Fairness Products And The Unusual Racism In India

Posted on May 5, 2011 in Featured

By Sanika Natu:

Every time I turn on that idiot box they call Television, apart from those daily soaps or cranked up reality shows, I stumble upon innumerable commercials. From cold drinks to toilet cleaners and automobiles to cell phones, every brand seems to be in the race to grab most of the eyeballs in those timely allotted commercial breaks. When national banks or state tourism boards do not stay behind in advertising themselves on that box in front of your couch, we surely can’t deny the role of television in consumerism. And when consumerism seems to have soared to new heights in India, how can personal care products lag behind. After all, who doesn’t want to look good and feel good? This human psychology is what numerous perfume, talc, soap and cream brands seem to breed on.

One such kind of products are the ‘Fairness Creams’. With mercury rising each day in many cities across India, this personal care product has turned into a leader of the bandwagon. ‘Get rid of that tan, apply this and that’ is what most of the fairness cream brands seem to be telling the Indian masses. And with a good number of companies joining the bandwagon for turning every middle-class Indian fairer, these products and their advertising efforts cannot go unnoticed. I used the word ‘middle-class’ here for a reason. Indian society was divided into various castes during the Vedic period. Since then, the upper castes were unreasonably considered to be fair-skinned. As the time proceeded, India progressed. Though the caste system lost its significance in changing time and age, eventually, it shaped into the class system. Society got divided into sects depending on one’s monetary status and unfortunately fair-skin was related to the upper class. Hence, one can notice the common man portrayed as the subject of such fairness campaigns. Now, with Fairness Creams grabbing a huge chunk of the personal care products market, does it reflect the mentality of Indian masses? Do we live in a country obsessed with fairness and moreover, is it ‘fair’?

It is miserable to see Indians endeavour for a fair skin even when fair-skinned Indians are a minority in this country. If you ever happen to flip the matrimonial pages in any newspaper or surf through matrimonial sites, one similarity you would come across in most proposals is the demand for a fair bride. Why does Indian society consider pretty brides to be fair? Why do some orthodox families want their girls to be fair in order to get them happily married? Do they suddenly forget the morals and values taught to them about beauty being beyond outer appearances?

And if you thought the whole ‘get fair’ business was only confined to the ladies, I believe with some fairness products launched for men, they are in the race too. The commercials that are aired today propagate a myth that it is necessary to be fair in order to succeed. An aspiring actor, news reporter or even a sportsman is shown to achieve his goals in life only after getting a light tone of skin, courtesy the specified fairness cream. I am sure everyone will agree being light skinned isn’t the only way to success. One surely needs something beyond outer appearances to succeed in any field; they need talent. Then why are ignorant masses hampered with such wrong notions? This is the reason why thousands of Indians look out for such products even when they know that those can’t guarantee what they claim. Moreover, it is sad to see the well-educated population also falling in this trap. Do they expect themselves to turn fairer in a couple of weeks? Aren’t they aware of the fact that our skin tone is hereditarily determined by the amount of melanin present in our body? Fairness products can probably help you get rid of the tan. But are people dim-witted enough to agree that it would alter the amount of melanin in their body?

India has always been obsessed with fairness and the launch of such worthless products has only helped the obsession grow. Wrong notions of success and fame through outer appearances are outrageously portrayed and moreover, influential celebrities are roped in for such acts. A famous Bollywood star or cricketer giving credit to a certain product for being a sensation is surely not what should be ideally depicted. India is a place with hero-worship and celebrity sensationalism. And when here such wrong ideas are held up by the heroes, fanatics don’t fail to fall prey to it. Though there has been an improvement with a few dusky beauties grabbing the attention in Bollywood, the masses still seem to believe in the ‘get fair funda’ and commercials have further propagated such wrong ideas.

We live in a country that fought against foreign invasion and their atrocities. We boast of a man who stood against Apartheid. We stood up against those encroaching upon us and also against the evils within. We condemn racism when our fellow countrymen are brutally attacked in foreign land. But, somehow, we fail to notice this unusual kind of racism that we unknowingly practice. When any one of us, recommends or uses such products we somehow have indulged in racism. Feeling good and looking good is another story. Getting rid of the tan is acceptable but striving for a lighter skin tone is surely despicable. Why try to be something that you are not? Instead be as you are and be fair, to yourself.

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Unfortunately we have A great number of educated Illiterates.Not only on beauty products but on each and every foolish advertisement by celebrities are directly followed by them. like coke and pepsi etc.
You have raised a right issue. A good one .

Neha Saxena

I totally HATE this aspect of India. We say that countries like Australia and the US practice racism. What do we do? By making and selling fairness creams, aren’t we ourselves downgrading our own colour?

Gajanan Nigade

I totally agree with everything you have written. People here just fail to understand that the fair skin is not some kind of “Blessing”.
I have nothing against Vanity or Beauty Products for that matter. But, Beauty and Fair Skin are two mutually exclusive things.
The people in europe and North america turned white because of ‘LACK’ of sunlight. Why do we have to look like them? if not like them, then whiter than the people around us? why can’t everyone be proud to be Black, brown or White as they are naturally.
Our very own former President Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam is a Black man. Are these people trying to say that ‘he is not good enough’.
Its almost like they just want to sell their products, even it is at the self respect of an entire generation.
People who are influenced by these ads and the Karisma of the so called “Stars” selling them are the real fools.

sudha raghathaman

While I agree with your opinion on india’s obsession with theconcept of beauty that is just skin deep, I belive this is not just an Indian phenomemon. If you look at the ads in Europe they propagate tanned skin- the major diffs being – the ads in the west do not say so blatanly, that you are sucessful only if you have a certain skin tone.

The reasons for this could be- West is genuinely more sensitive and that there are stronger regulations.

It is after all the same company selling
‘fairness= beautiful+success’ to the dusky and
‘tan= attractive’ to the light skinned.

All of us have seen words such as ‘age-reversal’, age-defying’ creams.
I have often wondered on this one. Yet a lot of people fall for it.
Who is to blame? The Companies that make the products? The ad companies that propagate them? The media that airs them? The end user?

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