Women all over the world have started a social movement to fight back against colorism or discrimination against skin colour. Because beauty doesn’t come in just one color.
In recent weeks, three students from the University of Texas, Austin, have launched a new campaign which has become a talking point on social media around the world.
Pax Jones, a 21-year-old black student, began the project in December. She created a photo series featuring images of her South Asian classmates, sisters Mirusha and Yanusha Yogarajah.
“Our goal was to combat colourism and the under-representation of people of colour in the media. We were trying to challenge the way colourism permeates our lives,” Ms Jones told the BBC over the phone from Austin.
“We wanted to start a conversation and I think we have succeeded in that”.
The ‘Unfair And Lovely’ campaign takes its name from a skin whitening product called ‘Fair And Lovely’, which is sold in Asia and Africa.
For years, skin whitening products have pushed white Western beauty ideals and in recent years, new creams have been introduced to lighten armpit hair and even female genitals.
The manufactures of such products advertise their wares by preying on insecurities – consumers are encouraged to believe that lightening their skin tone a shade or two will enable them to win ‘better’ jobs and spouses and generally improve the quality of their lives.
The #UnfairAndLovely campaign has prompted dark-skinned people from all over the world to put their photos on social media, it has generated lively discussions on Twitter and Facebook and has far seen nearly 5,000 people posting their photos on Instagram.
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The photo series has now turned into a social movement. Women around the world are now sharing their stories on social media by using the hashtag #unfairandlovely. These women are sharing photos, videos, and selfies showing what’s like to feel the pressure of the Westernized idea that having lighter skin makes a person more beautiful.
Mirusha Yogarajah told the BBC that she readily agreed to be a part of the campaign because colourism is rampant within the South Asian community.
“Most of us are advised not to go out in the sun because we’ll get darker. It’s as if darkness is undesirable.
“In college, I was abused by a South Asian person who had lighter skin. And someone once threw a bleach balloon at me.”
Such incidents, Ms Yogarajah says, are deeply humiliating.
Unfortunately, Global Industry Analysts projects that the skin whitening industry that idealizes pale skin will be worth $23 billion by 2020.
YASSS❤❤😊 #UnfairAndLovely #ReclaimTheBindi A photo posted by im shazmeena🍂✨ (@mrspotatoqueen) on
A photo posted by Abirami Ravichandran Pillai ☺️ (@abiii_18) on
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Photo Credit: Pax Jones