What Shaniera Akram gets wrong about the stigma surrounding dark skin

What Shaniera Akram gets wrong about the stigma surrounding dark skin

Light-skinned women looking to get tan can't say they were discriminated against the same way as women of colour.
Updated 19 Feb, 2020

Tall, short, dark, white, petite or plump - beauty standards have affected women and their self-esteem all over the world in an attempt to tell them they are not enough.

Amidst the chaos, Shaniera Akram exclaims enough is enough.

Earlier today, she took to Instagram to speak about her struggles as a white woman who went through exhaustive lengths to look tan because she was told it was beautiful.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

“When I was growing up, we rubbed harmful oil on our faces and bodies and lay out all day in the harsh UV sun and burn to a crisp, just so that in 3-4 days the red and extremely painful burn would die down and eventually we would have a brown tan! We would also spend hours lying in a solarium which is fake sunlight machine risking skin cancers, skin disease, spots and adding years to our faces causing wrinkles and irreversible damage," she wrote.

"And when the sun wasn’t available we would also rub toxic stains and dyes in to our skin everyday to give our skin a 3-5 shades darker sun kissed brown look."

To conclude, she wanted her post to be a message of positivity and encouragement, which it is, to all the brown girls who were told they were not beautiful enough by those around them.

“What I’m trying to say is don’t try and change who you are, be happy underneath your skin, your beauty is interpreted by you, you are beautiful no matter what your skin colour is! And just remember, to all the girls with brown skin who want white, you are the envy of half the women on this planet, women and girls all over the world that go to any extremes to have your colour skin, so that’s got to be something worth enjoying!” she added.

Read: This photo highlights how we apply different standards to desi women versus foreign women

While we appreciate the sentiment, lets not pretend that we're cut from the same cloth; light-skinned folks get to rock the 'tan' without the burden.

Unlike the darkened skin on white bodies that symbolise a sun-kissed, self-care day off spent sunbathing and sipping cocktails, a woman of colour is seen as inferior, even in her own society.

Regardless of how many creams she uses, how much skin she covers, she is still ‘exposed’ to not just the sun – but also the harsh words of those around her. There is nothing ‘exotic’ about that.

“We thought that if our skin was brown we looked healthier, prettier and more attractive to boys. We would go to any length to change the colour of white to brown because that what what was instilled in our minds, that brown was more beautiful," stated Shaneira.

Except this is the problem. When fair people are obsessed with getting a tan, it is a choice they made and it is done in an effort to seem beautiful and exotic. But when a brown girl is bleaching her skin to look a little lighter, it is done in an effort to avoid all the oppression that comes her way because of her skin tone.

A white girl is never excluded from public spaces, ridiculed, or shamed for the way she looks even when she is not tanning her body but a brown girl faces the burden of her colour, especially when she’s not doing anything about it.

While Shaniera doesn't agree with us, and we respect that, we also don’t agree with the idea that ‘reverse racism’ exists; assumptions and stereotypes about a dominant race are examples of racial prejudice, not racism.

Until a white girl is deemed unworthy of marriage because of her colour, until a white girl is deemed unfit in society because of the way she looks despite her accomplishments, and until a white girl is denied employment because she is not 'attractive enough', we don't agree that they have shared our struggle.

Like, has she ever been told 'chai nai piyo kyunke kaali hojaogi?' Has Shaneira been deprived of chai because of her skin? Imagine that, girl.