I have now lived in Mumbai for over 3 months, and not a day goes by when i turn on the TV, and there is at least one advertisement for a fairness cream. I had completely forgotten about this obsession with looking fair in India, until I came to India and was visually bombarded with advertisements on how fairness creams can magically transform your dark complexion into something that is fair and lovely. Believe you me, in India, we have a cream that is called “Fair and Lovely.”
As a psychologist, I can’t help but think about the message that is being sent out to millions of people who are exposed to such advertisements, day in and day out – being fair essentially means being lovely; being beautiful and attractive. How does this make sense? Since when did the color of your skin determine the extent to which you were physically attractive and beautiful?
It boggles my mind when I see tons of adverts on TV promoting this notion. We have a range of products such as Fair and Lovely by Hindustan Unilever, L’oreal’s fairness cream called White Perfect, Naturally Fair by Emami, Natural White by Olay, Pond’s White Beauty, Sparkling Glow by Nivea, Lakme’s Perfect Radiance, and Neutrogena’s Fine Fairness, to name a few!! By god, they have even now targeted fairness creams for men in India with actors of the likes of John Abraham, Shahid Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan endorsing these products and promoting messages of fairness being equated to beauty. Here is an image of John Abraham who is on TV and in magazines:
I think, for most part, we are still in the era of colonialism, always seeking and imitating the fairer complexioned colonizers of our time. It’s so true, the grass is greener on the other side. When I was living in India, I was always complimented on how “fair” I was, people sometimes mistaking me for a foreigner. I was, and still am, always aware of the fact that I was in an “advantageous” position because of the color of my skin. Being fair, being white, was a highly prized characteristic to have, especially for a woman. Moving to the USA, I became aware of how people loved to see my skin when I tanned, and envied my bronze complexion every time I spent even a few hours in the sun. I would walk into a room and, people who had spent hours trying to get a tan on the beach or at a sun tanning salon (with little success), would admire and appreciate the brown color of my skin. Now I am back in Mumbai and realize that my tan is fading, as I do not play any tennis as yet or hang out at the beach, and am aware that my “fair” skin will return and will be appreciated and valued in India.
All this “color of the skin” business is so superficial, and yet, is a reality that cannot be escaped in India. For instance, someone shared with me the other day that he himself has bought into the concept of being fair and lovely because he finds that women are more attracted to him when he is lighter skinned than his original color. What is going on??
Is it just me or is it absurd to think that this notion of “fairness” should not be endorsed on such levels and targeted to the masses? Somebody! Tell me what is really going on.