Next door Indian girls: they are now educated and either working or aspiring to build great careers. Most of them have realized the importance of looking great too as they regularly spend days and evenings with their male colleagues across the country. Most of them are conscious of their body and language. They are physically active in parks, gyms, marketplaces and indulge themselves in beauty parlors. Timing is just right for India and her daughters to assert and express themselves. More importantly saying it boldly to the world what they want to.
In 2012, a Mumbai based pharmaceuticals company had launched vagina whitening cream. Soon after the media launch, social media and TV channels polarized the launch into a social, cultural, moral and professional debate. The comments on the concept were mixed but most comments from women were very bolder than expected. Ann from Mumbai had commented:
Ohh F*** OFF!! Women don’t want to tighten or whiten anything. They just hope their husbands n boyfriends will love them regardless any change in their body. This is what MEN want and it will only encourage young minds to raise their expectations when it comes to choosing women. Seriously…if such things cause insecurities n problems in married life, clearly u r not mature enough to be married.
The mention of the word whitening takes us to a leading multinational brand’s text on its website. It reads:
Fair & Lovely’s skin-lightening technology is known to be the best in the world! However, this hasn’t stopped the brand from innovating further to pioneer the development of cutting-edge fairness solutions. Fair & Lovely’s brand-essence of ‘Re-scripting Destiny’ has played a decisive role in its noteworthy presence in over 30 countries.
While there is no direct parallel to the above two references, it is only fair to decode what Fair & Lovely means by ‘Re-scripting Destiny’. The brand essence presumes the need to re-imagine what one is destined with. Fair & Lovely has many extensions like ‘Advanced Multivitamin’, ‘Anti marks’, ‘Ayurvedic’, ‘Forever Glow’, ‘Fairness Men’, ‘Under Eye Serum’, ‘Winter Fairness Cream’ etc. All these extensions intend to borrow and replenish the essence of ‘Re-scripting Destiny’.
Recent guideline on fairness promise in advertising reads as- “The new rules propose, among other things, that ads should not show darker skinned people as unhappy, depressed, or disadvantaged in any way by skin tone, and should not associate skin colour with any particular socio-economic class, ethnicity or community.”
Till recently fairness brands have been built on storylines about how being dark skinned could affect the job, success and marital prospects of consumers.
Film director Shekhar Kapur famously tweeted:
MNC1: My dream is to turn India white with my fairness creams
MNC2: Mine is bigger. To sell them skin repair creams after you destroy them.
Another tweet said, “Most skin fairness creams are chemical bleaches that in long run will ruin your skin in any case”. There are millions of Indian girls who are not buying the myth of fairness. And in fact, there will be thousands of fairness products’ users who will be dissatisfied or lapsed. It is this group that needs acknowledgment and applause from a new Indian brand that is not in awe of MNC ideas. A new brand idea can bring back the self-worth of women regardless of the color of skin.
A new attitudinal change idea could spur new conversations and new engagement. It could bring back her attention from fairness to self-worth measured in terms of talent, passion or just simply being good human.
Freedom from Fairness – The New Challenger Idea
The new brand narrative is not about ‘dark is beautiful versus fair is fabulous’ but an ‘indifference to complexion’ in times when ‘real difference lies in self-belief or a girl’s competency to take on new challenges and opportunities. It is a shift from ‘destiny’ to ‘karmic control’ worldview. The new narrative is perhaps not to re-script destiny but not to believe in the idea of destiny at all. The new belief is not borrowed from external divinity or outer strengths. It is sourced from within an individual’s upbringing, education, career environment and inner courage. This is more amplified among Indian girls as they get more support nowadays and the visible difference in their self-confidence is higher & sharper as compared to men.
The attractiveness and beauty anxieties were essentially overriding earlier but the new ones have surfaced. The foremost anxieties now are education, career and financial independence. The new archetype is defined by her ambition and success and not by her complexion or beauty. Someone who is not stuck in the gender stereotypes.
In a recent movie storyline, champion boxer Mary Kom’s father is against her taking up boxing because her face may be spoiled. But she goes against his wishes and takes up boxing. At one point her father asks her choose between him and boxing but Mary Kom chooses boxing. Finally she makes him, her family and India proud. In her story, it is her ambition that has taken higher ground over her beauty. Her powerful fist makes her face beautiful. Mary Kom knew her self-worth. She did not not need a fairness cream to punch her way to success. In the same way, a software engineer, a doctor, a teacher, a banker woman, a student does not need fairness cream to win over life’s challenges or re-script destiny.
Time has come when the physical attributes must not lead to insecurity or security in an Indian girl’s mind. The real need is to help young girls develop an image of self-worth that not only accepts but respects their true features, complexion, and beauty – an idea that simply wipes dust from the face of truth instead of evoking a beauty myth.
The ‘Fair & Lovely’ myth destroyer brand role in consumer life is not to re-script destiny but to disregard destiny, to have inner force and stronger self-belief. The new attitude is not indifferent to skin but indifferent to color of skin.
Next door Indian girl’s take on the subject now is:
I did not like the comments on my complexion during my childhood. Later during my growing up years, people, especially relatives, kept suggesting beauty or fairness recipes. My skin is not a white rose. My skin is certainly not a visual of attraction or love or desire. Just like the color of my eyes, color of my lips, color of my hair, color of my teeth, color of my nails, the color of my skin is just fine. It does not need special treatment or attention. It is healthy enough. And it certainly does not need special punishment of chemical bleaching.
I did not like fairness promises then and now I am uncaring. I have grown up watching that ‘dark to fair’ complexion in seven days miracles only on TV. I have never embarrassed myself or hurt self-esteem in front of the mirror. There is no other DNA appearance on human body except complexion which has been more insulted and exploited as skin. My skin does not need to be roughly peeled. Like the color of eyes, I am happy with the color of my skin. My face need not be whiter than my other body parts. I am perfectly fine with my face and skin complexion. I don’t want to feel confident with fairness because I don’t know what ‘fairness’ means. I don’t want heads to turn for my complexion and I am pretty sure I don’t want any white glow emanating from my skin. I drink lot of water, run and do yoga. I take good care of my metabolism and hormonal balance. I have good immunity and well-oxygenated body. I am not Kareena and I don’t want to look the part of fair people. I am OK. How I look naturally after I have taken normal water bath and used my mother’s soap, is absolutely fine. I am perfectly normal human being. I don’t need to have an aura. I don’t need to hide my face, feel low in interviews, or sulk. I don’t need to challenge and win over other contestant. I don’t want to compete on complexion. Give me fresh spring water to clean my face and leave my skin alone.