Colorism is a global phenomenon that prejudices dark skin tone among individuals from the same ethnic or racial group. The act of skin whitening has become increasingly popular with women of South Asia who wish to gain a lighter complexion. With society reinforcing the ideals of fair skin, many women are incorporating skin whitening products in their daily beauty routines.
While the products themselves pose no harm, it's the implication behind them that's harmful. Companies market upon the insecurities of women who are unhappy with their dark complexion, and encourage them that with lighter skin, they will become more desirable and beautiful. Women feed into this mindset and engage in self hatred when they choose to use products like this. By literally erasing their skin pigmentation, they send out the message that dark skin is something to be shameful of.
#Unfairandlovely, is an anti-colorism campaign run by 21 year old Pax Jones and sisters, Mirusha and Yanusha, encouraging women with dark skin tones to love themselves and promote a melanin positive movement. A play on the Indian product, "Fair and Lovely", it has taken social media outlets like tumblr and instagram by storm, with thousands of women posting selfies and resonating with people of color.
Women in India are constantly given advice to stop drinking tea, stay out of the sun, and given beauty products with lightening properties, all for the sake of achieving fair skin. The campaign started off with a series of photos including Mirusha and Yanusha in traditional South Asian jewelry. Looking confident and unapologetically dark, they strive to show Desi women that they can feel beautiful, and that beauty is not skin deep.
As the movement grew, they started the hashtag #Unfairandlovely, in an effort for women of color to celebrate their skin and connect with others who have struggled with colorism. What started as a campaign specific to South Asian women has grown to include "any person of color who is darker skinned - Black, South Asian, Latinx, etc", Mirusha says.
There is more work to be done, but attitudes are slowly changing. Sales of the Indian product Fair and Lovely have declined, as well as other skin whitening products. Advertisers have started to become more aware of the lack of women of color in the media, and started to cater to that.
The campaign goes to show just how powerful it can be when people of color connect through social media and see how much they have in common. Working towards creating more visibility for POC and challenging beauty standards is ultimately what Jones and the sisters hoped, and managed to see.