On June 25th, Hindustan Unilever announced that they are rebranding the name of their fairness cream, Fair & Lovely, to remove words like fairness, whitening, and lightening.
This move is a result of the online petitions issued against the company for promoting fairness. However, people around are not very happy with the company’s latest decision and expressed their views through memes and tweets. Here are some reactions.
For 200 years, people of India were discriminated simply because of their color. It began with the European colonialism that largely influenced the mindset that power belongs to the fair. Multiple studies prove that British rule is responsible for this mindset. The British did so by choosing light-skinned Indians over dark-skinned ones. Even today, Indians are fighting these biases set by the Britishers, something that should’ve gone years ago. Yet, we continue the unjust treatment based on the complexion of the skin even after we have come a long way from that era.
Colorism is very close to racism. Such discrimination triggers the injustice people have faced for so long, so the fact capitalists have been using these to manipulate us is disturbing. Owing to the Black Lives Matter Movement in the USA, India has begun to recognize and hold groups accountable for their discriminatory ways.
From the 1970s, Fair & Lovely has been abusing the insecurities of young women in South-Asian countries, by claiming to make their skins brighter by applying a cream. Almost all of South-Asia naturally consists of individuals with a brown-black or popularly known as the dusky complexion. However, with years of deep-rooted shadeism, people in the country are discriminated against, by people with slightly fairer skin. It becomes especially difficult for women of color to match the continuous demands of patriarchy.
The company has been using its capitalist ways to exploit the insecurities of women of color to their advantage. Today about 80% of Indian fairness creams market is occupied by this brand. It is a famous brand known by every other person because of the excessive amount of consumption. Since it has an MRP of Rs.21, this cream is easily accessible and is bought in huge numbers by lower-class to middle-class individuals. These purchasers include more than 50% of India’s population.
Believably, major consumers of this product belong to the age group of 20–35. But if studied, it can be found that girls as young as 12–13 years of age also regularly use this cream. Conservative elders often have known to advise teenage girls with dark complexions to apply this cream for ‘improving’ their skin color. Regular consumers use it as if a sun-screen or moisturizer of a sort.
Hindustan Unilever’s, Fair & Lovely for years has been using marketing and advertising ways to guilt-trip viewers into buying this cream. Their advertisements usually depict women trying hard to live up to the standards set by society. From a woman who is disliked by a potential marriage partner to a woman wanting to excel at her job, the cosmetic brand has preyed on women by portraying current social issues only to lure them into using this product.
And now, people are questioning if the Hindustan Unilever is trying to wash away years of self-bullying by renaming the brand? Although this comes as a sound step towards recognizing discrimination based on skin color, it still does not eradicate the self-condemning behavior individuals put themselves through.
Though something that would make the people believe the company truly understands the harm they have been causing to people not only mentally but physically is for the brand to stop the production of such creams. It will not only promotes a message of self-acceptance but also create awareness among the capitalist industry that lures its customers into such scams.
Nevertheless, steps like these encourage other similar brands like Hindustan Unilever to rethink their marketing strategies and the message they promote. Renaming such a big brand will also make its buyers question the use of this product, leading them to make wiser and better choices.
Lastly, this takes us closer to ending the decades-long injustice of people based on their color, as we move further as a progressive and democratic world.