In South and East Asia, Africa, and in other countries around the world, women’s beauty is often judged based on the shade of their skin, with “fair” skin tones considered more attractive than darker skin. ”Shadeism” or “colorism” often also associates success and power with fair skin.
Multinational companies reinforce that deeply problematic attitude through their skin-whitening products. In India, for example, one of the hottest selling facial cream brands is Hindustan Unilever’s Fair & Lovely lotion. Despite a campaign called Dark is Beautiful that helped push India to ban discriminatory commercials for fairness products in 2014, the attitudes displayed in this 2010 ad still prevail:
To combat this antagonism to darker skin, three students from the University of Texas have launched a new campaign to fight an age-old problem. They’re encouraging dark-skinned women from around the world to post photos of themselves on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with the hashtag #unfairandlovely.
The project began with a photo shoot of two sisters of Sri Lankan-origin, Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah, by a black student, Pax Jones.
The students’ common experience of shadeism inspired them to celebrate darker skin through a photo series they called Unfair and Lovely.
“The photo series was purely a creative project that I developed to combat underrepresentation of dark-skinned people of color in media,” Jones, a 21-year-old engineering student, told Quartz. “In the past, Mirusha shared her experiences as a dark-skinned South Asian woman with me, and I noticed so many overlaps between her experiences and my own in terms of racism and colorism.”
The hashtag was later created when those photos became a hit on Facebook and Tumblr, and were shared widely.
The three women behind the move are now collaborating with another online campaign, Reclaim The Bindi, in which South Asian women have been trying to combat cultural appropriation and promote South Asian traditional identities. From March 8—International Women’s Day—till March 14, women around the world are encouraged to celebrate their own beauty.
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