Beauty pageants are controversial in recent years. Not only are people pushing back against the establishment of beauty pageants, but they’re also trying to make them more inclusive and respectful toward women. That’s why the bikini competition was removed from the American one recently as it was deemed sexist and demeaning to the young ladies competing. But in India, there was another problem exposed as an image of the beauty pageant finalists was shared online – the young women selected on finalists were all very light skinned and looked like “clones” of each other.
Instead of celebrating the beautiful diversity of the country of India, the women selected as the “most beautiful” more closely resembled the Western standard of beauty. For this reason, critics slammed the judges and the competition organizers who failed to fight for inclusion and diversity in the pageant.
When you take a look at the thirty women selected for the Miss India competition, you’ll notice that they all share a light skin tone. Although India has people of all different shades of skin, those selected for this beauty competition were apparently only picked if their skin color met an unspoken standard of “whiteness.”
The singular focus of the Miss India competition left many people on Twitter shocked. One person named LeBrown James asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
As soon as the image was shared, it was obvious that diversity was lacking. In a country like India, that has a population of more than one billion, there are a large variety of people who all look different – nevertheless, the ones selected for the Miss India pageant all looked very much the same.
People quickly noticed what was missing from the picture. “This is so white!” one person wrote. Another shared, “Fair skin” was what all women had in common.
India has a long history of “colorism.” It predates the colonialism of Britain and goes back centuries to the 1600s. That’s when India established a social hierarchy based on a caste system that largely had to do with the way someone looked. Because the laborers had darker skin because they spent more time outside working very hard, it was considered a social privilege to have light-colored skin because that meant the person had enough money to stay indoors and relax in the shade.
Because colorism was so entrenched in Indian society, it got even worse when the British invaded and colonized the country. It got the point that marketers created a “fairness” cream in the 1970s that allowed people to lighten the color of their skin.
Because Miss India is a big competition across the country, the Times of India dedicated an entire page, featuring the headshots and brief bios of all the women. These pictures were shared under the headline, “Who will be crowned Miss India this year?”
While the Times of India was just sharing the news, people across the world realized how biased the system was to people with darker skin tones.
Do you think the organizers of Miss India should try to include more diversity?
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