Feminism Fodder

All’s fair in ads

During my recent trip to India, I found one thing had not changed. The fairness ads. If anything, they seem to have become worse. There is still the mother handing her daughter a fairness cream so she can get an interview. There is still the girl using the fairness cream to get the boy to propose to her. But wait. There is something different.

There are now fairness creams for men.

But…there is still a bias.

The ads with the men don’t portray them as losing something due to being darker-skinned. Rather, men are portrayed as using the fairness cream after a hard day’s work. They are not scorned by women for being dark. They are not refused jobs for being dark. Why this blatant discrimination? (Please note, I am not for fairness creams in any way whatsoever…)

I rest my case when I say I grew up in a country where women are supposed to be slim, fair, know to cook, have babies, look after the babies/children, work if allowed and still keep house. Not too much to ask for.

Anyway, the whole fairness thing gets to me. It really riles me up. Especially because this is a country that is quick to point fingers at others about ‘racism’ when what is happening with ads such as these is nothing short of racism. It’s worse because it’s racism and sexism.

And I’m thankful I am no longer part of that society. The one that treats women as second-class citizens. And one that is run by hypocrites and encourages the same.

Until next time,


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  • Nu
    12 August 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Hey cool it down PB ! Whats up ? Well I must say you have pointed out a very striking difference amongst the two type of ads- for men & women !

    But not everything and everyone goes and thinks in the same direction.. things are changing and they will change more with growing times..

    BTW you haven’t visited my blog since long it seems..go visit there’s something for you 🙂

  • ani_aset
    12 August 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Chill PB…the society that you are a part of isnt either…hypocrites are everywhere. Be proud of where you are from…the problems are definitely there..and they are everywhere…what matters is what have you done about it? How did you react? 🙂

  • Titaxy
    12 August 2009 at 3:29 pm

    errr, it’s still there eh?…i thought things would’ve changed, at least a bit by now..:-(…anyway, only if people realize what a waste these things are and stop spending money on it.

  • Shankar
    12 August 2009 at 3:48 pm

    perfectly correct psych..I dont understand what skin tone has to do with a job??? ads here are so poor..just want to sell things..nothing is true…

  • Kartikey
    12 August 2009 at 6:08 pm

    * India has been under Islamic rule and then British rule for a long long time. Before them, we were really awesome; so we will take time to reclaim our glory.
    * Women in South India are voluptuous; the men love their dark and ‘fat’ women.
    * North Indian fairness complex has withered. You just watching some ads doesn’t mean that the country is one with the fairness culture.

    I rest my case when I say I grew up in a country where women are supposed to be slim, fair, know to cook, have babies, look after the babies/children, work if allowed and still keep house. Not too much to ask for.

    * Is this an Indian problem, really? Check this with science since you consider India second-rate.
    * Women like to have babies, really true. They may also like to work. Then at times they have to choose. If you do all things together, then you will feel frustrated. Applies to men.
    * Instinct demands you know how to cook. Despite the hamburgers and all. In the Indian family, the in-laws do help out. Despite the problems, this culture is not dead.
    * In case the in-laws are unfit and husband is working, women are not “allowed to work” as you like to call it. It’s not a restriction, it’s for the babies.
    * Many women happily look after babies in such cases. They are not depressed or unhappy.
    * All problems you mention are true. But it still doesn’t make us second rate.

    And I’m thankful I am no longer part of that society.

    And one that is run by hypocrites and encourages the same.
    The nation gave you the sense to think and write, didn’t it? Girl education is free. It still is.

  • Amol Naik
    12 August 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Ooohh..someone’s angry!!

    Fair-n-lovely..isn’t that fair at all…! Really, no one really bothered to ask that open question: Why fairness is important…???

  • Solilo
    13 August 2009 at 8:06 am

    Some things don’t change and then we cry racism in some other country. What we witness is achievers like Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor who made it big with their Brown skin endorsing fairness cream and telling the world that Brown is not okay.

    Imagine the plight of average dark Indian women.

  • Archana
    13 August 2009 at 8:37 am

    Argh, fairness cream ads. They’re so stupid. But people are obsessed to a point of madness in India. I was just in India a few weeks back and saw an ad that made my jaw drop even further than any fairness cream ad could have achieved.

    Did you get a chance to see this ad for “Unwanted-72” (a morning-after pill)? It was plain disgusting and pretty much promoting casual sex, because you can just wake up the next morning and pop a pill. The tag line was something like “Live your life hassle-free”.

    Yup. Messed up. Call me a prude, but ads like that don’t exactly send out the right message. You need to see it to understand how dumb it was played out.

  • Nu
    13 August 2009 at 5:46 pm

    @Archana: I agree with you on the account of “Unwanted-72” pill ad. It’s really not the right way to tell people what they really want to convey.. I mean if at all the intentions are right, yeah ?

  • Smita
    14 August 2009 at 4:01 am

    Yep!!! It is darn irritating for sure. They show what not in these ads, getting a job, a good buy, getting selected for some event everything dependent on complexion!!!

  • Psych Babbler
    15 August 2009 at 8:17 am

    @ Nu: Until those ads stop once and for all, only then will change occur. Even this time when I went back to Bombay, I got asked by a couple of people why I had been in the sun so much (bcoz I’ve gotten darker in Aus)!!! And these are educated people!!!!

    @ Ani: Sorry, I can never be proud of coming from India. Never have been even as a child. And what have I done…well, I am proud of being dark, and this time, when asked by people (see comment to Nu), I said yes, I have been out in the sun to get a tan esp in summer!

    @ Titaxy: Change…hah! I don’t think we’ll see that in our lifetime!

    @ Shanker: Tell me about it!

    @ Kartikey: I’m a south indian and no, dark was never considered good for me acc to all the relatives and other south indian family friends. Btw…girl education was not free when I studied at least. It was paid for. And I learnt my basics in Oman (first 10 years of my life was in school there). So no, I don’t owe India anything. I paid for my education throughout.

    @ Amol: Who knows why it’s imp?? It’s probably got to do with ancient things about class and caste where if you were from an upper class/caste meant you didn’t work out in the fields or do menial jobs and therefore remained light skinned. So darkness is probably associated with being of a lower caste. And I’m not surprised it happens in India which is a highly classist/casteist country

    @ Solilo: I know! It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

    @ Archana: Nope, haven’t seen that ad.

    @ Smita: Yeah…and the thing that caught my eye was that ‘dark’ men don’t have that problem acc to the ads. It’s only the ‘dark’ women!

  • Chatterbox
    16 August 2009 at 4:47 am

    I am glad I came across something against the ever so bugging ‘fairness ads’. I totally believe that the ‘Fair & Lovely’ concept was originally created to promote a brand of cosmetics, but it has eventually plagued the mind set of the whole society.

    ‘Milk white complexion’ is what every girl in India is made to dream to achieve. We need to grow past the superficial thinking if we wish to see India progress in the race of international competition.

    Thanks for the wonderful articles, keep up the fantastic works.


  • Reema
    21 August 2009 at 3:06 am

    I too wrote about this long ago.

  • Psych Babbler
    22 August 2009 at 11:34 pm

    @ Chatterbox: Thanks for visiting and for the comment!

    @ Reema: I remember reading that and think I commented on the same.

  • ariyathe
    23 September 2009 at 10:08 am

    I completely agree. As much as I love India, there are so many things that completely irk me, like the fairness creams.. a bit too anglophilic for my taste, especially since the British left AGES ago. But the fact that we still adore white skin; it’s pretty ridiculous.
    I had always thought that maybe these stupid ads, and even the matrimonial ads that described a prospective bride’s skin tone as being ‘wheatish’ or ‘milkish’ (who calls their daughter wheat?!), would end with this last generation of adults. But nope, the next generation has no problem picking it up too. It’s really sad.
    Especially in S. India (I’m from Kerala), so many stories of girls committing suicide because they were teased about skin tone or felt as though they were a burden to the family by being “too dark.” But what can be done??

    Personally, I like being brown. It’s the color of the earth. =)

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