Shadeism

I just watched a short film called Shadesim which a friend posted on my [Waste]book page.

This is a brilliant film that touches on the epic issue of skin colour and the prejudices within African, Caribbean and South Asian communities especially, that young women have faced a long time. The film is a short, so doesn’t go in to too much detail on the negative physical effects that people have faced due to excessive use of bleaching creams, the shared perception of skin shade and mainstream media’s part to play in this awful affair, but it does feed you the branches stemming from Shadeism that has plagued our communities way before colonialism:

  • The lighter the better.
  • Bleaching your skin leads to a better life full of opportunities.
  • Being dark automatically puts you at the bottom of societies rank etc.

Though it’s something women of colour all over the world have heard or dealt with in the past it seems that more and more of us are finding it an unacceptable perceived blueprint of perfection.

We hear snippets through 5 women of colour and sadly a young girl and their experiences of Shadeism via personal experiences and media images that constitute what beauty should look like. The narrator and one of the subjects of the film, Nayani, starts off by saying that the sight of the sun is not always to be celebrated, like most people of colour she comes from a  country where the blazing sun shines daily, but like some she has been told that this more of a daily hindrance from which she has been to told to hide from at a young age.

Born a beautiful fair skinned baby as Nayani  grew older she also grew darker and she began to question  the notion that because of this she was less desirable. Her young niece already voices strong opinions that to be lighter is pretty, she dislikes her brown skin and tells us that she needs to lighten up so she is fairer like Aunt. Begging the question: if this child possesses a desire to be lighter like Nayani, who herself is challenging the prejudices of being told she is too dark by her own family, then where does it end? My guess is that it doesn’t, and that many would be full blown white if they could.


As we move through the film each contributor shares her confrontation with Shadeism within family, community and mainstream media. Muginga ( above far left, from Angola) points out the common use of bleach creams within African communites and expresses her views on how dark skinned women are excluded from appearing in music videos in favour of light skinned women who are displayed as always being sexy and the constant airbrushing and lightening of darker skinned women on the covers of magazines seen as a desirable quality.


Though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before it’s only up until recently that young women in particular are starting to debate and discuss ways in which to avoid images like these from brainwashing  people of colour to question their self worth in society.

Nadia who was referred to as 'Mati' meaning soil or the 'dark one' by her family, all in jest mind, is realising the implications these names have on her identity.

Its a ridiculous condescending concept and one that we shouldn’t stand for, however as Nadia (above, from India) highlights and the film states, the problem starts at home. Very true, it is our own communities that continue to fuel these notions of social ranking in association with the colour of ones skin and like the old saying more or less goes: no one will respect you if you do not respect yourself first.

Click on the link below to watch.

SHADEISM

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