This Sunday’s Human Race has been the subject of much discussion.
There’s a sticker campaign.
And a paper-thing designed in an unending loop which everybody agrees is clever but doesn’t know what to do with. The whole office is participating. Friends and family included. The venue is the exotic Jahanpanah Forest. Just out of curiosity, I googled ‘Jahanpanah forest’
Seen outside Gurdwara Sis Ganj near Chandni Chowk, a devotee gathers a crowd with a religious video played from the roof of her car.
Beauty magazines tell me that were I a woman, I would have to be a minimum of 5’8”, slender and fair, to be considered ‘lovely’. In that case, India with its 1.12 billion population (92 per cent dark-skinned), we really cannot hope to have too many beautiful women. But statistics say otherwise. Between 1993 and 2002, we’ve had at least three Miss Universes and three Miss Worlds, none of whom were fair. Which brings us to the question, is fair really lovely?
According to advertisements peddling fairness creams, if you are not fair, then (a) you are not lovely (b) rush to your nearest dealer and procure this cream (c) because there’s a fairness meter (a shade card that will take you eventually to the fairness you desire). Simple. No promises of getting better quality of skin. Just a warning that overuse can actually damage your skin!
In this hysteria for whiteness, Indian advertising has sunk to a new low. In India alone, can we appreciate, and even encourage such advertisements. Elsewhere in the world, they would be entangled knee-deep in legal loopholes. What makes the Indian psyche a singular mess is the proud support of the degenerative imagery by iconic superstars. They have a responsibility toward the public to promote and encourage progress.
Such advertising that endorses myths in a negative manner only has the power to do so because we as the discerning public cultivate it. Fair enough. One can never be too thin or too fair is what we made while we created the beauty myth. But that does not absolve the advertiser. Fairness products imply that where you are right now is not enough. This is where the advertiser gets more culpable selling fairness products than, say, selling women Swarovski-lashed trousseaus. The lack of a designer trousseau does not imply or necessarily mean anything negative. It feeds on the basic insecurity of a dark-skinned human.
Interestingly, Unilever, the parent company that owns and manufactures India’s top-selling fairness cream Fair & Lovely, is usually not so brutal in its advertising elsewhere in the world. For its brand called Dove the advertising campaign is especially aimed at parents and children. It tries to explain that the beauty they see on hoardings is not necessarily real. It exhorts the public to understand in a series of dramatic freeze-frames how Photoshop is essentially what creates unblemished beauty. As a message from a global giant - touching. Very responsible advertising.
Giants like Unilever have advertising expenditures the size of some countries’ national budget. With that comes responsibility, because such budgets have an immense reach, the reach that can create a revolution. Imagine that. A mes
Sunil takes on India’s white-supremacists through this piece in the latest issue of Marie Claire. For those who may not know, ‘Fair & Lovely’ is a very popular cosmetic cream that promises to ‘make you fairer in just weeks’.