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THE QUEST FOR SELF WORTH THOUGH FAIRNESS


SKIN WHITENING PRODUCT ADVERTISEMENTS AND SELF WORTH OF YOUNG WOMEN IN SOUTH ASIA

08 January 2009 Submitted to Miss Amy Lam

Kaushalya Ruwanthika Ariyathilaka Umaiyal Umakanthan INTRODUCTION

A dashing beauty with a glowing face with the perfect whiteness appears on the television screen, magazines covers and on the huge roadside advertisements. With a pretty smile she claims that her goddess beauty is the result of the perfect skin whitening/lightening cream on her hand.1 The gorgeous girl changes, the skin lightening cream bottle and its name changes, but their story never changes. What these advertisements tell to the young Asian women is that you are not worth enough to get a job or a life partner until you get a white glowing skin. Most of the south Asians are born with a brown or a dark skin, and throughout the history all the Asians have preferred to have lighter skin, especially women.2 According to many sociologists, the main reasons for this trend are the strong connection of wealth and fair skin in the societies3. In the past, upper class people had white skin as they are wealthy they do not have to work in the sun as the poor people do4. Although many occupations have changed from outside to inside, the stereotype of the rich having the fair skin has not change.5 And also the lighter skin of Asian conquers and the Europeans who colonized the Asia has contributed to the idea that white skin is better.6,7 Due to all of these whiter skin has become an image of
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Lal, Priya. Pop Matters. Bollywood From Beyond; http://www.popmatters.com/columns/lal/031218.shtml : 18 November 2008. Jordan, Miriam. International Herald Tribune. Especially in India/Fair Color as a Cultural Virtue : Creams for a Lighter Skin Capture the Asian Market; http://www.iht.com/articles/1998/04/24/light.t.php: 19 November 2008. Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia; http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008. Fuller, Thomas. New York Times. A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia; query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A03E3D8143EF937A25756C0A9609C8B63&se... - 40k: 20 November 2008. Jordan, Miriam. International Herald Tribune. Especially in India/Fair Color as a Cultural Virtue : Creams for a Lighter Skin Capture the Asian Market; http://www.iht.com/articles/1998/04/24/light.t.php: 19 November 2008. Fuller, Thomas. New York Times. A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia; query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A03E3D8143EF937A25756C0A9609C8B63&se... - 40k: 20 November 2008. Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia; http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008.

power. Not only the history, but also media is responsible for giving the idea that power and beauty comes with white skin8. This project intend to raise awareness among young Asian women that the skin whitening/lightening creams or the radiant skin they make have nothing to do with the self worth of young south Asian women.

METHODOLOGY EXPLANATION

Timmons, Heather. New York Times. Telling Indias Modern Women They Have Power, Even Over Their Skin Tone; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/business/media/30adco.html?_r=1: 25 December 2008.

Through this research we wanted to identify how south Asian women are affected by fairness creams advertisements. We especially focused on the students of Access Academy, as they represent six south Asian countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). To make our research successful; first we read English south Asian fashion magazines (FEMINA May 2008, FEMINA- August 2008 and FILMFARE), which we bought from book shops, requested from the students, and from the library of the Access Academy. We watched television programs for twenty hours (two hours per day, ten days) that are targeted for the young south Asian women, such as, Hindi soap serials, Hindi movies, and music programs in the weekends. The reason behind this was to find out how many advertisements (for skin whitening products) use a womans self worth as their theme. (Appendix 2) The reason to select Hindi soap serials is that most of the young south Asian women are fascinated by them, so they watch them for hours and hours. The curiosity to watch some specific Hindi serials, like Vidai, Dulhan, Babul ka Angan Chute Na, Athwa Wachan by the Access Academy students showed how much these serials influenced on young women. The break of these serials is the time that most skin whitening producers use as their commercial time. We selected some specific media like magazines and televisions, because in Access Academy, most of the students spend their spare time, and weekends in front of the television, and in the libraries. There they could watch Hindi soap serials, and read the fashion magazines. Generally among the south Asian women television and magazines are popular than internet. By reading serial gossips on the internet, we selected serials like Vidai, Dulhan, Babul ka Angan Chute Na, Athwa Wachan. More than this reason these Hindi soap serials are sponsored by the popular skin whitening creams in markets. So we thought that these are appropriate media for our project.

Surveys and interviews are the two major ways to collect information. To find out the response of young Asian women for these advertisements, we gave surveys to six students from each country in the Access Academy, students from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia and Pakistan (two students). The survey included questions about skin whitening creams and their advertisements, and the students respond to them. For example, do they see commercials about skin whitening and lightning creams? Which kind of skin whiting creams they prefer? Whats the reason for selecting that product? When they hear about a fairness cream what will suddenly come to their mind and why? Through this survey we want to know if there is there any impact of this advertisements in women, if yes what kind of impacts? Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer. (Appendix, Survey 01.) A survey is a much accurate way to collect information from young south Asian women, because there is a stereotype about Asian women that they cant speak about their personal behaviors frankly. So to collect information about their personal opinions surveys are more appropriate way. If it is an interview the person has to answer the questions immediately, but in surveys people can get more time to fill. For the interview the people can answer whatever related with the question, but in a survey they have to select the answer from what we have given. This limits the answers and it is very helpful to analysis and synthesis. These are the reasons that we selected to use a survey system rather than interviewing the students in the Access Academy. After we got the results from the students, we analyzed the information and made a decision about the fairness creams and its impact on the women.

RESEARCH FINDINGS

Many international newspapers talk about the injustice of the skin whitening product advertisements and their grave impact on south Asian women. (Appendix 1) Themes such as finding love, been the best at the work place or getting a job are commonly used in the skin whitening product advertisements, as these are the things that is always worrying the south Asian women. 9 By analyzing the results of the survey (Appendix survey 3) we found out that 100% the students who answered the survey see skin whitening cream advertisements in the television. The percentage of the students who see the advertisements in daily newspapers is 67%, and also 67% of them see the advertisements from the fashion magazines. 58% of them see roadside advertisements. (Appendix Graph 1) From the results we came to know that 70% of the students in the Access Academy use skin whitening product. Students who said that the beauty of the actors/actress in the advertisement attracts them the most was 42%, 39% of them said that it is the famous Actors/Actress, 39% of them said that the music used attracts them while 3% of the girls said the clothes worn by the Actors/Actress are the most attractive part in a advertisement. (Appendix Graph 2) Students who said that they are concerned about the brand name when buying a whiening product was 42% and 39% of the girls accepted that they consider the way the product was described in the asvertisment when they buy it, while 18% said that they are more concerned about the cost of the product. (Apendix Graph 3) We wanted to understand how strongly these advertisements have been able to make connection with the products they are advertising, we asked the girls what comes to their mind whenever they see a skin whitening product. Students who said that they remember the advertisements of the product were 67%. (Appendix Graph 4)
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Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia; http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008.

Studnets who said that finding the true love is the most common theme in these advertisments was 42%, 33% said that it is, being the most attractive girl in the neighbouhood/school/working place, 30% said that getting a good job is the most common theme. Another 27% of them said that power to dominate men is the mostly used theme, also 24% said that getting back the lost love is the common theme, and 24% said that the most populat theme is living a good life. (Appendix Graph 5) Students who said that they do not believe in the stories in the advertisements was 67%, 52%s respond was that these advertisements are sometimes even insulting. Another 52% repond was that these commercials give fake hopes to the viewes, 33% even said that they hate these advertisements due to the themes they have. Noone of the repondents said that they think these stories are true, 15% of the repomdents said that they like the commericals, and 70% said that most of these advertisements are skillfully made, and therefore are very charming.

ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS

Most of the whitening advertisements are shown during the soap serials that are mainly targeted for the young women. All most all the women in these soap operas have white skin.

One of the recent Hindi soap operas is a story about girl who has dark brown skin, and the whole opera is about how the girl has to face troubles in her love life because of her skin color. According to the survey done among the Access Academy students, television is the mostly used medium for the skin whitening product advertisements. Fashion magazines and the daily newspapers come to the second place in this. Most of the young south Asian women watch television and read fashion magazines, so this survey results reflects the majority of the most south Asian countries. Road side advertisements are in the third place. The percentage of the respondents who see skin whitening advertisements in the road side advertisements, in the Access Academy could be less than the normal percentage of the south Asian women. The reason for this is that the Access Academy students live in a small community that is not exposed to the outer community in the country. Students rarely go out, so the chance of seeing the roadside advertisements is low. Respondents said that the most attractive part of a skin whitening advertisement is the beauty of the actors/actress. Most of the skin care advertisements are done in India, using Indian models. In other south Asian countries also these advertisements are shown. These commercials use super models or beauty queens, especially all most all the Miss Worlds, Miss Universes and many bollywood actresses that India has produced are in these advertisements.10 This makes the advertisement more appealing. The white skin of these beauties stand as proves for the advertisements story, and people who love these beauty queens believe that the skin product was there secret.11 The most popular themes used in the commercials are the things that young south Asian women are always worried about12; thus they are used to market the skin whitening products.

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Lal, Priya. Pop Matters, Beauty Queens and Fairness Creams ; http://www.popmatters.com/columns/lal/031218.shtml : 25 November 2008 11 ibid 12 Fuller, Thomas. New York Times. A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia; query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A03E3D8143EF937A25756C0A9609C8B63&se... - 40k: 20 November 2008

Womens roles in the society are changing as many women want to get a job to become economically independent form their fathers or husbands, and these advertisements shows that other than the talents woman need a lighter skin to get a good job. The reactions of the respondents reflects that most of the young women in south Asia reject the usage of self worth in the skin whitening product advertisements., according to the survey results, a notable number of Access Academy are strongly against it. Yet most of those who said that they hate these advertisements and their stories use skin whitening products. (Appendix Graph 7) Survey results imply that many of the skin whitening product advertisements use self worth of a woman in their advertisements, and young women are lead to buy these products with the believe that they would be able to achieve the dream world that skin whitening product advertisements make. Although many understand that those stories are not true, and fairer skin does not have anything to do with the self worth of a woman, many young Asian women use skin whitening products in order to achieve a white skin. From the results in the Access Academy, we understood that even young women who are educate enough to understand their value does not depend on their skin color or body, want to have a fair skin.

SUGGESTIONS

Even though there could be other things that lead the women to believe that white skin brings happiness and success, advertisements it selves also have a main role in it. In the competitive society, young women want to have all the qualities that they could use to go ahead, so they believe in the stories that the commercials say.

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The grave impact on the women by these advertisements and their improving self worth story is that, it creates stigma for them. As these stories says that white skin have the power to dominate and have the power to bring solutions for every problem, they also say that darker skin is inferior and is worthless. For a woman with a dark skin this could be devastating. She would think that all the problems she has are due to her ugly skin. To overcome this problem firstly, medical professionals such as doctors are responsible as they are appreciated part in the society. The doctors should spread awareness about this racial distortion of body image. This issue which is related with the freedom of choice, economy and the ideal body image should be discussed among the society.13 Secondly, skin whitening product producers should stop using self worth of women as an advertising element. They should understand that just to earn more they should not to facilitate a social stigma with dark skin. Thirdly young Asian women should be able to appreciate who they are. They should be happy of being healthy and having a healthy skin, rather than worrying for a white skin. Dr Parul Kolhe, a dermatologist, says the same. He articulates that if a person should be able to love herself and appreciate their skin rather than mourn over the skin color.14 As beauty queens and movie stars has helped to created the whiter skin better myth, they can help to make young Asian women understand that whatever the skin color they have it does not matter for their lives success. Media has a huge responsibility as they are partners of spreading this myth of white skin and self worth. Newspapers and magazines could publish articles explaining this idea. In Hindi soap operas without showing that women with dark skin

13

Giri, Bishnu. Palaian, Subish. Shankar, Ravi. PLoS Medicine. Fairness Creams in South AsiaA Case of Disease Mongering?; http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=getdocument&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0030315&ct=1: 20 November 2008. 14 Kolhe, Parul. Rediff News. Fairness in a Bottle: The Truth behind whitening lotions and creams; http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2007/sep/18skin.htm: 25 November 2008.

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facing problems, they can show that they are as same as the white skin women have. Consequently, the whiter skin better myth will be eliminated from south Asian cultures.

CONCLUSION

Skin whitening products are generally targeted for the working and middle class women in developing countries and the15, where the roles of the women are shifting from household chorus to earning professions.16. These products are highly welcomed in the south Asian
15

Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia; http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008. 16 Fuller, Thomas. New York Times. A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia; query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A03E3D8143EF937A25756C0A9609C8B63&se... - 40k: 20 November 2008.

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countries17 as most of the south Asian women have a brown or a dark brown skin18. People have started to realize that these skin whitening advertisements are not always true, and most often they are insulting south Asian women who do not have fairer skin.19 All these advertisements are targeted for the young and fashionable south Asian women.20 They have the power to influence young women who cares about their beauty ans the status. They are motivated to believe the white skin brings self worth story as they see all the beauty queens, super models and movie stars claim that their success came through their beautiful skin. Through this project we found out that although many young women in south Asia understand that using a womans self worth as an advertising element is unfair, they believe that as the advertisements describe they would be able to increase their value by using the skin whitening products. Young south Asian women should understand that self worth comes through the personality and the character of a person, not from the color of the skin. They should be valued for who they are. APPENDIX

1. News Paper Articles New York Times


o o

Thomas Fuller, A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia Heather Timmons, Telling Indias Modern Women They Have Power, Even Over Their Skin Tone

BBC News
17

Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia; http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008. 18 Jordan, Miriam. International Herald Tribune. Especially in India/Fair Color as a Cultural Virtue : Creams for a Lighter Skin Capture the Asian Market; http://www.iht.com/articles/1998/04/24/light.t.php: 19 November 2008. 19 BBC News. India Debates racist skin cream ads; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3089495.stm : 25 November 2008. 20 ibid

13 o o o

Monica Chadha, Indian men go tall, fair and handsome India debates 'racist' skin cream ads Joan Baxter, The heavy cost of light skin

International Herald Tribune


o

Miriam Jordan. Especially in India/Fair Color as a Cultural Virtue: Creams for a Lighter Skin Capture the Asian Market

Amelia Gentleman, The I, me, my generation: A buyers' market

2. Television and Magazine research (Note: names in italics have advertisements about womens self worth) Time and days watched - 5.00 p.m. 7.00 p.m. five days 9.00 p.m. 11.00 p.m. five days Watched programs - MTV music program and Hindi soap operas (Vidai, Dulhan, Babul ka Angan Chute Na, Athwa Wachan)

Name of the Whitening product:


o Fair and lovely fairness o Fair and lovely Herbal Natural

o o o o o o o

Fairness Cream Fair and Lovely Skin Clarity Anti Marks Fair and lovely whitening cream Fair and lovely teen Fair and Lovely Multivitamin Fairness Cream Ponds white beauty Ponds Whitening Garnier skin whitening

o o o o o o o o o o o

Lakme beauty skin Fairever skin whitening cream Lakme skin lightening Fairglow skin whitening soap Lakme whitening gel Fairever skin care Nivea skin whitening cream NIVEA body Whitening Milk Nivea whitening lotion Ponds flawless white Lakme skin glow

a) Magazines (Magazines were chosen randomly)

14 FEMINA August 2008

VLCC Dreamwhite Skin Whitening Treatment


FEMINA May 2008

Garnier Light spf15


FILMFARE January 2008

Nivea sparkling Glow

Fair and Lovely Fariever

Lakme Whitening Gel

3.

Survey 1
1. How often do you see a skin whitening cream advertisement? 2. Where do you see advertisement about skin whitening creams? Television Road side advertisements Fashion magazines Others (please note) Daily newspapers . 3. Do you use skin whitening products? Yes No

4. What is the name of your skin lightning/whitening product? 5. What is your age? 6. What part of the country do you live in? Urban Suburb

Not urban

7. What part of a skin whitening cream advertisement attracts you? Actors/actress Music Story /theme Clothes Words that they use Beauty of the actors/actress 8. When you go to buy a skin whitening cream, what do you consider? Company or the brand name Cost Effectiveness

15 How it was describe in the advertisement Others (please mention)

9. When you see a skin whitening product what comes to your mind? Its advertisement Actors/actresses in the advertisement Story/theme of the advertisement 10.What attracts you most? Television advertisements Printed media advertisements (newspaper/magazines) Road side advertisements Internet 11.What have you seen as the most often theme/story of a skin whitening product advertisement? Finding true love Getting back the love you lost Getting a good job Living a good life Being the most attractive in the neighborhood/school/university/working place Having the power to dominate men 12.What is the most memorable skin whitening product advertisement that you have ever seen? Please mention the product name, story/theme, actors/actress, brand/company and where you saw it(TV, magazine)

13.What do you think about these advertisements? (what is your respond to the stories and themes they use) You do not think that they are true You think that they are true You hate these advertisements due to the theme or the story they have You think that these advertisements are even sometimes insulting for the women without a white or a lighter skin You like these advertisements. These advertisements give fake hopes to the women. These advertisements are vey skillfully and beautifully made.

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o Graph 1 This graph shows the sources that the Access Academy students see skin whitening product advertisements. Students were allowed to choose more than one ansewer in the survey.

o Graph 2

This graph indicates the most attractive element of a skin whitening commercial. Students were given the opportunity to select more than one element. This shows that the beauty of the actors/actress is the most attractive and the memorable thing of the advertisement.

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o Graph 3 This graph illustrates the answers by the respondents in the Acces Academy to the question, what do you consider when buying a skin whitening prosuct?

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o Graph 4 This graph shows the answers for the question, what comes to your mind when you see a skin whitening product?

o Graph 6

This graph illustrates the most common themes used in skin whitening commercials. Respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer.

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o Graph 7

This graph shows the reaction of the respondents in the Access Academy , about the skin whitening product commercial they see.

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BIBILIOGRAPHY

1. BBC News. India Debates racist skin cream ads;

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3089495.stm : 25 November 2008.

21 2. Craven, Allison. and Goon, Patricia. Whos Debt: Globalization and Whitefacing in Asia;

http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue9/gooncraven.html: 11 November 2008.

3.

Fuller, Thomas. New York Times. A Vision of Pale Beauty Carries Risks for Asia; query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html? res=9A03E3D8143EF937A25756C0A9609C8B63&se... - 40k: 20 November 2008.

4. Giri, Bishnu. Palaian, Subish. Shankar, Ravi. PLoS Medicine. Fairness Creams in South

AsiaA Case of Disease Mongering?; http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/? request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0030315&ct=1: 20 November 2008.

5. International Herald Tribune. Jordan, Miriam. Especially in India/Fair Color as a Cultural

Virtue : Creams for a Lighter Skin Capture the Asian Market; http://www.iht.com/articles/1998/04/24/light.t.php: 19 November 2008.

6. Kolhe, Parul. Rediff News. Fairness in a Bottle: The Truth behind whitening lotions and

creams; http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2007/sep/18skin.htm: 25 November 2008.

7. Lal, Priya. Pop Matters, Beauty Queens and Fairness Creams ;

http://www.popmatters.com/columns/lal/031218.shtml : 25 November 2008.

8.

Timmons, Heather. New York Times. Telling Indias Modern Women They Have Power, Even Over Their Skin Tone; http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/business/media/30adco.html?_r=1: 25 December 2008.