The desi obsession with a fair skin holds the power to determine a girl’s prospects in life. A fair girl is automatically deemed beautiful and desirable by our society. This lust for fairness has created a vast market for products which sell dreams of a better future to millions of women, who have to endure social shaming due to their skin tone. But how authentic is this advertising? How many of us demand to know the long-term effects of fairness creams and other products that claim to make you more desirable. Advertisements for anti-ageing creams, male patterned baldness and short height aren’t just misleading, they also uphold the outdated standards of desirability which need to be shown the door.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Fairness determines a woman’s desirability and in turn, her marital prospects in our society.
  • This obsession with fair skin has created a vast market for products that promise a “better” future to many women with dark skin tone.
  • But how many consumers raise questions regarding long-term effects of products such as anti-ageing and fairness creams?
  • The new draft of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes fine on ads promising fairer skin or prevent ageing.

This lust for fairness has created a vast market for products which sell dreams of a better future to millions of women, who have to endure social shaming due to their skin tone.

The new draft of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, proposes Rs 10 lakh in fine and up to two years’ of imprisonment for first-time offence, to companies advertising products that claim to make a person fairer, look younger, increase their height, improve their memory or offer cure for hair loss or greying etc. The Indian Express has reported that in the case of a subsequent conviction, imprisonment could be extended up to five years and or may incur a fine up to Rs 50 lakh. But is imposing fines and imprisonment enough? Will that curb the demand for such products?

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These strict guidelines seem like the need of the hour, as advertising has moved from print and television to digital media as well. Easy access and a wider audience base for advertisers means aggressive marketing. As is often the case, aggressive marketing can often be offensive, playing on the insecurities of individuals. Take fairness or anti-ageing creams for instance, which play on the age-old insecurity among women bred by the correlation of beauty and relevance to fairness and youth. If advertisements for the former are to be believed then fair skin also increases your job prospects, gives you the confidence to participate in talent shows (and win them too) and of course there’ll be a line of suitors outside your door before you can say “research” or “long term-effects”.

Cutting down on advertising will not mean a drop in demand for these products altogether.

What’s more amusing is how so many celebrities endorse these cosmetic products, for women and men. It is 2020 and we still have to struggle to have a meaningful conversation about stigmas around beauty and the outdated standards that push women and men into spending their money on a mere promise of gaining social approval. We applaud films which talk about self-love and call out these beauty standards, and yet somehow we are largely unable to rid ourselves of them.

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While Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, may have its reasons, regarding misleading advertising (which are equally crucial) this amendment needs to be appreciated for finally taking a call that we the people should have taken long back; that of raising objections and asking valid questions to companies selling these products, celebrities endorsing them and advertisers who are marketing them.

However, cutting down on advertising will not mean a drop in demand for these products altogether. There are many people who will still be seeking cures for balding, weight loss, ageing, short height and whatnot. Until the day we find it in ourselves to look beyond the physical appearance of a person.

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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