Thursday, November 3, 2005
Funny, being white in India usually feels like a curse to me...
Interesting BBC story on the phenomenon of Emami Industries' new fairness cream for men, Fair and Handsome.
Apart from the ludicrousness of the ad campaign ("The efficiency of this cream has been dermatologically tested on Indian male skin!" "This wonder molecule peptide works on the collagen structure of male skin and dramatically improves skin texture and fairness in just 4 weeks."), I am saddened by the way middle-class India seems to have embraced this need for cosmetic improvement.
"The advert for the male cream shows a dark-skinned college boy relegated to the back seat and ignored by the girls until he uses the product. Soon enough, his complexion lightens and girls flock to him like moths to a flame," journalist Monica Chadha writes.
American freelancer Mike McPhate's story in the Philadelphia Inquirer is a nice glossing of the history of fairness.
The gora/firangi perspective? Hey, of course I'm aware of this phenomenon -- I am beyond pale, with my ancestors originally rooting around Ireland and Germany -- and friends here often counsel me to do something about my freckles, which I've always assumed has something to do with the dark wash sprinkled across my otherwise porcelain skin.
Beyond the mere ethos that surrounds the issue, it's personal for me. I am the epitome of "Fair and Lovely", some would say, and I feel anything but. Mostly, I feel a little caught -- at once assumed to be in some way wealthy or powerful and, on the other hand, symbolic of a rather ugly part of India's past, my white skin does me no favors. Why would anyone want to live up to this ideal?
In a way, I'm fiendishly pleased that men now are subjected to the same torture as women in terms of pressure to be fair, but...wouldn't it be nicer if no one had to conform to these standards at all?