Storm over skin colour app

2010-07-15 13:16
New Delhi - A Vaseline face-whitening application for Facebook in India has sparked an online controversy and pushed the racially-loaded issue of skin colour out into the spotlight.

Anglo-Dutch skincare group Vaseline launched the application "Transform Your Face On Facebook" to promote its range of skin-lightening products for men, advertised by Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor.

It enables users to digitally whiten their profile pictures and remove dark spots - an idea that has evoked a largely negative response in the blogosphere since news broke earlier this week.

"Vaseline's latest marketing campaign, largely targeted at south Asia but accessible globally, will probably make you uncomfortable," wrote columnist Alexis Madrigal on the website of US magazine The Atlantic.

"Modern humans' desire to make their skin darker or lighter is a rather icky reminder of the pigment-o-cracy that exists in many countries."

Cultural preference

The market for skin-lightening cream in India is estimated to be worth about $500m a year by market research group Nielsen. Sales of products for men grew by 25% in 2009 and by 17% for women.

The first cream for women was launched 27 years ago, while the Indian cosmetics group Emami was the first to see potential in the male market in 2005 when it launched "Fair and Handsome" with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

"The adverts play with the minds of men," said Radhakrishnan Nair, the editor of Indian men's magazine MW. "The message they send is: 'If you have fair skin, you will get a good job, a promotion and a beautiful and faithful wife'."

The matrimonial adverts that appear in Indian newspapers are also a vivid illustration of the cultural preference for paleness. A widely-understood lexicon has been developed to talk about skin tone.

Somebody described as having a "wheaten" complexion is lighter in skin tone than somebody who is "dusky". It is commonplace to comment on someone who is beautiful and "very fair" in the same breath.

In shops for passport photos, the camera operator will frequently offer a "free lightening service" when the pictures are processed and printed.

"Indians believe that if you have fair skin you belong to the higher caste, the Brahmins," he added, explaining that a succession of light-skinned colonisers in India reinforced the association of fairness with power.

"The Aryans, who came from central Asia, in addition to the Portuguese, the French and the British colonisers ruled over the country and probably contributed to this negative perception of dark-skin."

Important

The marketing campaigns for creams by Emami and other foreign brands such as Vaseline, Garnier or L'Oreal clearly reinforce the notion of whiteness and beauty.

Market-leader Emami has run into fierce criticism for its not-so-subtle advertising of "Fair & Lovely" for women and "Fair & Teen" for teenagers.

A campaign in 2003 featuring a dark-skinned woman who was unable to get married was branded "highly racist" by Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association.

The campaign was probably reflecting views held privately by many Indian women, however, particularly in the north of the country.

In 2009, a poll of nearly 12 000 people by online dating site Shaadi.com, revealed that skin tone was considered the most important criterion when choosing a partner in three northern Indian states.

Creams range in price from about a dollar to $40 and can be bought in most pharmacies in India. They work by targeting melanin, the skin pigment that absorbs darkening UV light, and are not thought to pose a health risk.

"Face bleach" and frightening sounding "acid peels" are also widely sold across the subcontinent.

Ashu Kumar, 24, is one of the latest customers. The student began using the cream a few weeks ago and hopes to see a result in the next month, as promised by the manufacturer.

"My skin is too dark," he said. "If I don't make it fairer, I'm worried I'll have trouble finding a woman to marry me."
Read more on:    facebook  |  social networks
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

 
 

Men24.com

Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

24 hour sale – Up to 70% off

Its black Friday, save up to 70% on a wide range of awesome products at kalahari.com. Offers valid while stocks last. T&C’s apply. Shop now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a time....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.