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Friday, July 03, 2020

Amid anti-racism protests, decision to rebrand a fairness cream is significant. Here’s why

In the wake of the continued efforts to rise above race-based crimes and educate people globally, many brands are seeing it apposite to undo their past errors.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 26, 2020 10:55:42 am
Fair & Lovely, rebranding, complexion, racism, prejudice, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Unilever, indian express, indian express news The Indian obsession with white skin is a telling affair, one that has subjected many young women and men to prejudices and asinine remarks for their natural complexion. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

For years now, the melanin-suppressing cream has faced a lot of criticism because of its name that dares say that fair is lovely. But now, in a momentous decision, Unilever’s Indian subsidiary Hindustan Unilever has decided to drop the ‘Fair’ from ‘Fair & Lovely’ as part of its re-branding efforts. The announcement comes as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to get traction around the world.

It is also believed that besides the word ‘fair’, the company will also drop ‘whitening’ and ‘lightening’ from its packaging. The product is sold in many countries in Asia, namely India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, to name a few.

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The Indian obsession with white skin is a telling affair, one that has subjected many young women and men to prejudices and asinine remarks for their natural complexion. But now, in the wake of the continued efforts to rise above race-based crimes and educate people globally, many brands are seeing it apposite to undo their past errors, and react and respond to the ongoing movement with a lot more sensitivity.

In fact, just last week, the brand Johnson & Johnson retreated from its skin-whitening business, which includes the Clean & Clear Fairness and the Neutrogena Fine Fairness brands in India.

Fair & Lovely has been criticised for years now, because its advertising and packaging used to suggest that if you have a fair complexion, you are an achiever. And if your skin is anything but fair, you need to work on yourself and your confidence. But, in the last few years, the brand has evolved, and has tried to portray more sensitivity in its advertisements — what with women empowerment tropes — albeit with the same name.

Sometime last year, actor-director Nandita Das had come up with a brilliant video titled ‘India’s Got Colour‘ — which was a celebration of her anti-colourism campaign ‘Dark Is Beautiful‘ — to shatter dark skin biases. The video had an ensemble cast, with remarkably talented actors like Swara Bhaskar, Radhika Apte, Gul Panag, Ratna Pathak Shah and Vikrant Massey, among others, in it. The catchy music and intelligent lyrics only spoke of one thing: India has got people of colour, and that it is time we celebrated the differences.

But, it took the death of an African-American man George Floyd in the US — who died when a police officer pinned him to the ground and pressed his knee on his neck, even as he pleaded with him — to make many countries wake from their slumber and face the truth: that prejudices are real. And racism is real and rampant, too.

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Sunny Jain, president Beauty & Personal Care of Unilever, said in a press statement: “We are fully committed to having a global portfolio of skin care brands that is inclusive and cares for all skin tones, celebrating greater diversity of beauty. We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right, and we want to address this. As we’re evolving the way that we communicate the skin benefits of our products that deliver radiant and even tone skin, it’s also important to change the language we use.”

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Shaadi.com, an Asian marriage website, meanwhile, has also done away with a skin tone filter after it was met with online backlash, according to a report in The BBC. Prior to this, those who joined the website were asked to select from the ‘skin tone’ ranging from dark or light. Additionally, Quaker, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, announced last week that it was dropping the 130-year-old brand name and image, which featured a black woman named Aunt Jemima.

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