Sailaja N. Joshi

Fair for Facebook

In India, Social Change on July 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Vaseline India, Shahid KapurBy this point, I think anyone who follows me on Facebook or has had contact with me in the past, oh five years knows of my interest in the obsession surrounding fairness in the Indian community. It is a huge part of my thesis and perhaps even a huge part of my identity.

With that being said, yesterday many of my friends were kind enough to forward to me a wonderful article talking about the latest Facebook application designed to whiten the appearance of Indian men. Sponsored by Vaseline India, the application literally ‘lightens’ the skin of Facebook users so they can see just how beautiful they could be with fair skin. Which is ove’ course achieved by using Vaseline for Men.

The thing that strikes me most about this advertisement is that, it in fact focuses on the need for men to have fair skin, not women. That boggles my mind considering that in Anthropological speak; women are the ones who represent culture not men.

In one way, these advertisements are certainly progressive in their inclusion of men in the “fairness” conversation. On the other hand, why does Shahid Kapur, an already fair actor, need to go any lighter?

So, what are you thoughts? I’m all for man-scaping but is it REALLY a good idea for Indian men to start going fair?

  1. This whole story is ridiculous in so many ways.

    Beginning with what is probably the least important, does Vaseline not realize that they are a global brand with global recognition? They wouldn’t dream of running something like this in America. Did they think nobody on this side of the ocean(s) would find out? IT’S FACEBOOK. EVERYONE IS CONNECTED.

    Secondly, what’s the deal with Shaihd Kapur? That guy is so useless. At best he’s going to turn out to be an SRK-class actor, by which I mean he will have no acting talent. (I stand firm on this point.) And at worst, he will continue to use his fame and square jaw to reinforce harmful value judgements. It’s one thing when it’s a hoarding on the side of the Bombay-Puna highway, but on Facebook? Jeez.

    Lastly, it’s a perfect union of corporate and celebrity baggery. I guess it’s not surprising since we’ve had a couple of back-to-back, banner years for this kind of thing.


  2. Dear Sailaja-
    I work for an advertising agency based in Mumbai and manage a couple of beauty brands. As part of our consumer research and planning for these campaigns, we’ve looked into the increasing rituals and psyche of male grooming in India…
    Men in urban India today are much more concerned about their looks today than they were before. Today, whether at the workplace or outside, many men are more in touch with women who match their income level and job status. Also, as more relationships develop outside the arranged marriage system and dating before marriage becomes more common, men are beginning to feel an increased pressure to be groomed and appear attractive to these women. Further, in the metros, with the men to women ratio being higher, urban Indian women, now have a choice 🙂
    Fairness has been an age old obsession in Indian culture, and we find that in group discussions and interviews with men, when asked if there was one thing they could change, it would be their skin colour..

    Shahid Kapur might not have made a successful actor, but his look is symbolizes the young urban metrosexual male. He is fair, lean, and always sports a chiselled and well groomed image. In that sense, he represents the antithesis of the macho, overtly masculine persona of the 70s and 80s In that way and is the changing ideal of male beauty- a great choice for an advertising campaign!

    And lastly, Vaseline in India is managed by BBH ( one of the world’s most creative and awarded advertising agencies, known for their consumer forward work and eyebrow raising campaigns. Eg:- Axe Campaign ( very different to this one!) To me, they seem to have hit the nail on the head, and tapped into a consumer motivation that is real and relevant to the Indian context and found a brand ambassador who captures their intent!

    Do keep writing, I’ve visited your blog from time to time, and find it very insighful..
    All the best,

    • Hi Sneha-

      Thank you so much for your comment! My thesis work is focusing on the Fair Skin Obsession as it applies to the Asian-Indian American community but perhaps it would be more interesting to focus on this question as it applies to the Indian Male community!

      In anthropology women are seen as the ‘upholders of culture’ for many reasons. The first are literally the ones who continue each generation and the are also responsible for passing down cultural traits and values. As a result, they are usually ‘viewed’ as the one who should epitomize culture, which is why for us Indian women we are asked to stay fair.

      Being fair in Indian culture (now this is my hypothesis) is not just about being pretty. It also means that you probably stayed inside, and by staying inside it demonstrates that you are a ‘family’ girl, one who respects your family’s values etc. This is a great quality to look for in a potential mate right?

      I digressed a bit. In the end, I think its really interesting that MEN are now being asked to have this same ideal of beauty, but possible for very different reasons.

      Thanks for your comments Sneha, we should do a video chat sometime as I’d love to talk to you about your work!


  3. […] recently wrote a blog about “Fair for Facebook,” which goes along with my topic today, and how the Facebook team in India has added a new […]

  4. […] new trend. So far, most fairness creams in the Indian market usually target female consumers. Le Sigh observes: The thing that strikes me most about this advertisement is that, it in fact focuses on […]

  5. […] new trend. So far, most fairness creams in the Indian market usually target female consumers. Le Sigh observes: The thing that strikes me most about this advertisement is that, it in fact focuses on […]

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  7. […] my last post, Fair for Facebook, I got some great press via Global Voices and comments which got me thinking, What’s the […]

  8. In a way I like it that now there is pressure on the Indian male to take such steps to attract Indian women. The marriageable male to female ratio nowadays certainly favors the female, they are the ones who, as Sneha put it in her comment above, have a choice. Women are less in number,
    and men, being more in number, have to resort to unique ways to attract their prospective partners. An oversees job is no more an asset, neither is an engineering/computer science/doctor degree. These have been rendered threshold qualities, ie, the minimum qualities a guy needs to have to be even considered for an alliance. Having an oversees job can actually backfire nowadays, as Indian women are more financially independent and don’t see a need to go to foreign countries for a supposedly luxurious lifestyle. I’ve heard from relatives in India, that men of marriageable age are finding it difficult to find women as mates.
    So what can men do to make themselves more marketable or more desirable? I guess start with the obvious…how one looks, and start with the easiest to achieve, skin colouring creams.
    Women endured comments based on their skin color. Is it time for men to have their share based on their skin color? I highly doubt it. A male child is a male child. But its interesting that now the male child also has to work hard to make themselves more agreeable! There is no end to it though…whats next? Should all women and men now look like models, with perfectly toned bodies, impeccable skin and lots of emphasis on how they look?
    Another aspect of this emphasis on looks/skin color/physical appearance is the financial status of men and women. Earlier, having a job, and supporting or earning to support a joint family used to be of prime importance. Now, with small independent families, the responsibilities have changed. Men and women can afford to put themselves first. Their financial status allows them to concentrate on things that were not considered important earlier. The new Indian male or female is financially independent, takes decisions, and parents, knowing the financial potential of their kids, maybe don’t interfere as much, or agree with their child’s decision. Its an interesting age to be an Indian woman or man!

  9. […] new trend. So far, most fairness creams in the Indian market usually target female consumers. Le Sigh observes: The thing that strikes me most about this advertisement is that, it in fact focuses on […]

  10. […] des pro­duits “teint clair” sur le mar­ché indien sont des­ti­nés aux consom­ma­trices. Le Sigh observe : Ce qui me frappe le plus dans cette publi­cité est le fait qu’elle s’adresse à […]

  11. […] nova. Até agora, a maioria dos cremes de clareamento no mercado indiano visava as consumidoras. Le Sigh observa: The thing that strikes me most about this advertisement is that, it in fact focuses on the […]

  12. […] tanggapan dari tulisan Le Sigh, Sneha, seorang pekerja di biro iklan memberikan tanggapan, mengapa seorang pria menjadi target […]

  13. last few days our class held a similar discussion on this topic and you illustrate something we haven’t covered yet, appreciate that.

    – Laura

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