Sunday, April 07, 2013

Whats wrong with being brown or black?

Do you like ads that promote use of fairness creams? My daughter isnt very fair and when I see her watch these ads that suggest women ( and now men too) are more successful in life because they are fair/er, I know something isn't quite right.
Look at the name of the product - Fair and lovely. They have been brandishing this name under our noses for years and we've been tolerating it. I use the product. Its a good product. But I would use it even if it didn't use the word fair and lovely. And now we even have ' fair and handsome'.
Apparently Asians are obssessed with light skin. Ironically all top international brands have fairness or skin lightening creams that flood our market and worse, fight for air time in commercial breaks which children are soaking in.
There is a larger issue. Are these ads rascist? Is being fair an advantage? Why is it so? Should it be so? Its a viscious circle but now the tables have turned. These commercials ensure that our children remain caught in the cycle of thoughts, reinforcing bias based on skin color.
I always found these ads annoying. But with a 5 year old in the house and another baby in my arms, I am particularly peeved and want these ads removed from televisions.
I have entered an online complaint on the website of
The advertising council of India. I have even launched a campaign on titled - stop advertising fairness products.

Some of the questions I got as a response include, it is an individual choice or that we should stop using these products in the first place. Also, why target commercials? Our movies have always idolised fair actors in the lead roles. Popular Comic illustrations have indicated that gods are fair and demons are dark skinned. Oh and Krishna who was actually dark skinned according to mythology or even Draupadi is shown blue.  Fairy tales hammer in to our heads right from childhood ideas like "fairest of them all" and kind but beautiful princesses always win "prince charming".
So why stop commercials?  Simply because you cannot monitor them, they are repetitive and actually show being dark skinned to be a distinct disadvantage.
For those who say its an individual choice, I'll say so is smoking and drinking. Why have we banned their commercials? Because of the influence on our children. Make people aware of the harmful effects of drinking and smoking being in a democratic society, let people decide. The use of the word 'fair or fairer or fairness' in promoting skin products must not be allowed on any media. Insensitive ads that show fair skin to be at an advantage and fair skinned people to be more successful must be stopped immediately.
If you believe it too, you can talk about it,blog about it, share this blog, sign the petiton, complain to the Indian advertising council. Find your way.
Lets stop these ads.

Teaching art to kids

We've put my daughter at a summer camp where she spends half a day. And its not because I am not home. She gets to interact with other kids and spend her time more constructivley. And yes... I can relax a little bit. Handling two kids and getting the house work done can be a little tiring.
I spoke to her camp co-ordinator the other day and got some positive feedback about my daughter. She participates in all activities avidly. Her coloring is above average. She also suggested that if she were taught drawing she can do much better. Incidently they have a drawing tutor at the camp. Her voice echoed my husband's for he has often suggested we put her in an art school.
The thing is, I am against children being 'taught' art. For one, you cannot teach art. You can only teach techniques. But you can't teach someone to spontaneously express her/him self in his chosen medium. And in my experience, teaching children and adults to draw is to stiffle the spontaneous creativity. It is specially important in children and we need to trudge carefully lest we impart and enforce adult convections on them. I personally believe children are far better artists because they don't have any preconceived notions and that makes childrens' art much more honest and straight from the heart. I am a huge fan of kiddo art.
I draw and paint a little. And I have always steered clear from the temptation to 'teach' her art. Childrens art is symbolic. Not necessarily logical. And there lies the beauty. Like, Ananya used to draw a car with four wheels ... In a straight row. Or her durga had eight hands.. four on each side n a series and not converging as we normally see. She once made a figure but the face had no features. When I asked her about it she said its the back of a persons head. Children also have a fantastic choice of colors. All that spontaniety is lost somewhere as the child grows up and leaves his world of incredible imagination behind. And for the rest of his adult life he is forever trying to recapture that incredulous beauty. It reminds me of the song called "bum bum boley" in the movie 'Taare zameen pe'. The song aspires to rekindle the imagination in children. To break steroetypes.
Coming back to the summer camp, the course co-ordinator suggested that we can tell children leaves are not always green in color. Its a mix of colors. Very true. But I believe that instead of directly teaching kids that, you can make them observe leaves and the myriad shades of green and brown and yellow that leaves have. And then let them draw. Unfortunately and unwittingly we teach stereotypes. Apple is red. Really? Leaves are green. Sky is blue.. deep blue sea. White clouds. These are also picked up from literature.
When Ananya was three we went sailing with my husband who is a sailor. And we used to stand on the open bridge wings looking at the vast expanse of water all around and the heavens above. Blue sky was a rarity. Sunsets splashed so many colors in the sky and were reflected correspondingly in the waters... Pinks and purples and violets and oranges.... I remember pointing them out to my daughter.
So don't teach them art. Show them the to observe and admire the beautiful nature as is.