Fair and Lovely: Racism in a Product

By Sara AG for SAN 2010

A few years ago, back when I was a teenager, I was walking in one of those beauty product exhibitions, and a man jumped out of nowhere, telling me that he has a product that can whiten my skin color! It was summer, and I was really happy with my dark tan. I told him to bug off because I love my color and I am going to keep it for good, so no thank you. I was about 12 and after that I don’t remember encountering any stupid invention as such until…. well, few days ago!

It was a commercial on the mbc4 channel– if I am not mistaken. And as I watched, I could not find the words to express the trauma and the disgust that I felt.
Drum roll. Introducing “Fair and lovely,” a miracle product that presents racism and sexism at their peak.

The ad talks about a dark skinned woman who is going for a job interview, and she gets refused because she is “too dark.” Then she “whitens” her face with “Fair and Lovely” her face, and poof, she gets her job back, and everybody is happy; she is successful, and she even gets invited out by a dude!

So if you are a black or brown or yellow or whatever woman of color you are, and you saw this ad, what would you think?

You’ll think that dark means ugly, and that you can’t get a job, just because you are born with a dark tan, and you’ll never succeed in anything, and nobody will want to date you, until you drop your background, culture, ethnic origin and simply become white, and then poof, everything is at your feet!

Maybe a lot of people don’t understand my point of view, and why am I so traumatized by this ad. So allow me to elaborate. Fair and lovely is a skin whitening cream that categorizes dark skinned women into ugly, dirty creatures that need to be whitened! Only when you are about to believe that the old dark ages of racism and discrimination against dark skinned people is over, you see an ad, on tv, rubbing it in your face, that being dark is bad, and mainstreaming white as beautiful, and stereotyping the color you have to be, otherwise, you’re a loser, with no future whatsoever.

Moreover, and beside the fact that refusing an employee just because their skin is dark, is severely immoral and technically illegal, the Fair and Lovely ad discriminates against women by enhancing the stereotype that women can’t get a job with their brains, but with their looks. And if you didn’t look all white and “lovely” then forget about employment.
And what about all the teenagers who are watching TV, in the arab world, who are dark-skinned, do they all need to feel bad about themselves, so that the business of fair and lovely can feed on the insecurity they implanted in them!

But what pissed me off the most about the ad, is how it passed the “censorship” carrying all this blunt racist content. I mean, shamefully, we are used to sexist ads, but racist, I swear, it’s fucking ILLEGAL.

Dear Fair and Lovely, You know what’s fair for me, is for you to get banned from existence, and specifically from tv, because you are watched by vulnerable teenagers, and what would be more “lovely” is that your products get cut off from the market and get labeled as racist demeaning products that should NOT on any level exist in the 21st fucking century.

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