#UnfairandLovely | A Look on Colorism in Cultures

Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture

A   C H I N E S E ,   M A L A Y   A N D   I N D I A N
W A L K   I N T O   A   C A F E . . .

And discuss the underlying racism of beauty standards through colorism. As we always do.

Meet Shwen, Bash and Rose. Loud girls sat around the booth, diverse in stories and opinions. Bonding over politics and social issues during lunch early in our school years. Instead of eating at the canteen, we argue. Whether it be how consensual 50 Shades' main relationship is to USA's political system. Social justice have made friends out of debaters.

Despite our love for aggressive discussion, we ignored a topic raised up often. Colour, skin colour for more accuracy. Being women of colour in whitewashed world, we never actually discussed colorism until now. The Unfair And Lovely Movement exploded and it gave me thought.

How dominant is colorism in our culture?

Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture
Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our cultureThree girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture

The Unfair and Lovely Movement was created by Pax Jones, its name referencing the popular Fair and Lovely Whitening Cream (sold in Brunei unfortunately). While it is mostly 'Tamil-centered', its ultimate goal- to combat colorism is universal. Even in this little country in South East Asia, fair skin is regarded as desirable.

Which makes my own fair skin crawl in both disgust and disappointment.

Rose, proud and proudly Indian, holds herself close to the movement. It addressed the problem she felt in India and Brunei. Actresses like Sonam Kapoor in L'oreal Whitening Ads desensitised her skin colour. Moving to Brunei at 11 elevated these insecurities. She recalled a time in secondary when a friend admitted feeling embarrassed for her dark skin. Then proceeded to recommend whitening creams, sunscreens and papayas for 'natural' lightening. I gaped and said, what a bitch.

We laughed but the implications still remained. Dark skin wasn't beautiful in Bruneian society. Though I was an outsider to Rose's quandary, I felt guilty as if at fault. Had I ever inadvertently reinforced these beauty standards as a Malay?

Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture
Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture





Brunei is unique. Influenced by both the western and eastern beauty. The popularity of Kylie Jenner lips is equal to Girls Generation's big, round eyes. Different perceptions of beauty that still represent fair-skinned as ideal. Ads on boards idolise fair skinned models, and young girls asking me how to lighten skin. It dawned on me. Perhaps I was a problem.

As a fair-skinned Malay with some non-Malay features, I am aware of the privilege I have. While I may not be affected by this prejudice, I have indirectly supported it. When I see girls weep over their dark skin, or wishing I was ‘white-er’, it reinforces this unachievable beauty standard. I might be fair but I don't feel so lovely.

Shwen remains silent. Unsure what she could contribute to this topic. She is aware of the beauty standard, noting older women's praise for fair skinned girls. However, she does not feel as strongly to the movement.

She takes the bystander position, abstaining not of indifference, but of ignorance. With the knowledge of colorism but not how detrimental it can be. Aware of the serious issue but doesn't feel it directly affects her, as an individual. With this thought in mind, I understand her hesitance to the topic. I wondered how to tackle this issue too.

Three girls discuss the Unfair and Lovely Movement and colorism in our culture

The three of us have different outlooks on colorism. Rose being affected by it. I, gaining advantages indirectly, and Shwen, acting as an impassive bystander. Colorism is still challenged daily, we agreed on the small steps taken to combat it.

Providing diversity in media is a major step. There is a severe lack of diversity in western media. Gods of Egypt and Pan to name a few. Shows like How to Get Away With Murder and Quantico have promoted a large diverse cast. A positive portrayal of people of colour. Characters complex as they are almost perfect. Though I have yet to see a Malay in western media.

Social media campaigns like Unfair and Lovely also contribute. They shed light to these problematic standards in society, promoting body-positivity for a new generation. So while colorism is still dominant, being aware of this issue will help us tackle it.

Thank you Shwen and Rose for providing commentary in the discussion. And being absolutely wonderful friends.  For more information, on the #Unfair&Lovely Movement, click here.

So what do you think of the movement? Have you been affected by colorism?

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