#UnfairandLovely | A Look on Colorism in Cultures

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

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?


  1. Beauty standards, especially those pertaining to race, are such a convoluted zone. You did a beautiful job of illustrating some of the positions people can be in. Privilege and stereotypes mess the world up and just hearing of a skin lightening cream makes my skin crawl. Thank you for tackling this issue. I'm definitely going to be checking out the #Unfair&Lovely movement.


  2. Being the standard German fair skinned blonde I can´t say Colorism has ever played an important role in my life. Opposed to Asian beauty standards, being tanned is desirable in Europe, and whitening creams aren't as popular as self-tanners. But I acknowledge the fact that there is still very much to be done until we accept the beauty that comes with diversity.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  3. Such a lovely post!Thank you for writing this post, it was so well written.

  4. Colourism has definitely affected me in many ways being a "Coloured" woman in South Africa is hard this is something that a face with everyday and have strong opinions on which might be offensive to some so i won't really touch on it but lets just say its something I deal with - this is amazing Bash thank you

    Beauty Candy Loves

  5. This was a really beautiful post to read. Beauty standards and stereotypes as well as colourism can be a touchy topic. Living in America, I've found that people are quite accepting of my skin color but within my own family, there's the deep rooted notion that fair skin is beautiful. My mother would often tell me not to stay out in the sun for too long because she didn't want my complexion to become 'darker' and she's not intentionally promoting that beauty standard but it's just how she grew up and what she learned as a kid. I think the key to stopping this is educating people and I'm so glad that you brought this topic up!

    a small bit | bloglovin | twitter | latest post

  6. I know this topic very well because I pretty much heard 'oh, what a shame your daughter is not fair' throughout growing up in Malaysia. And I've heard it from relatives, friends and every now and then, close family members will describe someone as 'she's so beautiful because she's so fair'. Yes, fair being fair is very desirable and if you're not a fair Chinese then it's a huge shame. Did it bother me? Of course it did and I grew up thinking I'm the ugliest girl in town. It wasn't until I move away and grew up to be my own person that I tell myself 'to hell with being fair'. I am who I am and I embrace myself. The strange thing is, my naturally tan skin is considered to be beautiful here in Canada...weird. LOL!

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

  7. Thanks for sharing. Thought provoking and important topic.

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  8. I LOVE that you added two of your friends in it. #Unfairandlovely is one of the most powerful campaigns I've ever come across and something I feel like I can help, by raising my future kids with a mentality that all skins are beautiful so the generation Z would be better than us millennials.

    Not Your Type Blog

  9. This is a very interesting topic, Bash. It's amazing you showed different approaches to it and gave us a bit of a glimpse as for the cultural preferences in different countries/backgrounds you three lovely girls represent. Ironically, you know what I have heard when I was growing up? "Oh my word, you are so pale, are you ill?" It's funny and sad at the same time. Western world is all about being darker and eastern cultures take you down the fair road. The differences in cultures, mentality, traditions is very obvious and I think in a certain way they should be accepted as they are but then again, I will never understand people who judge someone based on their skin colour or how dark or fair it is. Any skin colour is gorgeous.
    xox Nadia

  10. What an interesting read. You ladies look lovely! :)
    It's ridiculous that nowadays we still have to feel inferior and what not if our skin doesn't have the "right" color. While in your countries darker skin is something bad, here in Europe people are obsessed with it and the darker they get, the better. We should accept who we are and respect each other as well. Skin color or whatever is so irrelevant.

    Have a great day! :)


  11. You girls are amazing for raising such a topic! I personally believe it's not so much racism as stereotyping that causes people to behave a certain way around others, and I do wish more people can look beyond it. Even living in California which is a very diverse state in the US, stereotypes still prevail.

    A great read.

    xo, alice / T Y P E N U

  12. This was so beautifully written, and I really enjoyed it! Sometimes when it's not right in front of you it's hard to see!
    x Kenzie

  13. Such an interesting read, and written so well. All 3 of you girls are beautiful, every girl is beautiful - it doesn't matter what the colour your skin is, hair, eyes etc etc! Xx


  14. I absolutely loved reading it, Bash. This problem is pretty common in Pakistan, too. With creams like Fair & Lovely available easily, it seems like the companies who are manufacturing those creams have this agenda of eliminating every dark skinned person existing on their country. It's PATHETIC.

    I'm not a dark-skinned South Asian. My grand-mother came from Afghanistan and her kids had her skin color that eventually transferred in me, too. The skin color diversity we have in Pakistan is tremendous. It hurts my head when people insist on having a "gori larki" (fair-skinned girl) to marry their sons with (no matter if their sons aren't good looking at all).

    This campaign was amazing! So powerful. I loved seeing it grow and make its way to everyone who needed that. Hashtag unfair and lovely <3

    Noor | Noor's Place

  15. I love this post. I am absolutely not familiar with the issue, to be honest. It's not quite like that here in Europe, especially in a small European country like Croatia, where I'm from. I know that some Indian girls stay away from the sun in order not to tan more, and I never really understood that, since we, in Croatia, and even the entire Europe, want to get more tan and not be as fair. I think it's really sad how the society around us tailor us as people, almost as if there was a mould, and we all had to fit it. Different moulds for different parts of the world, that it. I wish we could all just be us and not look up to celebrities, neighbours, or whom ever... Great post xx


  16. Most dark skinned girls feel they are not pretty. Many girls bleach their skin to look like white women because people have the notion that "lightskin is more beautiful".
    Everyone is beautiful. It doesn't matter your race or your colour. You all look so beautiful.


  17. all three of your are so beautiful =o)

    beauty shouldn't matter on skin color or race, everyone is beautiful in their own way


  18. You ladies are all so amazing and beautiful! Thanks for this wonderful post! =)

    - Cielo
    Mermaid in Heels

  19. Beautiful post and gorgeous ladies!!!!


  20. As a Malay myself, it hasn't been until recent that I realised that even within the Malay community back home in Singapore that colourism is inherently present. I'm not fair skinned but neither am I on the other extreme end (am I contributing to it by presenting it this way?) and I have found the way people treat and view me to be a representation in the colour of my skin. I can't say for sure what a darker skinned friend would have to say about colourism, but to a certain extent I do think there are stereotypes that still exist based on the colour of your skin. This is so frustrating for me because I can't properly explain what I think! Hahaha

    Either ways, I absolutely loved your post and think that you and both of your friends are all extremely beautiful beings and are doing a big thing by taking the first step in spreading the awareness! :)

  21. What a great post and an interesting read, thank you!
    Have a lovely day :)
    Rosanna x
    Rose's Rooftop

  22. funnily enough, i have despite being as pale as a white sheet of paper. Colorism works both ways. I lived in Italy for a year or so and when people found out I was Brazilian the question I always got was: "why aren't you black then"...as if Brazil only had black people. Which is why most brazilian women that are white will go to extensive lengths to become darker, tanned, even if it means putting their skin at risk.Maybe not the same, but definitely similar.

    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

  23. I've seen the cream Fair and Lovely! I still see it on TV these days. The advert shows a timeline of the same girl and how her colour becomes fairer as she uses the product. The worst part is, she's sad at the beginning, and when she's fair, she's practically beaming! What a way to make girls feel bad about their colour! The Unfair and Lovely Campaign struck a chord within me, because I'm more dark skinned as compared to people from my region, including my sisters. I'm coming to terms with my colour these days, though.


  24. Thank you for sharing something so meaningful with your post! It is sickening to hear about things like skin lightening creams and I am glad that you are addressing these issues head on. We are all beautiful and unique and that is what makes the world such a beautiful place! You are all three such gorgeous and awesome women! :)
    xx Annie

  25. This is such an important topic and I am really glad you are writing about it! Things like lightening creams should not exist in this time and neither should racist beauty standards. Beautiful post.


  26. You look so cute and happy together <3

    The Cutielicious

  27. Yes Yes Yes, I say as I read through this. I may take the role of a by-stander as I'm considered "White" (eventhough I don't meet the standards of blonde hair and blue eyes - I'm very pale with brown hair/eyes..)

    But I have encountered colourism, when I state I'm half turkish and half white..I'm met with a surprised expression and then something along the lines of "well, shouldn't you be a natural bronze goddess?!" In the UK, it's quite the opposite - everyone lusts after sun-kissed skin, so it's a major disappointment when people realise being of mixed race or of another nationality doesn't necessarily mean light/dark skin...

    We should all embrace our differences - it makes the world a much more interesting place :)

    Pop over to my blog!


  28. This is such an interesting read. And I haven't experienced colourism, but I honestly loathe how powerful the media, society and so many industries ingrain their idea of beauty into the minds of people without us even realising how deep it goes into our thoughts. It's only when it's discussed like this that we realise just how much!

    It's upsetting because we should all be able to just be ourselves without people judging, but that's not the case. Let's hope that things start to change!

    Meg | A Little Twist Of…

  29. This is such an inspirational posts girl. Well during my years in Thailand I saw this played out, I mean the obsession over whitening products drove me crazy when I had to purchase beauty products. Now have I been a victim? Of course! but then again there are also those people who appreciate the diversity and marvel over the difference in skin tones. At the end of the day it's all about your confidence level, I've always been confident in my colour, regardless of what people say. Nevertheless, this topic will always be debated but thank God for people like you who shed light into the very real situation in our society.

    Princess Audu

  30. I guess it's hard for me to comment on an issue like this. Being of Caucasian descent I've never faced these issues, but I have seen them. Honestly, it's about accepting yourself and your own beauty.
    It's funny that here we aim to have bronzed or dark, sun-kissed skin, where in Brunei they sell whitening creams. Why can't we be happy with the way we are?
    This is a great movement and I fully support it. Tell your friends they are beautiful!

    Lindsey Elyse | lindseyginge

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. I am a big eyed fair skinned american girl so I don't really face these issues on a personal level. But I really feel empathy for the girls who do feel the pressure of this.

    however I do fall victim to not having clear flawless skin. the media really paints an unrealistic picture for females that we all feel the pressure to conforming to.

    hopefully this will change soon <3

    *btw I deleted my first comment due to a type-o lol


  33. It's certainly an interesting discussion to have, and one that I feel is needed as we need to know that we are all different and those differences make us special, they don't make us any less of a person.

    Away From The Blue Blog

  34. I loved reading this post and you wrote it so beautifully. I'm half asian half white so colourism is definitely something in my everyday life that I have to face with. Both sides of my family have different expectations on beauty and behaviour but I'm grateful to have this knowledge as I hope it'll help me be more accepting of others and a better person overall.

    Sally - DiagonSally

  35. Beautiful post ;)


    Mónica Sors



  36. This is such an interesting and well-written post!! Xx


  37. Such a powerful piece. Thank you for sharing and informing about the topic. It is so empowering to watch three beautiful women come together to combat issues that plague our society. Wishing you all the best and love. Xo, Ellese


  38. Wow, this movement is really inspiring! Color makes a lot of difference in so many ways, but here in the PH, I realized that discrimination doesn't stop on "nationalities", but is also very evident between regions. I have never experienced any challenges because of my color, probably because I have never been out of my country, but I know that there have been a lot of underlying issues in this topic for the longest time. I always appreciate people who try to make a change, and this advocacy definitely is something worth appreciating. :)

    xx jhanzey.net

  39. Such an interesting + important movement! I love that you're giving it some space to breathe here on your blog- and your friends are amazing for sitting down + being open to discuss these serious issues. Great read, girlfriend!

    Le Stylo Rouge

  40. What a lovely group of friends :) I have never experienced any issues with colourism, but I know if it was the other way round I would hate it and I am so grateful for my life, now only hope it gets better for others.

    Meme xx

    New Post:
    'Want to Detox, Why Not Try TeaTox*?'

  41. Great read.The struggle is real for us women of colour and so its good to see such movements.


  42. This is an amazing post and this has to be spoken about and you did it perfectly! It's so sad this this happens, it's awful!
    Fix Me In Forty Five - A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog
    Blog Lovin' // Instagram

  43. Perfect post, girl! Living in Korea, all of this is ever-so apparent and so crappy. I do think that the media starting to portray strong, beautiful people of all skin colors and sizes in a more positive light will hopefully start to change that.

    xo, Mallory
    Perhaps Bananas // Instagram

  44. Amazing post! very inspirational :)

    xx Jamie | With Love, Jamie

  45. Very interesting! Such a great post!
    Love from www.trangscorner.com {a lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and food blog}

  46. nice pics, great post

  47. Such a great post! You three ladies are beautiful!


  48. It's very interesting, but an odd read for me (in a good way), seeing as I am a nordic white female, I do not have any experience with how it is being discriminated for something I was born with, besides being a female and all that. It's very insightful getting it from someone who knows how it feels, and not just how white people think it feels! We don't have a massively diverse group in Norway, around 60% maybe are white, but it's not a lot of discrimination towards any other group then the ones from the middle east mostly, because of terrorism, propaganda and IS ..


  49. This is such a great read! I'm Filipino and having brown skin is in our genes but because we used to be Spain and then US colony, there's "colonial mentality" that still linger to this day even though we've been a free country for over a century now. That white culture is better, and embracing being Filipino associates to being poor. Like when I walk into a beauty department of a mall or clinic, people ALWAYS offer me every product to make me white. I keep saying I like my color the way it is, but they just look at me puzzled. It's really disappointing.


  50. Dear Bash, I'd like to thank you for discussing and elaborating more of colorism, esp in Brunei. I find it frightening to see whenever white people dreamed to have tan/brown skin. While on the other, our brown/black POC have shed tears to be considered as beautiful for not having fair skin. It makes me, as a brown malay girl, uncomfortable. Growing up, I cannot tell you how many times I've cried, how many times I brought myself down because of my skin, how many times I have bought countless lightening products, how many times I was told that I couldn't go outside on a beautiful sunny day, how many times I hear whispers regarding my skin, how many times I felt insecure of my beauty, how many times people hated me for my skin, how many times I've felt shame on my skin. And to hear, white people (or possibly white passing) yearn for coloured skin, I find it depressing.

  51. ^I agree totally with anonymous above me. If you'd take a brown Malay-who-hates-her-colour's pov, this might be a more interesting post since you are already blessed. When it comes from you it just makes it, well yeah like she said, depressing.