By: Reenita V
Growing up in Canada I found myself always idolizing the women in magazines, on TV and the movies. I wanted to be them, live like them, love like them and look like them. I knew my desires were not solely mine as often my friends and I would discuss our inspirations for our outfit choices, hair, future endeavours and we would all be chasing the dream to be like a certain character from our favorite shows. It may be a surprise to you, but we never achieved those dreams and goals because we were simply chasing an unachievable outcome. That outcome wasn’t the rich and famous part, but the desire to look and feel like the tall, slim build, blonde haired, white women who was constantly present in advertising.
Flipping through the ads of magazines,I was so aware of the stark differences between the girl in the magazine and myself . I was looking at images of what I will never be and as a young person, I was not being able to really realize that I will never look that way and it’s OK. As a teenager, I loved to dance and dreamed of being a ballerina one day; however, I found myself often battling the image of what a perfect dancer looked like. My legs didn’t go for miles, I had curves, I wasn’t tall, my hair couldn’t be slicked back without an obscene amount of hair products and every time flesh coloured mesh needed to be added to a costume, it stood out because I was dark. I became complicated because I didn’t match the norm.
While now older, I have a great grasp on the truth behind advertising, but it does not mean that it’s OK to be poorly represented or unrepresented. Recently, Dolce and Gabbana launched a line of hijabs and many rejoiced because a huge fashion brand was taking a hit at Islamphobia. While this is a great movement, let’s take a quick peek at what we are really looking at in the advertisement. The images shared by the brand show a faired skinned woman with stunning green eyes rocking the hijab. Why have the hijab modeled by a fair skinned woman? Raises some questions, right? What we are looking at is an opportunity to fit in, but only if you match the desired look light skinned brown girl image.
A few years ago, after a stressful semester at school, I was given the opportunity to treat myself to a complimentary manicure. A free opportunity to pamper myself! When I sat down with the manicurist who identified herself as south Asian, we immediately started the regular small talk about where I was from, what I was studying and then she said something that left me puzzled and insulted. She looked at me and said even though I am a dark skinned indo-Fijian women, I am still attractive. Um, Thanks?
These kinds of backhanded compliments seem to arise every so often. While I now take it as a grain of salt and assert myself by explaining how wrong that “compliment’ is, it doesn’t mean that the emotional tornado spiraling inside me wishes that that would be a greater respect for women, people who exist on every spot of the colour spectrum. We live in a country where escaping media and advertising would require being secluded, sans smartphone in the forest and that is unrealistic. We need to start recognizing the obvious and internal battles we experience on the daily. Not only must we try to drop these unachievable expectations to what is beautiful, we need to start questioning who is representing south Asian women and battling those who deem us darker gals as less desirable.