair, fair, and fair” man.

Skin colour is not something we can choose, it is set by nature according to which part of the world you are from. Dark-skinned people are seen in places where there is more sunlight and heat, and fair-skinned people where there is less sunlight. This is caused by a pigment present in the skin called melanin, which is basically our body’s defence mechanism against the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. A darker person simply has more melanin.

The numerous brands of fairness products available in Bangladesh capitalise on the socio-cultural tendencies in these parts of the world to regard fair as beautiful. In Bangladesh, unfortunately enough, parents with daughters with darker complexions find it much more difficult to find a suitable groom, compared to parents who have fairer-skinned daughters, as if that is all that matters. We claim that we are now civilised and educated, but open any major daily newspaper, and you would find advertisements from seemingly educated and respectable men who require “forsha” (fair) brides for themselves.

Women are now getting increasingly educated and self-dependent, but we still continue to be “racist” and somehow give preference to women with lighter complexions or skin tones. I personally believe in respecting all women, who are beautiful in their own special ways, irrespective of their skin colour, ethnicity, or background.

So, why do we tend to prefer fairer skin? Is it because the British had ruled us for 200 years, and we still cannot get out of the colonial mindset? Or is it because, in the Indian subcontinent, of which we are a part, fair-skinned priestly Brahmins have, since ancient times, made people believe that they are somehow superior to the rest of the people? Or is it because fair-skinned people are less common in these parts of the world and we tend to value them more because they are more “exotic”?

The third explanation is likely to be the least true, given the fact that many foreigners in Bangladesh, especially the non-white ones – people from Africa, Sri Lanka, or South India – have claimed that they have found themselves to be less socially “acceptable” in our society.

Yes, it is tempting to use these fairness enhancement products, given the fact that so many movie celebrities, and now, surprisingly enough, cricketers, are endorsing them. But these are extremely harmful for the skin, as stated by many doctors and researchers. Bleach, used in most, if not all, fairness products, causes great damage to the skin.

I personally think advertising the use of such products should be banned. If cigarette/tobacco advertisements can be banned because the product increases the chances of getting lung cancer and other diseases, fairness creams and products should be banned too. They not only cause harm to the skin, but are also forcing people to waste money on worthless products. Also, more importantly, it is causing young girls (and boys too) to believe they are unworthy because of their skin colour. Who can possibly measure how many people are not living up to their full potential because of this social nuisance?

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