Call it a domino effect or just the impact of global media, but the recent Black Lives Matter movement has made its waves felt across India as well. Suddenly, the conversation on inclusivity and the need to do away with colourism has gained strength. And, as people were still discussing and debating the thousands of ways India needs to deal with its own biases and prejudices, came the news that skincare product ‘Fair & Lovely’ is going to be renamed.
The decision came from Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) amid a growing dissent in the country against the biases that exists towards people with darker complexion. In a bid to put an end to branding and marketing that continues to fan such prejudices, the consumer goods company announced it will drop the word “fair” from Fair & Lovely, India’s largest selling skin care brand.
"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,” said Sunny Jain, President of Beauty & Personal Care at Unilever.
"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,” he added.
But the question remains, is renaming a product enough to deal with colourism and other internalised biases?
"Renaming the products doesn't mean anything - that's still just colourism by another word," writer and activist Poorna Bell said, commenting on HUL’s latest move.
Poorna’s thoughts were echoed by several Indian and international celebs as well, who took to social media share their views on the rebranding decision and how it might – or might not – affect the move towards a more diverse and inclusive world of beauty.
Right... and the colourism that leads to women feeling they need to do this to themseves that you have helped perpetuate??? What’s a name change gonna do about that... 😒
Indian skin-lightening cream Fair and Lovely to be renamed following BLM protests https://t.co/qF702g5AvZ
— Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) June 25, 2020
I have no problem with the word 'Fair'. I strongly object to a cream using the word 'Lovely' because my company is launching 'Lovely Cream' today and we plan to own the market. Please watch for a Skin Demo. This product is going to change cosmetics forever. #FairandLovely. pic.twitter.com/dWiCA7YYTn
— Vir Das (@thevirdas) June 26, 2020
Removing the word 'Fair' from 'Fair and lovely' and rebranding it makes no difference as at the end of the day it is still sold as a fairness cream at the cost of making people with different skin colours feel inferior. #boycottfairandlovely #boycottfairnessproducts pic.twitter.com/DeSbBGzlcN
— Dr. Bharati Lavekar (@LavekarBharati) June 25, 2020
— fatima bhutto (@fbhutto) June 25, 2020
Dropping the ‘fair’ from #FairandLovely is one of the biggest victories against discrimination. I personally, in my own capacity refused to be the face of ‘fairness’ creams right from the beginning of my career. Yes, it does feel like a personal victory & well done #unilever :)
— Dipannita Sharma (@Dipannitasharma) June 25, 2020
Actress Bipasha Basu also shared her two cents on the debate with a post on Instagram, recalling how “dusky” was always the adjective used to describe her in the media. “My skin colour didn’t define me,” she wrote adding, “Many skin care endorsements with loads of money was offered to me in the last 18 years ( some were very tempting)... but I stuck to my principle always (sic).”
“All this needs to stop,” she added.
Another netizen shared similar thoughts. Calling out HUL over the rebranding, she wrote, “What a sh***y move.”
— Ashvattha 🌳 (@rockhearted_) June 26, 2020
— Aज्ञानी (@trigyasingh87) June 26, 2020
What do you think? Is renaming Fair & Lovely the right way to being more inclusive? Tell us in the comments.
(Edited by Athira Nair)