Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Skin Thing

Growing up desi is wonderful in many ways. The colorful shalwar kamiz, the gold jewlery, henna, luddu, luddi and fighting over the bill at restaurants. Recently a conversation at Huda's reminded me of the skin thing. Marriage in desi culture is for the most part very much a "Pride and Prejiduce" "Fiddler on the Roof" type of event with matchmakers and the local townsfolk whispering about the girl who is not yet married and trying forever to set her up with a dashing gent. People watch Jane Austen period flicks for a glimpse of time long ago, I watch it and see the here and now with different accents and clothing.

If you're Pakistani you have inevitably heard the auntie bemoan her search for a "lumbi gori pathli larki" (tall white skinny girl) for her son. It's a give and take commodoity exchange with the mothers of the daughters sighing "buss humko aik doctor mil jayai" (we just want a doctor- we're really not so subtly saying we want someone with bling). Perhaps in a facet where the first thing you learn of the other is their credentials it isnt so wrong to ask for such things but my issue for this post is the skin thing.

Most desi girls are familiar with the bleaching and the lighteners. PTV even has commercials of "fair and lovely" creams that will indeed attempt to make you fair and lovely. Because without being fair how could one dare call themselves lovely? What's interesting is that even girls who themselves are dark will say "I want my brother to find a nice light skinned girl" Why the self loathing? Is this a left over from British colonialism? Is white better? Indeed sit around a group of aunties discussing beauty and the word "gora rang" (light skin color) will pepper the conversation along with sighs regarding another potential bahoo (Daughter in law) saying "shakal mai pyari hain laikin thori si samvli hain" (her face is nice but she is a little dark). No sense of recognition of the spit they cast upon the majority of their nation who have skin akin to their very own.

Recently I saw a desi grandmother holding her grandchild. She looked adoringly at her baby and then smiled at me "dekho gori hain na? bahoth gori hain mash'allah" (look- she's fair isnt she? So fair praise God), and so the grandparents continue the tradition. My husband and I are not fair, will our child not get the praises to God? Will our child not be beautiful because of the color of his or her skin?

Though my parents told me I was beautiful I knew in my heart that being light mattered. I mourn the time I spent caring. I'm not a gori chitti larki. I'm your traditional desi complexioned girl. For most of my life I thought less of myself simply because my skin wasn't three to five shades lighter. I mourn the trees I didn't climb and the walks I did not take and the beaches I did not walk upon for fear the sun was too high.

I wrote this poem when I was 14 for Black History Month, but I feel it applies to our modern desi world. I pray that the next generation will learn to love themselves and instead of trying to change their skin will embrace it as beautiful gift from God, because it is.

The color of my eyes black
The color of my hair black
The color of my skin black

The color of my will steel
The color of my mind bronze
The color of my heart gold

Then why do you sit and stare at me so
your eyes so icy distant cold

for I am a person
with a heart of gold

-Aisha-

68 comments:

Aamina said...

I tottally know what you mean. A lot of aunties tell my mom that I'm pretty, and then they say, 'but she's a little dark,' (of course in punjabi, though). It's stupid to think that since you are a bit darker, you aren't as pretty as one who is lighter. It's tottally ridiculous!


I finished my paper at 6 in the morning! I guess this really is college.

mystic-soul said...

Achha likha hai...enjoyed your post fully.

I still can stop smiling when hear: "Apne bete ke liye Chand si bahu laungi" !!

Aisha said...

Aamina thanks for commenting and glad you at least finished it. You must have been a zombie the next day :(

Mystic: Thank you! :)

Maleeha said...

Great post Aisha, I totally enjoyed it. My mom is Kashmiri and very fair and I've inherited my color from her. Growing up she always admonished me to get out of the sun, stay out of the sun, to the point where I dont like getting tanned even today. Its kind of programmed into me. This is a huge issue among desis and I'm glad you wrote about it. By the way, you're truly lovely, dont let anyone tell you (or make you feel) otherwise!

koonj said...

Thanks for this, Aisha.

You asked me if Pakistanis back home are worse afflicted with the fairness bug. I think so. I think that colonialism may have reinforced these shadeist attitudes, and changed them somewhat - but I THINK we have a longer history of fair-skin-oriented cultural politics.

My sister always suffered terribly because she was a shade or two darker than myself - and suffered in the constant comparisons. I think it affected her personal and emotional development as well. A nephew of mine got to hear from infancy on how he was "kala."

And the desi marriage market is a deadly, deadly place for dark-skinned beauty.

Christina said...

I know what you mean as well!!! The same goes in the Filipino culture. I see it in the Filipino TV shows and magazines. They also do skin bleaching. You are considered pretty if you have lighter-skin, clean complexion, straight black hair, and with a "bridge" on your nose (no flat noses, please!). They call this breed of Filipino "Mestiza" reflecting on the Spanish-Chinese-Malay influences of the Filipino.

If you have the more "traditional" Filipino look (dark, oily acne, short and stalky), you are considered from the poorer provinces.

I have always felt that this topic was interesting among others in the Filipino community...I may blog about it one day...

Chic Mommy said...

I am on the tan side, and on my wedding day, my mother ordered the makeup artist to used the lightest foundation possible to make me look whiter. She reluctantly obliged and I ended up looking like a kabuki dancer. In my family, we run the gamut of colors, my sister is about 3 foundation shades lighter than me and my daughters are both fair skinned while my son is a little tan like me. We have a pathan background, but still I ended up a little darker. I grew up feeling sensitive about it, but I'm over it now. Check out Vasanti cosmetics for good foundation for desi skin, I love their makeup.

Baraka said...

Salaam 'aklaykum Aisha!

Great topic! The neverending vicious cycle...goray rang ka zamana kabhi ho ga na purana unfortunately.

What really irritates me is that in Pakistan, a nation of brown people, all the ads, tv shows, models, etc., are superwhite. Then take a look at the society pages and it's obvious that the elite are marrying the lightest of the light as well so as to increase the distance from the masses.

Pakis are really good at blaming everything on colonialism or "the Hindus" but, as Shabana said, it goes back further than that. We have only to look at the Prophet's (peace and blessings of God upon him) problems trying to racially integrate the Arab society to know that this is an age-old problem.

What gets my goat beyond desis is Muslim racisim. We spout on & on about how Islam is the great equalizer but we haven't killed the hierarchies in our own hearts even after 1400 years. My parents would have died if I brought a black boy home. They can laugh about it now that I'm safely married to a gora but it's a serious issue in our ummah.

Being married to a gora I've been told to pray that our children have my features & his fair skin. To which I say, PISS OFF. All I want is that they be good Muslims & healthy, insha-Allah.

I'm sanvali myself so maybe this will come across as sour grapes, but as a former user of Fair & Lovely, someone who stayed out of the sun until I was 19, and was always the "attractive but dark" one I bless the day I returned to the US. Suddenly I was catapulted into being an "exotic beauty" with goras falling all over me.

What this taught me is that beauty is something you carry within and will thus remain constant no matter where you go. Don't let anyone ever dim the beauty and confidence you carry within you with their narrow ideals of beauty no matter where you go.

Warmly,
Baraka

PS- Sorry so long - this topic just gets me going!! :)

Minka said...

Wow, this is a whole new world to me. It constantly amzes me that people on this planet always desire what they don´t have. Where I live (western Europe) people go to tanning studios to make their skin look darker, becuase that is considered bautiful here.
In China girls with big round eyes are considered beautiful, although more than 90% have the typical Chinese form of the eyes.
Humans throw a lot of their own hurdles into their way without realizing it!
I have seen beuatiful black, white, brown, yellow...people, each beautiful in a different way! Beuaty has many levels, the trick is to be able to appreciate your own!

Mia said...

Loved the post. As a tan skinned Boriqua in a family of whiter than white blonde blue/green eyed people I know personally what you're talking about. Except that it was always the outsiders that harped on my skin color. Within my family my tan complexion, and my different features were celebrated they were evidence of my Taino heritage. Still I can't front as a child I wished I had looked more like the fair skinned people in my family. Now it's something else I love the color of my skin and features.

stabani said...

very true indeed. what's worse is that fair and lovely is really just sun block. but the whole complexion thing is ridiculous. ??!! your hearing that from a guy, go figure :-P

Ajit Chouhan said...

nice post..enjoyed reading it.

Subhana said...

You couldnt have said it more right! Very interesting read. I agree with you totally, but I do feel that a change IS occuring in Pakistan - of course in the YOUNG generation. The young people dont really care about color as much as their parents do nowadays, thats what I have experienced, and I have seen this new change A LOT. But yeah woh jho desi keera hai, well it still exist among "aunties". Also, if you flip through Indian channels, you might see that mostly all the Indian "heroines" who star in Indian movies are pretty dark. So, I think that their movies reflect a change too in their society. Aur waise bhi aaj kal ke nojavaan have a lot more sense of rationality when it comes to finding a "suitable spouse". Today, its far more important to have an educated wife than a gori, chitthi. Thats what I've seen. But yeah, it'll be an exaggeration to say ke this change is prevailing, cuz its not. But I'm sure 10 years down we'll overcome the whole gora-complex.

Very well-written, I'd say. Excellent :).

TwinTopaz said...

Aisha...when are your next exams due?? it was suppose to be in April?

Can't you start studying in night from today??

:(

estarz said...

So true!!

Nice poem as well.


Peace

Bongi-Amma said...

Sadly its all so true, I hate it when people comment on , "haan larki buss theek thee magar thora sanwala rang hai, aur naak thoraa lambaa hai, aur kudd (height) thora chota hai. They pick out so many horrible things aur apna betaa isn't no RAJAA himself, lol.

Mebbe lack of interesting things to talk about?

mayya said...

*sigh* I can relate to and agree with each and everything! now fair and lovely has gone one step ahead in their advertisements showing that if a girl isn't fair she can't get employment as a model or as an airhostess or even a commentator :s such advertisements should seriously be banned! *sigh*
There was a time when my grandmom played matchmaker, she used to get ladies asking her for a bahu
"jiss ko dekh ker sab chaunk jayeen" *sigh*

Aisha said...

Maleeha thanks for being so nice :) You're really pretty yourself mash'allah. Yeah it's funny how desis react like Draculas to the sun, sigh.

Koonj and Baraka thanks for responding. I really wanted you guys to read it because you write on social issues and you lived in Pakistan so know more how deep this issue runs. Koonj it bugs me to peices hearing that, I see it with little kids all the time "kala saiya" nickname. Not right. And Baraka you're right about the black thing. A boy I know was in love with a lovely black girl but parents wouldnt approve but said a white girl would be okay. Sickening really. How can we argue discrimination on Muslims when we disc against ourselves?

Monika, amen! Beauty is more than just one feature like your skin but even that can be beautiful regardless of color.

Chris I had no clue that the Philipino culture had this problem as well. It seems to a universal thing.

Chic Mommy, welcome and thanks for commenting. Thanks for the makeup tip but lol at the "kabuki" thing. I think omst brides in pakistan look like that I alwyas thought of Geishas when I saaw 80's dulans.

Tee said...

I love your poem.

As I was telling you in Email the very same thing is found in Hispanic culture (and others besides.) My mother-in-law was so happy that my boys came out fair skinned. It made me quite angry. The youngest is a bit lighter than the older one, and sure enough she favors the youngest. Why can't people see this is ignorant and wrong?

You spent years not being happy in your skin - but I've spent years not being happy in mine. It's probably a small percentage but some fair skinned Caucasians think being light skinned is boring. We wish we looked more "exotic". I have pretty much come to accept my color - but obviously many have not which is evidenced by the tanning industry. We have at least 10 tanning salons within 20 miles of here. That is a lot of white people wishing they were darker, don't you think?

Aisha said...

Mia, exactly when I look at my skin now it reflects my ancestors and I decided to stop feeling bad about it. God chose me to be this for a reason.

Stabani, welcome! is fair and lovely really just sun block???

Mayya!! I SAW That commercial! I remember Kashif and I just watched with our jaws dropped. That just ticked me off!!

Ajit, welcome, and thanks :)

Subhana welcome, yeah I usd to love Kajol because she was one of the few heroines my color though I heard Madhuri is dark too just wears a lot of makeup:) Hopefully the younger gen will be better.

Twin Topaz studying never stops!

Estarz thanks!

Bongi- bingo sis! who exactly is your son that you are being so snooty? sadly I do think there is a shortage of good men and the mums know it.

WOW I can't believe all the comments I guess this is a touchy subject for many people and apparently it goes byeond just the desi culture.

Aisha said...

Tee, I have had white people say that they wish they were darker too actually. lol, I think an auntie from pakistan would faint at the words: "I've come to accept my color" coming from a caucasion girl, lol. That's unfortunate about your MIL doing that... I really really hope that wont happen to me.

Southern Masala said...

It always amazes me, about caucasians who want to be darker, so many girls I know from highschool are going to end up with skin cancer after spending countless hours in tanning beds or frying their butts by the pool. I used to get burned horribly playing soccer because the sun block would always sweat off. Makes for some weird tan lines too. After my grandmother had 3 melanomas removed from her face I stay out of the sun. On the other hand is my poor youngest niece, who is treated badly by my sil's husband's parents because she is "darker" (I personally can't really tell the difference), the eldest daughter gets tons of presents, clothes, and bangles and the youngest gets nothing from the grandparents. And they are only toddlers! What will happen when they are older? makes me so sad, but at least M's family is not like that at all (whether you're too light or too dark :).

wayfarer said...

Oh man, i was just about to blog about this!

Sohnii said...

Aisha!!!
:/ ure a really nice person, why would u let anyone tell u otherwise, fair or not...

im fair like my mum, my sisters are darker then me... i duno wht other ppl think but ive always thought they were the ones who got the better deal with nicer features.. good for us my mum isnt too paranoid abt the whole skin shade thing, all she says is ur colour will settle once ure out of college and out of the daily sun...

it really is ironic isnt it... i don think its the men who cause any problems... its the females.. they are the ones who victimize everyone with the "fair means pretty" attitude....

ASH said...

Great post, great poem. It amazes me how Europeans (white folks...whether in America or elsewhere) long for the tan and even see the exotic in extremely dark skinned Africans, etc. And how desis, Arabs, Africans, and Asians always long for the lighter skinned sons and daughters or the same in marriage partners.

I don't know what to say, this is definitely prevalent in Filipino society as well as Christina said. My mother-in-law (who is Filipina) once said that she didn't care who my wife married so long as he was purao (white) or light skinned....absolutely no blacks allowed. *sigh*

Aisha said...

Southern are you talking about your husbands side of the family SIL looking down on the darker one? It can start as toddlers and imagine the impact :( sigh.

Wayfarer, great minds think alike :) can't wait to read your take on it.

Sohnii, no one actually really pointed it out in a bad way...growing up but the skin color thing is always there in our culture and you hear of it all the time...I think almost every desi girl was admonished to stay away from the sun and I'd say most desi girls bleach, etc.. we can't help but be affected i think

Ash, I didnt know until now that Filipinos face the same problems. It's sad to me because it leads to such self esteem issues. It really secretly (or not anymore I guess!) worries me that some stupid auntie might say to my kid "oh he's dark" in that pitiful tone they take. I dont know what I'd do.

Aisha said...

Sohnii I just thought about what a good point you made that its the women who di it more than the men. I havent heard men actually refer to women as light or dark, its aunties and other girls. What an interesting lightbulb moment!

Jane said...

It seems this issue is much the same as how women are never satisfied with their hair. Those with curly hair wish it to be straight, those with straight wish it to be curly....As an extremely fair-skinned caucasian, I see no benefit to being so light. I am so fair I literally seem to glow in the dark. It sounds strange I know. However, my biggest worry is skin cancer. Out in the sun I burn quickly. My eyes cannot stand the glare of a sunny or even partly sunny day without sunglasses. I don't really wish to be different than I am but fail to understand why anyone would want wrinkles around their eyes from squinting and melanoma.

~ruthie said...

i envy people with dark skin that can soak up the rays of the sun and glow with health instead of pasty white skin that burns within minutes of exposure. i envy long dark straight hair that always looks beautiful and sleek and healthy instead of the blonde curly frizz i'm saddled with. i'd love exotic dark eyes that have mystery, instead of mine that express every emotion i'm trying to hide.

i think that everyone looks outside of themselves to find and idealized beauty to persue. often, we pick traits that are genetically impossible for us to achieve. society forces what they consider to be good on us, and as a result, we are all stuck with poor self-esteem.

i'm sorry that you feel less than you should because of some stupid notion of "light" skin being better. i think you are beautiful because you're a smart, wonderful, caring person.

Amanda said...

My comment goes along with Jane. As I was reading your post I was thinking about all the products I use, and time I spend, trying to get darker. It seems like everything looks better on a girl with tan skin (even fat, in high school my friends and I always said tan fat looks better than white fat). Aisha - I am envious of your skin color because it means you need very little makeup, you can wear shiny/sparkly makeup, and almost any color looks good on you!:)

Sohnii said...

lol it really is crazy isnt it... nowadays the guy has to be gora too if the girl is pretty and from a good family... becharey lardkey.. sucked into the world of auntiez and their mania...

but seriously tho, ive seen guys liking girls no matter what colour they are and no matter what they look like... then why is the female lot against their own gender... ur gentic predisposition to melanocyte content in skin, that doesnt dictate who u are as a person, does it.

u actually have to be living here in pakistan to witness the real madness Aisha... my friend's own mother keeps telling her k itni dark kiyu ho rahii ho. one of my sister's friends is a genuinely nice person, but she is in a horrible inferiority complex when it comes to her skin colour. another friend of mine, her family is admant on marrying her to a tall and fair guy so she'll have tall and fair kids. lol, and of all the things, imagine, i went back home last summer after gaining obscene amount of weight, and a friend's sister in law told me i had grown so pretty,just because i had gone a shade lighter.

i say make the most of what u have if u cant change it :D

oh and nice poem! :D cheers!

Chic Mommy said...

I just have to add that I gave birth to twin girls a year and a half ago. When they were born, one was fair and one was dark. They looked nearly identical at the time, and my family used to use the skin color to tell them apart saying, "Hana gori hai, aur khoobsoorat bhi hai." So the dark one is not "khoobsoorat (beautiful)". In a few months, the "dark" one's skin turned dramatically lighter and now they are both gori and my family is happy that now both are "khoobsoorat". It's so pathetic.

BBCD said...

Oh wow, that got everyone talking didnt it.

brilliant post on a shitty desi issue.

... most importantly, you looked fantastic and sooooooooooooo pretty!! on your wedding day!! Mushallah! ahem :)

Aisha said...

Jane I dont get it. I grew up hating my complexion but I'm fine with it now. It seems though in every culture the lighter the better, a friend of ine is Dominican and she is light skinned and when she goes back to her country she is followed by all for her beauty... but she laughs because she says its all b/c she's very light. I wonder if its a desire for what is not very common? I'm not sure what it is.

Ruthie, I'm not ashamed of my skin anymore at all. Someone said on here accept what you can't change, but I'm at a point I dont WANT to change it. I'm happy as I am.

Amanda, aw you are sooo nice that made me feel so good to hear that, thanks. In highschol I always heard that from my friends, we want to be your skin color, but I guess because most of my culture is the other way I didnt really believe my white friends when they said that...

Sohnii, yep ype I can relate, same thing happens to me all the time. "Oh rung bahoth saaf ho gaya hain" and I dont know what to say.. .thank you? Frankly like I said above I dont want to change my skin color anyways. Thanks for the compliment re poem :)

Chic mommy, as a mother that must have infuriated you! I can't imagine...

BBCD aww thanks sweetheart!! Yes a very ahem.. dirty little issue of our culture... i'm blown away by how many people this has touched a nerve with..

Enyur said...

You really struck a chord their didn't you?? lol!

Anyhoo, main kyoon peehchay rahoon? My two cents: Yes, this colour thingy is a big deal in Pakistan! I was born and raised in Canada. Aside from the few snotty kids calling me Paki, never had any probelm. I remember when I visited Pakistan for the first time (I was a bit on the dark side...sounds like Star Wars! lol!) ok ok back to the point, honestly I was 'confused' I didn't know what colour I 'should' be. I thought just being 'brown' was good enough.

My cousins and aunts were so obsessed with being 'gori' (even though they were pretty fair) they would still slap on crap loads of talcum powder before they left the house. I thought my cousins looked like bhootni's (ghosts) lol!

By the way great post Aisha and love your poem!

Sdit. said...

Thankfully the love of my life loves the color of my skin!!

I am far from "gori" and he's alot lighter complexioned than me! One of my relatives thought we shouldn't get married because he was lighter than me...I was pretty shocked at the stone age mentality people are suffering from in Pakistan! Thankfully I was raised here, and surround myself with the more open minded variety.

Do you see any change coming about eventually?

As African Americans can believe "Black is Beautiful", why cant we embrace our own skins??

Baji said...

Great topic, great poem. Mash'Allah, you were really a mature and sensitive child! Can I get some money back for all those tanning bed trips of my youth LOL. Really, when I was a child, we used to play dress up slanting our eyes and wearing kimonas and bindhis. We wanted nothing more than to have dark skin and long black shiny hair.

Jane said...

It truly is an odd phenomena in my mind. My best friend and her family are from Southeast Asia and light skin is prized there as well. It means that you are no laborer, you don't have to be out sweating in the fields. She has told me many times how her family has made comments on my skin shade, how pretty like an egg it is. I am flattered by the attention yes, but am also confused by it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and often one's beauty is not of our own making. It is the result of a crazy science experiment that occurs each time a conception occurs. So random and in the end who really cares. I think it's time to truly push the boundaries of beauty.
Let's start it here!! The revolution has begn! (oh only with Aisha's consent of course.}
I'll be the first to state the new law over what is acceptable beautiful.

1. I am on the short side, sliding toward petit but my short legs get the work down. Without them I could not chase my little ones, feed, and care for them. Therefor I do declare THIGH FAT Is SEXY, or at least suggestively attractive.
My fat thighs are beautiful as are

Aisha said...

2. As are all the colors of all people in this world! :)

Aisha said...

Enyur, bhoot is right man, particularly many of the dulhans they look like Geishas! When my cousins immigrated here from Pakistan they were all about the bhoot look. It's good you werent too affected by it.

Sdit I wonder if our generation is changing things. I think so. I dont hear fair/light discussion quite as much in our gen than the ones in the past. Let's hope.

Baji I find that so fascinating that you did that. Tanning booths, lol, my mom always shook her head at ppl who did that. This is a foreign concept for us in every sense! lol

Jane I so agree, see above comment adding on to the new rules :)

stabani said...

aisha: according to fair and lovely's website: Fair & Lovely's formulation contains a unique fairness system that contains a combination of active agents and sunscreens. This has been specially designed and proven to deliver one to three shades of change in most people. Also its sunscreen system is specially optimised for Indian skin. Indian skin unlike Caucasian skin tends to 'tan' rather than 'burn' and, hence, requires a different combination of UV A & UV B sunscreens. (notice all the sunscreen?)

and on a personal side, i know of a man that didn't marry till the age of 45 because he couldn't find a girl "white enough" to suit his parents expectations. What's worse is that the man himself and his parents were quite dark aka could have been mistakened for africans :-D

opinionatedinjerzee said...

ooh, finally a good juicy topic!!
yeah, remember the vital signs song.. Goray raang ka samana kabhi ho ga na purana!! Then the darker fans got upset (so i heard) then they made a song Samli Saloni!! hehe!! All my life i have heard this.. Every aunty has said that to me.. oh tumare pay to saab acha laag gey gah.. tum gori jo ho!! Crazy... did you know i tried the opposite of fair and lovely creams.. i used to lay out in the sun in hopes to get a little darker.. even tried those sunless tanning lotions!! Then i met hubby, he like every paki male was obbsessed with gori larkis!! so i had to stop my constant quest to get tanned!!! but i still enjoy it in the summer when i do get darker.. I think it looks healthy.. Not to mention those girls on their wedding day.. they look like they just dived into some all purpose flour and smacked some pink blush and red lipstick on.. Looks like they had the life sucked out of them!! Yuck!!!

Raheel said...

bas pandra minute main hogayi woh gori gori.. modgirl cream bleach se gori gori lolz!!

I believe jo baat sanwaley rang main hai naa goras dont have this in them.

Btw great poem by a great person :)

Maleeha said...

i just thought of something. my husband who is born and brought up in the US doesnt understand at all the hub-bub over fair skin. he even jokingly suggested i should try out a tanning bed b/c my skin is too white. i think my mom would just about pass out if she heard i went to a tanning salon.

Champ - Love Hound said...

Bein' desi has it's own Charm 'n' Joy, The wonderful Desi Culture has such Love that I can never feel anywhere else.

Right now I'm in Lahore for Basant. Hope you 're doin' good. *Smiles*

God bless you.....

ayalguita said...

wow aisha great post! This is something that has always shocked me from desi culture! at the beginning I didn't understand why lots of desi looked at me very rudely when I use to go dressed with salwar kameez and by my husband in the desi area of the city we used to live, well i asked my dh and he said: very simple, they are jealous you are a gori, they always want lighter skin! I couldn't believe it! I mean,I always wished my skin was a bit darker than it is lol, but Idon't get mad about it or use products like fake tan, if the sun makes me darker in the summer, that is enough for me.

When my daughter was born, the first thing inlaws asked: what colour is she? my dh said she is pink lol,but seriously, when they saw she was sooooo white they said she was so pretty. It hurted me that they didn't say the same about my niece who was born 3 weeks later from my sil and which is quite dark.For me she is as beautiful as my daughter, is so stupid to think someone is ugly due to skin colour!this world is just crazy!:)

Jane said...

Aisha,
I apologize...I have to stop posting and commenting after I take my meds at night. Not only do I misspell but apparently I am incoherent as well. Lol.

Hadeel said...

totally agree. arabs have it bad too, but maybe not as crazy since a lot of us are "white." but it is sad that we have to feel "less" because of a "white-man complex" as arabs call it - always wanting to be like our colonizers, and not embracing the way God Himself wanted us to be.

Aisha said...

Starbani, thanks for sharing that, lol I wonder if I can make a deal with the Coppertone sunblock folks to market to the Pakistani medium, lol. 45 b/c couldnt find someone fair enough? He deserved it I say. Did he end up finding his gori princess of his dreams?

Amzu is that true that samlvi saloni came out because of the "gora rang" song?? I never heard that but I always though the samvli saloni song was rather lackluster. would make sense if it was forced.. lol...

Raheel, is what you said in your first line an actual ad? sigh. Thans for being so sweet about the poem :)

Maleeha bless him for not knowing, lol. I dont think guys care too much about it. It's women shooting each other in the foot.

Boxin: have fun at basant!

Ayalguita amen!! Btw- its funny b/c one of my bestfriends is spanish and she used to wear shalwar kamiz and go out with me to parties and all the aunties wanted to know who she was because she was so fair, lol. Your daughter is gorgeous though regardless of what her skin color is.

Jane I didnt notice anything odd!

Hadeel yes we really gotta get over it. Particularly amusing is when women say "we want stron gmuslim and fair skinned must" are those on the same level for you? Something is wrong if that's true.

Edward Ott said...

That is a fantastic poem. I hope that one day i am able to go to the store and buy a book of your poetry.

Salam

Desimail said...

Very nice poem.

I am not sure if having a preference for light skinned women is any worse than having a preference for tall men or petite women.

So why is a preference for tall men benign while a preference for light skinned women a function of bigotry or ignorance?

We actually have more control over our skin color than we have over our height. Its pretty easy to consmetically alter our skin color. So height being something we can never change, the preference for height should be considered more discriminatory.

I guess some would argue that the height preference is not as endemic in the desi community compared to the preference for light skinned women.

We desis though are not alone in our preference for light skinned women.

Within a distribution of women, there are evolutionary pressures behind the preference for light skinned women. Both men and women tend to get darker when they reach adolescence. Within a distribution, younger women tend to be lighter than older women. Younger women equates to fertility. So a preference for light skinned women within a distribution is an evolutionary preference for women who are more fertile.

A good book on this subject is '
Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Racial Prejudice' by Peter Frost. In the book, he lays out an almost universal preference for light skinned women in all cultures around the world, even ones where they had no exposure to the outside world.

I think its important to note, that even the desi aunties only prefer light skinned women within the distribution (aka only among the desis) A desi aunty would not have a preference for a causcasian woman over a darker desi woman or a lighter japanese woman over a darker desi woman.

Of course it gets tricky when you bring in colonialism, the hegemony of western media with its nordic ideals of beauty, the politics of color and the rest.

In full disclosure, I have a green eyed, blond wife. I personally have a preference for white women though I dont particularly differentiate between the myriad shades of desi brown from Pathan to Bengali.

Aisha said...

Edward, I'm not sure how to take that, as a joke, sarcasm or indeed the truth... I always think of it as a poem written by a silly freshman in highschool.. so I'll say thankyou ever aware that you may just have been kidding :)

Desimail thanks for your perspective. Good point on height discrimination for sure. I meant to highlight one area that I as a woman experience but you are right height is another form. And yes its not a desi thing alone as you can see from the comments from Hispanic people and Filipino, S. Korean, Arab etc that this is not just a desi issue.. I happen to be desi so I wrote from my perspective. Thanks for your recomendation for that book I will have to put add it on my wishlist for Amazon, it sounds intriguing.

Anisa said...

what a wonderful post. is that you? you look gorgeous!!! (and light skinned too, ;))

theMaN said...

I know all about skin color because i am a desi. Americans refer to me as fair tall and handsome while desis say I am gora tall and handsome. I am living the best of both world but its not as fun as you all think. I have American women after me all the time and aunties asking me to marry their daughters all the time.

rehtwo said...

Wow. I have only had the time to read about half the comments. Interesting, isn't it? I've heard theories about how skin color is related to income and social status -- how here in the States, it was not long ago that being pale was considered ideal, because it meant that one did not have to work outside and/or had servants to do that sort of labor. Now that status is equated with the ability to go to tropical isles and lounge in the sun, tan is ideal. As for me, my classmates in high school were always envious of my tan(nish) skin...but at that point I hated my skin tone for being the wrong color for makeup when my skin was acting up...ha. We humans are never satisfied, are we?

mystic-soul said...

I saved your poem,,hhopefully you don't mind

Aisha said...

Anisa, thanks! Its me, lol @ lightskinned comment :)

The Man, you poor dear.

Rehtwo very interesting topic apparently :) That is a VERY interesting way to look at it as to why tan is now desirable. Wow. I cant believe you were uncomfortable in your own skin you're so beautiful. I guess it is a human thing. Can't be happy with what we got.

Mystic, no dont mind :) I'm glad you liked it.

Subhana said...

Hey thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Appreciate it! :)

Oh and I forgot to say ke you were a GORGEOUS looking bride :D

Aamina said...

Dang Api, you have 58 comments on this blog. I'm the 59th.

Aisha said...

Subhana I liked your blog :) and thanks!

Aamina, lol yes indeed. I guess I'm #60

rehtwo said...

Haa I just thought of this. A long time ago, I read a novel about an Asian teenager(immigrant to the US) who was struggling with identity issues...anyway she definitely said something to the effect of "If it's so good to marry someone because he has light skin, isn't it just best to marry some white American?" Ha. Wonder what the aunties would say to that...

Aisha said...

LOL... I've actually heard this logic used by desi guys when trying to convince their folks!

Do you recall what book it was? Sounds interesting.

Anonymous said...

your post is soo true and nice
i luv ur poem too!!!
i think you are right that the thought of being whiter as better came from the brits...

anyway...NICE post again
...Sana...

Hanan said...

Beautiful poem :)

EvaChick said...

that is a gorgeous poem

HappyFeet said...

I know you're post was from years ago, but I just stumbled upon it while aimlessly googling.

Even at age 14 you were super insightful. I love the poem.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Love your blog on this topic. I myself am darker than Paki/Desi standards. But the worst part is that my own mother encourages this fair skin competition. She randomly takes me to Macy's and asks the skin specialist "is there a way to make her lighter", of course they say her skin color is to die for. My mother claims that I won't get good "marriage proposals" because of my color. When I tell her that I don't care and I am happy, she gets mad and says don't you want to marry a good Pakistani man?!? And then there are other aunties in the community that you know are giving you the eye of being dark and worthless. These things bring down my self-esteem. How did you deal with this?? What's the best way to not let this get to me? I just wish that this racism stops in our community/society and people let the young girls live a happy and healthy life. The sad part is that this is not allowed in Islam, yet our Muslims do this the most. Please give me a few tips and tricks of dealing with this problem.

Anonymous said...

I haven't even read the whole thing (although I'm sure it's amazing) but the first sentence really caught my eye. It's beautiful and perfect and relatable. Desi nowadays are EXACTLY like the scathing old ladies from Jane Austen's time. Thank you for finally pointing that out for the rest of the world and making that connection beautifully. Keep on writing! =)

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