'I think a fair girl would have better marriage prospects than a dark one': British Indian adults´ perceptions of physical appearance ideals


  • Savita Bakhshi
  • Anna Baker


The aim of the present study was to investigate British Indian men and women’s perceptions of Indian physical appearance ideals and related attributes. Eight semi-structured interviews with men and women were conducted, and the data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Four themes emerged from the data: 1) Cultural similarities and differences in physical appearance, 2) Gender differences in pressure experienced, 3) Improving physical appearance for marriage, and 4) Factors influencing appearance pressures. The findings indicated that participants perceived few cultural similarities in the Indian and Western standards for physical appearance. Internalisation of Indian body ideals (including fair skin and slimness) were linked to finding a suitable partner for marriage for women, and this pressure was largely perceived to be influenced by maternal encouragement and the media. The results indicate that gender is influential in determining the physical, psychological and social implications of attempting to conform to the cultural physical appearance ideals and related attributes.