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Bollywood’s Colourism – The Thing To Explain Is Tanning Salons

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The make up companies are running frit from their product lines that claim to lighten skin. This is, we are told, because of all this Black Lives Matter stuff because to desire a lighter skin is simply racism.

This is also entire tosh. The issue over lighter skin is one where a little more, rather than less, cultural Marxism would be welcome. For it’s a class issue, not a race one.

Think on it. If this is about race then how to explain the tanning salon? Or the same companies flogging fake spray on tan by the lorryload?

The Bollywood film industry is a global phenomenon built on glitz and glamour. But it has also faced accusations of being among the biggest purveyors of racism for glorifying fair complexions in its hyperbolic love stories and catchy songs. Now, amid anger over what some consider Bollywood’s hypocritical stance on Black Lives Matter, the industry has finally been forced to confront one of its most enduring taboos.

Bollywood has witnessed considerable liberalisation in recent years. But while taboos such as same-sex relationships have been relegated to a past in which stars hid behind a rose bush to steal a kiss, the industry’s determination to cling to colourism – prejudice against people of your own race on the basis of skin colour – has become a cause of anger and dismay.

Pish.

The Bennett sisters were not worrying about bonnets and freckles because they feared being dragged off to the Caribbean to chop sugar. As upper middle class girls in a Jane Austen novel they feared being taken for some mere farm girl. That would never do, obviously.

The point being that only if you were rich would you be able to spend the day indoors. Therefore that pale skin that marked a life indoors became a marker of being rich enough to stay indoors. This is something that is common across all human societies too. Sure, in India, there’s caste to deal with as well. There was indeed racism in British society too. But the pale skin is desirable came because it is a marker of social position, not race. For, as the Bollywood stories point out, it persists within races too.

The proof of this being that in British – and American and so on – society this flipped almost like a switch. 1930s make up still tried to make a woman’s face as white as possible. But the 21960s – their daughters – foundation creams tried to add colour.

What happened? The working life outdoors had by then been replaced with the factory one indoors. And the jet plane meant that the rich could go somewhere nice for the winter. Or even, in Britain, the summer. A tan became the marker of high economic and social position – the entire model switched.

At which point, of course, we got tanning salons, spray on fake tax and all the rest. So that the factory girl could mimic higher social status. Just as with white pancake makeup before. It’s the signifier that changed, not the practice.

The advantage of this explanation is that it does explain the fake tans. A racial explanation doesn’t. For what would we assume if race were the reason? That people go get darker skin in order to leave white privilege behind and enjoy the higher social status displayed by a greater melanin content? Wouldn’t that rather make all the cries about structural racism a little difficult to support?

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