Either as your grandmother’s favourite piece of advice or through the perpetual barrage of fairness cream advertisements on television, if you’re an Indian, it’s hard to miss the magical myths of fair skin is everywhere. One such myth that I came upon, that struck a cord with me was that ‘fair skinned persons don’t lie’, which, needless to say is enough to reveal the fair-skin obsession that plagues the young minds of our society.
Consumer brand Hindustan Unilever announced on June 25 that it’s dropping the word ‘Fair’ from its popular skin-whitening cream brand ‘Fair & Lovely’ to achieve a ‘more inclusive vision of beauty’. However, it’s still a change that only goes skin deep as the change, by all accounts, remains at the level of branding. It was also announced that announced, the emphasis would be shifted from “fairness” to “glow”. But words such as “glow” and skin “brightening” have long been used by cosmetic products as more acceptable alternatives for treatments that aim to lighten skin tone.
Banning anything that goes against the norm seems to be the pitch of the season. The barrage of criticism against the way fairness creams are being promoted in the advertisement is the ‘height of creative low’. Instead of projecting a healthy thought, these ads seem to be promoting stereotypes and problematic beliefs such as fairness being a resume-worthy quality. The ads play big on the connect people have with skin fairness and the job they do. It is blatantly projected though the numerous ads where the girl gets rejected from an interview for the role of a flight attendant-fashion model-teacher. Armed with fairness cream, the renewed zeal of the woman gets her the job she aspired to do. How convenient! These ads must be banned for glorifying skin complexion as part of the resume. It also seems to convey very ambiguous messages. Are dark-skinned individuals the only consumers who use fairness creams? Even those born with the ‘quality’ use dollops of cream and expect to retain their fairness for ever. Despite this fact, the ads continue to project the creams as a Messiah for dark-skinned people. It breeds contempt among users and potential customers. The advertisements also seem to portray that the wonder creams have the ability to get you married or turn you into a star overnight!
However, at the end of the day, they exist because people buy them, and since there is a market for them…like all products or services. But yes, they do feed into the existing prejudice and preference against a darker complexion.
Products like these, make people ashamed of their originality. It’s a shallow concept and its propaganda is ignominious. Some people make a fair skin tone as the yardstick of a person’s success. A woman once hinted me that I am excelling in a lot of places because I am fair skinned. Thank you, fairness creams ads. The question isn’t about the fact that whether or not dark is beautiful. The question is about an individual’s dignity. Let’s not stoop this low to believe in the authenticity of such a biased idea of beauty. So, should the skin-whitening products be allowed to take such a significant place in our society?
I guess, the answer is pretty simple. We don’t need products which make people diffident and which make people shallow in their perseverance of beauty. At the end of the day, they are just devouring off our backward mind-set, insecurities and inferiority complex.
Dropping of fair in the name of a face cream is, thus, only symbolic. It does not change the social bias towards fairness specially for women. They’re just as problematic. Such changes may lend these products a glow of wokeness. But it only whitewashes the in-built prejudices that are yet to be challenged in any meaningful way.
In a country obsessed with fairness creams, people should be educated to find beauty beyond skin colour.