Lovely Wins Against Fair Prejudice – #BlackLivesMatter Ripple Effect In India
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the…
Fair & Lovely is all set to go through a name change! Hindustan Unilever Limited, the company behind the product, is now embracing ‘& Lovely’ and finally abandoning its unfair persuasion to many generations of Indians to grow ‘lighter.’
It took the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the continuous conversation around discrimination based on color to force the company to decide on this radical step. ‘Colorism’ is perhaps the most visible form of racism in the subcontinent.
Published matrimonial ads routinely signal fair and wheatish complexioned as human shade cards. ‘Fair & Lovely’, in its decades of existence, had regularly advertised an association of fairness with a marriage, a job as an air hostess, and even as a doctor.
Nina Davuluri, the New York-based actor, producer, the first woman of Asian descent to win the Miss America title in 2014, and creator of a docuseries called COMPLEXion, had written an open letter to Alan Hope at Unilever on June 23, calling upon him to take back skin lightening products. Davuluri spoke from her personal experience – after being crowned Miss America, articles were published that asked “if Miss America was too dark to ever be Miss India?”
She told The Indian Express: “This is a big win, but it’s only the beginning. While Unilever removing words such as “fair, white, & lightening,” and changing the Fair & Lovely brand name is a step towards inclusion, it’s only one piece of a much larger fight to end colorism (still awaiting L’Oréal & Procter & Gamble). We can’t forget that there are many groups of people that have benefited immensely from this archaic notion of colorism. Groups such as the entertainment (Bollywood) industry, media conglomerates, and companies producing whitening products have poured billions of dollars into creating a very false, hierarchical, and racist image: that fair skin is the only type of worthy skin.”
Actor Nandita Das, an active voice campaigning against racism in the world of the performing arts, welcomes abandoning the ‘Fair’ in Fair & Lovely but says: “The fact it took so long for even a global company to stop spending crores on advertising on the absurd message of fair IS lovely should tell us how much longer it will take it to defeat the notion.
“Today is not the day to complain about that. Better late than never for HUL. While brands can only use the existing prejudice to their advantage, changing the narrative will spark the much-needed conversation around the issue of colorism.”
Davuluri is more circumspect; “This image has trickled down and seeped into the mindsets of people so much that the majority still believes that ‘fair skin’ is the ideal. The majority don’t realize that they’re buying into an ideology that directly feeds their own oppression. The majority doesn’t stop to ask, “Why?” Ultimately, unless companies, the media, and entertainment industries take an active approach to dismantle the very core beliefs that they themselves have built, we cannot break the cycle of colorism.
“So while this is certainly a step in the right direction, there is much more work to be done. How Unilever executes their rebranding strategy and new advertisement campaigns will be incredibly telling of their true intentions. And how Bollywood reacts to this new era of awakening will be noticed – up until now, their silence has been deafening.”
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.