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“I am a 36-year-old man looking for an ideal Indian wife. She must be beautiful, fair skinned, well mannered and respectful of my aging parents” (Shevde, 2008).
Lighter skin is one of the most desirable objects in the Indian subcontinent and Fairness Cream companies like Ponds India have been cashing in on this demand. The ad in question here, is part of a commercial series run by them, which portray women only being being successful and desirable if they have a lighter skin color, which they can easily achieve by using their products.
“According to Shankar et al. (2007), “pale skin is considered as social markers of aristocratic lineage and class allegiance” and darker skin is associated with a lower status in the social norms of the Indian Subcontinent. The British Raj was formally established in India, around 1858, but with the advent of The East India Trading company, the Subcontinent had been under European influence since the better part of the 18th century (Kaul, 2011). Furthermore, before the British arrived, the subcontinent was under the influence of other fair skinned rulers such as the Persians and the Moghuls, which conditioned the locales to associate fairness with superiority. Furthermore, In the Hindu Caste system, the Brahmins, who were fair, were associated with “whiteness or purity” and the “inferior Shudras and Dalits (“Untouchables”) with blackness or filth” (Shevde, 2008). Hence, I will be addressing of how the notion of “fair is beautiful” is deeply rooted in Indian culture” and easily evident in this ad by Ponds India.
Culture Jammed AD
My Jamming philosophy was based upon bringing the racist and chauvinistic notions that go behind such ad campaigns to light. The notion that beauty can only be defined through one’s skin color is one that permeates the Indian society and growing up in the Subcontinent, I have had firsthand experience, witnessing this phenomenon. People with lighter skin are viewed upon through a different lens and are treated in a cordial manner. Women are only considered beautiful if they are fair and family elders go out of their way to make sure that the daughters of the family stay inside and avoid the sun, so that their skin color is protected. Furthermore, the fixation upon light skin is such, that families seeking for ‘rishtas’ for their sons’ arranged marriages, specifically ask for “fair skinned” girls, when placing marriage proposals on newspapers, websites, etc (Shevde, 2008).
I wanted to bring to light, how blatantly, these ad campaigns try to portray that term “beautiful” is synonymous with being “white” and how one skin tone is better than another. For example, the Ponds ad features a “Face Value Meter” and the product itself is called “White Beauty” and features a light skinned model as a representation of what beauty should look like. It also depicts, that your level of success and happiness is also dependant on your skin colour.
I wanted to highlight the casual racism, Ponds employed in this ad and with the help of French bulldog puppies, subtly show that one color is not better than another (depicting color does not make one cuter than the other). Beauty shouldn’t only be subject to a certain skin color or physical appearances, but instead it should be used to show appreciation and acceptance towards one another, because everyone is unique in their own ways and possess noteworthy qualities. The notion that only the fair skinned are meant for success and happiness should be abandoned.
Ponds racist Ad Campaign in India
Shankar, P. R., & Subish. (2007). Fair skin in South Asia: An obsession? Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists 2007. Retrieved from http://www.jpad.org.pk/april june 2007/7. review article fair skin in south asia.pdf
Shevde, N. (2008). All’s Fair in Love and Cream: A Cultural Case Study of Fair & Lovely in India. Advertising & Society Review, 9(2). doi:10.1353/asr.0.0003
Kaul, D. C. (2011, March 03). From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858-1947. Retrieved June 24, 2016, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/independence1947_01.shtml