I am brown-skinned, like most Indians. I’m not proud of it. Or ashamed. It’s just something I don’t think about. Much like I don’t about the color of my eyes. That’s the way it is with non issues I suppose.
Ever since I’ve been able to comprehend the stupidity and gravity of this fairness complex in India, I’ve observed with anguish and anger marketers playing to the gallery, milking it for all its worth. They’ve worked to affirm, deepen and build into frenzy a thought that they could have instead tried to ridicule and root out of the country’s social psyche.
Of course, the converse argument is that this complex has always existed; what is being offered simply is, a solution. Well, guess what? Preference for boys has always been out there too, with no marketer exploiting it (Thank God) because the horrors accompanying that issue are well understood. My contention is that fairness complex is as revolting a social issue because it leads people into living half a life based on a notion of inadequacy, on account of skin color. Surely that is criminal?
Fairness creams don’t work. This is a fact. The color of one’s skin has no bearing on one’s success or failure as a human being. That is a fact too. But, marketers would have you believe otherwise. An alarming territory.
Growing up, I recall seeing ads of Afghan Snow, Fair & Lovely, Emami fairness cream. This, apart from hordes of low brow fairness products crowding shop shelves. Their premise used to be ~ Use us, become fairer. Then HUL’s Fair & Lovely broke the mould by extending that premise and associating being lighter-skinned with feeling confident, feeling confident with being self-assured, being self-assured with being successful. What a wonderful fairy-tale that is! Of course it worked. Now the baselines of all fairness brands have something to do with self-confidence and achievement.
Just imagine the mindset of a little girl growing up in small town India with these subliminal messages being thrown at her by the ever ubiquitous TV. Couple that with fairness obsessed mentality of the society around her and you’ll understand why unless she is really strong-minded, she stands little chance of feeling 100% about herself, ever.
Stretching this elasticky argument a bit further, its obvious that the beauty industry is a bitch anyway because one can never be perfect, right? Breasts too small, bum too big, eyelashes too sparse, lips too thin, hair too curly, nails too short and so it goes. Where does one draw the line? It’s a fair question, one I have no clear-cut answers too as well. But what I do understand is that if we tell our children from when they are little, that the skin color they were born with is an impediment to their future, we are in the wrong. No greys there.
Let me bring in gently here, I am a marketer. Have been one for 11 years. Have worked on several brands. (And surprise) I have a conscience. I was approached to be part of the biggest fairness brand of India, an offer that was a huge deal then, an offer I rejected because I wanted to make a statement. Not to anyone else but to myself and my conscience. Because, if one has convictions, one has a choice.
Be the change you want to see, need not remain an adage always.