South Asian marriage websites under fire for color bias

Author:
Sun, 2020-07-12 14:36

DHAHRAN: An online backlash has forced the matrimonial website
Shaadi.com to take down an ‘skin color’ filter which asked
users to specify their skin color using descriptors such as fair,
wheatish or dark. The filter on the popular site, which caters to
the South Asian diaspora, was one of the parameters for matching
prospective partners.

Meghan Nagpal, a Toronto-based graduate student, logged on to
the website and was appalled to see the skin-color filter. “Why
should I support such archaic view [in 2020]?†she told Arab
News.

Nagpal cited further examples of implicit biases against skin
color in the diaspora communities – women who are dark-skinned
are never acknowledged as “beautiful†or how light-skinned
South Asian women who are mistaken as Caucasian consider it a
compliment.

“Such biases stem from a history of colonization and the
mentality that ‘white is superior’,†she said.

When Nagpal emailed the website’s customer service team, she
received the response that “this is what most parents require.â€
She shared her experience on a Facebook group, attracting the
attention of Florida-based Roshni Patel and Dallas-based Hetal
Lakhani. The former took to online activism by tweeting the company
and the latter started an online petition.

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the site
eventually removed the filter.

“Now is the time to re-evaluate what we consider beautiful.
Colorism has significant consequences in our community, especially
for women. People with darker skin experience greater prejudice,
violence, bullying and social sanctions,†the petition reads.
“The idea that fairer skin is ‘good’ and darker skin is
‘bad’ is completely irrational. Not only is it untrue, but it
is an entirely socially constructed perception based in
neo-colonialism and casteism, which has no place in the 21st
century.â€

Overnight, the petition garnered more 1,500 signatures and the
site eventually removed the filter.

“When a user highlighted this, we were thankful and had the
remnants removed immediately. We do not discriminate based on skin
color and our member base is as diverse and pluralistic as the
world,†a spokesperson said.

“If one company starts a movement like this, it can change
minds and perceptions. This is a step in the right direction,â€
said Nagpal. Soon after, Shaadi.com’s competitor Jeevansathi.com
also took down the skin filter from its website.

Colorism and bias in matrimony is only one issue; prejudices are
deeply ingrained and widespread across society. Dr. Sarah Rasmi, a
Dubai-based psychologist, highlights research and observations on
how light skin is an advantage in society.


The website took down the skin filter following backlash.

“Dark skin tends to have lower socio-economic status and, in
the US justice system, has been found to get harsher and more
punitive sentences.

“These biases for fair as opposed to dark skin comes from
colonial prejudices and the idea that historically, light skin has
been associated with privilege, power and superiority,†she
said.

However, in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter protests, change is
underway.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson announced that it will be
discontinuing its skin whitening creams in Asian and Middle Eastern
markets, and earlier this month Hindustan Unilever Limited
(Unilever’s Indian subsidiary) announced that it will remove the
words ‘fair, white and light’ from its products and marketing.
To promote an inclusive standard of beauty, it has also renamed its
flagship Fair & Lovely product line to Glow & Lovely.

“Brands have to move away from these standards of beauty and
be more inclusive so that people – regardless of their color,
size, shape or gender – can find a role model that looks like
them in the mass media,†said Dr. Rasmi.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
South Asian marriage websites under fire for color
bias