Fair and maybe lovely?

The latest news around here in the United States is about the woman who has been accused of taking her five-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, burning the girl’s skin. But soon enough the focus went from a story about child abuse to making fun of the deeply bronze-colored mother when people saw her picture (see below).

Obsession with skin tone among women is everywhere. Americans spend long hours tanning under the sun or pay weekly or monthly visits to tanning salons. Arab and Indian women use skin-lightening products like there is no tomorrow. Many Malaysian women wear long white gloves in the summer while driving or riding their motorbikes.

Americans look at bronze women as sex symbol while Arabs are fond of white women.  Alas, some women exaggerate when changing their skin tone. In the U.S., I saw orange color faces like a basketball. In Jordan and Malaysia, I saw brown and olive-skin women with faces as white as baby powder.

I am not sure if “Fair & Lovely” skin-lightening creme is still the number one product in Jordan but I remember it was very popular, ten years ago. Their ads where everywhere and all were about sad, ugly and dark-skinned woman before using “Fair&Lovely.” Here is one from India. You don’t need to understand the language but watch till the end and you will be shocked:

These ads were stupid and demeaning to women implying that only light skin women can have a successful life. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about the product:

Hindustan Unilever’s “Fair and Lovely” is the leading skin-lightening cream for women in India. The company was forced to withdraw television advertisements for the product in 2007. Advertisements depicted depressed, dark-complexioned women, who had been ignored by employers and men, suddenly finding new boyfriends and glamorous careers after the cream had lightened their skin. [source]

Women are very sensitive about their skin tone I no longer use it to describe someone because I learned my lesson the hard way. Here is why:

During my study in Malaysia, I rented a room from an Indian-Malaysian woman who lives with her mother in a big two story house. One day, I was alone in the house when a woman  came asking for the land-lady. I told her the land lady is not at home and she left. Later, when the land-lady came here is what happened:

Me: A woman came asking for you when you were out.
Land-lady: Oh…I think I know who she is. Did she tell you her name?
Me: No.
Land-lady: Does she have a fair skin? [she wanted to double check that she knows the woman]
Me: No!

Of course the embarrassing moment for me was when I found out that the land-lady’s friend is considered to have a fair skin compared to Malaysians and Indians. It was not a pleasant moment for.

Nothing wrong with women wanting to make themselves look prettier but the process should not be overwhelming. Satisfaction about ones self is the key.

15 thoughts on “Fair and maybe lovely?

  1. Salam,

    i’ve seen so many dark skin ladies who is doing fine. even my colleague is darker than me, but she’s like a darker Haifa Wahbi. so, she gets praises like “you’re amazing!” just for going out with her boyfriend or just by existing. & @ShkLuluJaber is a perfect example of an dark arab woman, she seems she has a very healthy self esteem. I could go on with Dina Ali Al-Sabah, etc.

    for me, i personally don’t wanna hv too much sun bcoz of premature aging. Not bcoz of the darkness. & when I do, I’m not making fairness superior. I know darker ladies can have men falling heads over heels over them.

    1. Salam Rayyah…Thanks for your comment and thoughts.
      Beauty is not exclusive to one skin tone over another. Dark or light skin all are beautiful and lovely.

  2. well, “Fair & Lovely” is still popular in Jordan and in the Gulf too, it’s Ads is still invading TV channels, with some new products for “whitening and glowing” like Ponds and Maybelline.
    Here is a solution, let American women come to live in the Arab world and Arabian women to live in America, and everyone will be satisfied!

    1. hahaha.. The problem is even after we move Americans and Arabs after a while each will want to change. We all see the other side greener🙂

  3. I heard about that woman.

    first, there are a lot of women out there who are very satisfied and very confident about the way they look.

    second, its a lame strategy used by marketers to promote beautifying products.. there is no doubt some women are conscious about their bodies and their self-image and that is why marketers use this for their advantage.. some women feel that the competition “photoshopped images of models” is very hard to keep up with. Men in their lives aren’t helping and marketers use this again and again.

    staying painfully thinner but maintain a curvy figure or soak yourself in a whitening creme or burn your skin to get darker is so confusing and impossible to achieve and for a woman to fall for all these tricks corporates use to rip off money is just.. sad.

    That being said, it is not an easy process for a woman to actually not want to be more beautiful or satisfied with how she looks.. it takes a generation to teach how to embrace natural beauty and the way the body changes with time.. and a pressuring movement to stand up against corporates and fix that image society has about beautiful Vs. ugly.. Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder and it will always be. Better start embracing that beauty in front of the mirror instead of running behind that illusion in modified photos..

    great post as always

    1. Since you mentioned it, I read about a young teenage girl who petitioned Seventeen Magazine to stop airbrushing photos. I am not sure what happened next but I think it is a wonderful thing to do.
      I totally agree that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And as I mentioned nothing wrong for trying to be more beautiful, we all do. But it should not be in exaggeration and more than one can handle.
      Thank you and glad you like the post🙂

  4. I’m wondering why the tanning place didn’t catch it? Makes me ill.
    You know, Women in Jordan do the same things with the gloves. I personally like to rock my Muslim Farmer tan🙂

    1. hahaha… “to rock my Muslim Farmer tan” I like that🙂
      I have read that some states are changing the regulations of tanning salons after this incident.

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