Asian matchmaking site, Shaadi.com, finally removed its color filter on their platform after being under fire by a petition created by three young women aspiring to make a change.
After deciding to get back on Shaadi.com earlier this year, Toronto-based Shaadi user, Meghan Nagpal, noticed something odd about the platform. The site filtered out skin colors, such as “fair,” “wheatish,” and “dark,” to allow users to discriminate between skin colors while choosing their match.
“The obsession with fair skin is still notorious within South Asian communities,” Petition creator, Hetal Lakhani said. “The notion that fair skin makes a better bride/husband is still of significance. Whilst completely ignoring the personality, experience of life and the ability to make a good partner and son/daughter in law.”
During this time period, the protests around the Black Lives Matter movement were also occurring, which sparked Nagpal’s idea of taking action against this feature. Nagpal first tweeted at Shaadi.com and subsequently posted the same message on Facebook.
“I had been on the site in 2019, didn’t find anyone and moved on,” Nagpal said. “My mom thought I should give it another go, but it happened when the George Floyd protests were happening and there was talk in the South Asian community about colorism. I thought it’s one thing to use social media hashtags, and it’s another thing to make a change so I thought a small change would be addressing something used by average people, matrimonial sites.”
Nagpal then took further action by contacting Shaadi.com on June 10, writing an email about the policy and why it was discriminatory, but was told that the policy was “required by most parents,” according to CNN.
Afterwards, Nagpal posted the response in a Facebook group, which elicited a response from Dallas-based Lakhani. Fired up, Lakhani created a Change.org petition to remove this color filter.
“This all started when Megan posted about her interaction with customer care of Shaadi.com. They told her that they would not remove the color filter (essentially used for search filtering) because parents needed it,” Lakhani said. “I wanted to make sure that the filter gets removed so I took help of social media and the petition website called Change.org. I wanted to bring a change and was confident that enough voices coming together can do it. Within 24 hours we had 1500 signatures and a lot of attention from people who believed this was wrong.”
At first, Shaadi.com responded, trying to state their company values. However, despite this original response, Shaadi.com announced that they would be removing the feature, as they stated it was a “blindspot”.
“I felt upset the first time around but once I asked them the valid reasoning behind it they were able to give a response and take it down,” Patel said. “I was upset just like Hetal and Meg that they did not give an apology statement. I think that maybe because this is happening during the George Floyd movement they finally stepped up. It was time for change – its just sad that it happened later than earlier as this is a topic of issue which has been happening for years. We need to break stereotypes and such culture norms that were believed in the 18th century. We are in the 21st century. It is time for change.”
“Very casually, people mention how someone is fair and pretty. Or, they would say, she is so pretty, but sigh, she is dark,” Lakhani said. “It is an omnipresent ingrained thought. I have personally been called Wheat ‘ish’ countless number of times and it always sounded condescending. In a way, it sounded like I have lost merit because I am not fair. I wanted to stand for something that personally affected me and make a change.”
Despite this tweet, no formal statement was issued and the website denied any bias towards fair-skinned people.
“I’m surprised they haven’t released a formal statement and are minimizing that function as product debris,” Nagpal said. “Because that function was available last year. While I’m pleased with the end result, I would like them to take responsibility for the past and work to rectify this in the future”