“Fighting the Color War” – an interview with Fatima Lodhi founder of Dark is Divine By Zareen Khan

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A chance encounter online with someone divine; it was a busy day and I started browsing the net;  one to kill time and another to be touched by inspiration. I found both on this trivial day of browsing, I came across an article about Dark is Divine; here is the link that I stumbleled on by accident – https://www.facebook.com/darkisdivine right away I wanted to learn more about this initiative.

This is the decription of this movement: A global movement, designed to ignite a conversation to fight Colorism & Body Image Anxiety by redefining the societys’ unrealistic standards of beauty!” I was dumbfounded by the statement, we are fighting gender wars, religious wars, social wars and even I have to say it, as shallow as it is, we are still fighting the skin color war. Where having Gorra (Fair) complexion gives us all an edge over life. A free pass…”

The stark reality is, that eventhough we ( by we I mean the Subcontinent) were colonized decades ago by the Britishers (Gorras, which translates to Whites) we are still living in the notion that being Fair is not only better but its superior than anyone with a darker complexion. Which means, anyone with any color in their skin, which mind you; equals to 90 percent of our population, should hide from the sun and use fairness creams since, they are screwed (mind my language) but thats how it feels.

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Just view any “Fair & Lovely” adverts on TV  showing a dark teenager living a miserable life and on using the magic whitening cream, (Fair & Lovely) she lands her dream job and if she gets really fair then she can also get a husband in the adverts.

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For years these industries bombarded the female gender with false promises and flawed advertising but recently, they have started brain washing the men too, and since they really wanted to make a point, they used Bollywood stars like Shahrukh Khan (adored my billions) endorsing Fair & Handsome creams and Shahid Afridi renowned pakistani cricketer.

I find many contributors to this issue, the companies, the advertisers, the marketers, and mostly the celebrties endorsing such brands as responsoble for this flawed definition of beauty and fairness as the brands that produce these products. So when I read about Dark is Divine, it was an emotional soul connection with this campaign. Since, as a Pakistani, I have fought this discrimation all my life, where Fairness is given a pedestal and Darkness is treated like a disease which needs to be cured. So much time is wasted in fixing the outter appearances that the amount of internal damage amongst the young victims are almost never addressed or given attention and in turn it passes on to the next generation, a vicious circle that needs to break and we all need to heal, only by acceptance and love can we start to become beautiful in any skin shade.

This is my first blog of 2015 and I wanted to share something significant, the story of Fatima Lodhi is that and more…

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“Dark is Divine” the beginning

I always found myself championing the dark complexion and not finding any forum or platform for addressing the issue of Colorism, therefore in 2013, I officially launched Dark is Divine!

The story of Dark is Divine

Well different incidents pushed me to start an anti-colorism campaign. The school that I studied at had scores of fair-skinned girls studying, many of whom would discriminate against their dark-skinned fellows on the basis of different skin color. Also witnessed many girls being evaluated on the basis of the color of their skins in their daily lives, majority of these girls were less social as compared to those with white skins because of the fear of being harassed by the people. Even I can recall being called different rude names because of my dark skin. Also once I was nominated for a “Make over required” category at school. All this was done by my light-skinned school fellows, just to make me feel bad.

Light-skin / white-skin is considered the ambassador of beauty since ages. Across the world, in different regions like Asia and Africa, there is a huge Fairness craze, all we get to see are the advertisements of Fairness creams on every single TV channel which give out the message that if you are light-skinned you are bold and beautiful and if you are Dark, you end up being nowhere. Such discriminatory advertisements have polluted our minds and have created thinking that only fair-skinned person is way better off.

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Making a difference

Colorism is an issue which most of the people of my region usually avoided talking about. But what I always believed was that if we want to get rid of Colorism, we first have to accept the fact that it does exist and has been affecting our lives since ages. The biggest difference that “Dark is Divine” has made in the region so far is that people now accept that color stratification does exist and they somehow have become part of this fairness race. Girls and boys have started sharing their stories of discrimination to let people know that how badly Colorism have a negative impact on one’s life. Girls and boys with darker skins who once had lost their confidence due to the color stratification now proudly say that their dark is divine.

But still, a generation long effort needs to be put in to get free of the mindset that beauty comes only in white color.

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Going Global

Since Colorism is a global issue and it does need a lot of global attention.

“Dark is Divine” has been recognized internationally by the media of different countries which includes BBC, The Millennium post (India’s newspaper), Dawn newspaper, PTV World’s (World This Morning), PTV Worlds’ Weekend show with Huma Shah, BRANDZ magazine, Women’s own Magazine, ATV, Kay2 TV, The economic affairs magazine, youth ki awaz India’s largest youth magazine), Oslo Times, Express Tribune, International New York Times, Daily Times, Daily mail news international, Afghan voice radio, FM 100 Pakistan, Daily samaa, Wilbur’s Worldwide blog, Daily Duniya, The News , The Nation (Srilanka’s top newspaper), You Magazine, Nepali Khabar (Nepal’s newspaper), Jehan Pakistan, Onliris (Featured in Efya’s article on Colorism), Brown Girl Magazine (America’s magazine), Women Voices Now (U.S), Punjab Khabar (Chandigarh), NRI (India)

Your Highs on working with Dark is Divine

It feels good when mothers show concern by contacting us and discussing the issues their dark-skinned daughters face. The way girls contact us and tell that now they proudly say that “Dark is Divine”, but I believe that making people accept the fact that Colorism is being practiced in our society, to me is the biggest achievement so far! The high point is that, when people actually appreciates me and considers it a very bold step of mine of starting a campaign that aims to fight colorism , because it’s the first anti-colorism campaign working on the Asian level. Students from different universities contact us to have a session with them on Colorism, because they now do accept that this issue prevails in our society and that a campaign like Dark is Divine is the dire need of the time.

Struggles of Campaigning

I remember when I decided to launch Dark is Divine, many friends were not in the favor of this campaign. In the beginning I had to face a lot of opposition and criticism. People knew that colorism is being practiced in our society but they were always ignorant towards this fact.

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Recognition for Dark is Divine

Recognition throughout Asia as the emerging and the only anti-colorism advocate from Pakistan who has taken a bold stand against Colorism and the unfair advertisements. Recently I was honored with a “Women Excellency Award”. Was interviewed by BBC & different U.K, U.S and Asia’s magazines and state televisions because of my work as an anti-colorism advocate. I have been invited for moderating a panel discussion at the International Women Empowerment Conference by US Embassy. Also got a chance to make special commentary and share my work regarding Colorism for an article written by Africa’s one of the finest singers “EFYA”, on the topic of “Skin Bleaching”. I have been featured in an Indian Newspaper and also by an African online blog with Nandita Das as being the ambassador of an anti-colorism campaign working across Asia!

My Mentor

My mother, from one woman to another, we pass on our strengths to empower.

Dark is Divine: https://www.facebook.com/darkisdivine

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6 responses »

  1. Zarine, a wonderful article indeed… an issue that plagues not only the subcontinent but also many countries in the Far East and the Orient. I have a point to raise here, the moment you are making a statement like *Dark is divine*, you are actually resorting to reverse racism. I would like to see more conversations around *You are divine, irrespective of your skin colour’. It’s like raising an awareness we put the girl in such a high pedestal that in many homes a boy child starts getting an inferiority complex. Here too the awareness should be about a healthy child – boys and girls are equal.

    Awareness should be around equality of sexes, skin colour, country, culture… otherwise we are drilling thoughts that are biased towards one side. God created all of us equally and that is the very essence of humanity… not one divine than the other.

    • We had a huge conversation amongst our friends… so yes, this is such an important topic that you all are addressing. It’s commendable what Fatima is doing and I absolutely understand that this direction is required initially to raise the awareness … Regards:)

    • Hi Ishita,
      Its always great to hear from you and your feedback is of value.
      Dark is Divine – is a special capmpaign to highlight the beauty of Dark skin color – (which is highly key) to addressing the deep rooted hate and dislike for dark skin. There is so much prejuidice to address, we surely are not reversing a color bias. Dark is Divine doesnt say that you are only beautiful because you are Dark or that you should use a product or Tanning device to look a certain way- it doesnt say that you are better becuase you are Dark. Therefore, not a racist statement. Infact the campaign goes deeper than appearances. The reason, why I had to write and give Fatima a voice, is because not many will..most confirm to the color discrimination. White, black, brown at any shade – our purpose is to love and accept without passing judgment – do check out the work that Dark and Divine does, at the grass root levels – it is changing poeple’s view on the Darker shade of skin…and celebrating beauty without judgement. Its really an incredible initiative to raise a voice for the ones who have none. Thank you for voicing your concern – I hope I have offered you a fair reply 🙂

      • As a mother of two girls, I have had to balance these issues in a very sensitive way, and everytime I have made any statement favouring the dark shade of our skin or the fairer sex (again the terms calls for a dialogue)… I have had to be deluged with questions! I completely agree to what you are saying, and yes of course you have to give voice to women like Fatima… and you will be happy to know that your article led to a huge discussion amongst a few of us!

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