Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter Suhana Khan has made headlines for her recent Instagram post, in which she called out India’s fetish for fair skin and recounted how she has been called ugly because of her skin tone since she was 12 years old.
The brave and honest post about colourism was hailed by many. Suhana may also be the first star kid in India to open up about facing colour bias.
But not everyone was impressed. Many called her a hypocrite and asked her to preach to her father first, who for years has endorsed fairness cream brands.
Heights of HYPOCRISY in Bollywood.
— Akanksha Mishra (@Akanksha_M24) September 29, 2020
#SuhanaKhan you should be penning a note to your own father Shah rukh Khan to #EndOfColourism ! He is the one promoting skin whiteners for money! Colour prejudiced was created by the likes of your father in the industry! pic.twitter.com/vO8xygzoC5
— JIX5A જીક્સા (@JIX5A) September 29, 2020
We can certainly question SRK’s association with a men’s fairness cream brand, but why drag his daughter into the ethics of his choices? Can’t we just appreciate the fact that a 20-year-old young woman has spoken up on an issue that Bollywood has only unapologetically promoted and perpetuated? An issue that India’s film industry, even in 2020, can’t wrap its head around — the ‘Beyonce sharma jayegi’ debacle is still painfully fresh in our memories.
Aren’t we beating around the same patriarchal bush if we are holding a daughter responsible for her father’s choices? Is she not entitled to have an opinion of her own?
The pushback Suhana faced only reiterates how, as a society, we love to pin the blame on women and target them for men’s actions and failures. Remember how actor Anushka Sharma was recently dragged into a controversy over her cricketer husband Virat Kohli’s unimpressive performance in an IPL match?
If Shah Rukh Khan endorses a men’s fairness cream, it is his failure and misjudgment as a public person, and people need to question him for making that choice. Not slam his daughter.
Shouldn’t we, instead, acknowledge the fact that while Shah Rukh Khan played a role in perpetuating colourism by choosing to endorse a fairness cream, his daughter, at least, has shown some spine by speaking up against it?
The object of our scorn should be the father here, not his daughter who is speaking up against the problem.
Women are an easy target
A quick scroll through Twitter made me realise that people seem to have made up their minds to target Suhana.
From questioning whether she deserved to be on the cover of Vogue India to wondering out loud why she has a blue tick on her Instagram account, social media users seemed less interested in Suhana’s stance on colourism, and more inclined towards questioning her privilege. This just seems like an attempt to digress from the real issue of colour prejudice.
I have NO personal grudge against #Suhanakhan BUT I wud like to knw how can this girl who's not yet an artist nor a blogger, how can she just get this blue tick?While other artists who r struggling get NOTHING?Just bcoz she is #ShahRukhKhan daughter? @TwitterIndia @KanganaTeam pic.twitter.com/Ge294egQMR
— Shika Div 💙 (@Shikadiv) September 29, 2020
#Suhanakhan Gets hate due to the Vogue cover which she did nothing to deserve. However her point is valid, some people still believe having Indian skin tone is a curse. Soha Ali Khan's daughter and Kareena Kapoor Khan's son were given superstar status after birth for fair skin!
— Everyone matters. (@Dramaquueeeen) September 30, 2020
This digression is quite characteristic of how Indian society approaches the issue of colourism in the first place.
Indians aren’t too comfortable in talking about something that is so widespread and practised so openly across the country. Any attempt to discuss such deep-rooted obsession will either be dismissed or be met with hostility and counter-attacks. Remember the deafening silence from Indian cricketers after their colleague from West Indies, Daren Sammy, called them out for being racist.
Suhana has now witnessed the same thing. People tried to shut her down by questioning her privilege and self-worth because they aren’t really interested in discussing the real issue at hand.
A troll favourite
This isn’t the first time that Suhana has been the target of online hate. She has been mercilessly trolled in the past for her physical appearance, her skin tone and her fashion choices.
What was constant in all these online attacks was the fact that she was always slammed for her looks and complexion. Distasteful comments about her appearance would always flood her social media posts every time she uploaded a picture of herself.
As a 20-year-old, it was quite brave of Suhana to open up about the discrimination she has faced as a child, and still continues to face. I know how hard it is to “distance yourself from the melanin”, as Suhana rightfully pointed out in her post, when your family, friends, neighbours keep reminding you about how central your skin tone is in India. At Suhana’s age, colour bias had affected me so much that I chose to live my harsh reality in silence.
But she chose to speak up, and therefore, deserves to be lauded for choosing to voice her concerns. Such frank discussions on colourism will open doors for many other women to share their stories of discrimnation, instead of having to suffer in silence. Be it a star kid or a layperson, colour bias is painful for everyone. So, if someone has chosen to condemn it openly, they must be encouraged. That’s how we can keep up the fight against colourism.
Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.