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Are light-skinned women prettier?

Recently, a nine-year old girl I know asked her fair skinned grandmother, “Shosho, why am I not as beautiful as you are?”

Surprised, the grandmother reassured her that she was pretty, even quoting the Bible that she was ‘wonderfully and fearfully’ made.

The only reason the little girl was not convinced she was pretty was because of her dark complexion. Apparently, some of her friends had told her that without the light skin, you could not be considered beautiful.

I am a dark skinned girl. My mother is a bit fairer, but my dad, is what people call ‘black beauty’. I guess my dad’s genes overpowered my mother’s, hence my dark skin, or maybe the vagaries of growing up in the sun-scorched outskirts of Nairobi (Ruai) took their toll on my skin.

Growing up, I admired my father’s dark skin, I always wanted to be darker, like my father, because dark skin looks really good on him — until I reached Standard Six and somebody said that light-skinned girls were prettier.

Obviously, in my childish fantasies, I started imagining myself light skinned — I wanted to look more like my mother and less of my father. I even began applying cream which my mother used, thinking it would lighten my skin.

Accept and move on

In my high school years, I realised that there was nothing much I could do to change my complexion, save to accept, appreciate and move on. 

It is not a secret that most men prefer light-skinned women. While some men remain polite about this, most are outright about it, openly declaring that they will only be caught dead marrying a dark skinned woman simply because light skinned women are prettier and bring forth light-skinned babies.

And to them, those babies are the most beautiful.

A man’s ego swells with pride when he lands a ‘yellow-yellow’ or, in other words, a light skinned woman with rangi ya thao (the colour of a thousand-shilling note)’ and show her off to his friends, declaring “she will be the mother of my children”.

When a light skinned man marries a dark skinned woman, it is considered a downgrade for the man. People around them might not say this openly, they will sugar-coat it and say ‘that woman doesn’t suit him’.

I asked my friend this; You have two women to choose from. One is dark skin, the other light skin. Both equally educated and well-mannered. But in terms of facial symmetry that determines prettiness, the dark skin has it. The light skin, not so much. Which of them would you take?

His answer, without butting an eyelid, was the light skin. According to him and most men, the light skin gene is considered a superior gene to the darker one. 

Another male friend, agonising after his girlfriend of four years had dumped him texted me; “Do you know how hard it is in Nairobi to find a light skinned, virtuous, hardworking, bootylicious, smart girl?”

Note that he started with ‘light-skinned’, meaning that he by-passed dark skinned, virtuous, hardworking, bootylicious and smart girls, just looking out for the light skin. 

I have watched in horror, the vitriol and scorn poured over dark-skin girls on social media, especially on twitter.

Dark skins, on social media are inferior, ugly and do not deserve to post selfies on social media.

Bargaining chip

So where is the place of the dark skinned woman in this society? My fellow dark-skinned friend asked me over lunch.

I told her plain and simple; dark skin women work harder in school, at the work place and in relationships because they know they lack the light-skin bargaining chip.

I have nothing against light skins. This is about an inbred form of local racism that discriminates against dark skins and favours the yellow-yellow. It is about that nine-year old girl, stripped of her self-esteem at such a young age. 

I think we need to get over ourselves with all these ‘yellow-yellow’ versus dark skins debate for the simple reason that we are all Africans and we are considered ‘black’ by the world.

This light-skin, dark skin nonsense is just that, nonsense. If I were a ‘yellow-yellow’, would I write this piece, you ask? My guess is as good as yours.