As companies get woke & lovely, fairness products evolve into skincare products
Are these moves from (formerly) fairness product companies a positive step towards inclusivity or just tokenism to 'outrage-proof' their products?
The most visible representation of our inherent racism and colourism -- Fair & Lovely -- is all set to get a rebranding as Hindustan Unilever has said it will drop the word “fair” from its “Fair & Lovely” range of products, which have long been criticised for promoting negative stereotypes against people with darker skin.
According to HUL, "as the next step in the evolution of its skin care portfolio to a more inclusive vision of beauty," they have decidec to remove the words ‘fair/fairness’, ‘white/whitening’, and ‘light/lightening’ from its products’ packs and communication.
The move comes days after Johnsons & Johnsons announced that they will be halting production of their ‘Clean and Clear’ fairness range of products, after the Black Lives Movement protests made several companies take stock of their own contribution to systemic racism. “Conversations over the past few weeks highlighted that some product names or claims on our dark spot reducer products represent fairness or white as better than your own unique skin tone,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement clarifying their decision.
On the surface, HUL's decision might seem like a massive win for social justice warriors who have been campaigning for years against this vile and blatant commodification of our inherent prejudices. On the other, it's just a smart rebrading of a product to make it outrage-proof.
Through this move, HUL will continue selling the same product with a more acceptable name and instead of fairness cream, it will be called a 'skin-softening cream' or 'skin-rejuvenating lotion'. While our prejudices and inherent colourism continue to be propagated in bedrooms in hushed tones.
For a product which, for years, has sold the narrative that having lighter skin colour is the only way to achieve any semblance of self-worth, success or love, can't get away from the responsibility of the damage it has caused.
This rebrading is just a nifty way for the company to sneak out of the ignominy of promoting colourism and harming multiple generations.
All Fairness Cream Companies after Fair & Lovely pic.twitter.com/C63cuGAZ5I— alpha dude zone (@alphadudezone) June 25, 2020
Of course, it is not that because of Fair & Lovely, racism and coulourism exist in India. In fact it's actually the other way around. But the capitalist milking of our soceital prejudice shines brightest with Fair & Lovely - the most recognisable "fairness cream" of all time.
It is the beacon of of the fairness fixation that plagues India. With it's relatively low retail price and endorsement from Bollywood superstars for years, it became so popular that even came out with a male version of the product ‘Fair and Handsome’.
The fairness industry is not small either. It managed to rake in a profit of over $450 million annually (nearly Rs 3,500 crore) in 2017.
This rebranding drive is not much more than the companies ensuring that the money keeps coming while they please the 'woke' by their tokenism.