Nandita Das Says That Changing The Names Of Colour Biased Cosmetics Is Not Really Going To Change Anything. We Agree
Like the rest of the world, India is a country obsessed with skin colour. People who are fair-skinned are put on a pedestal while the rest of us are looked down upon. It’s always been this way. Believe it or not, this obsession has its roots in colonization and white supremacy. If you ask any dusky-skinned woman, they will all have stories that best define this prejudice. The irony is that India is a country full of brown people with an unhealthy, subconscious infatuation with fair skin. Thank you, Britishers!
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction internationally, it forced us to introspect and talk about similar social issues that plague our society. And if you have lived in India long enough, then you know that colourism is a very serious problem here. This has been talked about in the past, multiple times, but the efforts at reformation have been mediocre at best.
This time though, when the Black Lives Matter movement led to the colourism debate making a comeback, things were different. It wasn’t just big talk, people wanted to see change. As we all now know, the first products that came into the scanner were fairness creams. Of course, for years these products have received a lot of flak for feeding people the idea that having fair skin equals being successful in life. We all remember those Fair and Lovely ads, don’t we? The ones that showed how a dusky girl applies the fairness cream and suddenly her life is absolutely perfect. From the dream job to a dreamy boyfriend, she has everything handed to her on a silver plate. Really?! I still can’t believe people bought into that.
We’re committed to a skin care portfolio that's inclusive of all skin tones, celebrating the diversity of beauty. That’s why we’re removing the words ‘fairness’, ‘whitening’ & ‘lightening’ from products, and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name.https://t.co/W3tHn6dHqE
— Unilever #StaySafe (@Unilever) June 25, 2020
Anyway, after a lot receiving a whole lot of social media backlash, last month, Hindustan United Limited announced that they would be rebranding their fairness product- Fair and Lovely to make it less prejudice propelling-y. Following that move, L’oreal announced that they will too be removing words like “fair and “white” from their product descriptions.
The thing is, it’s a move that should’ve been done years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed that they decided to even do that but it’s too little and definitely too late. Those products need to be taken off shelves. But they won’t take it off the shelves, will they? The truth is that colourism sells. Rebranding them is a nice move on paper but in reality, it seems rather pointless.
In fact, actor and filmmaker Nandita Das also shares this opinion. She too feels that just merely changing the names of fairness creams, will not change anything.
In a recent interview with Etimes, Nandita says “In a culture where beauty is primarily defined by the colour of one’s skin, we need to solve the problem of fairness obsession we all carry. Maybe some in the cosmetic industry are realising that such products and imageries feed racist and colourist stereotypes..Will the mindset change and to what extent? But having said that, every step in the right direction needs to be acknowledged.”
Also Read: After Fair And Lovely, L’Oreal Will Remove Words Like ‘White’ And ‘Fair’ From Its Products. We Need To Do More As A Society
Of course, every step needs to be acknowledged but it would’ve made more of an impact if they had taken stronger action.
We agree with Nandita though, that changing the names of fairness creams will not end the decades-long obsession people have had with fair skin. The reason for that is simple. The prejudice is too deep-rooted now and the way to combat it is not as superficial as rebranding products.
These fairness creams have already done too much damage. Most of which we can’t see on the surface. Countless young girls are being told day in and day out that they aren’t pretty or worth it because they are dusky. Families are still hounding their dark-skinned daughter with a haldi paste to make her skin lighter, shredding her self-esteem to bits in the process. Think about this for a minute, is changing a name going to change all that? Is it really going to make any difference at all?
Although, we can’t deny that it’s a measly first-step. Now, we have to do more.