Fair and lovely?


Many of us must have come across such advertisements in matrimonial columns of Indian newspapers. The only word in the headline that I have a problem with is “fair”.

It reeks of racism, of backwardness, and is a classic example of reverse racism in a country like India. When the British ruled us, they hated us for our brown complexion. But we looked up to them. “Gora saabs” and “gori mems” fascinated us no end. Today the British have moved ahead in terms of thought, but we are still stuck with our fascination for fair skin. Beauty product companies are leveraging on this very fascination and making millions.

“Fair” is now synonymous with “lovely”. “Fair” is now synonymous is “Handsome”.
These beauty products promise impossible change in complexion within a month or two. And they are supported by these equally ridiculous television advertisements.

A dark skinned girl is a very good singer but she is low on confidence. But the moment she uses a certain fairness cream, she becomes the winner of a singing reality show.

A dark skinned junior artist is always sidelined and given smaller roles. But the moment she smears ‘so and so’ fairness cream, she is the star in a big budget movie.

The fact that the public is buying these ads is evident. And slowly but steadily, this is getting embedded in the psyche of the Indian masses. Every groom seeks a fair bride, and they proclaim it shamelessly in the matrimonial advertisements.

And it is not just limited to the female beauty care range. In the course of last few years, a new trend has come up in the male skin care section. And fairness creams for males are also being sold. A self-proclaimed “King” of Bollywood endorses such fairness creams for Indian men. So does a ‘so-called’ actor with over grown biceps. “Take care” – he says in the advertisements. Gone are the days of the classic T-D-H (Tall dark handsome) Indian male.
This is the age of the fairness cream smearing, metrosexual Indian male.

But, we all need to stop and ponder.
Is such promised fairness achievable?
Is it healthy?
Is it permanent?
And more importantly, is it necessary? Is Fair really Lovely? Is Fair really Handsome?


13 comments on “Fair and lovely?

  1. Monika Bakshi Singh says:

    Vey apt topic to write on…very thoughtful. πŸ™‚ But you know what, I still love the TDH concept. πŸ™‚

  2. Thank you:)
    I guess ‘he’ is totally TDH!

  3. Jamie Furlong says:

    Another excellent post, Subh. I blogged about this exactly a year ago, which you can read here: http://www.followtheboat.com/2011/05/24/fair-enough-the-shame-of-the-indian-beauty-industry/

    In it I highlight my disgust at the Indian beauty industry for continuing to sell the idea of fair being desirable. Hoardings selling fashion and jewellery use Indian female models who are whiter than my wife. It is pathetic, disgusting, irresponsible and shameful.

    Recently an Indian friend of mine got a visa photograph taken. The photography studio offered a service of Photoshopping his skin to look whiter, which he opted for. This dark-skinned Indian (he’s black like a Tamil) now looks whiter than me in his visa photo. Amusing but sad at the same time.

    The ultimate irony, however, is this: whilst the Indian beauty industry continues to sell the idea of fairer skin, us fair-skinned westerners spend millions of pounds on products to make us look darker!

    It seems, then, no matter where you come from in the world, there will always be shallow, vain idiots who buy into the beauty industry, no matter what the fashion. People should embrace their own identify and not be ashamed of it.

  4. I think it is a classic case of the grass being greener on the other side, Jamie.

  5. Just read your post. Nice read, Jamie.

  6. How very interesting, especially when British women (and a growing number of men) are obsessed with having ‘darker’ skin, and sporting tan is considered beautiful and healthy. There are countless self-tanning creams on the market to fulfil this desire.
    I’m hoping that one day soon, we ‘wake up’ to knowing our true beauty, and having confidence in our own skin, whatever it’s shade. X

  7. I find this very interesting, especially since I came here in the wordpress ‘topics’ search for “Beauty” – which is usually a light, cheerful search haha. I think that its definetly wrong that theres pressure to be lighter. I know the same thing often occurs in other asian countries where whitening creams are massive too. What is shown in the beauty adds of a country should reflect its population, not try to force the population to reflect an old, and now freely admitted to be wrong- ideal. I think the beauty industry has alot to answer for when it comes to accepting people as they are – it seems that beauty is unable to accept all kinds of looks. First everyone is about skinny, and now to be skinny is becoming alienating in alot of new media, just as the natural and beautiful darker skin has become alienating when it should just be accepted and wanted.
    Great post, really thought provoking.

  8. Thank you.
    I think the beauty product industry has used the media for its personal gain, to create an atmosphere, where being dark is a sin. So, is the case of health and wellness industry that makes life difficult for heavy people. If you watch the adverts closely, you can pick up subtle signs which are used to portray dark skinned or heavier people as losers. I think we need better monitoring. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. Nice , informative read, Jaydei.

  10. really good post and i have seen lot of posts on this…sadly the collective thought process of the society is changing at much slower rate!!!


    • Thanks a lot for stopping by, Sushmita, and for taking time to share your thoughts.

      I agree that the collective thought process of society is changing at a slower rate…..but who knows?
      Maybe someday. . . πŸ™‚

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