How far can you go in the fairness game?
The inelastic nature of some businesses is amazingly profitable, as companies selling fairness creams will tell you. The key is to have a marketing strategy with a human face. What better than extending an epidermal salve to individuals battling society's deep seated colour prejudice? As for the view in certain quarters that such “solutions” only end up reinforcing prejudices, clearly, you can't please everyone.
Take the recent brouhaha over a new product — a “clean and dry intimate wash” for the female private parts with the bonus of making them fairer. One only has to see the marketing trajectories of skin lightening creams to grasp their innate purity of purpose. At first it was about reaching out to Indians inhabiting the land of the wheatish and beyond. Then, mindful of the fact that a good business model is one which helps all, it was time to make fair women with flawless complexions aware of the invisible dark spots lurking beneath the skin to ambush their happiness.
Alongside, it was important that fair faced tennis players with slightly darker bodies realise that this shocking aesthetic mismatch was the reason they felt less than prepared for their tennis matches. Winning has to do with confidence, right?
Now, finally, when there is a move to go beyond the surface to connect with deeper issues, to grapple with real life as it were, the whole world has come down heavily on the attempt. What's wrong with promoting women's hygiene vis-à-vis their private parts with the added lure of lightening them? Even recessions are powerless against the gravity defying sales graphs of skin lightening dabs.
In fact, running the ad on prime time television is proof of the manufacturer's sincerity of purpose in trying to ensure that more and more people watch it. This whole protest about the animated graphic in the ad showing women how — and presumably where — to apply the cream as being obscene is so silly. Visual communication is an important element in a society with high levels of illiteracy. Why can't people see this as a desire to bridge the gap between India and Bharat through common aspirations?
Observe how cleverly this intimate wash invokes elements of tradition and modernity. The ad shows a woman pining to rekindle her husband's passion. How she succeeds in capturing his attention by completely fair means to unleash raga desire invokes the heights of sringara rasa that our tradition is known for.
The product also reveals the true spirit of a modern woman who flaunts her freedom to mould herself the way her man wants her to be. That was precisely why Vidya Balan's character in “Dirty Picture” was such a hit: She asserted her right to see and enjoy her sexuality exactly the way men enjoyed it. One can't get more modern than that, or have a greater prescription for social harmony. Honestly, people can get stuck for a lifetime spelling patriarchal mindset!
And, hey, aren't we forgetting something here? This is a woman trying to recapture the attention of her husband, not a single woman on a rampage. In fact, this cream could be a real glue keeping marriages together.…
If people weren't so myopic they would realise that the woman using this product is a positive blend of tradition and modernity in all the vital ways. She chooses to be grateful that her life was spared at birth even though she was not a boy; she knows the comfort of seeing the world through the eyes of the men in her life — father, brother, husband, son — and being cherished for it. They know her worth as a carrier of the family's name, honour and lineage; in this consumerist age she even gets to splurge on the latest designer sarees and jewellery for karva chauth. In return, can't she use a little fairness formula to please her man?
However, there's a slight confusion in the minds of prospective users. Do women need to use a fairness cream on their face as well or is it enough to concentrate on their private parts? Moreover, should this magical process be undertaken alone or in the presence of the partner in the interests of togetherness?
For the next round of sales, there could perhaps be a rumoured endorsement through the social network grapevine that this wash can help women beget fairer children — or even better, sons! Later it can be said there's no accounting for people's fantasies, right?
All said and done, tackling melanin-cholia is a full-time cause.