Is Fair REALLY Lovely?

When I was growing up, FAIR AND LOVELY face cream was kind of a joke. After all, the whitening properties of the face cream, targeted at a South Asian female demagraphic didn’t apply to me. I was living in the U.S. where during the summertime, you’d see rows and rows of white bodies baking under the Florida sun. Trying to get darker.

But after a recent visit to Malaysia, I see that FAIR AND LOVELY has bigger aims. Their ads now target Asian women of all stripes: there are even ads on channels shown in Qatar.

The story is the same: the hard working, well deserving woman – model, designer, whatever – can’t get ahead with her assignments because her bosses all find her ‘dark’ skin tone unattractive. Introduce the cream, and VIOLA!, she’s on her way to being the next mega mogul.

I’m puzzled by these opposing long existing trends – white is desireable, but all white people  try to tan – which sreams of double standards and contradictions.

Why all the spray tans and ‘fake bakes’ if white people dislike browness?

Is this what is holding Obama back – a man who everyone admits has poise, confidence, and the momentum for a historical moment in the making – only he may also have a little too much brown in the face of Clinton’s whiteness?

My friend at the pool today suggested the mideval idea that white was a sign of class status: the fairier your skin, the less hard you were working, particularly with your hands in the sun.

But I suspect that a more malicious lingering of colonial ideology is to behind skin bleaching.

As my friend Allison used to say, “Here’s Moha, my little brown friend.”

And proud of it!

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Reader Comments

  1. ichthyus

    Hey Mo! I’ve thought about this a lot being a really dark Indian growing up in excessively colour-conscious Bombay. I think it two-fold – colonialism, definately. I’ve noticed that the black culture also has colour issues & the black friends I’ve spoken to on the issue point me in that direction.

    I alos think it has an element of the caste system in it. A rule of thumb used in India (obviously not applying to all people, but most) was that the darker you were, the lower your caste. In part because higher castes didn’t go work in the fields (or climb coconut trees for a living as my ancestors did).

    Either way, I see it as a horrible scourge – as bad as the weight obsession in the West. I used Fair & Lovely much as an individual with an eating disorder might use dieretics, exercise or caloric restriction. I obsessed over the shade of my skin & refused to expose myself to anything that might turn it darker. My moment of clarity was when I was a junior & a friend confessed her bulimia to me & told me her “tools” for maintaining her weight & I realised I had a problem & got rid of my bleaching creams.

    I hate it. I watched as people called our house when my parents were looking for a guy for Preethi & the first question out of their mouths was, “what colour is your daughter?” – this from total strangers! It was demeaning & reduced my sister to nothing but a skin tone – it felt like a friggin meat market! & I railed against t, only to be silenced by my sister who said that if she didn’t have a problem with it, then why should I.

    I don’t know the answers. We, as a race, will always find some parameter – hieght, weight, skin tone, bra size – to rate/categorize/diminish each other. All I can do is fight these fallacies in my life & fight them in the lives of the women around me.

    Any ideas?

    PS – sorry for the long rant

    • Mohanalakshmi

      What we can do

      It’s not a rant! It’s what bloggers love – discussion.

      I think you’re right. As a species we are great at criticizing each other and ourselves.

      The important thing is to be aware on an individual level and then support those around you who struggle with these things. Like your friend who shared with you her eating issues – you listened, showed empathy, and applied it to your own life – that’s the attitude of compassion which unites us.

      There are people who accept these ‘beauty standards’ as a matter of course. Pragmatists, like your sister’s reaction to a bridal search, are another response.

      Stay true to yourself and help others do the same – as much as they want you to – that’s all anyone can ask or do.

      Here’s to being DARK and LOVELY!

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