Opinion: Shah Rukh Khan’s comment about his daughter being ‘dusky but beautiful’ is well meaning but problematic

Such statement end up sounding like we're doing people of colour a favour by calling them beautiful despite their skin tone

By Sabahat Zehra

KARACHI: Shah Rukh Khan’s recent statement about his daughter Suhana Khan has resonated with many South Asian girls who have had similar statements being thrown at them by rishta aunties, and parents of average skilled men looking for a “chand si bahu”.

“I’ll be honest; my daughter is sanwli (dusky) but she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. And nobody can tell me otherwise,” said the star at the Kolkota Film Festival in response to questions directed to him for endorsing fairness creams, according to the Hindustan Times.

Read: Why is Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter on the cover of Vogue India?

Although well intentioned, the way the statement is phrased is not very pro-dark skin. If we want to talk about body positivity, we need to refrain from statements that end up sounding like we are doing a favour to people of colour by calling them beautiful despite their skin tone. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the long standing problem in society of pathologising dark skin more than anything else. Calling someone beautiful despite their skin tone is equally problematic because it reinforces our rigid definition of beauty as being synonymous with fair skin.

Watch: Complexion Complex

Our beauty standards have for long been skewed since the British decided that our lands were barbaric and imposed what they deemed to be civilisation on us. This prolonged self-esteem struggle has for decades been strengthened by the plight of fairness products – insinuating that brown-ness is something that needs to and can be erased if you use the right products. From pear soap ads in the British era, to contemporary advertisements of Fair and Lovey products, the definition of beauty has been reduced to a measuring scale – the fairer your skin tone is, the more beautiful you are. These ads go to the extent of equating fairness to beauty to a successful life.

We need to do better when it comes to the representation of women in the fashion industry as well as the popular media. Instead of calling them beautiful despite their skin tones, what we need to work on is the normalisation of dark-skin tones in order to really puncture the long standing barriers that stand between people of colour being called beautiful.

So, yes, Suhana Khan is dusky and very beautiful. No ifs and definitely no buts.

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