2 + 2 = 5
Jolene Tan // 14 November 2010
For those who can’t watch the video, it shows a series of smiling women dancing, while music plays, accompanied by the following voiceover:
Brown and beautiful. Yellow and beautiful. Black and beautiful. White and beautiful. Dark brown and beautiful. Light brown and beautful. Brown mixed with yellow and beautiful. We think women of all colours are beautiful. But if you’d like to try to be a little fairer, you can’t do better than Fair & Beautiful.
The product in question is one of those skin lightening creams used by many non-white women in pursuit of a heavily racialised and colonialist beauty ideal. According to the NHS, many such creams are also great if you need more in the way of high-dose steroids and bleaching agents, to give you that little bit of je ne sais quoi which only permanent skin damage can provide.
The makers of this advertisement are clearly aware of the many criticisms that have been levelled against these products. Their solution? To give lip service to the idea that all skin colours are equal, while in substance their product profits off the back of the idea that some are more equal than others. And that those of us who are inferior need to Buy More Stuff to make up for it.
The whole business is made even more hamfisted by the bafflingly detailed emphasis on gradations of skin colour that are – to put it charitably – minute. As a friend of mine commented:
Also the discrete categorisation of “black”, “brown”, “dark brown”, “brown with yellow” is really disturbing. Ethnic identity is not like mixing crayon colours.
What a load of rubbish.