Fairness product Photograph:( Others )
Just by removing one word from the name of the product doesn't change the fact that it still is a FAIRNESS product.
Remember the evil witch’s obsession with fairness as she talks to the mirror in Snow White or Son Pari’s villain Kali Pari? Right from the shows we make our children watch to the filters we put in our photographs, the madness of looking fair is rooted very deep in our minds. Seems like this racial discrimination between fair and dark skin has been going on since the stone ages, it just refuses to budge! On the other hand, we have the beauty industry that plays on India's non-stop colour discrimination to get their profits to skyrocket.
Suddenly after years of giving us the definition of 'ideal beauty', FMCG brand HUL has announced that it will remove words such as ‘fair/fairness’, ‘white/whitening’, and ‘light/lightening’ from all its products and communications. More importantly its age-old product 'Fair and Lovely' will no longer include the word 'fair'.
Let me remind you that in India still many girls are rejected from jobs even after having the best resume because of dark skin. Even now women are judged not on the basis of their educational or professional qualifications but by their skin colour in dining room discussions. Still, it took HUL 45 years to finally wake up and understand the concept of 'inclusive version of beauty'. Can the company erase years of discriminatory branding and advertisements by just a simple announcement?
Also Read: L'Oreal to drop words such as 'whitening' from skin products
The answer is absolutely not. Just by removing one word from the name of the product doesn't change the fact that it still is a FAIRNESS product. Why should a product which just infuses inferiority complex be available in shops in the first place? Doesn't India already have a lot of colonial hangovers to deal with already? We don't need fairness products to reinforce our unsolicited obsession with fair skin.
The company can't just decide to take a U-turn from all its promotional strategies, especially the before and after advertisements. Its tried and tested method to tell the audience that just because the woman got 'fair' using the cream she got a job as a doctor and air hostess and even got married. The product will always be associated with providing a fair skin tone, nothing can change that, especially not a name change.
The memory of huge billboards of HUL's 'Fair and Lovely', showing a fair skin tone woman (who was mostly a Bollywood actress) and a woman of a dark skin tone at the back will always be the thing I remember the product by. HUL, the damage is done. The road to recovery will not be an easy one.
Honestly, the move might be a cover-up as well. With the already existing racial tensions and the Black Lives Matters protests across the world, it seemed like the easiest escape route for the brand before someone pinpointed what the cream actually stood for. But you know what the saddest part of all this is? It took the brand a racial uprising in the US to understand the troubles (or at least we hope so) of women living in India. Many would even call it a safety PR strategy.
Also Read: Unilever to remove 'whitening' and 'fairness'; Shaadi.com removes fairness filter
Another point to put here is that it is not only HUL but many other beauty companies that promote the concept of good skin equals to fair skin. How often do we get to see a dark-skinned person selling a beauty product other than the times when we are told to pity them because of their complexion. Just like the size of the beauty industry, even its fairness products are not restricted to creams. You will find fairness cleanser, mist, moisturizer, sunscreen, serum...the list just goes on.
Some might say something is better than nothing right? Okay, it is good that HUL has finally woken up. BUT, this name change should not be the end to it. There is a lot of repair work that is expected out of this announcement.
While the company has set an example for others like L'Oréal to follow suit, it should just not stop at that. This should bring a change to the multi-billion dollar beauty industry as a whole. The way it ideates the products to the marketing and advertisement strategy. It's high time they realise that they should celebrate the diversity of beauty and stop this obsession with the fair skin tone.
Rebranding HUL's Fair and Lovely is a wait and watch game! Because it needs to tell the consumers what they should expect from a 'fairness' cream, if not providing a fair skin.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)