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My name is Tricia Ferdinandt. I am a Western and South Indian student. Specifically, I am Malayalee, Tamil and Gujarati. I was born and raised in Singapore. Together with my three good friends, Rachana, Anjali and Abbi, we created the hashtag #SouthIndianAndProud. I had the idea of creating the hashtag, after I saw another hashtag #brownszn (Brown Season) going around on Twitter. It was just North Indians and Pakistanis in a group chat using that caption as an excuse for selfies. At that moment, I realised how being “desi” was very North Indian and Pakistani oriented. I have seen so many South Asian beauty accounts on Twitter state that they post people of all ethnicities, but the ones I have always seen being posted are the ones with Euro-centric features and light skin. The same goes for which selfies trend the most. I hated how much South Indian culture especially was unknown and underappreciated, how many are unaware that there are five states in South India comprising of so many ethnicities and languages and dialects within them. Not all of us are “Madrasis” like people often imagine.

I am disgusted at how that term has become almost a vulgarity as if we are below everyone else. We wanted to break away from the stereotype that all South Indians are dark skinned, we are not. We come in various unique and beautiful skin tones, shapes, sizes from all the stunning states. Our objective was to have South Indians and others appreciate and learn about our culture, mother tongues, festivals and history. It was to show the world that Hindi is not the only language of India and that there are so many other amazing film industries other than Bollywood. I could tell many Indians are North Indian-ized, meaning they put North Indian culture on a pedestal and start to worship anything related to it. I felt like this internalised self-hatred is a real issue. People are ashamed of their roots and where they come from just because they are not from the North, which is seemingly more accepted because everyone there is perceived to be “fair” and “beautiful” and part of “Bollywood.”

I feel like our South Indian film industry is not very well-known compared to Bollywood, even though we have films that are just as great, if not even better! When a person thinks of good Indian movies, it’s often Hindi language films. However, so many Bollywood films have been made through the success of a South Indian movie, like Drishyam and Singham. South Indian cuisine has delicious food but often, many people opt to go to North Indian restaurants instead. I think in general this hashtag promotes self love within the South Indian community not just with women, but with men as well. As one, we are not here to compete but to come together as a community and bring each other up and not tear each other down.

Our society today is obsessed with “white skin”, it is evident in the product sales of skin whitening products where in India, fairness is still the gauge for beauty.

Bollywood stars regularly endorse these products and brainwash thousands that in order to be attractive, one has to have less melanin in their skin. The impact among the people, youth especially, is greater as stars are seen as role models. Such advertisements have always dis-empowered women and men because they have encouraged the notion that one has to be fair to be considered good-looking and to be eligible for marriage. A lot of women and men alike in India do not find a partner because of their skin tone not being ideal and therefore being seen as undesirable. I find this culture quite shocking where one is forced to critique themselves on their looks and this obviously has a damaging effect on their self-esteem.

The reason for the Indian fascination with fair skin can be traced back to the caste system where Dalits often had much darker skin to the higher castes. The ingrained implication is that if you have fair skin, you are somewhat superior to others around you as if darkness were an ailment which one must cure. This mania is seen in many India women, especially in mothers, who encourage their children to apply skin whitening products and to reduce their time out in the sun, in fear they would become darker. One of the reasons why a girl being an athlete or an outdoor enthusiast would be a big headache for an Indian mother.

Educating people about such discrimination is necessary. It can eradicate such practices from society. People should be trained to accept individuals the way they are, discrimination on the basis of colour is just plain racist.

1 COMMENT

  1. The fact that you feel like people need to know the south Indians are not all dark skinned speaks volumes to your own self hatred. So sad for you.

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